Free Camping

Day 20 – Yulara to Salt Creek Rest Area

We woke to another beautiful morning and did a full pack-up of Bertha as we were heading off today.  With water tank and jerry can full and grey water tank empty, we drove a short distance to the fuel station to fill up with diesel, and then on to the dump point to empty the cassette.  So, with everything full that needed to be full and everything empty that needed to be empty, we headed back to the Lasseter Highway.

Our first stop for coffee was at Sandy Way Rest Area (71 Camps 9).  We commented on this stop on the way in.  Overnight stays of 24 hours are allowed, and there is water (not sure exactly how fresh), shelter, rubbish bins, and a mobile ‘phone “hotspot”.  As advised previously, this could be a reasonable place to stop overnight on the way to Yulara and then only have a short drive the next morning.

Sandy Way Rest Area

Back on the highway we passed a “wandering animals” road-sign and sure enough, we almost immediately came across some cattle right on the edge of the road.  They looked peaceful and happy enough but it would only take a few steps out into traffic to cause chaos!

Stock near the Road

We stopped for lunch in Bertha at Curtin Springs.  It was very busy while we were there with a couple of coaches stopping but it’s simply too expensive for us to make any purchases here.

Scenes along the way

From Curtin Springs we continued along Lasseter Highway to the Luritja Road where we turned North towards Kings Canyon.

Interesting sculpture at the junction of the Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road

Scenes along the way

We soon made our way to Salt Creek Rest Area (67 Camps 9) where we will be staying the night.  It’s a great free camp with shelter, rubbish bins, a water tank, etc but no toilet facilities.  There were a couple of groups here when we arrived but it has since been filling up all afternoon.

Salt Creek Rest Area

After a basic set-up I went for a walk to see if I could find any trace of Salt Creek.  No luck at all, but there is a large sand-dune behind the camping area and a number of driving tracks over the top.  The dirt here is very fine red dust and obviously some vehicles had experienced some difficulties driving through the dust.  Over the sand-dune however was a fantastic place to camp with lots of flat ground, trees, etc, but no man made facilities.  Late this afternoon a chap in a Land Rover and off-road camper stopped and checked it out – he happily drove over and is now set-up on his own over the hill.

4WD track and area over the dunes at Salt Creek Rest Area

On the way back from my walk I noticed some interesting tracks in the dust – no idea what they are though.

Tracks in the Sand

This place is great.  There is a pleasant cool breeze, no TV, no internet, no mobile phones, just peacefulness.  What else could we do but get out the chairs and enjoy some reading in the shade?

There are about 10 groups here tonight, so it has got a lot more crowded since we arrived.  We fired up the BBQ for dinner and then sat inside with the doors and windows open, reading and enjoying the breeze without the flies (yes – they are a real problem out here).

BBQ at Salt Creek Rest Area

After a while someone in one of the other groups started playing guitar – very well too!  What a lovely way to spend the evening.  We went to sleep to the sound of dingoes/dogs howling somewhere near-by.

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: ,

Day 8 – Port Augusta to Andamooka

Today was a very exciting day as from now on we will be in unfamiliar territory!

We woke up to another very cold morning but the sun came out and wow, what a lovely day!

After a farewell chat with our neighbours, packing up and refuelling, we were off – heading North along the Stuart Highway, a road we haven’t travelled on before.  Not far out of Port Augusta and we were in saltbush country – that is all there was to see.  It was a great road and ideal driving weather, but the scenery was a little boring.  There were some large road trains occasionally, a few sheep grazing here and there, and cattle grids to keep us awake.

View just after we turned onto Stuart Highway at Port Augusta

Our first stop for a coffee was at Ranges View Rest Area (SA418) where we took a few photos of the scenery.

Views from Range View Rest Area

As we continued North, the scenery changed and then changed again – it wasn’t boring any more but continually changing from low saltbush scrub to more bushy scrub, to orange sand dunes to rocky patches, and even what may have been lakes.  Although on the surface things looked pretty dry, the edges of the road and the paddocks were actually that lovely red sticky mud that all travellers love to hate.

Water pipe and light-poles always seem to follow the road.

Views along the way showing different vegetation and conditions

At one stage we were passed by a bunch of bikies, who we caught up with and were overtaken by several times during the day.

Bikies on the road – we saw them several times

Just for added interest, we drove over a very long train.

We drove over a very long train

Somewhere along the way we stopped at another un-named and unsigned roadside stop for a quick stretch of the legs and to take a few photos of views across to what we’re pretty sure is “Island Lagoon”.

Views of (we think) Island Lagoon

First multi-lingual road sign we’ve seen

We stopped for lunch at Spud’s Roadhouse at Pimba.  Very much a typical outback establishment, Spud’s serves fuel, food, alcohol, is a general store, offers accommodation and has pokies.  A great all-rounder.  It was cold and windy so we couldn’t resist a small bag of very fresh and tasty hot chips – we did have some healthy stuff for lunch too!  The roadhouse also offers free camping and there are clean toilets and showers available for a small fee.

Spud’s Roadhouse at Pimba

From Pimba we headed north through Woomera.  This is very much dry, arid country with red rocky soil.  With only low vegetation, the power pylons stand out against the sky.  We assume that they take power to Roxby Downs and Olympic Dam.

Pylons contrast with low scrub

Other than occasional road traffic there are virtually no signs of stock or wild-life, although we did see a family of emus.  There is also surprisingly little road kill, which is probably a good thing.

Family of emus

We arrived at Apoma Camping Ground at Andamooka.  This is an opal mining town near Roxby Downs. There are piles of mining waste everywhere, even around houses.

Views coming into Andamooka

Coming into Andamooka

Apoma is a very “outback” camp ground but does have good clean amenities including pay showers, BBQs, a playground and a dump-ezy dump-point.  There is no power or water, and no TV reception.  At the moment it also has lots of red mud, so we made sure that we stopped on high ground.  There were three vans here when we arrived and a group of three vans travelling together set up camp not long after and immediately commenced a noisy happy hour around a big fire.

Free Camp at Andamooka

Across the road from us is a “Public Noodling Area” where loads of rocks are dumped and the public has a chance to go through looking for the elusive opal.  The chap in one of the established vans here told us that he has been coming here for years and has made some quite good finds.

We were quite weary after arriving here so we settled inside in Bertha as soon as it started getting cold.  The diesel heater might have to go on later.  Tomorrow we will do some exploring in town and then head back to the highway at Pimba to continue our trip North.

You can chart our travels today on this map

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: ,

2016 Big Maroochydore Adventure – Day 1 – Melbourne to Jugiong

We got off to a ridiculously early start this morning and were out of the gate in Bertha about 6.45am in order to miss the early morning traffic.  In fact we slept in Bertha last night as part of our preparations – it’s amazing how many things you think about that you might not have packed etc when you’re actually “on the premises”.  Plus it was a good chance to make sure that the diesel heater worked.  It did!

One of our concerns about leaving that early was that it might be foggy, but thankfully it was a nice clear morning and the traffic was flowing well so we made great progress.  That was until about Wallan, when we hit dense fog and very limited visibility.  We took advantage of the situation to stop at the servo and top Bertha up with diesel and to treat ourselves to a hot breakfast and a hot coffee.

Foggy and wet at Wallan.

Foggy and wet at Wallan.

The weather improved somewhat as we went further north along the Hume Freeway and we settled for just constant drizzle.

Weather is a bit better.

Weather is a bit better.

Next stop was at a rest stop near Euroa for a cup of coffee, then it was back on the road until we both felt that we needed a stretch and a walk so we turned off the Hume into Glenrowan.  It was still drizzling lightly so we put on our coats and went for a wander.  In a “small world” moment we bumped into our long-time friend Simon who I had worked with many moons ago and who we hadn’t seen for several years.  Simon and his wife were on their way home to Melbourne from Canberra where they had been visiting relatives and after a brief chat we headed off in our respective directions.

Ann's mother's name was Kelly!

Ann’s mother’s name was Kelly!

We continued our slightly damp stroll around Glenrowan before stopping off at the Glenrowan Bakehouse for something hot for lunch. .

View of Glenrowan.

View of Glenrowan.

Back on the highway the weather improved and the sun made an appearance and by Wodonga I actually needed my sunnies.  Travelling in sunny and clear weather is a lot more pleasant than driving in rain and drizzle so we bypassed Holbrook, where we would normally have stayed and continued towards Gundagai.  It was also great to see green pastures and some healthy looking livestock. We stopped just north of Holbrook for another stretch before continuing on to our final stop at Jugiong free camp.

Healthy looking pastures and livestock.

Healthy looking pastures and livestock.

Weather is a bit better.

Weather is a bit better.

We have stayed at Jugiong before and it is a beautiful spot.  It’s a bit cold at the moment and there aren’t many people here but we have our heater and the music on and we’re quite cosy.

Jugiong is a great place to stay.

Jugiong is a great place to stay.

Today has been an exceptional day and certainly not typical, as we very rarely travel anything like 556 kms in a day.  However, an early start and quite decent weather, most of the time, have combined to create a long but successful day with the end result that we don’t have nearly as far to travel tomorrow to visit our daughter Katie in Canberra.

We will sleep well tonight though!

Categories: 2016 Big Maroochydore Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: ,

Day 13 – Lock to Melrose

As expected, Charlie the Chook woke us bright and early this morning, even before the sun came up.  Suddenly we were surrounded with noise – the chap in the caravan next door started his 4WD and drove off, a couple of trucks roared down the road, and other unidentified noises.  Then just as suddenly things went quiet again. We were awake so we got up, showered, breakfasted and got Bertha ready for an early start.

On the way out of Lock we saw a side of the town that we hadn’t noticed yesterday, and it is quite a nice little town, with sports fields, community park, bowling club, churches, and a magnificent sculpture celebrating the town’s farming heritage and its centenary in 2014.

Statue at Lock.

Statue at Lock.

Morning tea was at Kyancutta, which is at the junction of the Tod Highway and the Eyre Highway.  We parked Bertha in Polkdinney Park, which features examples of equipment used in the development of the area along with plenty of parking, seats and tables, etc.  Going for a walk we were immediately taken by the Kyancutta Store, which is quite amazing.  There is a large café area, an area set aside for local artefacts and memorabilia, souvenirs and merchandise, and it is great.  We stopped for coffee and delicious jelly cakes in the window, enjoying the sun.  Kyancutta bills itself as “the centre of the universe” and is apparently the hottest and coldest place in SA.  What’s more, you can free camp around the back.  What a great find.  From Kyancutta we turned onto the Eyre Highway (A1) towards Port Augusta.

Polkdinney Park at Kyancutta.

Polkdinney Park at Kyancutta.

Morning tea at Kyancutta Store.

Morning tea at Kyancutta Store.

We stopped for lunch at the Rotary Park at Kimba, which describes itself as “the centre of the continent” and as being “half way across Australia”.  We went for a cruise around town and a walk up the main street.  Kimba is a very nice town which is very supportive of free camping, and has at least 3 free camps close to the centre of town.  There appear to be some very nice bakeries and cafes, and all the facilities a traveller might need.  On the way out of town we stopped for a photo opportunity at the Giant Galah, before returning to the highway towards Port Augusta.

Bertha and the Giant Galah in Kimba.

Bertha and the Giant Galah in Kimba.

Along the way we were passed by several wide loads, and each time we were able to pull off the road safely – the UHF/CB radio comes in handy at times.  One of the wide loads had a warning vehicle and then two Police Escorts, followed by two huge trucks.

Wide loads along the Eyre Highway.

Wide loads along the Eyre Highway.

We also passed the Arrium mine that we commented on when we went passed on the other side near Whyalla.

Arrium Mine

Arrium Mine

Afternoon coffee was at Iron Knob.  We were here several years ago and it was totally dead – a victim of the end of the mining boom.  This time, however, some changes had been made and the town was a bit more active and attractive.  The free camp had about six vans in residence and the camp kitchen is of a standard that many caravan parks would be proud of.  We would certainly consider staying here next time.

Views of Iron Knob.

Views of Iron Knob.

Free Camp at Iron Knob.

Free Camp at Iron Knob.

Last time we were in this area we stayed at a place called Nuttbush Retreat, which was basically a small caravan park situated in the front paddock of a working sheep farm.  It isn’t listed in Camps 8 so we were interested to see that Nutbush is still operating and in fact looks better than ever.

Once through Port Augusta, our next challenge was Horrocks Pass.  We have been down twice now but this was our first time in the reverse direction.  It was quite a lot easier going up than down.

Horrocks Pass, going up this time.

Horrocks Pass, going up this time.

Rather than go back through Peterborough we decided to head down the Horrocks Highway through Wilmington towards Clare.  Our plan was to stop for the night at the Melrose Showgrounds but just before we got there we saw a caravan in the Goyders Line Memorial rest area (SA303) and decided to stop there.  We found a nice flat spot to park and I set up the BBQ to cook steaks for dinner before it got too dark.  By the time I finished tidying things up outside there were about half a dozen groups staying here.  We’ve got great TV reception here and good internet access, which is a bonus.

Free Camp at Goyder Line Memorial rest area, 3 kms from Melrose.

Free Camp at Goyder Line Memorial rest area, 3 kms from Melrose.

Still living the dream …..

Categories: 2016 Short SA Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: , , , ,

Day 1 – Shortys 2016 Short SA Adventure

Today is the first day of our 2016 “Short” Adventure.  We’ll only be away for two or three weeks so in a way this is an extended shakedown to get used to living in Bertha the Birdsville motorhome.

We got off to an early morning start and were gone by 6.45am.  Part of the reason for the early start was that we had booked Bertha in with the dealer in Campbellfield to make a couple of adjustments before we left and it was easier to leave early and miss at least some of the peak hour traffic.  We were able to leave the dealer with a happy Bertha by 9.30am.

First stop of the day was at a service centre in Rockbank where we filled up the fuel tank and had a snack to compensate for having a light breakfast what seemed many hours earlier.

We were soon on the Western Highway and made quite good time.  Weather wise we had blue skies, some clouds, and sunshine, but the wind was a shocker and at times I struggled to keep Bertha on the road.  Most of the highway seems to be very exposed, and roadworks also contributed to a general lack of any shelter from the wind.  My shoulders are quite sore from wrestling with the steering wheel.  Seeing banks of wind turbines only confirmed that we were travelling through a very windy area.

On the Western Highway

On the Western Highway

On the Western Highway

On the Western Highway

On the Western Highway - Very Dry

On the Western Highway – Very Dry

Our lunch stop was in the nice little town of Beaufort.  This is an old but quite busy place that the highway has not yet been diverted around.  Plenty of large trucks go through the middle of town on their way through to Adelaide.  We found a great local bakery and enjoyed some very flavoursome vegetable pasties and shared a huge pink lamington (we also had a bit of a walk in the wind to compensate for the kilojoules).

Lunch Stop at Beaufort

Lunch Stop at Beaufort

From Beaufort the roadworks increased and plenty of new work was evident, so much so that the Tom Tom GPS got lost and thought we were driving through paddocks.  As a result we missed a couple of potential rest stops that we had intended to check out.

Seppelts Winery in Great Western

Seppelts Winery in Great Western

Eventually we all got organised and decided to stop at the Canadian Gully Bushland Reserve (Camps 8 V478), which is very close to Stawell.  We realised that we had actually stopped here overnight several years ago but there was a small lake here then – no such thing now.  In general it has been very dry as we have travelled west.  After a cool drink we decided that it had been a reasonably long day with some difficult driving so we would set up camp here for the night.  We found a good level and quite sheltered spot well away from the road and set up.  There are no facilities here but we’re self-contained and we have phone, TV and wireless internet access, so we’ll be fine.

Out of the city - at last! Ahh, the serenity!

Out of the city – at last! Ahh, the serenity!

We intend to keep travelling west towards South Australia’s Eyre Peninsular, but we don’t have any specific plans or accommodation bookings.  Exactly how far we travel each day is flexible, and where we end up each night will in part depend on the weather.

We look forward to continuing our adventures tomorrow.

Categories: 2016 Short SA Adventure, Free Camping | Tags:

Day 70 – Airlie Beach to St Lawrence Recreational Reserve

We got off reasonably early this morning as today was to be a driving day. Despite some initial issues getting into our site at the Island Gateway Holiday Park we were well positioned to get out and were able to make an easy and untroubled exit. Armed with maps and our Camps 7 free camps book, we made our way to the Bruce Highway and headed South without any set destination or caravan park booking.

Ready to Roll

Ready to Roll

The scenery for most of the day was reasonably uninspiring. It was basically sugar, sugar, sugar – remember the 1970s pop song – and sugar mills. The sight of continual sugar cane fields and even the sweet sugary smell in the air became a bit too much after a while. Having to stop at one point for a sugar train was something of a respite from the otherwise somewhat monotonous countryside.

Sugar Cane Train

Sugar Cane Train

Sugar Refinery

Sugar Refinery

First stop for late coffee and early lunch was outside the Mackay Tourist Information Centre. We were here last year and the Centre has been significantly improved since then with the addition of a roundabout so you can actually turn around, a dump point, and changed information facilities. No changes have been made to the amenities though.

From Mackay we returned to the Bruce Highway and eventually stopped for afternoon tea at Flaggy Rock Exotic Fruit Garden. This is a really interesting place to stop and the ice-cream and coffee were delicious. We were here last year and actually stayed at a free camp at the nearby Flaggy Rock Community Centre. We noticed that there was a job vacancy for a caretaker at the community centre and also that Flaggy Rock Exotic Fruit Garden was also offering overnight accommodation for self-contained RVs – apparently in competition to the community centre.

Flaggy Rock Exotic Fruit Garden

Flaggy Rock Exotic Fruit Garden

After Flaggy Rock we made our way to the St Lawrence Recreational Reserve free camp where we decided to stay overnight. We actually stopped here for lunch or coffee last year on our way south and were quite impressed and that assessment was confirmed today. We’re not quite sure exactly what this place is. There are some buildings, animal pens and stock loading ramps, a kiosk, an amenities block including toilets and coin operated showers, and more. This is a huge area and the variety of vans here is quite amazing. A popular local activity is fishing, although apparently the fish weren’t biting this afternoon.

We did a super quick set up with front and back legs on the van but remained hitched up. We put the awning out mainly to dry things out as it was a bit wet from the overnight dew when we rolled it up this morning.

Set Up at St Lawrence free camp

Set Up at St Lawrence free camp

As I was cooking dinner on the BBQ, we were delighted to see a beautiful sunset. Some of our neighbours have lit camp fires and the feeling of near black darkness punctuated by the occasional fires and brilliant stars in the sky is absolutely magic.

Sunset and camp fires at St Lawrence free camp

Sunset and camp fires at St Lawrence free camp

Free camping is not for everyone but we are set up to be totally self-sufficient. Our fridge, stove and hot water service all operate off the gas bottles and the lights and TV operate from deep cycle batteries which are charged by the solar panel.

For us, free camping at a place like St Lawrence is what caravanning is all about.

We might be tempted to stay here another day …..

Categories: 2014 Townsville Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: , ,

Day 22 – Theresa Creek Dam to Belyando Crossing Roadhouse

At 5 minutes past midnight I heard rain on the roof of the van – it was only light but persistent. As we had left some windows and the door open for ventilation, I got up and closed up the van. If I had been more awake I would have taken the opportunity to bring our waterproof jackets in from the Ute. It rained all night and I didn’t sleep very well at all. I had a recurring nightmare that the soil under our van would turn into mud and that we would ski into the dam on the orange plastic blocks we put under the caravan legs. Fortunately that didn’t happen.

After showers and watching a bit of TV we were still a bit undecided as to whether we should stay and see out the rain or continue travelling north. When we heard that they were possibly expecting 30 ml of rain today our minds were made up so we packed up the van in the light rain and headed back to the highway.

A bit sad in the rain

A bit sad in the rain

A reminder that it is raining!

A reminder that it is raining!

First stop was not very far away at Clermont. This seems to be a nice old town with plenty of interesting heritage buildings. We did some shopping at IGA and stopped for a very good coffee at Bella Baristas café. We were contemplating staying overnight at the Clermont Caravan Park as recommended by Frosty, but it turns out that there is a large equestrian event on over the weekend and the park seemed very busy.

Scenes around Clermont

Scenes around Clermont

So we headed back to the Gregory Development Road northwards. As we left town we could not ignore the huge piles of earth around the Clermont Coal Mine, and what looked like an incredibly long undercover conveyor belt, presumably to move coal from the mine to the railway.

Conveyor belt and coal mine

Conveyor belt and coal mine

We had lunch at a roadside stop near the entrance to Frankfield Station. We were a bit intrigued by the sign for the Dead Horse Yards!

What's a Dead Horse Yard?

What’s a Dead Horse Yard?

The road seems longer in the rain

The road seems longer in the rain

Another 100 kms or so and we reached our destination – Belyando Crossing Roadhouse. This is a small roadhouse with very expensive diesel, a licensed bar and quite a good shop with meals etc. There is some reasonably priced motel style accommodation and powered and unpowered caravan sites. The layout of the powered sites is interesting in that there are three rows of sites with vans parked behind each other. We hope that the people behind us don’t want to leave at the crack of dawn! We have power but no water, and no TV, internet or mobile access.

Arriving at Belyando Crossing Roadhouse

Arriving at Belyando Crossing Roadhouse

Interesting Set-Up at Belyando Crossing Caravan Park

Interesting Set-Up at Belyando Crossing Caravan Park

Tonight’s accommodation is not on the same page as last night, it is just an overnight stop mid-way between Clermont and Charters Towers with nothing to see or do. However the weather is better and we are now closer to our eventual destination of Townsville.

The adventure continues…..

Categories: 2014 Townsville Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: , ,

Day 21 – Sapphire to Theresa Creek Dam

Last night we had a surprise but very welcome visitor – fellow Trailblazer adventurer “Frosty”. We have known Wayne and Marg Frost as long as we had owned our Trailblazer 5th Wheeler, and we have stayed in touch via email, occasional phone calls, and through our respective blogs. We have met up in Melbourne but we had never crossed paths on the road. Wayne and Marg had booked into a caravan park in Sapphire yesterday for a week to do some fossicking and had seen another Trailblazer at the free camp and wondered who owned it. Wayne then read our blog and realised who it was and came straight over. We had a great chat and hope that we will catch up again later in this trip.

Our free camp site at Sapphire is basically a vacant block of land between the swimming pool and the fire station. There is a public toilet and a dump point and a great general store a couple of hundred metres away. The land isn’t flat but there were 8 vans there overnight and room for a few more.

We had a look around Sapphire before we left and it really is a fascinating place with lots of mines and miners living in sheds and caravans, and plenty of gem shops and places catering for fossickers and prospectors. Much of the landscape seems to consist of mullock heaps where miners have deposited unwanted soil and other material.

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

Scenes around Sapphire

First stop for coffee was a short distance up the Highway at Rubyvale. This is a bigger and in some regards a more modern version of Sapphire – there is certainly more development happening. We stopped for coffee at the Rubyvale Café where the coffees were great and I had the largest melting moment ever. The Rubyvale Gem Gallery is in the same building and there is also accommodation available. There are still plenty of more “traditional” mining and tourist establishments in town.

Rubyvale Cafe & Gem Gallery

Rubyvale Cafe & Gem Gallery

The Biggest Melting Moment I Have Ever Seen

The Biggest Melting Moment I Have Ever Seen

Scenes around Rubyvale

Scenes around Rubyvale

Back on the highway and another stop at Capella. We went for a good walk around town and picked up a few supplies. One very interesting monument was dedicated to the Australian Light Horse Brigade and the belief that the traditional wearing of emu feathers in the soldiers hats’ has a direct link to Capella. Also of interest were some large silos just out of town, but we couldn’t work out what they contained.

Scenes around Capella

Scenes around Capella

From Capella it was on to our final destination – the free camp at Theresa Creek Dam – and we made one of the worst decisions in our many adventures in the Trailblazer. We ignored a street sign pointing to our destination in favour of listening to the GPS! Big mistake!

This is the Sign we ignored

This is the Sign we ignored

Our GPS – which we call Gabby – told us to bypass the sign to Theresa Creek Dam and take another road. She then told us to turn onto a dirt road and then possibly 15 kms up that road decided that she was lost. Not good news! We had no other option but to continue up the dirt road until it either reached civilisation or we could find a place to turn around – not necessarily an easy thing in a Trailblazer 5th wheeler.

Seemingly endless dirt roads and nowhere to turn around

Seemingly endless dirt roads and nowhere to turn around

Fortunately a farmer/grazier/? and his wife pulled over next to us and confirmed that we were lost but told us that we could follow them to a couple of options where they thought that we could turn around. We passed on the first option and although we were a bit doubtful about the second we managed a U turn and then headed back down the dirt road.

Following our Friendly Farmers

Following our Friendly Farmers

After our U Turn on the dirt road

After our U Turn on the dirt road

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

Finally we reached the turnoff we should have taken in the first place and soon arrived at Theresa Creek Dam. It was quite crowded and no wonder. What an amazing place! Cost is $10 per night and there are showers, toilets and a dump point, but it was the view and the serenity that was priceless. After a long walk around the camp I cooked gourmet burgers on the BBQ and we sat out under the moon and stars until very late. Nothing beats an outback sky at night!

Approaching Theresa Creek Dam

Approaching Theresa Creek Dam

View from the Caravan of Theresa Creek Dam

View from the Caravan of Theresa Creek Dam

Set-up at Theresa Creek Dam

Set-up at Theresa Creek Dam

Serenity at Theresa Creek Dam

Serenity at Theresa Creek Dam

Serenity at Theresa Creek Dam

Serenity at Theresa Creek Dam

Although we have only booked a single night here we think we will stay a bit longer.

Categories: 2014 Townsville Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: , ,

Day 20 – Carnarvon Gorge to Sapphire

It was a lot warmer this morning so we were in short sleeve tops immediately after showers.

We got off to an early start today as the last section of the gravel road into Takarakka Bush Resort is effectively one lane, and we knew that most vans headed out early so as not to confront anyone coming in later in the day. Even though we hit the road at 8.30 am, after we had been through the single lane gravel section of the road we did see some vans coming in – at 9.00 am mind you. There was huge potential for problems behind us as outgoing met incoming!

The 40 kms from Takarakka was actually quite OK as a drive as long as we took it easy. Some of the scenery was magnificent. As expected, the friendly cattle were on the road to greet us again.

Road from Takarakka

Road from Takarakka

Road from Takarakka

Road from Takarakka

Once back on the highway, our first stop for coffee was at Rolleston. We found a nice little spot at Beazley Park which the bonus of a dump point nearby. Takarakka didn’t have a dump point so we made use of the facilities, as did another couple who we spoke to and had also stopped for morning coffee. We were soon joined by several other vans wishing to use the dump point, and a couple of drivers didn’t even turn off their engines. Their urgency spoilt the serenity somewhat.

A bit further up along the Dawson Highway we pulled over for a short break at the Virgin Rock Rest Area, 2 kms north of Springsure.  Ann took some photos of the fantastic scenery. This was a designated free camping area and there was one small campervan that looked as though they were already set for the day and possibly night.

Scenes Around Springsure

Scenes Around Springsure

Scenes at Virgin Rock Rest Area

Scenes at Virgin Rock Rest Area

Scenes at Virgin Rock Rest Area

Scenes at Virgin Rock Rest Area

Back on the highway it was another 70 kms or so to Emerald. It reminded us a bit of Kalgoorlie in that it’s a mining town with many modern facilities and a heritage background. Emeralds aren’t actually mined in Emerald. Primary industries include coal, sapphire and gem mining, cotton, wheat, maize, sorghum, sunflower, beef, citrus, peanuts and more. The Fairbairn Dam just south of Emerald was opened in 1972 and is a major water resource for irrigated crop production.

Welcome to Emerald

Welcome to Emerald

Giant Van Gough 'Sunflowers'

Giant Van Gough ‘Sunflowers’

Emerald was once famous as a major sunflower producer and is now home to the world’s biggest Van Gough ‘Sunflower’ painting. It is also apparently the world’s largest painting on an easel. It stands 25 metres high.

After a quick look around Emerald we had a quick lunch in the van before venturing back to the highway.

Another 44 kms up the Capricorn Highway we turned off onto the Central Highland Tourist Route and soon came to the small town of Sapphire. The Sapphire area boasts having the largest and richest sapphire fields in the world. There are many small underground mines and there are tours available. There are also places where you can buy a bucket of “wash” to sort through yourself and hopefully make a small fortune in gemstones.

We soon settled in at the Sapphire Reserve free camp along with several other caravans and motorhomes.   Some of the locals came to join us as well.

Free Camping at Sapphire Reserve

Free Camping at Sapphire Reserve

The Locals Join Us at Sapphire

The Locals Join Us at Sapphire

Today has been a rather longer day for us so it will be an early night so we can hit the road refreshed tomorrow.

Categories: 2014 Townsville Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: , ,

Dalveen to Swan Bank Rest Area

After a great night’s sleep we were up and away reasonably early and headed off along the New England Highway.  Today was a driving day but as we have left the motorways behind we can enjoy the experience and explore a lot more.  This area along the New England Highway is really amazing with plenty of wineries and vineyards, as well as pick them yourself strawberry farms, home-made chocolates, and all sorts of other gourmet foods, plus B ‘n’ Bs for the gourmet travellers.

One of the many wineries along the New England Highway

One of the many wineries along the New England Highway

Interesting Business Name

Interesting Business Name

Stanthorpe seemed to be a nice country town and we had a quick stop for diesel at Wallengarra, which claims to be the last shop in Queensland, then crossed the border into NSW.  The next town was Tenterfield and it is a delightful and interesting town.  I was particularly taken by the Post Office building.  We also visited the Tenterfield Saddlery, immortalized in the Peter Allen song.  The Saddlery was originally built in 1870 from local handcut granite and its 20 inch walls made it ideal for later use as a bank, before being used as a home and again as a saddlery in 1897.  Unfortunately the Saddlery was closed for renovations so we only had a peak in through the front window.  We enjoyed a delicious coffee in a beautiful old, restored, building before resuming our travels.

Welcome to Tenterfield

Welcome to Tenterfield

Tenterfield Post Offce

Tenterfield Post Offce

Shorty at Tenterfield Saddlery

Shorty at Tenterfield Saddlery

Nice parklands around Tenterfield

Nice parklands around Tenterfield

From Tenterfield we continued down the New England Highway but the scenery changed from vines and the like and became a lot more cleared land with cattle and some sheep.  We also saw quite a bit of smoke, and there was a strong smell of smoke in the car.  The bush fire season has started early in NSW.  Then, from grazing land it became quite mountainous with plenty of exposed rock faces.  Also of interest was a particular section of road where wattle was in bloom – we didn’t notice wattle blossom anywhere else.

Swan Bank- 5112 Swan Bank- 5127 Swan Bank- 5133

Interesting Scenery

Interesting Scenery

Glen Innes was our next stop and again the Post Office building caught my eye as we had a good long walk around town.  For lunch we stopped at the Australian Standing Stones, which is a fantastic monument to the early settlers of Celtic origin who helped build the Australian nation and is built along the lines of Stonehenge in the UK.  The town of Glen Innes was selected as the location for this national monument which features traditional symbols relating to the Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish, etc, as well as the Southern Cross and other Australian symbols.  Glen Innes will host the 2014 Australian Celtic Festival at the Standing Stones.

Entering Glen Innes

Entering Glen Innes

Glen Innes Post Office

Glen Innes Post Office

Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes

Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes

Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes

Australian Standing Stones at Glen Innes

At Glen Innes we also did a quick shop and bought a newspaper which confirmed how close we had been to the bushfires.  Our travel plans have changed as a result of the bushfire threat and we left the New England Highway at Glen Innes to head further west along the Gwydir Highway.

NSW Bushfires

NSW Bushfires

About 40 kilometres from Glen Innes we stopped at the Swan Bank Rest Area and set up to free camp for the night.  This is a delightful spot and we were able to park right next to a small creek.  There is a toilet, rubbish bins, undercover areas with tables and chairs and room for maybe 8 or 9 vans at a pinch.  Horses were in nearby paddocks, frogs were in the creek, and there were blue tailed wrens and rosellas in the surrounding trees.  We were joined at the free camp by another couple in their van just before dusk, and after a bit of a chat we retired to our respective vans for tea.

Our set up at Swan Bank Rest Area [Free Camp]

Our set up at Swan Bank Rest Area [Free Camp]

Blue Wren at our Free Camp at Swan Bank Rest Area

Blue Wren at our Free Camp at Swan Bank Rest Area

As there was no telephone, internet or TV access we did some reading before having an early night.

Categories: 2013 Big Adventure, Free Camping | Tags: , ,

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