Friday, October 04, 2013

2013 Caravan Trip

September 2013:

On our last night in Cooktown we caught up with our friends and neighbours from home, Leith and Jenny. They, with some family and friends, were heading up to Cape York. I think it was a bucket list thing.

We left Cooktown and headed south to Mareeba where we stayed at the Rodeo Grounds once more. This time the weather was very disappointing. Strong winds, very cold and rain. Miserable. We were camped next to a young couple with a toddler. They had all their possessions in a box trailer, including their tent. Their house had been washed away in the Bundaberg floods and they weren't quite sure where they were going next.

After three days here we went down to South Mission Beach where we met up with some more friends from Mandurah, Richard and Jill, and enjoyed their hospitality watching the Federal election in their holiday home up on the hill.

From here we continued south, staying overnight at the Home Hill Showgrounds again, then at St Lawrence (QLD 87 in Camps 7). Next we spent a night in Bundaberg, picking up some Bundy coffee/chocolate liqueur for a friend at home and then it was Maroochydore where we stayed in the Maroochy Palms caravan park for 3 nights. It's always pleasant there. While here we visited Allan and Sharon whose blog is listed on the right: Wheroll's Travel Blog ( ).

Next it was a short 5 minute drive down to Mooloolaba. When we went to Mooloolaba in 2008 and ordered our Bushtracker we stayed at an apartment complex right on the beach and noticed this small caravan park right on the beachfront. This year we were able to get in for 4 nights.

I came away with mixed feelings. It's quite difficult to manoeuvre a 20 ft van onto a site, especially when the area opposite the site is crowded out with posts and railings. We managed though. The first two nights were very windy, with some rain. The wind made the surf very noisy and with the van windows open, it was starting to get annoying.

We left on Friday morning, September 20th, and drove south to Caboolture where we turned west and drove up the Daguilar Highway through Kilcoy, Moore and into Blackbutt. I had intended going all the way through Toowoomba to stay at Rudd's Pub in Nobby but I stopped to investigate a metallic screeching noise that was definitely not normal. I walked along the van and saw that the right rear wheel bearings had collapsed.

This was a major Oh Shit! moment. I nursed the van around the corner to the Blackbutt Showgrounds (QLD 469 in Camps 7) and parked up. In a stroke of good luck one of the other people at the showgrounds was a retired mechanic and happily supervised my work. Actually Bert helped quite a lot with hints, tips and confidence boosting, thanks Bert.

It was only 11am so I rang Bushtracker and arranged to get some new bearings. They were only 90 minutes down the hill so we drove down with the hub in the back and Bob, one of their mechanics, put all new greased bearings and a seal into the hub and gave me a new castle nut, washer and split pin. Back up the hill to the van. Fitting the hub could wait until the next morning.

While here at Blackbutt Showgrounds, Mick and Vicki, fellow bloggers ( and BT owners who live up the road in Rockingham, pulled in on their way to Bushtracker for some insurance work. Also joining us were Stuart and Jane from the VKS737 HF network. We had met them in Albany (WA) in 2007. So we had a very pleasant happy hour with Bert and Jane, Mick and Vicki, Stuart and Jane, and us. Sort of made the collapsed wheel bearing almost OK.

I had booked us into Bushtracker to have the bearings in the remaining three wheels replaced. So on Monday we hitched up and drove down the hill again to Yandina Rest Area (QLD 169 in Camps 7). We've been here before and generally it's OK but there was one man there who was having a very loud argument with himself in his tent; obviously off his meds or on something that wasn't legit. He came out of his tent and thought it would be good if I was his new best friend forever but that was not going to happen so we packed up and drove the 10 minutes to Eumundi where the town has set up a new RV Rest Area in the parking area used for their markets. Another Queensland friend and fellow BT owner, Gordon, came over from his home in Peregian Beach to say hullo . That was nice. The next morning, Tuesday, we went into Bushtracker and left the van there for the bearings to be done. They also checked the brakes, suspension,  and pivot blocks as part of a 10,000km service.

So we ended up driving up and down this route 5 times in 5 days but we were able to resume our journey home with confidence that nothing else would crop up. Needless to say, I've been giving myself a severe butt kicking over putting off a job that I should have done at least 12 months ago. It could have been so much worse that I can't stand thinking about how bad it could have been.

So, on Tuesday Sept 24th, we started for home, again.  And also, again, the urge to put some considerable distance under our wheels was irresistible. We stayed that night at Kilcoy Showgrounds but the next day we drove almost to Glen Innes in NSW and stayed at Beardy Creek Heritage Park Rest Area (NSW 152 in Camps 7). Well, almost. We actually camped on the river bank just 500 metres north where the outlook was very pleasant.

From there we drove through Inverell, Moree, Narrabri, Coonabarabran, Gilgandra to a camp site between Warren and Nevertire (NSW 416 in Camps 7).

The next day, Friday Sept 27th, we drove to Broken Hill where we stayed for two days and watched the AFL Grand Final on Saturday. But for some inaccurate kicking, the Dockers would have won. Instead they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

On Sunday we left Broken Hill, refuelling at Yunta and Port Augusta before pulling into the Apex-Lions Park at Kimba for the night (SA 541 in Camps 7).

On the way across the Eyre Peninsula we were experiencing some strong northerly winds making conditions quite warm. Listening to the forecast on the radio, they were saying that the wind would turn south westerly and strengthen. It certainly did. As we were refuelling at the BP in Ceduna it turned and really blew. It was going to be a headwind all the way across the Nullarbor too.

As I drove out onto the highway I entered "HOME" into my navigator just to show you how far it is to the next corner: 1199 kilometres before we turn right !!

Across the Nullarbor the wind was shocking. It was strong and consistent and getting up to 90 kph or so. Our fuel consumption was 33 litres/100 kms so we pulled into a rest area just 30 kms past Nullarbor Roadhouse (SA 585 in Camps 7).

The wind was so strong and buffeted the van so much that it was rocking all night, no pleasure involved though.

We refuelled at the BP at Border Village in the morning, 720 kms to our first turn now.

Our next overnight stop was at 10 Mile Rocks (WA 27 in Camps 7), just 80 kms from Norseman. We met a very interesting family here from west of Toowoomba. Dad, Mum, 4 daughters (1 about 18, twins 16 and a 4 year old). The twins were going for their Driver's Licences and had to get 100 hours of supervised driving in their log books, each. So what better way to do it than pack up the Landcruiser and drive to Perth and back.

After refuelling at the BP in Norseman we overnighted next at the rest area at Burracoppin (WA 245 in Camps 7) and on Thursday 3rd October we drove through Perth to Mandurah and home.

This trip home was our 20th crossing of the Nullarbor  by vehicle (over and back being 2 crossings) and our 4th year in Queensland with our van. We first drove across the Nullarbor 2 days after we got married in 1971, in an XT Falcon sedan. It was mostly unsealed then.

Next year it will probably be time to visit other parts of Australia in which we have not spent much time. Victoria, Tasmania (never been there), maybe Darwin. We'll see you out there somewhere.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

2013 Caravan Trip

August 2013:

After we left Clairview we drove up towards Mackay but skirted out to the west and along Pioneer Valley through the small towns of Marian and Mirani to Finch Hatton. We spent a couple of very pleasant days at the Showgrounds in Finch Hatton (QLD 66 in Camps 7).

There is a very good guide and map on this brochure:

This was such a nice quiet place, $20 per night for power and water, with green grass everywhere.

We went for a drive up the hill at the end of the valley to Eungella. I found this aerial photo on the Net. It shows the steep, twisty road to the top. I know a few people who have dragged their Bushtrackers (and other large, heavy vans) to the top and down again but I'm afraid it's not for me. Steep twisty roads are bad enough without a van.

The view from the top of the valley at Eungella is striking.

We drove out to a small coffee shop and walked down to the bank of this river where we sighted a platypus swimming around looking for lunch.

He (?) and a cormorant were actually feeding together.

A few kilometres further out we drove around Eungella dam (QLD 70 in Camps 7). There were quite a few people camping there. It looked to be another very pleasant spot.

We also took a drive out to Finch Hatton gorge.  Quite a walk through the rain forest.

After leaving Finch Hatton we drove north to Home Hill. This nice little town on Bruce Highway has had a Rest Area in the middle of town for quite some time. The Home Hill Comfort Stop (QLD 43 in Camps 7) is a nice setup but has been taken over by backpackers in whiz-bangs and other users who have become abusers. Unfortunately this is happening a lot and will see the end to a lot of good rest areas.

Fortunately at Home Hill the otherwise unused showgrounds have been opened to Grey Nomads only. The on-site caretaker has the authorisation to prevent backpackers from entering and that means it's a very pleasant place for us caravanners, motorhomers etc. There is a small fee of $10 per night for power and limited water. The caretaker organises a very nice Happy Hour and he collects all our receipts showing what we spent in the town and takes that info to the Council each week. Apparently this is encouraging the Council to keep the grounds open and there may well be improvements in the future.

The sugar cane farms around Home Hill still burn their crops prior to cutting and each night we woke to a layer of black ash on the vans and vehicles, but it was easily washed off. Unfortunately this ash made the van steps very slippery and I came a real cropper stepping out of the van one morning. Down like a bag of spuds. I lay there making sure nothing was broken before getting up, mumbling a few choice words and thanking a concerned neighbour from the van behind us.

Continuing further north we overnighted at Bushy Parker Park (QLD 32 in Camps 7) at Rollingstone. We've been here several times and it's always a nice stop. You have to get here early though, it's popular.

After this we had a couple of nights in a caravan park in Mission Beach. It was OK, a bit squishy. I think we will go back to the Big4 at South Mission Beach next time we are in the area.

Continuing further north we called in to visit some friends who have relocated from Mandurah to Etty Bay, just south of Innisfail. 

Dave and Michelle (Shell) bought a beautiful 1 acre block with green grass as far as the eye can see. They built a spectacular shed behind the house for their Spinifex van. I love a good shed. 

We parked out the front of their house and really improved their view.

This was a very enjoyable visit; such hospitality.

After leaving Dave and Shell's place we drove the short distance to Cairns. We really enjoy the Cairns Coconut Resort caravan park. This time we would be here for two weeks.
That means we enjoyed two Thursday morning pancake breakfasts. Yummo!

During our stay in Cairns, Robyn saw an ad in the local paper for an airshow up at Mareeba in the Tablelands. So up we went for the day. It was a good day out.
We had front row seats.
There was a good selection of aircraft flying throughout the day.

There were a couple of Winjeels on display, and flying later on, so I handed the camera to Robyn and took the opportunity to get this photo.

So I could compare it with this one. 

One day we went on a cruise through Cairns harbour and some of the mangrove areas behind it.

I'm sure he's thinking: aaah, meals on wheels.

Leaving Cairns we drove north to Wonga Beach where we stayed at the Pinnacle Caravan Park.

We enjoyed a drive up past Cape Tribulation in the Daintree rain forest, crossing the river on a ferry.

The caravan park has some resident peacocks wandering around as if they own the place (probably do).

After leaving Wonga Beach we spent one night at Rifle Creek Rest Area (QLD 186 in Camps 7) enroute to Cooktown.

In Cooktown we stayed at the Big4 Cooktown Holiday Park which is pretty good.

We went for a drive out to Archer Point. It was very windy but I believe this area is windy all the time.

Black Mountain is a huge pile of volcanic rock from a kazillion years ago.

The day out culminated at the Lions Den Hotel. This is at the northern end of the Bloomfield Track.

Cooktown from Grassy Hill Lookout.
From here we turn south to make our way home over the next 5 weeks or so.

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013 Caravan Trip

July 2013:

We left home on Thursday 11th July, north to the Great Eastern Highway, up Greenmount Hill and all points east.

We have several regular rest stops that, over the years, have come to represent progress points for our trip across the Nullarbor from Perth to the east.

The first is the big roadhouse at Tammin where we stop for lunch. We refuel at Southern Cross and our usual first overnight stop is at Koorarawalyee Rest Area in the Boorabbin National Park (WA238 in Camps 7). This is a large area with toilets and a dump point and, depending on the time of the year, we have a small camp fire.

Friday 12th July;

Next we refuel at the BP at Norseman and get onto the Eyre Highway with the compass showing E for the next few days. This trip we overnighted next at Baxter Rest Area (WA16 in Camps 7). There is a toilet and dump point at the entry to the rest area, unfortunately the dump point was unusable as it was blocked and overflowing, yuk.

Most people seem to prefer camping right at the front, almost at the edge of the highway but just 100m in behind the frontage there was a very large cleared area used by the workers who installed the toilets (there were still several big pipes lying on the ground, and a pile of blue metal). We went in there and enjoyed a huge thunderstorm during the night. Even though the rain bucketed down, the ground stayed hard and there wasn't any risk of getting bogged in the morning.

Saturday 13th July:

Continuing eastwards down Madura Pass onto the flats then up again at Eucla to refuel at Border Village. We are now in South Australia. We pushed through to Head of Bight. We had heard that there were quite a few whales here this time and that visitors are permitted to camp overnight just outside the gates to the Visitors' Centre. We got here about 6pm and setup for the night.

Sunday 14th July:

We drove down to the Visitors' Centre and parked up for a couple of hours. The setup here is really very good: timber ramps down to the cliffs and as a bonus to the spectacular scenery, there were dozens of whales in the water including a few mums and calves.

Here is the Visitors' Centre and car park. The overnight parking is a few kilometres back towards the Highway.

We only spent a couple of hours here because our main aim was to get out of the cold weather. Each night and morning our diesel heater was being given a real workout. We set it to come on about 6:30am, after 20 minutes or so I get out of bed and turn on the hot water system and get back in until the water is hot. Then it's breakfast, showers, tidy up and get on the road again.

We stopped at a small daytime rest area in Penong for lunch and got a phone call from some friends we intended to meet quite a bit further east but they were stuck in Ceduna with a vehicle problem. We caught up with them for 30 minutes or so and then continued on our way.

In Ceduna, the BP servo is another of our progress points on our way east.

We had intended going out to Pildappa Rocks for the night, but it was getting late and it had been raining, so we stopped at the little town of Wirulla and, for a small fee, plugged into a power point in their small park (SA 565 in Camps 7). They have a sign outside town saying we welcome visitors, and they do too. This was a handy stop and we watched some footy on the sat TV before snuggling up for the night.

Monday 15th July:

We refuelled at the BP in Port Augusta. This is another of our Progress Points and when we leave Port Augusta we feel that we have crossed half the country.

Up the hill to Wilmington and Peterborough, we overnighted at the Rest Area in the small town of Yunta (SA209 in Camps 7). This is a good rest area and Yunta also has a BP servo with excellent access for vans.

Tuesday 16th July:

Into NSW, we usually call in on friends in Broken Hill, but this time it was straight through in our quest for warmer temperatures (apologies to Dave and Nora). We stopped for lunch at the Spring Hill Rest Area on the Barrier Highway (NSW905 in Camps 7) and spoke to some Bushtracker owners there, from South Australia.

We always refuel at the BP in Wilcannia, always friendly service there.

Our overnight stop tonight was at Meadow Glen Rest Area (NSW891 in Camps 7), 63 kms west of Cobar.

As usual, the nicest spots are down the back. We were entertained by a very large flock of Apostle birds, also called Happy Jacks. They are like a really big chatty family.

Wednesday 17th July:

On the road again, we refuelled at the BP in Nyngan then drove through Warren and Coonamble to Walgett. Once again we stayed at the Alex Trevallion Park Rest Area (NSW370 in Camps 7) just outside Walgett. This time it was packed. I helped an older couple reverse in near us as they were circling a couple of times looking worried that space was running out.

July 18th to 20th:

We enjoyed a very pleasant couple of days in the Opal caravan park in Lightning Ridge with Bob and Laurel Clarke, friends, and Bushtracker owners, from Sydney.

While we were there, a big group of classic Pioneer Coaches, converted to motorhomes, came in. Aren't they great!!

We left Lightning Ridge and entered QLD at Hebel. Then drove via Dirranbandi to St George where we spent a couple of days.
Tuesday 23rd July:
We had intended staying overnight at Surat but it was still cold so we turned east just before Surat and drove through Glenmorgan and Tara to Dalby. Then via Kaimkillenbun and Wutul to Cooyar. Here we stayed overnight at the Swinging Bridge Park Rest Area (QLD460 in Camps 7).

This is a very nice, popular spot and, once again, we found some good places down the back.

July 24th, 25th, 26th:

We drove down the hill through Blackbutt and Kilcoy to Caboolture and parked up in the Showgrounds for 3 nights.

Since our last visit here in 2011 a beautiful equestrian pavilion has been built at the northern end.

While here I went to Trade Tools in Caboolture to buy a few essentials. What a treasure trove that place is, I could have bought up big but exercised some rare restraint.

We also visited Made to Measure Mattresses ( ) and ordered an innerspring mattress with a latex top. Our compressed foam mattress is now really compressed, and we are getting aching hips. We will get this in Mooloolaba on our southbound, homeward trip.

Saturday 27th July:

We continued north and turned inland at Gympie to take the Burnett Highway through Kilkivan to Gayndah where we stayed overnight at the Showgrounds. This was a nice spot and a nice town.

Sunday 28th July:

Driving leisurely north along the Burnett Highway through Eidsvold to Mulgildie. The pub at Mulgildie (QLD430 in Camps 7) offers free overnight camping on their grounds and all they expect in return is for us to buy a beer or three and maybe have a meal. Tonight was pizza night so it was not very difficult to comply.

Monday 29th July:

Further north along the Burnett Highway we stopped at Dululu Rest Area (QLD419 in Camps 7). We turned up at 1pm and it was virtually empty. By nightfall it was chockers.

Tuesday 30th July:

From Dululu we drove north to the Capricorn Highway then east into Rockhampton.

North out of Rockhampton on the Bruce Highway, we have previously stayed at St Lawrence (QLD87 in Camps 7). It's very nice but we wanted to try different places on this trip so we drove on to Clairview (QLD85 in Camps 7). We arrived when the tide was way out and set up camp. Through the afternoon the tide came in and eventually was lapping the beach right in front of our van.


We enjoyed a campfire that night. Life is good.