“Go west, life is peaceful there…”

[Bragging rights to the first person who can tell me who sang the song that the title of this post comes from… if you don’t mind showing your age…]

So when I last wrote, we were leaving the Bungle Bungles headed for El Questro (ELQ) and the infamous Gibb River Road. We decided to stay at a 24 hour rest stop on the way to ELQ so as to be there nice and early the next day (to get a better camping spot – see, we’re learning the way of the “we-don’t-take-bookings” camping world). It was our first rest stop camping experience and it was actually quite pleasant. We got there around 2.30pm so we were able to pick a good spot with a shelter and table which reduced the amount of stuff we had to unpack for the night.

[Note – it is worth pointing out here that I am now 150% convinced that we are buying a caravan as soon as we can afford it. The differences between the two modes of travel are never more noticeable than when you pull up to a 24 hour rest stop. If you are in a camper trailer, you huff and puff and have a tanties with your partner, then a more significant argument where maybe one of you walks away in disgust, then you make up and eventually you get the camper level and set up. Caravan folk pull up, put the stabiliser legs down, open the door and pull out their chairs. End of set up. “Save your marriage, buy a caravan”.]

It was with some degree of excitement that we approached the sign to mark the start of the Gibb River Road, and then the turn off for ELQ. We had seen both of these things so often on the DVDs and television shows we’d watched to help plan this trip that it was great to finally be seeing them I the flesh. The drive in to ELQ was corrugated dirt roads (groan) but we let the tyres down (again) and made our way without drama. There were a few water crossings but nothing too substantial and eventually we got to ELQ nice and early. Our plan worked and we secured a lovely shady camping spot down near the Pentecost River. You were allowed to source firewood from anything that was laying on the ground around the property so Charlotte and Brandon went off in search of something for our fire that night (not that we really need it – it only gets to about 15 at night around here!). I couldn’t stop laughing when Brandon came back dragging what looked to be a giant tree trunk. Turned out the joke was on us – for whatever reason, this log left a bitter burning smell through everything. Its ash was very light and flighty and it covered our camp with ash and filled our camper with this disgusting stale-ashtray smell. We don’t really know exactly what sort of timber it was (it was a little porous inside but we don’t know if it was a boab branch or not…) but whatever it was, I’d recommend you never burn it near your campsite!! There is one sort of tree around here that is apparently nicknamed the shitwood tree because when it’s burned, it smells like dog poop. This wasn’t quite like that, but it was equally as noxious.

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We stayed at ELQ for 4 nights and had a lovely time exploring their surrounds. El Questro is essentially a large working cattle station but they have turned themselves into a major tourist attraction in the dry season. There is a fancy homestead you can stay in if you have muchos $$ or else you can slum it like the rest of us in your own camping set up or in the onsite tents. There are lots of gorges on the property that you can walk to (after a short drive), there’s a bar and restaurant, horse riding, helicopter sight-seeing flights (also muchos $$) and cruises. Every night we’d wander up to the bar for happy hour from 5pm and listen to the musician playing that night and relax under the stars. It was here that we discovered Matso’s Ginger Beer. I’ve never really been a big ginger beer fan except for in punch but I decided to give it a go on a whim and I was so pleased I did! It was so refreshing and tasty. And then I discovered that Matso’s brewery is in Broome! Hold me back! A quick google search told me they did brewery tours on Wednesdays and Fridays so we knew we had to stay in Broome long enough to cover at least one of those days! On our final night at ELQ they put on pizzas – they must have known I was experiencing withdrawal after my less than tantalising pizza experience in Kununurra.

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Happy hour!
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My new favourite drink
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There are only a few places I’d be willing to be seen in public in ugg boots – clearly ELQ is one of them!

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We did the walk to El Questro gorge and it was magnificent. Charlotte had a swim in crystal clear water that looked incredible. The fish even came up to her to say hello!

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This was what the whole trip was like – climbing over rocks and boulders – it killed my poor foot 😦

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Unfortunately, the walk involved scrambling over quite a number of rocks and boulders and was quite hard on my foot. It really tested me and I was barely able to walk by the time we got back. The walk was about 1.3km in each direction and just about all of that involved putting your feet on rocks or boulders and not on an even surface. I was in a world of hurt 😦 I strapped up after we got back to camp but it really made us have to think twice about our future walk plans.

Brandon’s shoulder and back were also playing up thanks to long hours in the car and then heavy work setting up the camper each time we stopped (refer above comment about needing a caravan!!!). To top it off, we seemed to be having some small problems with the batteries in our car not holding charge as well as we’d like and the engine running a little hotter than we’d like. No one single issue was a big deal on its own, but put together, they all made us question the sensibility of taking off to tackle 600km of corrugated road in the middle of nowhere with the car not running smoothly and bodily aches and pains that were leaving us feeling less than enthusiastic about the walking and adventures to come.

We discussed the situation and ummed and ahhed and came up with the decision that we’d not do the Gibb River Road in its entirety. We would double back to the Great Northern Highway, south down past the Bungle Bungles, through Halls Creek (where we got some supplies) and start to head north to Fitzroy Crossing and then turn off at Windjana Gorge/Tunnel Creek, heading north west from there. We’d visit Tunnel Creek as a day trip and set up camp somewhere on the other side. The (dirt) road in to Windjana continues and meets up with the Gibb at its northern end so we’d still see the end of the Gibb but be closer to civilisation should anything happen. As we weren’t feeling up to doing much walking, it seemed silly to just drive the Gibb, possibly at risk of damage to the car, just for bragging rights.

We left ELQ with a small sense of disappointment that we weren’t going to see the full Gibb experience but it was a sensible choice and we knew we were doing the right thing in the long run. We spent another night in a 24 hour rest stop south of the Bungle Bungles (by the way – that same bushfire was STILL burning). This rest stop was next to a lovely flowing creek so we were able to put our toes in and freshen up a bit. Most of these sort of rest stops have drop toilets but no water – so no way to wash your hands or shower etc. You need to supply your own for that sort of thing. And the drop toilets take on a bit of a smell after a certain time of day once business starts to pick up so you need to be quite resilient to bad smells if you want to stay in a rest area 😉 By morning they have usually sorted themselves out though so you’re safe if you can make it through the night 😉

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From there it was on to Tunnel Creek. On the road in we saw a few different long-dead cars left on the side of the road. Hadn’t really seen that since we were on the Cape so it was a bit of a surprise. Even more surprising was seeing that one of the dead cars was an 80 series Landcruiser!

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Gosh – what a remarkable place Tunnel Creek is! During the wet season it would be almost completely under water but during the dry season you can walk through the entire cave (with headlamps). There are parts where there is some deeper water you need to wade through, and we had some reptilian company during the walk in places, but it was well worth the effort. It was largely sand we walked on so not as difficult as our past walks. And being underground it was extremely cool and walking through the water made it quite refreshing.

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On the recommendation of some of the others we talked to, Brandon and Charlotte walked a little further at the end of the cave to see some Aboriginal art on the rocks further up. It was probably a little less grand in scale than Brandon had been expecting, but it was impressive all the same.

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(This wily-wily came up in the parking lot as we emerged from the cave – it really looked like a mini twister and had a few kids running for cover!)

After here it was an easy drive to Derby where we got fuel but we didn’t have a good feel about the place so we kept going and ended up setting up for the night at a roadhouse further down the road. It was all you could eat BBQ night and they had cold beer – sounded OK to us! That stop marked 3 overnighters in a row for us and (a) no set up arguments and (b) it was done in the dark. We’re clearly getting used to this!

The next day we pushed on to Broome – and back to civilisation. I’ll leave that for another post 😉 But needless to say, we found the Matso’s brewery! J

Weeks/nights on the road: 5 weeks, 6 nights.

Bungle Bungle bound…

We left Katherine after some much needed rejuvenation and some refreshing social interaction. While we have only been on the road for a month now it has surprised me how much I miss social interaction. Obviously Brandon, Charlotte and I have each other to talk to but there’s only so many conversations you can have about tufts of grass, Smurfs and wild animals. Spending time with Christine and Andrew and their kids was such a lovely change from the norm. But all good things must come to an end and we moved on from Katherine, headed for the northern WA border and Kununurra.

The scenery between these two towns was absolutely delightful. There were mountain ranges dividing our path, rocky outcrops and some different types of plants. After the many, many, many kilometres we’ve done in northern Queensland and the Northern Territory with much the same looking bleak, grassy plains with dust-covered trees, seeing these rocky outcrops was a huge joy. Before we knew it, we were crossing the NT/WA border. But this meant stopping at the quarantine station and handing in all our fresh produce and honey. I had already been warned of this so Christine and Andrew benefited from my recent stocking up on vegetables! Doh – I forgot I was going to need to give it all up when I was buying it at Woolworths two days earlier! All I was allowed to keep were my carrots – I just had to cut the greenish ends off them. But goodbye (to Christine) two bags of potatoes, two heads of broccoli, a few onions and some cherry tomatoes. I declared (and lost) my unopened Capilano honey bottle (still with the plastic seal on it – we bought exactly the same thing at Coles in Kunanurra the next day!). I’ve heard some people have had lots of issues with the quarantine folk searching every element of their vehicle but our quarantine guys were really good and mostly just took our word about not having anything. We probably could have stashed everything in our camper which they didn’t show any interest in making us open (thank god!) but we’re fairly honest folk and I really couldn’t be bothered! 😉

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The change in scenery as we neared the NT/WA border was a welcome relief.
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I have no idea what these trees are but they are everywhere – there isn’t a leaf to be found on the tree but it is full of yellow flowers. EDIT: They are kapok trees!
In total we spent 4 nights in Kunanurra. Originally we intended to go straight to Lake Argyle and spend our time there but we were told that really only needs to be a day trip and it was better to base ourselves at Kunanurra. Our caravan park was on Lake Kunanurra and we had a lovely shady spot (no grass – best get used to that). But as we drove into town I saw the word ‘pizza’ and then I wasn’t able to get bloody pizza out of my mind! When we checked in I mentioned my craving for pizza to the reception staff and they recommended a place to me. So after we had set up camp I rang them and lo and behold they delivered! Is it glamping if you are getting pizza delivered to your camp site? (for the record, don’t go to Valentine’s in Kunanurra – while it was great that they delivered to our site it was the blandest, most tasteless pizza I’ve ever had!).

The Kunanurra Hoochery Distillery was an interesting place to visit. Established by an American who was raised in a family that distilled original Kentucky moonshine, the Hoochery is a family run business and the first and oldest legal still in Western Australia. At one point we were in the storage room where all the kegs of rum are laid to rest and our tour operator (also the main brewer) mentioned that the room has the potential to make Brandon blow over the legal limit if we stayed in there too long! Charlotte thought that was a hoot 😉

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Charlotte was thrilled that her colouring in was put on the wall in the Hoochery 😉

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We thought this was a cute mural of a boab tree for Charlotte to have her photo taken. But if you look up close (second photo) we’re not really sure what’s going on there!
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Our camp site was inundated with water hens – we came back from a day trip away to find all our stuff covered in hen poop!

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Beside Lake Kunanurra
We did a day trip to Lake Argyle. This place is really a must do for anyone coming to this area – it was just amazing. This is the largest man-made lake in Western Australia (and second-largest in Australia) and while it’s not the biggest dam I have ever seen, the countryside around it was just stunning. We drove over the dam wall and had a picnic lunch next to the water. Some friends of Brandon’s family were staying at the caravan park by the lake so we stopped in to see them and caught a glimpse of the infamous Lake Argyle Resort infinity pool. We weren’t tempted to get in – the water may look impressive but it’s frigidly cold!

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The dam wall
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Looking back at the dam wall from the picnic area
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We restocked our food and alcohol at Kunanurra and set off for our next destination, Purnululu National Park or otherwise known as the Bungle Bungles (that name just brings a smile to my face whenever I say it – such a cute name!) This was on Brandon’s wish list – he really wanted to see these magical, striped bee-hive mountains. I hadn’t heard of them before he told me about them but it seems that I’m no different than much of Australia, as this is one of Australia’s newest national parks with the now-famous Bungle domes only being discovered in the late 20th century. We stayed two nights at the national park here and after the relative busy-ness of our Kunanurra caravan park, it was great to be in the peace and quiet of a national park. Again we saw some amazing scenery on our way to the park – and a bushfire that seemed to be left to just burn itself out. It was creeping half way up the mountain range next to the road but in a weird kind of way, it didn’t seem to be a threat.

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Slow-moving fire up the side of a mountain
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This is an image of ‘Pompey’s Pillar’ (with a termite mound in front). I feel I should write to the WA Government and alert them to their spelling issues…?
At the park we visited the Echidna Chasm, a large ‘crack’ in a mountain range that was created by thousands of years of erosion and water mixing together. The entire Bungle Bungle range is made of this incredible looking stone/pebble-sand mix. It’s hard to really appreciate how amazing this is until you are standing up against this giant cliff face and you realise the entire cliff is made of stones and pebbles embedded in sand. There are a number of signs warning of rock falls and the entire 500 metre walk from the car park to the chasm itself consists of scrambling over rocks resembling a dry river bed. Charlotte thought this was marvelous – I’ve never seen her more enthusiastic about a walk!

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Close up of what the entire cliff face is made of!
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Brandon got a great shot of this bower bird nest on the way to the chasm.

After the chasm, we drove around to The Domes, where the true Bungle Bungles can be found. These dome-like ‘bald’ structures are just stunning. Certainly worth the 2 and ½ hour drive in from the main road (well, it was 2 and ½ hours for us towing our camper, but the driving is substantially easier if you’re not towing anything).

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Brandon and Charlotte getting their Bungle on…
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Bungle selfie!
The side of the rocky outcrops and lower plateaus have these cute grass tufts growing out of them which Brandon noted resembled the rolled up trolls in the Frozen movie (he and Charlotte then had an amusing conversation about how their stone bodies were covered in long hair). From that point on, whenever Charlotte saw these tufts of grass she would say there were lots of trolls on the side of the mountain 🙂

We left the Bungle Bungles this morning and are on our way to El Questro and the start of the Gibb River Road. Interestingly, on our way out this morning we saw the same bushfire burning, only this time it had made it down closer to the road. Still no-one was attending the fire or seemed at all perturbed by it – how very odd!

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The fire on the mountain side is still going two days later…

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Now the fire has come closer to the road
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So far we have remained injury and accident free – let’s hope our luck continues as we make our way west along the Gibb River Road!

Nights on the road: 34

The highway to Hell (and beyond)

Up until this point I had been lead to believe that the worst driving conditions we would encounter would be on the Cape. Boy was I wrong!

We left Adels Grove with the intention of eventually getting to Katherine in the Northern Territory. We looked at the distances and decided to head to Borroloola, just over the NT border, for the night then push on to Katherine the next day. We went north through Lawn Hill Station and then on the Savannah Way to Hell’s Gate Roadhouse, where we stopped for lunch, fuel and water. On the way to Hell’s Gate, Brandon and I commented to each other that we wondered if the Hell that was being referred to was the road in to the roadhouse or the road beyond the roadhouse. We hoped it was the road in, because it was a pretty bouncy, unattractive dirt road. Turns out, we were wrong there too.

The road from Hell’s Gate to Borroloola was atrocious!! And to make it worse, we had bugs and dirt smeared all over the window, corrugations from hell (literally as it turned out), and as we were heading west, we had the sun directly in our sight for almost the entire afternoon. It was really bad. And we were on the road in total for that day for 9 hours. Never again. Our nerves were frayed and all three of us were in one hell of a bad mood when we got to Borroloola. We arrived just on dark and decided to get a cabin for the night because we wanted to head off again in the morning and after the emotionally draining, exhausting day we’d just had, we needed a rest.

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We’ve been on the road for 3 weeks and have just crossed our first state border!
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Never drive west into the setting sun on badly corrugated roads with poor visibility out your window 😦
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In our tired state, from a distance these donkeys looked like people blocking the road in front of us. Gave us a bit of a fright then amusement when we realised what they were 🙂

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Thankfully Borroloola has a nice place to eat so we grabbed a meal, had a hot shower and caught up on some sleep. The road to Katherine from Borroloola was all bitumen so we hoped the next day would be an easier day for us.

For the most part, it was easier. The driving conditions were certainly an improvement, although most bitumen roads in these parts are one lane and every time a car comes in the opposite direction you need to take one side of your car/camper off the road in order to pass oncoming vehicles. This can be a little difficult at times and cars with lesser quality tyres can find that quite dangerous given the large ridge between the bitumen and the dirt next to it. But Brandon managed these diversions with minimum fuss and the car, camper and inhabitants made it unscathed to Katherine. We stopped to make lunch at Daly Waters outside the pub – quite a well-known place and certainly full of character!

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At one point we even saw a bushfire on the road – it might be winter, but the dry 32 degree days make for great fire weather – gulp!

It was another long day – 6 hours on the road and we set up in the dark. [Note to self: setting up in the dark is hard enough; doing it with a camper trailer makes it harder; doing it without causing world war three between married partners is even harder; add to that 15 hours of driving out of the past 32 hours and it’s a wonder B and I are still married!].

While mulling over a beer later that night Brandon and I agreed no more long days. We need to slow down and take our time. We are about a week ahead of schedule so we clearly have time up our sleeve and need to enjoy our days more. That means doing more bush camps on the side of the road to break up the long days of driving (if only the roads were pretty enough to encourage us to sleep next to them!). Our next big leg is across the Gibb River Road, so we have promised to slow down, travel less each day and smell the roses, as it were.

One thing we were doing in Katherine was picking up some Clearview mirrors we had ordered earlier in our trip. They were waiting for us at AutoPro Katherine (can’t rate these guys highly enough – they ordered these mirrors for us on nothing but a promise we’d be in town some time in the next 10 days or so, and didn’t ask for a deposit or anything. That’s a $650 gamble they took and we were very grateful!

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Our new Clearview towing mirrors

In total we will have spent 6 nights in Katherine by the time we leave. It’s not that there’s huge amounts to see and do here but we really just needed a nice long break to recharge.

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The giant fig tree at the Big 4 Katherine caravan park is decorated and has a restaurant under it – just lovely 🙂

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Katherine Hot Springs – luke warm water but nice all the same

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Celebrating being back in civilisation by getting our nails done 😉

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Northern Rosellas at the campground – lovely!

We have also had the lovely surprise of meeting up with some people we know while here! Well, sort of know. Christine and Andrew and their children Ines and Linc are on the road for 6 months and set out about 3 months ahead of us. They started out travelling over to WA and were making their way east so we hoped we’d meet up at some point and we were even planning to slightly alter our itinerary to try to find them. Brandon went to school with Christine but hadn’t seen much of her since other than on Facebook. Reading Chris’s posts, I felt we had a lot in common so I was looking forward to meeting her and Andrew. We have been following their progress on their Facebook blog – 20,000-km’s in a shitbox camper trailer. It was a great joy to see them setting up in the same caravan park we were staying in two days ago 🙂

We spent the day together yesterday doing a day trip to Katherine Gorge, then up to Edith Falls for a swim. We planned to eat lunch at the Gorge but the only grassy, shady patch of land out there was home to hundreds of fruit bats! It was smelly and unattractive so we decided to have lunch at Edith Falls instead.

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Fruit bat city
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The gorge lookout
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An impressive view at the top
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The climb up to the lookout at Katherine Gorge was pretty steep but worth it!
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The climb up to the lookout at Katherine Gorge was pretty steep but worth it!

Unfortunately we didn’t get to eat lunch at Edith Falls. We had our first mechanical problem on the road between the Gorge and the falls that saw us laid up on the side of the road for an hour or so while Brandon fixed the problem. Thankfully because we were following Christine and Andrew, we had company and the kids were able to keep each other amused while they ate and waited for the car to be fixed. The fan belts had all come off and the alternator was being held on by a thread. Brandon had brought replacement belts with him thankfully and he and Andrew were able to replace them all and tighten up the alternator and we were good to go. Such handy folks! But we think this was probably caused by the thousands of kilometres of corrugations we have travelled on these past few weeks.

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Not a sight you really want to see while travelling 😦
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Linc and Ines kept Charlotte company in the shade as they waited patiently for the car to be fixed.
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Brandon trying to poke his tongue out at me while snorkeling at Edith Falls – he needed that swim after the car repairs!
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Charlotte and Brandon’s first snorkeling adventure on this trip – Edith Falls was great for that. Fish nibble your feet if you stand still long enough!

We leave Katherine tomorrow nicely refreshed and ready for our next adventure. Charlotte has had some good play time with some children her own age, we have had some nice conversation with likeminded people and we are ready to cross the border to Western Australia and start our next adventure – the Kimberley!

Nights on the road so far: 26.

 

From dust to Lawn…

I was up early the morning we left Musgrave because I wanted to ring Bramwell Station and make arrangements for the return of our pole. I was rewarded with one of the most stunning sunrises I had seen in a long while. Almost made me forget I was surrounded by dust holes and corrugated roads. Almost, but not really.

Sunrise at Musgrave Roadhouse
Sunrise at Musgrave Roadhouse

After leaving Musgrave we drove south for about 20km and then left the PDR to travel cross-country to Normanton on a back road that would eventually meet up with the Burke Development Road and take us south west. I guess ‘cross-country’ is a relative term around here because every road feels like you are driving cross-country. In any event, this road had smaller dotted lines on our Hema map compared to the PDR, so I think of it as cross-country 😉

In fact, the road ended up being much better than the PDR, for the most part. We had first heard about it from watching The Big Lap DVD series and I suspect in the 10 or so years since that series was filmed, the road has been upgraded. There were still some fairly hairy places and at one point early on in the piece I actually did think our trip was about to come to a grinding halt. Brandon was doing a great job dodging some timber that was laying on the road when we both looked up and THUD – the car nose-dived into a small ravine crossing the road. I let out an almighty scream, I can’t remember what Charlotte did but knowing her she probably giggled uncontrollably because she’s her father’s daughter when it comes to off-road hijinks! We had landed quite hard and I was certain we weren’t going anywhere soon. Brandon got out to inspect the ‘damage’ and was pleased to report there didn’t appear to be any, despite the fact our front end was clearly in a trench and not on the road and our trailer hitch was touching the ground behind us. Cool as a cucumber, Brandon locks in the hubs, starts the car up again and slowly but surely drives us out of the hole we got ourselves into. We pull over a short way up the road to see if there was any missed damage or fluids leaking now that we were out of the hole and still nothing to be seen. Looking at the impact point, it seems the chassis railing and winch took the brunt of the hit, with a minor dent in the bullbar. Dodged a bullet there! (we are having problems with our dashcam or else I’d post footage of the incident – quite impressive really. Alas, we don’t have it recorded L )

Thankfully the rest of the drive was uneventful. As with every other road we have been on, we came across a number of stretches of road workers grading the road, and cattle. Lots and lots of cattle. And not pretty, soft cattle but drought-hardy, weary looking cattle. They look like they’re doing it tougher than me, that’s for sure. We saw the odd emu or two and plenty of other bird life, quite a few kangaroos and even a feral pig with some piglets! But other than that the drive really was quite boring. The scenery was far from picturesque – dry grass, brown trees that occasionally looked green. It’s such a tough country out here, I don’t know how anyone could live here and work this land. It would depress me too much. That being said, it was easy to see where the flood plain would go through in the wet season, based on how plants were growing and where the marshy areas were. Brandon and I commented to each other we’d like to see this area in the wet season to really appreciate it because it certainly isn’t much in the dry season!

The one part of the road that was a little different was when we had to cross the Mitchell River towards the end of this side road and approaching the Burke Development Road. During the wet season this would be an impassable stretch of water, and even in the dry season you need to take it easy. But they have a fiord in place and have laid rubber matting down on top to make the crossing much easier. I actually enjoyed the crossing and that’s saying something from such a scaredy-cat like me!

We stopped for lunch on the side of the road after crossing the Mitchell River. It was around this time I was grateful that we were carrying our own toilet! Admittedly it was strapped to the roof of the camper, but Brandon dutifully retrieved it for me and set it up beside the car so I could have a tinkle 😉 I’ve never been good at bush peeing – too OCD I suspect. But now we bring our own loo, I don’t need to be good at it! J Photo evidence not supplied LOL

Finally we reached Normanton. A nice little town, with phone reception (that is my new definition of whether a town is nice or not – does it have phone reception?) We pulled up to the caravan park and set up a quick camp site without the annex. It was nice to be back in civilisation for a while and we even had a swim at the pool! That is Charlotte’s new definition of whether something is nice or not – does it have a pool? 😉 The weather is still quite warm out this way – low 30s during the day – although it cools down in the evening to make sleeping in canvas quite pleasant.

Eskimo Charlotte in Normanton
Eskimo Charlotte in Normanton – despite the wrapping up, it was actually quite warm and pleasant.

From Normanton, we headed to Adels Grove in Lawn Hill National Park. It was (thankfully) an uneventful drive and we even managed to get away early! Yay us! On pack up days our intention is always to get going early and while the alarm is usually set for 7am or similar, we rarely jump right up and get going. Well, *I* do, but the rest of Team Hazelwood is a little slower off the mark! I usually look longingly at fellow campers who are all packed up and ready to drive off at 8am and wonder how they do it. But this time around, we were one of those campers and managed to hit the road by 8.30am. Unheard of.

The scenery around this area isn’t much to look at if truth be told – very dry trees, brown grassy plains. There are some lovely rock formations and mountains the look great in the setting sun as their rusty brown rocks pick up the sun’s rays. The nature walk you can do at Adels Grove was initially a walk over dry, dusty paths and I was beginning to lose faith with the ‘grove’ part of the name. But eventually we reached the creek and our view was transformed. The juxtaposition between the dry, arid surrounding countryside and the greenery around the water is quite remarkable.

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There are two camp grounds at Adels Grove and because we wanted to be able to use our generator we had to go with the ‘top’ camp ground that was a little more dusty and less pretty. If we’d been willing to be self-sufficient we’d have been able to camp in The Grove, which is right next to the creek and more picturesque. It’s also more shady though meaning less success with solar panels. So we erred on the side of caution and chose the sunny, dusty site. We had some good neighbours who made for interesting company around the campfire at night.

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We used the OzPig for the first time at Adels Grove so I could cook roast lamb in the camp oven. The pig takes a while to generate coals so we ended up just putting some flaming logs up on the camp oven to speed up the process!
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Roast lamb and baked potatoes with vegetables – camp fire cooking at its best!

We finally got the canoe into the water at Adels Grove! I told Brandon is he was going to all the trouble to bring the canoe, then it had to hit the water at least every second or third place we camped. Unfortunately crocodile warnings have laid rest to those plans, but here at Adels Grove the only crocs are 30-40 freshwater crocs that aren’t around the grove itself but further into the national park. They have canoe hire there if you don’t have your own so I took that as a good sign it was safe for the canoe to come off the boat loader 😉 We paddled up as far as we could go without having to take the canoe out of the water to go further upstream and hit some faster running water going back towards the way we came. We had to duck under the pandanas growing by the creek’s edge and struggled to keep heading upstream but eventually the current got the better of us and we shot back downstream! Later when I asked Charlotte what her favourite part of the day was, she said the bit when we went backwards fast in the canoe 😉

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You see some interesting sights on the water! 🙂

We also did a small cruise on the river and Lawn Hill Gorge in the national park itself and saw more of the waterways – quite stunning 🙂

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Walking back to the car from the cruise and we came across these catfish – Brandon was able to feed them by hand and scratch their noses!

The water has a very high calcium content and needs to be filtered before drinking – you can see the effects of the calcium on all the plants and water. A product called ‘tufa’ lays over everything – it is essentially hardened calcium deposits and means all the plant matter around these parts needs to be very hardy. For us humans the impact of the calcium is that it made everything really dry – you need to constantly apply moisturiser to cope with the drying effect on your skin. My fingerprint scanner on my mobile phone doesn’t recognise my fingers anymore thanks to the dry skin!

After 3 nights at Adels Grove, it was time to move on. But I’ll save that horror story for later – it really does deserve its own post!

Nights on the road (up to leaving Adels Grove): 20

The Tip! (not the rubbish kind)

After surviving the corrugations of the Peninsula Development Road, it was a relief to finally make it to Seisia, at the top of Cape York. We stopped in to the start of the Old Telegraph Track (OTT) on our way up to see what that would be like – we had entertained the idea of doing that track but had been warned it was pretty “gnarly” (do people still use that word these days? Apparently so!).  And “gnarly” it was!

The initial track through to the first water crossing at Palm Creek was quite good with only a few little spots that required some caution. Poor Brandon – with such a sooky pants in the car (that’s me, not Charlotte – she loves everything to do with the car being on it’s side or bouncing around up and down) this small bit of 4WD-ing is probably all he’s likely to do on this trip 😦 We would have attempted OTT if the Palm Creek crossing was passable as that is apparently the worst. But alas it was just too risky for us. It really was quite bad – particularly for heavy vehicles towing heavy camper trailers! We stopped to watch two cars attempt the steep descent into and then climb out of the creek and I was cringing all the way. The first car was driven by the son, the second driven by the father. I was talking to the mother on the banks of the creek and she said her and her husband had done quite a lot of 4WD-ing. When I watched first her son and then her husband attempt to exit Palm Creek, I was able to see where his experience came in! The son gave his car too many revs at the top of the slope and ended up getting stuck (and, as it turned out, damaged his wheel or tyre and had to change it after winching himself free). Meanwhile Dad does it after him a more measured and steady pace and makes it look easy.

The son entering the creek…

The son leaving the creek…

Dad showing us all how it’s done…

Not surprisingly, we made the very adult decision to give it a miss. We had also heard that the road in to Elliot Falls (our next destination) was likely impassable thanks to deep water and while we could probably take a more northerly road to reach it, it would add a few hours to our trip. So we decided to just head straight to Seisia instead.

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The infamous sign leading the way to ‘gnarly’ tracks

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There are literally millions of termite mounds throughout the Cape. Every now and then you see someone has decided to make one stand out 😉
Brandon’s one and only 4WD attempt on the OTT 😉

It was drizzly and wet as we arrived so Brandon suggested as a treat we stay in a cabin – I think he felt sorry for me having to put up with all that red dirt and adding in the rain would have just about sent me stark raving mad! Setting up the camper and annex in the rain is certainly something we’re going to have to experience, but my capacity to cope with discomfort is being stretched a bit already, so let’s just take things one at a time. A cabin it was, for two glorious nights. Yes, I know, I’m a bit soft. But I have another 3 months to toughen up, OK?We were planning to stay at Loyalty Beach Campground originally because Brandon had been told they had palm cockatoos there. Brandon loves palm cockatoos and he would probably tell you he only had 2 things he wanted to achieve while we were up the Cape – (1) catch a fish off the Seisia wharf, and (2) see a palm cockatoo in the wild. Turns out, palm cockatoos like Seisia too 😉

We were driving back into the campground after a quick trip to the shops and suddenly Brandon brings the car to a screaming halt and says “palm cockatoo” – and voila, there on the ground right in front of us was this illusive creature that Brandon has waited most of his life to see! Just hanging out, nibbling on a nut. Right in front of us. And then, later during our visit, we saw another one just next door to our cabin! Brandon was able to get incredibly close to it, which I thought was pretty special 🙂

(Side note: alcohol restrictions in this part of the country mean you are limited to what you can buy at the bottle shop in Bamaga. When we saw the first palm cockatoo we were coming back from a trip to buy our allowable limit of alcohol – in this case, a 30 pack of cans of beer and a 2 litre cask of moscato (yeah, cask moscato – it’s a thing up here). You know your car is packed to the brim when you have to sit your carton of beer on your lap!)

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Beer balancing
Our first night, we watched the sun set as we sat next to the water in Seisia – even knowing there were probably crocodiles in the water in front of us, we still enjoyed the ambience. We also made friends with the locals – tree frogs and wild horses. This little green tree frog parked himself outside our cabin for pretty much the entire time we were there. He was adorable 🙂 At one point, Brandon grabbed a grasshopper that was jumping about the garden nearby and held it in front of the frog’s nose. As soon as one of the grasshopper’s legs brushed against the frog – gulp! He was gone. So cool to watch! And if you come to Seisia you have to get used to seeing wild horses everywhere. They roam through the campsite and attack the wheelie bins in the evening, hunting for food. They were hanging out the back of our cabin. We were warned against approaching them – they have a nasty bite apparently.

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Doesn’t get much better than this!

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Charlotte’s new friend

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Seisia beach looking towards the jetty

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Charlotte thought this bush turkey was trying to get away with having us believe it was a palm cockatoo.

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Horses hanging around camp
We left the camper at the cabin and headed for the Tip proper on our second day. (Charlotte took great pleasure in pointing out we were going to the Tip of Cape York and not a rubbish tip.) Despite the volume of red mud we brought back with us, it was great to finally get to that illusive sign I had seen on so many television programs about the Cape. The tip of the continent of Australia – pretty cool really. It required a bit of climbing up a small rocky mountain but I heard not one word of complaint from Charlotte about all the walking and climbing. It was marvelous 🙂

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These rock ‘mountains’ are all over the path as you climb to the tip. Charlotte insisted on putting a rock on every. single. one.

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We made it!
On our second morning, Brandon headed off to the Seisia wharf nice and early for a spot of fishing. While I suspect he had hoped for more variety in his catch, he came away having caught three quite nice sized trevally. Apparently the highlight was watching the 6 foot shark chasing his trevally in, and then also seeing a 5 foot grouper following too!

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The catch

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Happy camper (see what I did there?)
We initially planned to stay 3-4 nights up the top but we’d pretty much seen all there was to see, Brandon had been for a fish and the palm cockatoos had made an appearance, so we decided we might as well start our trek back south. Obviously Brandon would have been happy to fish for days more and I would have been happy to lounge in a cabin for days more, but we needed to keep moving. Too much to see in a short period of time! We have a few places we want to add to our itinerary so being a few days ahead of schedule isn’t a bad thing. On the way south, we stopped in at Fruit Bat Falls. This is a day use area only, no camping allowed. There’s a walk of about 200 or so metres from the carpark to the Falls and then you reach this glorious freshwater water hole along the Elliot River where you can swim and paddle around. Charlotte was in heaven – she’s such a water baby. Some people were swimming but we hadn’t brought our swimmers down from the car so we settled for a quick paddle before hitting the road again. I pointed out an orchid flower I hadn’t seen before which was also a new one for Brandon too. I can’t remember what it’s called now, but no doubt JH will tell me.

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Fruit Bat Falls

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Fruit Bat Falls

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Fruit Bat Falls

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A new (for us) orchid

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Fruit Bat Falls
After this we made our way to Bramwell Station. We had heard that this place had a good atmosphere and had live music etc each night, so we thought it would be a good place to stop for the night. Like most places here, it was a little rough around the edges but the beer was cold and during happy hour the manager, Ken, put on a talk about the history of the Station, the current owners and the surrounding area. If you wanted to join in the buffet meal (for $35/head) at this point you could but we retreated to our campsite as we had just splurged on the cabin and didn’t really need to spend more money. We packed up in the morning and continued our journey south, returning to Musgrave Station for a final night on the PDR before beginning our trip west. Unfortunately, after arriving at Musgrave some 5 hours later we realised we had left behind a rather integral pole for our annex at Bramwell. After a nervous few hours, we were able to get the Station to confirm they had our pole (which also has our LED lights attached to it) and had put it in their office for safe keeping. Now as I write this we are waiting to hear if someone is heading south from Bramwell tomorrow who can bring the pole to us! If not, we’ll ask them to hold on to it and arrange them to send it back to us COD once we return to Brisbane. Brandon has found there’s a camping supply place in Katherine so we may just have to make do until then. We plan to get up early in the morning to ring the Station again to see if they have found anyone to send the pole with. If not, we’ll head off without it. But if they did, we’ll wait around here another night to get our pole back. Stay tuned for more news I guess!

EDIT: Pole was found by the manager of the station but no-one was heading as far south as Musgrave the next day so we pushed on. The manager, Ken, lives in Brisbane and will be returning home at the end of October. He is bringing our pole home with him and will contact us to collect it 🙂 Meanwhile, we will have to make do with what we have and will buy another one at the next camping shop we find.

I suspect it will be a little while until our next blog post as we head off into unchartered territory and do some bush camping on our way to the Burke Development Road and Normanton. From there we are heading to Lawn Hill Gorge for a few days and then across into NT and Katherine. We have ordered some Clearview mirrors through a supplier in Katherine so they should be there when we arrive and who knows – we might have to source a local camping shop to buy a new annex pole if we’re not lucky!

Night on the road: 16

I love a sunburnt country…

Australia in all its vastness and changing scenery. Wow.

I think I am only just realising now how big this place called Australia really is. We have driven for days and days and have only made it to the tip of the same state we live in. How is that possible? If we were in Europe, we’d have crossed the continent by now. Having said that, whilst we have spent many hours in the car, we haven’t exactly been barrelling along at 100km/hour all that time. When we were still on the bitumen we were sitting around 90km/hour as that was the most comfortable for the car pushing so much weight. But once we left Cooktown, we hit the corrugations of Battle Camp Road and what would eventually become the PDR. Throw out everything you know about driving and start from the beginning again. The corrugations, dips, rocks, potholes, dust holes and pretty much everything else on this road really make for some of the most uncomfortable driving I have ever experienced. In all honesty, I’m not actually doing any of the driving because I really just don’t think I could manage to keep us safely on these roads – full credit to Brandon for doing such a great job with that.

How can I begin to describe what it’s like to ride these roads? You know those deep tread marks that giant tractor wheels make in the mud? Ruts deep enough they’d go up past your ankle if you were walking through the tracks. Now imagine instead of these tractor-type ruts being in soft mud they were hard and rocky. And instead of gingerly picking your way through on foot, you were driving over them, kilometre after kilometre. Imagine they weren’t just in one predictable line down the road either but they stretched the entire width of the road so there was no escape. And also imagine that you can’t predict the direction these rock-hard tractor tread marks will go from one 10 metre stretch of road to the next. One minute you’re on top of some smaller ruts by doing 80km/hour, the next second you have to slow because the ruts suddenly changed size or direction or there was a dip in the road and you can’t see where the ruts are on the other side, or you have just spotted a dust hole at the last minute and you can’t risk driving through that in case you lose control of the car. Oh and don’t forget the road trains.

There’s no suspension in the world that can manage that type of abuse without letting you feel it in the cabin of the car. And feel it you do. Every bone jarring second. The sound of metal shaking, rattling, knocking. Phones get knocked out of their holders; plugs get knocked out of their sockets; switches pop out of dashboards; and, in our case, your indicator light can pop out of its housing! Relentless, hard, knocking, bouncing. The car sounds and feels like it is being shaken apart, one bolt at a time. You become acutely aware that you are riding in a giant metal bucket. But I should be clear. I’m not remotely concerned about my own well-being. That’s why there are so many handles in the car, right? For this sort of driving. The ‘holy shit’ bar has come in handy more than once. My body certainly has enough padding on it for bouncing like this, and our new sheepskin seat covers (thanks Mum!) make for a comfortable base from which to bounce. My one concern, my only concern, is the well-being of our car. How long can it withstand this abuse? It hasn’t exactly been showing us its good side these past few months – we have spent just about every spare cent we have keeping that car on the road and while I get that the 80 series Landcruiser is seen as a great workhorse, there’s always the possibility that the horse is ready to be put out to pasture, yeah? So every bump, bounce, knock, roll or thump has me in fear that we’re about to damage something on the car that will spell a premature end to this trip. I’m petrified the car is going to fall apart like something out of a cartoon – I can picture Wyle E. Coyote driving a car and something happening that causes his entire car to fall apart one nut and bolt at a time while he sits there, maintaining his pose. I don’t want us to be Wyle E. Coyote.

This is a road that is known to be tough on cars – there are a few car bodies strewn along the road, the camp grounds are rife with people telling stories about the damage done to cars, their own or someone else’s. But what I have so far failed to understand (and probably never will), is the brag-ish pride that I seem to hear in the voices of people who tell war stories about what has happened to them on the road. Surely they can’t actually enjoy damaging their cars? Why? How is it possible to take so much pleasure out of doing something so (avoidably) stupid? Like the people who attempt to climb what looks to be an incredibly difficult 4WD-only hill and end up denting just about every panel on their car, leaving bits and pieces behind in their wake. I don’t get it. Or the fools who look at the 90 degree angle of Gunshot Creek and think they are that one special person alive on this planet that can defy just about every law of physics or whatever relevant science there is to actually make their car practically fold in half and successfully climb out of said 90 degree angled hole in the ground. Am I the only person who looks at these tossers and thinks “Why?” I’m probably the only person I know who actually reckons bitumen all the way to the Tip is a good idea – but I guess I just. don’t. get. it.

So imagine you’ve come to terms with the corrugations (you’ll have to really use your imagination there because I don’t think it’s possible to really come to terms with them). Then there’s the ‘sunburnt’ bit. I have come to realise that Dorothea Mackellar was really talking about the horrid red dirt that seems to accumulate over, in, under, through and outside EVERYTHING that touches it. The shade of red is really unmistakable – think of what it would be like if Uluru suddenly became powdered and coated half of everything you owned. And then think of what it would be like if it rained and the once-powdered, now-liquid Uluru spread to cover the other half of everything you owned. So now you have half your worldly possessions coated in powdered Uluru and the other half covered in muddy, liquid Uluru and you know the best bit? You are driving in a car that is carrying half of this powder-liquid Uluru around with you, rubbing it against you every time you try to get in or out of the car. AND you are sleeping, cooking, lounging and generally just living in a camper trailer that is also covered in powder-liquid Uluru. You can’t open your fridge without rubbing up against it. You can’t get a cup or plate out without rubbing up against it. You can’t make yourself a piece of toast, brush your hair or put your pyjamas on without coming into contact with it. You can’t reach for the toilet paper without rubbing up against it. And if that wasn’t bad enough? YOU HAVE LIMITED WATER!! There’s no such thing as a car wash when you have to survive on only the water in the tank, the best you can hope is that the meagre dustpan brush you brought along will allow you to brush off some of the driest powdered Uluru to give yourself the fantastical illusion that your nearest surfaces are just a little bit cleaner than the rest of your environment.

Brandon’s car after we came back from The Tip. Honey, the Cape called – it wants its red dirt back.
Caked on – looks like icing on a very unappetising cake. It flakes off if you shut the doors hard enough, but leaves a dusty red powder behind that is oddly attracted to just about everything it comes in contact with!

Yeah, I love a sunburnt country.

Nights on the road: 14

Bouncing up and down in an old Landcruiser…

We had a lovely rest in Cairns but in some ways this was the calm before the storm. Our journey northwards would see us start the infamous corrugations of the Penninsula Development Road (PDR), complete with dust and dirt. In and around Cairns, Charlotte was very taken with the quantity of sugar cane fields and this became a little running joke with her – along the lines of “I bet you can’t guess what I’m thinking of now?” We waited for a lengthy sugar cane train to cross in front of us, saw a hopper in action, and even saw one field on fire which was a special treat. The cloud cover around the mountain ranges coming into Cairns were also quite spectacular.

One of the cane fields on fire

Beautiful cloudy ‘misty mountain’ outside Cairns
Leaving Cairns we headed north towards the Daintree and our first little test run of a 4WD road, the Bloomfield Track. Some people say it’s not really a proper 4WD track because it’s quite easy and many 2WD vehicles can do it. This is probably true but it had a few nice little creek crossings and a couple of exceptionally steep ups and downs. The worst of these were concreted for easier traction but it was more than enough off-roading for me. I’d be happy with roads like that for the rest of the trip! At the end of the track was a little pub called The Lion’s Den which seemed like a great place to stop for pizza and a beer 🙂 We also drove past a mountain range called Black Mountain where all the mountains were made entirely of boulders! It was surreal and very pretty.

Crossing the Daintree River by ferry
Video footage of the Daintree forest at the start of the Bloomfield.

Mountain made of boulders
More boulder mountains
Relaxing at the Lion’s Den

Charlotte was quite taken with the lion
We were heading for Cooktown, specifically a bush camping spot we’d found on WikiCamps called Endeavour River Escape. We got there are 4.30pm and set up for one night. It was a great spot – we rang in advance to book and the homestead owner met us at the gate and personally escorted us (on her motorbike!) to our bush camping site. There was hot showers, flushing toilets and grass under foot. Each site had a rubbish bin and fire pit. We had our first marshmallow roasting that night 😉 Tranquility. Given the fishing and walking tracks on the property, we’ll be back for sure!

A guided escort!

Lovely bush camp
After Cooktown we followed Battle Camp Road (hello corrugations!) towards the Old Laura Homestead. We stopped to make some sandwiches for lunch at the old homestead and give Charlotte a chance to stretch her legs. Then it was on to our next camping spot, the Hann River Crossing. We were expecting something a little more rainforest-like and less dust bowl but we made camp as per our plans. There are about 14 sites here and each one is some distance away from the next, except ours (site 12) which joined site 11 and was therefore a tad bigger. We ended up with some lovely neighbours, a retired couple from Broome and we chatted to them a while about the road further north.

Despite not meeting expectations, the site was picturesque in its own way and gave us a chance to refresh ourselves. We were close enough to the (freshwater) river that we got to test our Joolca river water pump. Brandon hooked it up so that we used river water for our showers and dishes which was a real treat. We are having to become very water-wise on the road and are constantly trying to find ways to reduce usage. We have run out a few times which makes me nervous (we have a 60 litre water bladder in B’s car as a back up which has come in very handy!) I stopped short of washing clothes in the river water however! But I did use our Scrubba bag for the first time and I was pleasantly surprised at how good that works. It takes a lot of effort because the bag only fits a small amount of clothes but for life on the road in between caravan park washing machines, it will do nicely.

Fishing at Hann River
Charlotte Trinh out the wash bag
Judging by the colour of the water, I’d say the clothes were getting clean!
Proof the bag worked!
Cherubin caught in the Hann River – B said they tasted like a banana prawn

Stretching out at the Old Laura Homestead

Let’s hope our truck doesn’t end up like this!
Brandon was constantly reminding Charlotte and me to keep things closed and up off the ground. Just on dark on the first night, our neighbours in the next site came over to let us know they just saw a brown snake at their site! Yikes! My sleep that night was disturbed and I became very nervous of our movements around camp. I was kind of happy to leave after that!

Spidery wildlife at Hann River
After two nights beside the Hann River it was time to hit the PDR and Musgrave Station Roadhouse. This was only a short trip down the road from Hann so we had a relatively easy drive that day and managed to snag a good camp site before the hoards arrived. We had good neighbours who shared stories of their trip with us and it was nice to have a grassy campsite again. The Roadhouse slowly filled up during the course of the day and that night the bar was full of cries of delight as the final State of Origin match beamed over satellite. Despite the volume of people, the camp site was surprisingly quiet and made for a peaceful night’s sleep.

Musgrave fills up each night
The freshwater lagoon behind Musgrave Roadhouse was home to a number of freshwater crocs and turtles
The PDR in all her corrugated glory
This horse was intent on eating our Wild Boar flag!


Musgrave is a typical one night stopover on the way north or south so everyone started clearing out early the next morning, including us. Our next destination was originally the Archer River Roadhouse but this wasn’t that much further down the road and our neighbours from Hann River had mentioned the Moreton Telegraph Station as a peaceful place (with grass!) so we pressed on and ended up there instead. And that is where I am writing this post from. We were originally only staying one night but we are a night ahead of schedule for our next national park booking at Elliot Falls so we have decided to stay here tonight and set off early tomorrow.

We have pretty much survived the worst of the PDR although we have to go back that way in a week or so! We had a few moments where we came close to being air-born and we hit bottom a few times but other than some bone-shakingly, boob-jiggly corrugations, we have travelled unscathed.

One thing we are having to learn as we go is how to best set up camp for one, two or three night stays. For the quick overnighters we don’t bother with the big annex but that then leaves us with no protection from sun or rain. So we have started to use the annex from Brandon’s car to stretch over our sitting area and giv us some quick and easy shelter. Those roof-rack mounted annexes are definitely something to add to your kit if you’re planning a trip like this!

Our luscious camp site at Moreton Telegraph Station

We are seeing lots of different frogs everywhere we go 🙂

So from here we hit the Old Telegraph Track (and possibly a few hairy 4WD moments) on our way to Fruit Bat Falls and Elliot Falls. After two nights there it’s on to the top! The reports on the river crossings seem to change every day so we need to just go and check something out first and maybe we go that way or maybe we don’t. While the distances between spots isn’t huge, the road conditions can mean it takes some hours to get anywhere so it’s important to be stocked with water, fuel and food in case we end up camped by the side of the road. So far, so good.

Nights on the road: 1 week, 3 days

Brisbane to Cairns

And we are off! But where to begin…

Blog posts are a little difficult to complete thanks to intermittent internet connections but I’ll try to catch everyone up over one or two posts. We are currently at the Musgrave Roadhouse using a paid wifi account, and have started our trek to the Tip. We have been gone for a week and have already had some amazing adventures and seen some wonderful sites.

After the final pack up at home (can’t believe we fit it all in!) we set off for Gladstone via (a) the tip to weigh ourselves and (b) the Sunshine Coast to stop and say goodbye to Mum.

Flying the Wild Boar flag…

Then we were off to our first overnight stop just north of Gladstone. We initially intended to stay at the Calliope River rest area but we really wanted something that was near food for an easy first night (i.e. no cooking!) so after a quick check of Wikicamps (best app purchase ever!), we headed for the Raglan Tavern on the Bruce Highway. We camped in their giant carpark/truck stop but the meals at the Tavern were wonderful and the showers were hot. Can’t ask for more than that! Being right on the Bruce Highway, it wasn’t exactly a restful night with trucks and trains going past all the time, and then Charlotte’s coughing magically re-appeared in the middle of the night so sleep was hard to come by. I think my nerves about all that we had in front of us probably also contributed a bit to my lack of sleep.

After that our next stop was Smalley’s Beach campground in Cape Hillsborough National Park. We had the best spot there was – peaceful and slightly away from the other sites, opening right to the beach, but still within walking distance of the toilet block. We stayed here for two nights and it was a lovely first introduction to ‘bush camping’ where we essentially fend for ourselves instead of relying on all that is available at taverns or caravan parks. I had one moment of fear when Charlotte and Brandon decided to go for a walk along the beach and 3 hours later they still hadn’t come back! Phone reception was intermittent so I couldn’t reach Brandon at first and as the sun was starting to set, I started to get a little nervous. I walked among the nearest campsites and asked if they had seen Brandon and Charlotte but no-one had seen them. I finally tried Brandon’s mobile again and thankfully I had reception and he answered the phone! I didn’t realise how worried I was until I heard his voice and I promptly burst into tears! Turns out Charlotte had found some friends at a nearby camp site and Brandon allowed her some time to play with them before heading back to our site He tried to send a text to let me know where he was but it didn’t go through. Phew – much relief!
 

The view from the front of our camper

 
Charlotte enjoying Smallley’s Beach

 
Brandon enjoyed a spot of fishing (unsuccessfully)
 

Charlotte did some Bananagrams to practice her spelling

 
This goanna was quite inquisitive…

 

Some of the local wildlife

 
Bush turkeys eating the coconut we had been given

 
So many friendly creatures – this stone curlew came to within a few feet of me

 
One of our neighbours gave Charlotte a fresh coconut to try – she says she liked the water inside but her face told otherwise…

 
We will mark our path on this map in permanent marker for Charlotte to bring to school when we return.
 

After this our next stop was two nights with Brandon’s cousin Jayson and his lovely family in Cairns. We haven’t seen them since Charlotte was about 10 weeks old so it was great to be able to catch up. A few beers, a few laughs and lots of wonderful food made for a great visit.

Before we left, I remember reading a question on one of the camping/caravanning forums about what people believed was the etiquette for waving at other campers/travellers while on the road. I didn’t give it much thought because I figured there are so many travellers out there, it would be odd to try to wave to everyone. That being said, it’s not hard to tell who the long-term travellers are – they usually have loads of crap on their vehicles/vans and their vans are certainly not in showroom condition. I figured maybe waving to these folks, as a kind of kinship thing, it might be worth starting to wave. I delicately began – but not with much enthusiasm. Brandon said I needed to be assertive and early with my waving – like there’s a style to it! 😉 So he started to put a finger up from the steering wheel to ‘force’ others to wave to us. Can you believe we are taking this much pleasure out of getting people to wave to us?! Clearly we have already spent too much time on the road! There are times when I think waving should be compulsory – for example, when you are on a 4WD track and you pull aside to let someone else go past you, a wave then should be compulsory. On the open highway, not so much. I stopped waving after a while because no-one was waving back at me but then spontaneous recovery occurred when a random couple waved to both of us quite enthusiastically out of the blue!

Another behaviour I have noticed more on this trip than other trips is blinker etiquette. As a big rig, we tend to sit just below the speed limit for comfort and fuel economy. But this means we can get some people sit behind us who might get frustrated being stuck behind us. Brandon always does the right thing and lets people behind him know when the path is clear for overtaking, by putting his right indicator on momentarily and slowing down just a bit. Just like getting the occasional wave from a random stranger, it’s quite pleasant to see people recognise these little efforts by ‘blinkering’ us (i.e. blinking left, right, then left again) as they move back across to the left side of the road. Yep, we’ve definitely been on the road too long already to get this much pleasure from such a little thing!

I knew this trip would test me on a number of levels, particularly my desire for cleanliness and orderliness. What I didn’t realise was how early this would be tested. The carpark at Raglan was dirt/gravel and Smalley’s Beach was also dirt/dust. I am fighting a losing battle trying to keep everything clean and tidy so I guess I need to accept this will be my one nemesis during this trip. As we move closer to the Tip the dust gets heavier, the car and camper get dirtier and everything gets just that little bit harder.

Big things we have seen so far? Big bulls in Rockhampton (many without their erm… manly bits); the big mango (in Bowen), and the big pumpkin and watermelon (in Gumlu).

Nights on the road up to this point: 5

Food, glorious food…

We’re in low single digits, folks. Eeeek! It’s really starting to hit me just how much we have to do, how much we have to pack, and how long we will be gone for! My nights are slowly getting more and more restless as I lay awake thinking through everything over and over, mentally making lists, crossing things off lists, and making yet more lists. D-Day is fast approaching.

This past weekend I focussed on food. I completed the first big shop of non-perishable items (who knows where we’ll be for the next one!) and grabbed the last few non-food items on my shopping list. I’m struggling with the concept of being so self-sufficient which is really surprising me. I’ve always assumed that packing up and driving off into the sunset would be easy but it’s not. It’s actually quite tricky.

Lately I have found myself pondering how much tuscan seasoning should I be bringing with us? And do we need Vegemite and Cheesymite or just one? How much actual cooking do I think I’ll want to do? You’re supposed to be roughing it when you’re camping but what if your camp is your home for the next 107 nights? There’s only so much roughing it this little black duck can tolerate, particularly when it comes to food! So in goes the tuscan seasoning, the cornflour, the pesto, the salad dressing, the breadcrumbs, the Lots-a-Noodles soup, the Coco Pops and the honey oats. Plus lots more. 

We have two tubs for non-perishables. I was actually able to replace the big blue tub with a smaller blue one so I must have packed well!
Here is all that needs to go in the tubs. Let the Tetris games begin…

Did you know you can get tinned tomatoes in square boxes now? Yes, that’s a thing! So much easier for packing!

One thing I am trying for the first time, to help reduce space needs, is dehydrating some vegetables. I borrowed a dehydrator (thanks CF!) and set to work on 3kg of carrots, 4-5 large heads of broccoli and 6kg of potatoes. It was a time consuming process and I’m not entirely sure how they’ll taste afterwards but once cryovac-ed with our 12v rechargeable vacuum sealer, the space savings were certainly noticeable.

Before…
Brandon says the broccoli looks like it should have a street value 🤣
The vacuum sealer we have
I may end up saving the dehydrated veggies for times when we can’t get fresh stuff (or it’s hideously expensive) because I’m just not drawn to the look of those carrots! The potatoes turned out the best by far but I forgot to photograph them!

Tetris food packing success 😀

On the topic of food, I also recently had to get Dobby’s food prepped and ready, as he will be staying with grandad while we are away. (Note: when I did this, Lucy was still alive so I was planning for 2 dogs…) We feed our pups BBQ chicken, mixed with rice and vegetables. When you have small dogs this works out cheaper than canned food and is a darn sight better for them (and as another plus leads to less smelly number twos, but we don’t need to go there Lol). So I was needing to get 107 nights worth of doggie bags for 2 pups – that’s 14 BBQ chooks, 2kg of (uncooked) rice, and 21 cans of vegetables. And if you’ve ever wondered what that looks like…

Getting everything ready…
Chooks ‘plucked’ and starting to add veggies…
The mixing trough…
 

Dobby would have just about jumped in here if his little legs would have allowed it!

4 more sleeps until departure…!!

Vale Lucy Lu Hazelwood

The lead up to our departure was always going to be overshadowed by the health concerns of our lovely Jack Russell Terrier, Lucy Lu. She was diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma (bladder cancer) about 7 months ago – a diagnosis that usually comes with a 4-6 month prognosis. So we were on borrowed time and needed to accept that a goodbye was imminent and most likely going to occur before we left.

Alas that time came last Tuesday when the vet’s latest report was that Lucy was in extreme discomfort. Her quality of life was pretty poor so we had to say goodbye 😦

We have had Lucy since she was a tiny puppy, 12 years ago. We travelled to Tasmania to collect her and she’s been an integral part of our family ever since. She will be sadly missed. She’s no longer in pain, that has been left behind for us to bare.
We miss you, dear sweet Lucy.


8 sleeps to go…