AWOL Around Australia...

Rufant

Well-known member
Ha ha :) thanks mate (y)

I would love to say I had rich uncle I never knew died, and left me a fortune... but no such luck. We saved for about three years to do these trips. It will be back to work later this year :cry:
 

Saint Nick

Active member
Looks like you're living the dream, so well worth saving for :) No rich relative here neither, but I'm determined to tick the 'overlanding' box before my time's up! Of course, if the lottery numbers fall my way …………………………………………:eek:

Nick
 

Riversdad

Active member
Love your report and your photos. Australia is a beautiful continent. I have to ask though, considering that everything over there that walks, crawls, flies, or swims can kill you how have you managed to survive this long?
 

luthj

Engineer In Residence
Love your report and your photos. Australia is a beautiful continent. I have to ask though, considering that everything over there that walks, crawls, flies, or swims can kill you how have you managed to survive this long?
With so many dangerous creatures, most of the wildlife in Aus (including the dangerous ones!) are very conservative. About the only real threat are the crocs in tropical areas. There are quite a few venomous snakes. With a few exceptions they almost all want nothing to do with people. So assuming you don't screw with the wildlife, or are terribly unlucky, the most dangerous creature in Aus is a drunk driver.


OP, great photos! Makes me want to go back to Aus. Rainforest, red dirt, reefs, endless single track, beaches for eternity; lots to love.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
Love your report and your photos. Australia is a beautiful continent. I have to ask though, considering that everything over there that walks, crawls, flies, or swims can kill you how have you managed to survive this long?
Thank you (y)

I agree with what luthj says about wildlife. The climate tends to get people more than the wildlife. We've had a couple of people die this summer just from misjudging exercising in the heat of summer.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
With so many dangerous creatures, most of the wildlife in Aus (including the dangerous ones!) are very conservative. About the only real threat are the crocs in tropical areas. There are quite a few venomous snakes. With a few exceptions they almost all want nothing to do with people. So assuming you don't screw with the wildlife, or are terribly unlucky, the most dangerous creature in Aus is a drunk driver.


OP, great photos! Makes me want to go back to Aus. Rainforest, red dirt, reefs, endless single track, beaches for eternity; lots to love.
Well said. Yes, lots to like exploring over here. We're originally from the UK so it's just one big adventure playground for us (y) cheers.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
A Drive in the Country.

Victoria, Australia.



After Hamilton we took minor roads, then dirt leading us to a campsite on Rocklands Reservoir - this 67 sq km man made lake created when the dam was finally finished in 1950, after being interrupted by the pesky second world war. The water is used to feed the surrounding area, and is a fishing hotspot. Set to become even more so with the recent stocking of over 400,000 native fish, in a drive by the state government to get more people fishing and bring tourism dollars to the area. Being a State Forest, rather than a National Park, Rocklands gives you permit free camping and great views of the mountains over the lake.





Man make fire to cook meat.
Man use meat to make sandwich. Sandwich good.

Locals popped over to say g'day.

Again we stayed two nights. Allowing us to take a day into the nearby Grampians National Park. A surprisingly sketchy bitumen road on the way in, only just wide enough for two cars and many places the edge of the road on our side was the edge, for a couple of hundred metres straight down...

MacKenzie Falls - as with many things round these parts named by Major Mitchell, who did try to name things in the Aboriginal terms, but failing to find out the indigenous name for these falls he named it after his friend.







Whilst spectacular in many ways, even on this Monday the National Park was BUSY. We did a couple of the sights, but after being used to more or less being on our own, we steered down a dirt road that would wind us back to the lake of the dead trees.



See that track down there, that's where we're going.

This being spring, Victoria was putting on an especially dazzling display of wildflowers. Good job Victoria.









We awoke to fog the next morning, giving the lake a whole new spooky character.







The weather report (we had full 4G here, in fact we had it pretty much everywhere till we got to the high country in NSW. Very different to most of the areas I am used to touring... and a big improvement in just the last three years) said it would burn off by 0830, seemed like no chance at 0800, but they were right.
 

Rufant

Well-known member
Driving in yesterday I had noticed a track leading off to the west. Unnamed, so of course we had to down there...

Great views, and a feeling of being alone.



A bit of wheelin’ for a Tuesday morning. I walked this section and decided is was better to try and straddle the rut, rather than take the high ground and risk slipping in holus bolus. This was probably the wrong choice as it turned out that ground was way softer once you parked 3 tonne of Land Cruiser on it. Anyway, a bit of back and forth and then both lockers and we were through. It should be noted we were still at dirt road tyre pressures, around 25psi front and 30 rear. Who wants to air down for a 20m section hey?



The picture flattens out the steepness of the slope, to the right. That's my excuse anyway!





More cool wildflowers.

This as a nice track that eventually spat us out in some farmland. I fully expected the end gate to be locked and us have to backtrack the whole way. It wasn’t and it spilled us out on some choice country roads. We bundled back through Horsham that we had visited yesterday (not a memorable town, although it had many 4wd outfits, we would discover why later that day...)

We were headed for the town of St Arnaud, but me not watching the road signs closely enough meant we ended up at Stawell.





Pretty enough from a distance this town reminded me of so many South Australian country towns. Their usefulness superseded by the abilities of modern transport. Despite the impressive old buildings, the faded paint, ‘for lease’ signs and the whinging locals tell the real story.

We had lunch at one of the places that looked like it was still alive, back out out the highway, where the rest of the thriving businesses were.. Then pressed on to St Arnaud.









St Arnaud had itself a bit more together. No doubt being closer to the local wine region helped, and a definite music vibe about the place. In my opinion, that’s the only way these country towns have a viable way forward. There are way too many of them for what is now needed in the local area, so you have to give people a reason to come. Not easy I know, but achievable in the right location (see Melrose, southern Flinders, SA).

We headed south, down to the State Forests of the Pyrenees region - originally planted as a wine region way back in the 1800's, dairy farming took over until the vines were planted again in the 60's and 70's, with another resurgence in the 1990's.

Originally intending to head for the more southern forest where I knew there were some good and challenging 4x4 trails. As is often the case, time and light started to get the better of us.

So I peeled off the main drag and headed into the State Forest, trying to get to a couple of campsites marked on the camping app. A few wrong turns, it was soon apparent that there were way more tracks on the ground than were on any of my maps - not an uncommon occurrence in Australia land.

Following my nose we ended up at the bottom of this hill.



Yeah, ok. That’s properly steep and some big ruts and step ups for good measure (of course, the camera flattens it out/photos don’t show it, blah blah - video is definitely better for showing technical off road driving but anyways...) we’ve done worse in this truck, but this was still worth a walk and a think about. A couple of different lines and I changed my mind a couple of times on which one to take, which doesn’t happen often.

Back down at the truck, tyres down, low range, centre and rear locked in. Despite the full touring load, we burbled up and over this section with no wheelspin. New RidePro suspension doing a great job, didn’t even hit on the rear bar which we probably would have done with the old ARB stuff. Steep enough at times there was nothing but sky to see through the windshield. Over the years I’ve become adept at remembering sections of trail, and my chosen line through them before it disappears out of sight. I’m not saying that having a spotter isn’t worthwhile, but I’m used to going without one, so that’s how it is.









That first section was probably the toughest in term of technicality and line, but it didn’t really let up after that. I probably walked another ten sections, I certainly felt it in my legs the next day. All very steep, loose, and with some champion drop-offs to the sides at times. At one point there was a junction with a choice of tracks, I was glad for the easier option as the harder side would have had me looking for somewhere to turn around and drive back to the bottom. The holes where just too big with the steepness.

In the end we made it to the top. Maybe a 2 or 3km hill looking at it on the map afterwards. Also over 700m in elevation, pretty high by Australian standards. I could tell it had stressed N out, she knows to keep quiet for the tough concentration bits, but she doesn’t enjoy it. I explained that this is why so did the mods I did to the truck beforehand, so we can do this stuff in (relative) safety.

In the end, by the time we spent maybe an hour doing that hill, we weren’t going to make the camps in the light. So we just bailed down a little clearing amongst the trees. Probably enough adventure for today.



 

Rufant

Well-known member
Next day we meandered down the main trail out of the forest, still steep but not quite as concentrating as the trail we took getting in. Although we could see some properly gnarly trails, like 'Comp Truck' level.

Back out to the small town of Avoca. Which houses a magnificent pub, with an equally magnificent menu. We might have to wander back this way for dinner at some point.





Stepping out of the bakery, having left N to put the tyres back to highway pressure. I caught a snippet of conversation from the two old boys watching her and armchair-ing it from their morning coffee “she’s still left the bloody lights on...!” no doubt the tail end of a conversation that probably had ‘sheila’ woven into it several times. I restrained from saying “the lights are on because the engine is running, because she is using the compressor you dingbats” and just sauntered back over. About five minutes later old mate wandered over, obviously to let us ‘young’ folk know our lights were on. Until he got into earshot and could see the engine was running. Anyway he was harmless and managed to get his head around we had changed our tyre pressures for the off road we did yesterday “any good up there? I’ve been here three months but haven’t got up there. I’ve got a 4x4 and a quad” at this point I suggested it was good if you had some experience of that sort of terrain. If the old bugger didn’t know about tyres pressures, he probably didn’t want to go exploring in those hills.

I showed him the tyre pressure monitoring system, and talked about what pressures I run in different terrain. Depending on the weight if the truck.



Turns out he had done the Simpson (“yeah, I remember we had to let our tyres down for that”) and the Canning Stock Route. Which probably tells you all you need to know about the technical difficulty of those tracks.

Anyway, we pressed on to Bendigo. A rural city that I had passed through many years ago, after buying my BMW 635CSi in Sydney and driving it back to Adelaide with two mates (the 6er is surprisingly capacious, for a GT). Then we arrived at night and were impressed by the substantial historic buildings that greet you in the city centre. Back in the present, this would be our first paid camping of the trip. We had a few things to do here, laundry being first priority.

I was starting to realise I was probably a bit short in terms of the amount of clothing I had brought. The shower had meant we were able to comfortably stay away from civilisation for longer. I might need another ‘outfit’ to stop looking so much like a grub after a week or so. It didn’t help that the temperature had been wildly changeable, from borderline freezing nights to hot and humid days in the 35deg C region. First world problems, hey?

We stayed in ‘The Golden Nugget’ for a couple of nights (this was a big area for gold back in the day). N got her fill at Bendigo Woollen Mill, twice! We checked out the pottery - worth it, and had some mediocre Japanese food. What did we expect really in country Australia..?

Our camp spot was right next to the pool, which was basically deserted, so we cut some laps in there to escape the heat, and generally lazed around. The morning we were due to leave I headed out for a run, to see the black storm clouds rolling in. Hoping I could make it back in time to strike camp before the rain hit, the first big drops started to fall as I pulled out the first peg. Luckily I had the fly sheet up on the Oztent, so the main body of the tent stayed mostly dry. A bit rushed and damp, we headed out.

This would be the start of a few days mostly pounding the bitumen, we hit the odd bit of dirt but we had to do some kays to get up somewhere around Coffs Harbour, for the final round of the WRC in about 10 days time.

More beautifully painted silos en-route.

Onto the tourist town of Echuca, a town with an interesting history - once Australia's largest inland port. Now its main business is tourism. Plus from our point of view some excellent English style pork pies.











Just as we were leaving Moama, the twin town over the river that was in NSW, as the river is the border, my phone rang. It was our conveyancer (specialist property solicitor) saying there was a form that we needed to sign and return that afternoon (Friday) so the sale could go through on Tuesday. We did a u-turn and then went through the palaver of trying to find accomodation (as this was a long weekend) and then emailing, printing, signing, scanning, etc. Anyway, we got it all done, thanks to lovely owners at Murray River Holiday Park for their help and kindness. Then spent our first night camping on AstroTurf, surprisingly comfortable!

N had found a flyer while we were hanging around in the park office yesterday, about somewhere showcasing one of here favourite things, so onto Cactus Country!

Day of the Dead celebrations were happening whilst we were there.















A quirky and enjoyable stop, with really good Mexican and cactus themed food. Great to see, so often the thing that lets these places down.

Now it was time to get some miles under our belt.

 

Rufant

Well-known member
A Drive in the Country.

New South Wales, Australia.



So we followed the Kidman Way, named after Sidney Kidman - once the biggest land holder in Australia, to the town of Griffith and then onto our stop for the night, on the banks of the Lachlan River at Hillston.





Sunrise the next morning.

A brief run following a main dirt road that ran along the river that morning.





Good size Goanna, doing a terrible job of hiding.

Passing through the town of Condobolin, we found a very country Australia art exhibition.









Natures art.



Then back on the tarmac, and onto the country city of Dubbo. Fuelled up (surprisingly expensive, compared to the smaller country towns...) then pushed on again. To the one pub town of Mendooran.





The pups were loving having new homes to explore.

More free camping. We were using the WikiCamps app to find these spots, which is a user information provided app, for camping all over Australia. You can search by filters, must allow dogs, no charge, 4x4 access only, etc. Also people can leave comments, which is a blessing and a curse. I’m undecided on whether this is a good idea, it makes it easy, maybe too easy to find camps. Removes the joy of discovering places, and can mean places can get very busy that might not otherwise. Anyway, I’m being a right hypocrite and using the app but not really contributing at the moment (since writing that we have left a couple of positivereviews for paid sites). Dunno why, the cat’s outta the bag and it ain’t going back in...
 

Rufant

Well-known member
By now we had covered most of the distance we needed to, and could spend the next week or so exploring this area and slowly make our way to Coffs.

So we headed due east. Resupplying at the horse focused town of Scone.

Scone, tourist information.

Before heading out and then up, to the Barrington Tops wilderness area.

Wild fennel grew in abundance by the roadside. I tried digging up a bulb, but it looked pretty much inedible. So I just harvested some fronds to add an extra flavour to our food.



This is the second Land Rover crazy house I've seen with a small Toyota as back up. You can imagine the conversation/s that lead up to this point!

The road in is straightforward enough, until you get to the climb up to ‘the Tops’ . Narrow dirt, with the edge of the road again being the edge. I suffer from vertigo, a hangover from having Minieres Disease, so I’m more affected by such things, but anyway, I was glad when we got to the top.





Wild dogs, dingoes and foxes are not tolerated by the farmers around here. There was also a poison baiting program going on in the National Park and the State Forest - in fact in pretty much every government managed area of NSW we saw the same signs. Must be a big problem.

However the campsite was worth the testing road up.



Unbeknownst to me, I managed to pick up a leach through my sandals down by the creek. Only noticed by N once it was full of my blood and crawling across the rug. Thoroughly grossed her out!

The first of a few meals garnished with fennel fronds!

We were camped here with one other guy, and his dog. Toyota FJ Cruiser, roof top tent, awning. All good stuff - ie; he wasn’t a hobo. We waved at each other as we drove in and out. He didn’t make any more effort to engage, which suited me fine, he also didn’t appear to go anywhere during the three odd days we were there. Not judging, just noting all sorts of people do this, it actually made a nice change from some of the **************** conversations you have in more crowded areas (I am a grump).

Much as I would have liked to just chill in the forest today, I knew today was the day our house sale was supposed to be completing. When I bought that house, the then (somewhat mad) vendor had made themselves unavailable on completion day, resulting in me having to pay for something they should have done, to get it settled. If you’ve bought a house, your first, you’ll know how keen you are to get it just done and finished. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy, so we drove to find some service so I could at least check-in with emails and let the conveyancer know I was available if required. That drive ended up being the best part of two hour to the nearest town on Gloucester.

Full English. No point doing anything on an empty stomach.

Good views on the way down.





Anyway, all went through ok (‘a few last minute hiccups...’ somehow you get the feeling that’s always the case) we killed time in Gloucester whilst waiting for the call.





We dropped into the tourist information and picked up some good leaflets (told you I’m getting old) and were just utilising their large map when the lady in there asked us how we’d heard about them? We hadn’t, and what we were doing in the area - making our way up to Coffs for the WRC - which she knew nothing about. She then tried to advise us on a route between here and there, when it became apparent she was just guessing on where she would go, I wrapped up the conversation, in the nicest possible way (I am a grump, but don’t wing it in customer service roles...).

From the leaflets - Barrington Tops is such a dense wilderness area that a plane that crashed here in 1981, has never been found. Despite multiple search attempts, the most recent being in 2013, where they expected to go into areas that ‘may not have ever been visited by man’ or words to that effect. Anyway, compelling stuff.

The other plane wreck unfortunately involved only recently Prime Minister - Malcolm Turnbull’s father (I’m thinking that the title of Prime Minister in Australia should be changed to Prime Minister For Now), the young Malcolm’s parents had split up and he was living with his father when it happened. Shame, the young Turnbull obviously inherited his father enterprising spirit. As his father was a self made man, and Malcolm did pretty well for himself.

As an aside, many of these tales of aircraft crashes, the pilot always seems to have a risk taking streak about them - not something that necessarily goes well with flying, outside of combat one would think. It makes me think about my own risk vs reward ‘calculations’, some think I’m pretty out there, others think I’m way conservative. I dunno, just trying to get the best out of life, not hurt anything too much along the way, whilst not checking out too early.

So we drove back up into the mountains. It had been very hot and humid down in the town, so for once we were able to do what the guys in the US do when it gets too hot, and ‘just drive up into the mountains’.

I tried running a few local trails that afternoon, but most were closed.







Or due to dickheads with big tyres and no brain coming up when the trails were wet, according to the locals. Can’t fix stupid unfortunately.



Got my vego on for dinner that night.

Garnished with, you guessed it. Fennel fronds!

Thanks for reading my food blog!
 

Rufant

Well-known member
So, as it turned out our rest day wasn’t a rest day really. Anyway, themz the breaks. With hindsight I would have got the house sale and all ‘normal life’ stuff sorted before we left, but of course life is never that perfect is it? You want to balance leaving work in the right way, with your own needs. Anyway, first world problems!

We headed into the National Park, a brief chat with the Ranger on the way in, they were conducting the fox/feral dog control program.





You like yellow right?

Pretty trails, although the sky above was somewhat glum. Which after a while turned to sporadic but heavy rain. The trails were straightforward, but as the rain got heavier and the closed in bush not really providing any views we decided to head out and push on. We re-traced our steps back into Gloucester, refueled and restocked and then drive a short while north to the free camping at Bretti Reserve. I would have liked to have gotten further, but recognised that the concentration of driving these very steep roads, plus a few nights of broken sleep with our two old boy dogs meant my energy levels were a bit lacking. So we headed down by the river where the caravans couldn’t get (in theory) and pitched up.





I tried having an afternoon nap, but it wasn’t happening so instead I just got a lot of my book read, Donna Tart - The Goldfinch, worth indulging if you get there chance - I need to re-read her other two novels. The Secret History, which I lovedand The Little Friend which I didn't.

The sky was overcast but not foreboding in anyway, it was still properly hot and still. We were both in shorts and not much else.

"Big Chief' in the caravan behind us, almost jackknifed it getting it in and then ground it out getting it out. I helped him do some of the manoeuvring, but in the end down here wasn't where he wanted to be.

I crashed after dinner for a couple of well needed hours, and the woke up as N came to bed, watched some of The American’s on the iPad and called it a night.

The rain started about midnight. I awoke but thought it was probably just a passing shower, we had a few of them the last few days. The ground down by the river was so rocky you were lucky to get a peg in more than a few inches. I hadn’t put in the extra guy ropes or the fly sheet, mainly because I didn’t think we would need it, but also wasn’t confident of getting it pitched properly.

Sometime later I woke again, still raining, dogs want to go out. Out we go, big sag in the awning, full of rainwater, I drop the awning, whilst mostly managing to stay dry. I lie there contemplating what to do. I can try putting on the fly sheet, guaranteed I’ll get properly soaked doing that, and no guarantee I can pitch it in this ground. There is no wind to speak of, so there isn’t much chance of the tent getting damaged so I decide to wait it out, see how long the OzTents single canvas (albeit recently silicon waterproofed) can hold this continuous heavy rain, and the constant big drips off the trees onto the same spots...

6am we start to feel a mist coming through. 6 hours, not too bad and enough to grab a bit of needed broken sleep to go with my post dinner nap. We made a plan for the pack up in the torrential rain and got to it. How quickly can we pack up if required? About 15 minutes I reckon. It’s not pretty, and I normally advocate taking a bit longer on pack up to pay dividends come next set-up, but needs must and we got everything in (mostly) dry, except the tent of course. We said goodbye to the cows and drove out just before 0630.



The misty mountains were beautiful though.



As we were to discover, it rains a lot in these parts.

I put that t shirt on dry after trying to towel off in the rain before getting the the car, went well...



I had had plans today to make some km, and get a bit further north. We wanted to visit the Nymboida area, near the border with Queensland. This had been the destination of one of our very first 4x4 trips, about 13 years ago, with the Range Rover Club of Queensland. First, let’s knock over the 150km to the next town. Get some coffee and breakfast and then work it out.

We managed to pick up some AM radio on the way, all talk was of the rain. People calling in, 9mm here, 14mm there, hailstones somewhere else. N and joked what would the announcer talk about if it hadn’t rained...?

The drive up through New England was beautiful. Of course, to us poms the rain seemed appropriate for a region named so. We rolled into the town of Walcha (pron Walka), found some coffee and bacon and egg rolls, and immediately all seemed right with the world. The town had a nice feel about it, I had half made my mind up on the drive up and did some googling while I waited for breakfast. We decided to check into the caravan park, get our gear out and dry, and get ourselves sorted after multiple nights bush camping and the added hoo-ha of getting the house sale through.

Sometimes you change the plan and regret it, but most times it pays to go with you gut, and it was so.




Alby - the legend.

More Land Rover crazy. Look almost like model cars, hey?

Walcha has many art pieces dotted around the town.

Country cop car.

A couple of great days just relaxing, the (young) lady who owned the caravan park was lovely and had three Pomeranian dogs, so N and her hit it off a treat. Pub lunch, laundry, I managed to actually get a trip report up - easy to get behind on the journal I’m beginning to realise, and then too tempting just to skip to what happened in the last 24 hours - first world problem again, having too much fun I guess! I also got some good information on the surrounding area and decided we needed to do more exploring around here before pushing north.

Ducklings!



More to follow, cheers.

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