Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 2

For Experience : Cape York – Part 1 – click here!

 

Bamaga Tavern

 

Day 5

Bamaga

We completed the rest of the 5 Beaches Track and made our way back to Bamaga.  When we took the Troopy out of 4WD, Dave noticed that one of the front spring mounts had snapped. Afraid that the other mount would snap too, we crawled to Bamaga and went straight to the wreckers.  A new mount was an easy $10 and Dave installed it in about 30 minutes.  We then met an inquisitive local named Mark, who worked in one of the aboriginal communities and was interested in hearing about Our Naked Australia.

 

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It was about lunchtime so we lingered around the Bamaga Tavern for a drink and a meal at the northernmost pub in Australia.

 

Seisia

To be honest, there isn’t much to see other than the wharf and jetty.  Fishermen of various ages were trying their luck with the massive schools of fish hanging about below the surface of the water.  One man was even spear fishing.

 

Cape York

 

DC3 Plane Crash Site

On the 5th of May 1945, a DC-3 VH-CXD aircraft that was operated by the RAAF, was flying from Brisbane to Port Moresby to deliver meat to troops.  It needed to refuel in Bamaga but due to foggy conditions, it clipped some trees and crashed about 3km short of its target.  All on board perished.

 

Cape York

 

If you have a chance to swing past and see this crash site, then definitely do.

 

Muttee Head

This was a great place to camp.  It’s right next to the beach, the camping permit is included with the ferry pass, and the sweet scent of fig trees perfumed the breeze.  It looked like someone thought it was a great place to live because there was a campsite with a makeshift sink and little garden.  Perhaps a recent bushfire had chased the beachside hermit away.

 

Cape York

 

Day 6

In the morning, we headed straight to the Jardine Ferry, but the ferryman hadn’t turned up yet.  It was still early so we hung around for 45 minutes with a bunch of other people waiting for the ferry to open.  The guy eventually turned up at 8:15am and got to work straight away.

 

Old Telegraph Track

Today we would complete the northern portion of the OTT, but because the road was closed from the Jardine River, we had to travel a few clicks before finding the side track in.  We checked out Eliot Falls, Twin Falls and Fruit Bat Falls, did a nerve-wrecking water crossing, and headed back to the southern portion of the OTT.  The Jardine Ferry ticket included camping at Bertie Creek so that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

Day 7

After a quick wash in Bertie Creek, we decided to continue down the OTT instead of taking the Gunshot Bypass back to the main road. We usually avoid back tracking but we liked the OTT so much the first time, we were happy to do it again.

 

After a brief stop at Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to pump up the tyres and stock up on some more water, we went to Moreton Telegraph Station to book our campsite for that night in Iron Range National Park.  The lady at the station was really helpful and told us that Telstra customers can get a few bars of reception at Chilli Beach – if we wanted, we could book our site once we checked out the campgrounds.

 

Frenchmans Track

We took Frenchmans Track into Iron Range National Park, and found the track to be thoroughly unpleasant.  It alternated between unavoidable corrugations, soft sand and the occasional creek crossings.

 

 

There are two rivers that intersect with Frenchmans – Wenlock Crossing is fairly easy to navigate through but watch out for Pascoe Crossing.  It’s steep and rocky and you’ll definitely need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to get through.  Unfortunately, the Troopy got hung up on a rock and while trying to get free, the brake booster blew.  Highly inconvenient – Dave had only one shot at guiding the Troopy down the steep rocky path into the river and he did a bloody good job.

 

The great views that followed the Pascoe Crossing were besmirched by the brake booster busting.  And to make matters worse, our water goon bag had bounced around in the back and tore on a bracket holding the curtains in place.  We dealt with the goon, ate a banana to cheer us up, and made an effort to appreciate our surroundings before continuing on.

 

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Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park

Once off the Frenchmans Track, we followed the tarmac road through the ranges to suddenly be surrounded by rainforest.  We even saw a cassowary hurry off into the bushes!  The road alternated between paved and gravel road, and the rain made it easy for Dave to see pot holes.  The smell of the forest was wonderful, and we were amazed at how thick the foliage was.

 

There are two camping areas in Iron Range.  The rainforest campsites are nice and shaded right amongst the rainforest, but Cooks Hut is the only site that forbids generators.  It’s a large communal clearing with picnic benches and toilets.  Chilli Beach is the other camping area.  While reception is available on the beach, you can actually pick up a signal from the highroad on the way in.  This is where we made our first Queensland campsite booking.  The guy on the other end was really friendly, but we still have to wonder whether this micromanagement of parkland campsites is really the way to go.

 

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Chilli Beach

The sun had set by the time we got to our designated camping spot.  Dave was so frazzled from the day that when he opened the back of the Troopy to find that the goon water had leaked all over the bed, he refused to have anything to do with it and sat down to relax.

 

Juz sorted out the wet sheets and cooked a quick dinner of chicken and broccoli on rice cakes.  We both felt a lot better after a meal so we went to the adjacent campsite and met our neighbours.  Palm Cove locals, Symon & Robyne were holidaying with their kids and while we were on our way south, they were heading to the Tip.  We shared tips, exchanged details, and agreed that it would be good to meet up for a drink once we got to Palm Cove.

 

Cape York

 

Day 8

Juz crawled out of the Troopy in time to catch the sunrise on Chilli Beach.  After 4 days of overcast skies, the sun was finally out.  Eventually Dave woke up too and we went for a walk along the beach, picking up shells, spotting beached jellyfish and terrorising coconuts that were still hanging from the tree.   We also did the short forest walk behind the campgrounds and spotted lizards and butterflies amongst the undergrowth.

 

Cape York

 

Portland Roads

A short drive from Chilli Beach is Portland Roads, a cute little seaside spot with a few holiday houses and the Out of the Blue Café.  If you’re in the vicinity, stop by and get some seafood and chips – amazing!  We were also lucky enough to walk away with a big soursop fruit from the garden, compliments of the chef.

 

Cape York

 

Lockart River

If you need fuel, go to the local aboriginal community of Lockhart River.  It’s only $1.89 for diesel but remember – no photos while in the community. There isn’t much to photograph there anyway.

 

On the way out of Iron Range, we noticed rising smoke in the distance.  A bushfire was slowly burning through the dry scrub, and Juz told Dave to drive faster because the heat was too intense.

 

Cape York

 

Archer River Roadhouse

This was the last stop before the Quarantine checkpoint so we ate the entire soursop fruit for an afternoon snack.  Turns out, the quarantine checkpoint was closed anyway, but no matter – the fruit was delicious.  It was green and prickly on the outside with white flesh full of big black seeds like watermelon but five times bigger.  The flesh is stringy like pineapple or mango, and the flavour is slightly tart/sour.

 

Back in Coen

We got back to Coen just before dinnertime and had two long-awaited drinks at the SExchange.  We spend the night at the Bend again, and it was wonderful to have a wash in the fresh, croc-free water.

 

Day 9

We had another morning wash in the river before heading out to Lakefield National Park.  It was going to be a short day of driving because of the shot brake booster and poor quality fuel, so after swinging past Lotusbird Lodge, gazing at the flowers at Red Lily Lagoon and spying a kookaburra at White Lily Lagoon, we got to Kalpowar Crossing and relaxed.

 

 

Because of the croc-infested river, we had a cold shower in the toilet block and spent the rest of the afternoon reading.  Once the sun went down, we noticed that the ground was moving and found tiny little frogs everywhere… as well as big ugly cane toads.

 

Day 10

Because we didn’t have a boat for fishing on the river, there was nothing else to do at Kalpowar so we set off early for Cooktown.  This would be the final destination of our Cape York adventure, and what was supposed to be a two day stop ended up stretching to 10 days because of an unexpected Helpx invitation.

 

Overall, we enjoyed our time at Cape York.  The two biggest highlights were definitely being at the northern most point of mainland Australia and four-wheel driving along the Old Telegraph Track.

 

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Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 1

Cape York

 

Cape York was not what we expected.  We thought it would be lush and tropical with thick rainforest everywhere, but it wasn’t like that at all.  The roads were dry and dusty, and there was a lot of mining activity around Weipa because of the bauxite mine.  Also, an unusual blanket of cloud was cast over the sky for a number of days, which was both welcomed because of the coolness of the days but cursed because sometimes you just want sunshine.

 

The landscape of the Cape is very diverse and includes areas of bush scrub and heath lands, pockets of rainforest and coastal scrub with coconut trees and mangroves.  All the rivers rise from the Great Dividing Range, which extends all the way to the Tip.  The road conditions are also variable, with corrugated dirt roads broken up by sections of sealed road, as well as sandy or eroded 4WD tracks.

 

The main attractions of Cape York are the Tip and the Overland Telegraph Track.  Many 4WD enthusiasts flock to the Cape for some serious off-road action, while a picture at the northernmost point of Australia is worth framing.  There is also plenty of fishing to be done, as well as camping and bird watching.

 

Before you head to the Cape, check out information on camping permits, alcohol restrictions and quarantine zones.

 

DAY 1

We woke up at Rifle Creek Rest Area just south of Mount Molloy and got going fairly early.  The plan was to get all the way to Coen before dinner and we had about 450km to travel.

 

As we passed through Mount Carbine, we saw the open mine to the right, and stopped at Bob’s Lookout as we travelled along the windy road past Mount Desailly and Mount Elephant.  We had a quick lunch at Musgrave Roadhouse before finishing the last stretch to Coen.

 

Cape York

 

Coen

A very small town with all the basics – the SExchange Hotel, a post office combined with a grocery store, a takeaway joint and a mechanic, as well as a health centre and other government buildings.  It was established as a fort on the river in 1873 due to a gold rush in the area.  We went straight to the SExchange for a beer and were a little surprised that we were the only ‘white fellas’ in the place, other than the tiny Asian bar wench.  It’s to be expected, considering that 80% of Coen’s population are indigenous.

 

That night, we camped at the Bend a few clicks out of town.  It’s a beautiful spot right on the Coen River, with clear water for bathing and plenty of birdlife to gawk at in the morning.

 

 

Day 2

Today was Dave’s Birthday and his present was a tilt level orb for the Troopy – it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time with all the 4WDing that was ahead of us.

 

We continued on the Peninsula Developmental Road for another 25km and arrived at the quarantine check point, where we learnt that we can bring fruit into the Cape but can’t take any fruit that we’ve picked off trees out of the Cape.  Many pest insects have blown over from PNG and infected fruit trees such as mangos, bananas and any other tropical fruits.

 

Weipa

The road to Weipa was shithouse – full of corrugation, bouncy bumps and bull dust with only a few sections that are paved.

 

 

Weipa is an odd town, with a landscape ruined by the local mining industry.  It’s not organised like other towns – there is no main street with all the shops that you need, everything is spread out, which is a little inconvenient.  There’s a Woolies supermarket for stocking up on groceries, Telstra reception (but no Optus), cheap fuel ($1.63 for diesel), and camping permits can be booked at the caravan park.

 

Our first stop was the Albatross Hotel for a drink, and we were inundated with friendly locals who, after about 20 minutes, revealed their motivations for chatting to us – they wanted a lift to Mapoon, about 90km to the north.  We then moved to the Weipa Bowls Club for Dave’s birthday lunch.

 

Weipa

 

Once we had done everything we needed to do, we did some sight-seeing near Evan’s Landing and continued our journey to the Tip.  On the way, we crossed the Wenlock River and noticed a sign in the tree…

 

Cape York

 

Moreton Telegraph Station

With no free camps in the area, we pulled in at Moreton Station.  It cost $10 each to camp and we had the luxury of a hot shower and flushing toilets but the annoyance of generators running until about 10pm.  Camping permits can also be booked at reception.

 

Day 3

In the morning, we were woken up by the hideous squawk of birds that sounded like the freakish score from Psycho.  We packed up, showered again and hit the road.

 

Bramwell Junction Roadhouse

This is a great place to stop before embarking on the Old Telegraph Track.  Get information about the condition of the track, top up your fuel tank or tuck into some food.  There are also toilets and a tap with drinkable water, if required.

 

Cape York

 

Old Telegraph Track

The OTT is remnants of the original telegraph track from the 1880s that connected Cairns with Thursday Island.  The last Morse code message was sent in 1962 and then systems upgraded to microwave repeater towers.  The Cape York Developmental Road replaced the track in the 1970s but it’s still used today by 4WD enthusiasts.

 

We loved the Old Telegraph Track – check out our post here.

 

Cape York

 

Jardine Ferry

The price for the ferry might be extortion, but it’s the only way to get to the Tip by road.  Not too many years ago, you could follow the OTT all the way to up to the Jardine River east of where the ferry runs.  The crossing point has now been conveniently dredged and is unpassable, thereby forcing everyone to use the ferry.   The $129 fare is supposed to maintain the ferry and other stuff, but we didn’t see how that could be true considering the state of the place.  The ferry is owned by the Northern Peninsula Area council, who hiked up the price in 2013 because they were financially screwed.  Until they build a bridge, tourists heading to the top are going to have to pay the piper.

 

Croc Tent

We cruised through the aboriginal communities and headed straight for the Tip, but we did stop at the Croc Tent, and we recommend that you do too.  It was by far the most informative place we stopped at since we left Mareeba.  The guy gave us a free map of the Tip, and made a few recommendations on where to camp.

 

Cape York

 

The Tip

We made it to the Tip car park just before sunset and because the tide was down, we walked along the beach to the rocky headland to find the infamous sign.  The Tip of Australia is located 10° south of the equator and is only 180km from PNG.  After Dave made a phone call to a mate, we headed back to the Troopy for some dinner.

 

Cape York

 

In the meantime, a guy we met on the OTT, Tony, rocked up with his friend Tim.  After a quick chat in the dimming light, we went to check out a nearby abandoned resort for a potential place to camp.  We found an overgrown driveway, slowly inched the Troopy in but found the whole place way too creepy, so we slowly inched the Troopy back down the driveway and CLUNK!  We couldn’t figure out what we had hit so we turned the Troopy around and went back to the beach.

 

Tony and Tim were just about to set up on the beach when we returned.  We let them know that the resort was not an option, and the beach was too risky because of the tides, so we ended up setting up camp in the car park.  This is when the CLUNK revealed its point of impact – the Troopy’s bumper, which bent upwards to jam the back door – where we sleep, where our food is, where Dave’s tools are to fix the bumper.  We spent the rest of the evening laughing at how funny it all was, while Tony and Tim helped out with tools and beer.

 

Cape York

 

Day 4

We had a slow start in the morning because the bumper and rear lights needed to be put back on, and we didn’t leave the car park until about 10am.  We explored the abandoned resort and it was much less scary than it was the night before.  We then went to check out a camping spot near Somerset that was recommended by the guy at the croc tent.

 

Somerset

Despite being a dull, cloudy day, the beach at Somerset was beautiful but there was still a lot of junk everywhere.  There was even some sort of junk shrine, decorated with thongs, bottles, buoys and hats.  The hellish toilets show no sign of benefitting from the Jardine Ferry fare and the campground was scattered with collapsed humpies.

 

Cape York

 

5 Beaches Track

Following the coast in a south easterly direction from Somerset, the 5 Beaches 4WD track crosses rocky headlands and sandy beaches, and is a relatively easy track with some great views.  There is plenty of colourful washed-up rubbish and coral on the beaches if you’re into fossicking for crap that may have potentially floated over from PNG.  We spotted bush tucker on the side of the track too, and would have tried to get some if the bushes weren’t infested with green ants.

 

 

Once we got to the 4th beach, we found a track leading to a clearing of oak trees that was reasonably sheltered from the wind.  We set up camp and tried a new SPAM recipe – Spam Bacon Carbonara – which ended up being quite good.  Check out the recipe here.

 

 

Cape York

4WDing : The Old Telegraph Track, Cape York QLD

Cape York

 

The Old Telegraph Track is one of the highlights of Cape York and is a great track for 4WD enthusiasts.  It’s what’s left of the original telegraph track that was used in the 1880s to connect Cairns with Thursday Island.  The method of communication was Morse code back then, and the last message was sent in 1962 before the system was replaced by microwave repeater towers.

 

The track is fairly narrow, with plenty of turnouts for oncoming vehicles and you can still see old telegraph poles along the track.  The surface varies from dirt and sand to rocky slopes, mud and washouts and there are a number of great creek crossings.  If there is a crossing or section of eroded track that looks a little intimidating, there is usually a chicken track that bypasses it.

 

We were able to drive the telegraph track without using our winch, as it was fairly dry, but we did have to let the air out of our tyres for a few spots – so you will need an air pressure gauge and a compressor.  Having a mate there in another vehicle is also reassuring.  Depending on the time of the year, you could probably get away with not having a snorkel, but keep in mind that the water rises during the wet season.  There is also a deep crossing just north of Fruit Bat Falls that you will definitely need a snorkel for.

 

From Bramwell Junction Northward to the Bypass Road

At Bramwell Junction, we got some info about the upcoming river crossings, let our tyres down and began our adventure on the Old Telegraph Track.

 

Palm Creek

The first crossing was the worst. There is a very steep, narrow entry full of mud and water, and after watching a few people go through, we decided to take the so called ‘chicken track’.  Even though we knew the Troopy could handle it, we didn’t want to risk damage to our home, especially since we’re travelling on our own.

 

The chicken track was nearly as steep and narrow, but definitely less muddy.

 

Cape York

 

Dulhunty River

The next major crossing was through the beautiful clear waters of the Dulcunty, er… Dulhunty River.  A sturdy, rock bed made it easy to drive across, but not before we waded around in the water a bit.  This river is free of crocs, which makes it a great place to camp for a few days (permit required).

 

It was around this time that we met Anthony, a guy who was out 4WDing with his mate and mate’s dad.  Their convoy had gotten separated, so for the next few crossings, we sussed them out together.

 

Cape York

 

Bertie Creek

Another crossing similar to Dulhunty River but there was more manoeuvring to be done to get to the crossing. The deep pot holes are easy to navigate around and the water is fairly shallow and croc-free – another great camping spot (permit is included in Jardine River Ferry cost).

 

Cape York

 

Gunshot Bypass

We had heard rumours about Gunshot Creek – the near vertical crossing that appeared on Youtube a few times.  If the rumours were true, then the Troopy wouldn’t make it so we took the sandy bypass road and swung past the Ranger Station, which was actually closed.

 

Cockatoo Creek

This is a creek crossing with the threat of crocodiles so keep your eyes peeled.  The entry is a little steep, the river has a deep section and there are a few pot holes to get around but the Troopy managed just fine.

 

This was the last major creek crossing before the Cape York Developmental Road.  We headed straight for the Jardine River Ferry and made it to the Tip by sunset, with the intention of doing the rest of the Old Telegraph Track on the way down.

 

From Sam’s Creek Crossing Southward to Fruit Bat Falls

After exploring the tip, we crossed the Jardine River and got back onto the Overland Telegraph Track at Sam’s Creek Crossing.  It wasn’t long before a convoy was coming in the opposite direction and while making room for them to pass, we got the Troopy’s bulbar stuck on a tree.  All the blokes got out to help bounce the Troopy free – it was all quite funny really.

 

Cape York

 

Canal Creek

Once we arrived at the Canal Creek Crossing, Juz felt that it was time for her to get behind the wheel.  The crossing has plenty of obstacles such as slippery mud, pot holes and rocky surfaces and was a great opportunity for Juz to practice her 4WDing skills.

 

Cape York

 

Eliot Falls & Twin Falls

These are popular spots because of the swimming.  There is a small pool at the bottom of Twin Falls, and you can wade in the water at the top of Eliot Falls.  A refreshing stop for anyone who needs to wash off some stink.

 

 

Eliot Creek

On our way down to Fruit Bat Falls, we were confronted with a large body of muddy water over the road spanning about 30 meters.  We weren’t quite sure what we were up against until a convoy appeared on the other side.  After a brief pause, they started to come through and we got a good idea just how deep the water was.

 

After seeing at least four cars go through unscathed, it was our turn.  Juz got behind the wheel and with white knuckles, she led the Troopy into the water.   Keeping up with the bow wave and maintaining revs in low range 2nd gear, the Troopy powered on as the water came up over the bonnet.  Despite being a very intimidating crossing, the ground was firm and it was a piece of cake.

 

Fruit Bat Falls

Another popular spot that accommodates for tour groups, Fruit Bat Falls is a low, wide waterfall with a large pool of clear water for swimming.

 

Cape York

 

Once we got back onto the Cape York Developmental Road, we made the decision to camp at Bertie Creek, because our ferry pass acted as a permit for that spot.  While we usually avoid back tracking, we liked the Overland Telegraph Track so much, we were happy to do it again.

 

The most difficult part was getting back through the Palm Creek crossing.  After a few goes, Dave reversed back down the bottom to let the tires down a bit more.  The Troopy roared as one wheel lifted up into the air and sand sprayed from the other three.  Up, up, up and out!  Go Troopy!

 

Cape York

 

Oodnadatta Track

Outback Tracks : The Oodnadatta Track

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The day we started the Oodnadatta Track was the day we finally left the Northern Territory.  After 15 months, we crossed the border into South Australia and was glad to finally feel like we were moving along.

 

Marla

The starting point of the Oodnadatta Track and a great rest stop for travellers, Marla a very small town that sports a supermarket, hotel/motel, service station and restaurant.  The word Marla actually means kangaroo, but while we were there we didn’t see any.  A local aboriginal lady offered to sell us a live chicken, and we took advantage of the reasonably priced diesel ($1.90) to top up our fuel tanks.

 

Oodnadatta

The road to Oodnadatta was pretty good despite the occasional pot hole, and it was great to see emus again.

 

The first thing we did when we arrived was go to the Pink Roadhouse for a drink.  We sat out on the deck and watched the sun go down as we read through their Oodnadatta Mud Map, which was full of handy hints and attractions we would be passing along the way.  Before we sussed out the free camping grounds, we ducked into the Transcontinental Hotel for another drink and met Jeffery, who played the didgeridoo for us.

 

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The free camp ground was conveniently across the road and had a sheltered picnic bench with a clean BBQ and bins nearby.

 

From here, we deviated from the Oodnadatta Track to head towards Coober Pedy, and returned to the track at William Creek.

 

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William Creek

A good place to stop and stretch your legs, William Creek offers public toilets and a refreshing drink at the William Creek Hotel, which was originally used as a railway siding on the old Ghan railway line.

 

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Across the road is a tree with cats hanging from it.  Initially, Juz assumed that the cats were fake, until she got closer and saw bones and teeth.  She started to feel sick before reading a sign that the tree was called the Pussy Willow and was used as a prop for a film – thankfully, the cats were indeed fake.  Phew!

 

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Nearby is Anna Creek – the biggest cattle station in the world.  At its peak, it was about 70 million acres!  It’s now about 6 million acres, which makes it bigger than about 110 countries, including Israel, Fiji and Slovenia.  The land is owned by S. Kidman and Co. Ltd, the largest private land owner in Australia (duh!).  They owe this legacy to Sidney Kidman, an Aussie pastoralist from the late 1800s – and coincidently the great-great-great grandfather of Nicole Kidman.  Sidney bought up as much land as he could throughout the Great Artesian Basin and he managed his business really well by moving his livestock around the millions of acres of land as the weather changed.  His property was so vast, one area could be flooded while another area was in drought!

 

We spent the night by Beresford Dam and the nearby ruins.  Once the sun went down, the mozzies came out, so we shut ourselves into the Troopy and had an early night.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Wabma Kadarbu Mound Springs

This stop was unexpectedly excellent.  After a short drive to the springs, we visited the Bubbler first – a round, bubbling pool of clear water that trickled down to the surrounding area.  To see clear water, lush green reeds and birds in a place so barren and desolate was strange.

 

 

The next feature was the Blanche Cup, another bubbling pool atop a mound. We learnt that the water coming out is from the Great Artesian Basin and is nearly 2 million years old.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Coward Springs

We stopped into Coward Springs to refresh ourselves in their natural spa.  Pay $2 for a day visit, and have a soak in the spa, which is about the size of a plunge pool and sits at around 25°C.  We met a lovely couple from Goolwa and chatted about cockling and the Birdsville Races.  If you want to stick around for the night, camping fees are $12.50 per person for the night.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Lake Eyre

The lookout over Lake Eyre South was amazing.  A walking track leads you to the edge of the salt flat and if you walk in far enough, it starts to get really muddy and soft underneath the thin, salty crust. The salt is so fine, that in some places it looked like fairy floss.  We spotted a bearded dragon with spots scampering across the plain, and took a few silly shots before moving on.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Lake Eyre is the largest salt lake in Australia, and Halligan Bay represents the lowest point of Australia at 15.2m below sea level.  It was named after explorer Edward John Eyre, and may only fill with water every three years.  Its name was officially changed in 2012 to Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, to incorporate the indigenous name.

 

Alberrie Creek

An interesting diversion from the track, Alberrie Creek features giant sculptures made from scrap.  We thought the giant flower was excellent, as well as the metal people, and if you watch the two planes at the entrance long enough, you’ll find that it has been made into a home by the surrounding birds.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

Maree

The end of the Oodnadatta track, this small and super friendly town of just over 600 people consists of a general store with fantastic, freshly baked bread and deep, meaty pies, Australia’s oldest mosque that was built to cater for the Afghan cameleers, and a BBQ area and museum park.

 

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Also worth a look is the Maree Hotel, a gorgeous pub with friendly owners, great prices and the Tom Kruse Museum, which commemorate a great Aussie postie who delivered along the Birdsville Track.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

If you’re low on fuel, expect to pay around $2 or more per litre for diesel.

 

We had heard that the Oodnadatta track is the best outback track in Australia and we absolutely agree.  The track itself is in great condition, the scenery is really pretty and the points of interest are actually interesting.  We recommend it to everyone…

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

 

Roper Bar

Troopy Report : Crack, Back & On Track

Roper Bar

 

Yo – Dave here.

 

It’s been a while since the last update and the Troopy’s a little bit worse for wear.  After almost a year in Darwin, we had to spend some time and money fixing, changing and modifying bits and pieces.  When we rolled in to Darwin, we had a cracked windscreen and a stuffed battery and by the time we left Darwin, we had another stuffed battery and the humidity had brought out every single patch of rust.

 

Crack

While we were in the Kimberley, a flying stone from a passing truck put a chip in our windscreen.  By the time we got to Kununurra, the chip had already become a crack but we decided to wait until Darwin before getting it replaced because it would be cheaper.  That said, I reckon $450 isn’t that cheap…

 

Troopy crack

 

Before we left Darwin, a rattle was coming from the front end of the Troopy.  Turns out a join was split in our exhaust pipe, and while I tried using some exhaust putty to fix it, the split was under the wheel arch on the inner side and I couldn’t get to it. Luckily, the people we were staying with in Alice Springs run a steel yard and have a welder.  I drove the Troopy to the yard one Saturday and together with one of the guys and a six pack of beer, we worked on the Troopy.  We removed the section of the exhaust and were really surprised at how big the hole was!  We filled it up and put the section back in.  Good as new!

 

 

 

That wasn’t the only welding that needed to be done.  The right hand rear door on Troopys notoriously crack at the bottom of the window pillar and ours is no exception.  The left hand rear door also needed some welding – a spot weld on the hinge had come apart and our jerry can bracket had split the panel it was bolted to.  After reinforcing the back panel with a sheet of steel and welding the hinge, the door was good as new.

 

Back

We’d seen quite a few decked out Troopys with a drop down table on the right hand rear door, and I’d been waiting for a chance to knock one up for our Troopy.  While I had access to a drill and a circular saw through Juz’s boss at the party hire place in Darwin, I scored a piece of plywood and picked up a couple of hinges.  I cut the wood to size, drilled some holes, and connected some rope from the door to the table.  I finished it off with a lick of varnish and Juz loves it.

 

 

 

With all the hot nights and mozzies up north, having only two windows with flyscreens on them wasn’t enough.  We wanted to be able to sleep with the back doors open too for maximum airflow.  We picked up a couple of magnetic flyscreens that are normally used on house doors and I set to work.  I cut them to length, added some extra magnets, then attached them to the inside of the door frame.  I used the left over pieces on the sliding windows in the back and also replaced the original flyscreens I’d installed.  The extra airflow will get tested once we’re back in the tropics.

 

Troopy flyscreen

 

Battery Pack

While we were in Darwin, we didn’t need our Engel fridge in the Troopy so we used it in the house.  Unfortunately, because the fridge wasn’t in the Troopy and we weren’t sleeping in the Troopy, our auxiliary battery died without us knowing.  I picked up a new one in Katherine and all was fine again.

 

A few weeks later, we were on our way to Alice Springs and I noticed again that the fridge wasn’t clicking on when the Troopy wasn’t running.  The new auxiliary battery was flat!

 

After some research and voltage testing, I guessed that the battery isolator wasn’t working, and this was confirmed by an auto-electrician.  However, before replacing the new battery, I decided to replace the terminals – they were pretty corroded and perhaps this was the problem.  The next day the battery was fully charged.  I’m glad I didn’t fork out the big bucks for a new isolator based on the words of that auto-elec…

 

On track

We were only going to stop in at Lorella Springs Wilderness Park for five days, but we ended up there for almost two weeks!  Set on 1 million acres, they’ve got about 1000 kms of 4WD tracks throughout the park.  Check out our article about Lorella Springs here –  Lorella Springs Wilderness Park – Part 1

 

While at Lorella Springs, we started hearing a grinding noise coming from the back right tyre.  I pulled the wheel off and found the brake pad so worn that the metal had cut a nasty groove into the brake disc.  We couldn’t do anything about it until we got to Tennant Creek, where I picked up some new brake pads and disc and replaced them in a back streets while Juz hung out in the library.

 

Troopy break disc

 

While we put off getting new tyres for as long as we could, a chronic puncture at Lorella Springs meant that we needed to start shopping for a new set of wheels.  Alice Springs would be the best place to do it, and it would also be our last chance before hitting the east coast.  I checked out what was available in our price range and ended up settling on Maxxis Bighorns.  We’ll see how they go and I’ll give them a review in the next Troopy update.

 

Lorella Springs

 

Gregory Tree

Experience : Gregory National Park & Victoria River

Gregory Tree

 

Gregory National Park is one of the largest national parks in the Northern Territory, covering about 13,000 square kilometres of area.  To gain awareness of the park’s unique cultural heritage, the traditional owners have requested that it be called Judburra National Park.  From 2011, Gregory National Park will be dual named for 10 years before officially becoming Judbarra National Park.

 

We checked out Gregory’s Tree, which is where Baines carved Gregory’s arrival and departure dates into a large boab tree.  We also did the quick Calcite Flow Walk and admired the stromatolites and sharp rock formations.

 

 

There are a few 4WD tracks, one of which is only 20km long but took us about 3 hours to traverse, much to Juz’s dismay.  The road was full of sharp, rocky ridges that ran diagonally across the road so the Troopy was bouncing and bobbing like a boat.  To make matters worse, the sun was on the passenger side and the only way to prevent herself from getting heat stroke was to use her shirt as a shade cloth, which meant that the window needed to be wound up to fix the shirt into place.  It was the longest 3 hours of her life…

 

 

The screw we pulled out at Mitchell Falls

Troopy Report : 3rd Edition

Yo – Dave here.  Here comes the third Troopy update for your reading pleasure.  Ready… Set… Go!

 

This update has a couple of “house-keeping” type things in it.  They seem like common sense to us now, but getting the tilt right for sleeping and mozzie control are games we get to play nearly every day.  We’ve shuffled some stuff around inside the Troopy and even tried out our big awning for the first time.  I sorted out some wiring, mucked around with the brakes a bit and Juz got to have her first go at plugging a tyre.

 

I’m inclined to have a sleep…

Whenever we pull up for the night, if we’re going to sleep in the Troopy we need to consider a few things.

 

Tilt is a major factor.  Will Juz be rolling toward my side all night or will I squish her against the window?  The second factor is the incline – will the Troopy be nose down and cause the blood to pool into our heads, or will the Troopy be so inclined that we’re practically sleeping standing up.

 

We have to check out the terrain just like a golfer would look at the green before putting towards the hole – Juz is much better at this than me.  Our preference for tilt is within 10 degrees of level; our preference for incline is between level and nose up to 20 degrees.

 

Bloody Mozzies!

After the “mozzie massacre” at Point Quandong, mosquito control within the Troopy has become an important addition to the evening ritual.

 

 

Mozzie coils are an absolute must, so Juz lights a small portion of coil for the front cabin with all the doors shut except the back door.  Ideally, any mosquitoes loitering in the front will be encouraged to fly out via the back.  We then set up another coil at the back doors to create an invisible, citronella-scented wall that is impermeable to blood-sucking mozzies.  It seems to work, at least until one of us climbs out of the Troopy in the middle of the night for a wee…

 

Cover up that Box!

Since we left Melbourne, the vinyl cover on our top box has been ripped to shreds from the force of the wind as we hoon down the highway.  With the corners torn open, the flapping is not only noisy but it catches the wind more and we end up using more fuel.

 

I’d tried fixing it a few different ways – sticking it back together with duct tape, sewing it together, patching the corners with an old plastic tarp.  The duct tape repair was fast and lasted a good couple of weeks.  The plastic tarp patches took hours and hours to do, and they lasted a couple of months until they perished.  Fed up with the structural integrity of my repairs being compromised, I asked Juz to get up on the roof and give it a go.

 

We picked up some block-out curtain fabric from an Op Shop in Carnarvon and Juz climbed up on the roof and got to work on the worst of the two corners.  She started with a long piece of fabric that covered the whole corner and about 10cm either side, then another smaller piece of fabric that would act as a reinforcer, holding not only the blackout fabric but the vinyl as well.  After two weeks, it was still together, so I jumped up on the roof and did the other corner.

 

Reorganisation Station!

We had a whole day of no driving while we were camped at Burnett River Gorge for two nights.  Instead of lazing about drinking cocktails and massaging each other, we did some serious reorganising of Troopy storage.

 

The first victim of reorganisation was the pantry drawer.  Now that the fire ban had been lifted and we had more opportunities to cook on a camp fire, Juz wanted better access to the billies, pots and pans.  Tinned beans and vegetables were moved backwards while the cooking utensils moved forwards, and instead of storing things on top of the spice box, the spice box now sits on a platform of more tinned goods.  Also, the colander was moved to the black box, which immediately created a tonne more space, and other various space wasters were discarded.

 

Double Choc Damper

 

Once Juz was satisfied with the increase in storage space and food preparation surfaces, I dealt with the side compartments.  I moved the unnecessary bits and pieces from the rear compartments to the front compartments.  The compressor, socket set and fold-up shovel are now all more accessible and there’s even some left over empty space.

 

Is it Awning Already?

About 1km from the turnoff to the Bungle Bungles is a free campground called Spring Creek and we camped there for two nights.  After we found a nice spot and positioned the Troopy with just the right amount of tilt and incline, we thought it would be good to get the awning out.  However, the Troopy was parked with the passenger side facing camp, which meant that we would have to use our MAX COVERAGE AWNING!

 

Unlike the awning on the driver side, our Max Coverage Awning rolls out over the side of the Troopy, then folds out twice to provide coverage all the way around the back of the Troopy too!  As we folded this awning out to use it for the first time, we realised it was installed upside down.  After taking it off and getting it back on the right way up, we got the poles out and realised that we needed guy-ropes and pegs too.  It started looking like too much effort for one afternoon of shade so we folded it back up, and made note that we needed some pegs and guy-ropes readily available if we plan to use the Max Coverage Awning.

 

We picked up some extra tent pegs in Kununurra, which – along with our ropes – have filled a bit of the left over empty space from the reorganisation we did a week or so earlier.

 

Screw You, Punctures!

A few people had warned us about the treacherousness of the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley.  We were told that it’s covered in sharp rocks and you’re guaranteed to get at least one puncture.  To minimise the chance of getting punctures, dropped our tyre pressure to around 25psi as soon as we got off the bitumen.

 

On the way to Mitchell Falls, a screw managed to make its way into our back left tyre.  We found it when we rolled in to camp and spent the rest of the afternoon working on it.  Getting the tyre off was the major hassle because the mechanic in Perth had put the wheel nuts on way too tight.  I flexed my fully sick biceps (hehehe!) and finally got the nuts loose.  We put a fresh tyre on, I plugged the puncture with the tyre repair kit and we finished setting up camp.

 

 

We got another puncture a couple of days later while driving along the eastern end of the Gibb River Road.  We found it when we stopped for breakfast.  Fffffsssshhhhhhhh…… fuck!  Another bloody screw!  After I replaced the newly punctured tyre with the one I’d repaired at Mitchell River, I started packing up.  Meanwhile, I handed Juz the tyre repair kit we got from Bush Junkie, and she had her first puncture sorted in minutes.

 

All in all, the Gibb River Road was nowhere near as bad as what people told us.  Sure, we got two punctures, but they were from screws not from the actual road conditions.  The last 100km or so before the bitumen at the eastern end was the worst of it, but even that was manageable.

 

Hit the Brakes!

I had to rewire the Troopy’s right-hand brake light back in Melbourne before we left.  No major drama, even though it looked like someone else had done some rewiring too.  Just outside of Kununurra, we realised that none of our left-hand rear lights were working.  It meant I got to lie down on the dusty, rocky ground and muck about with it.

 

As much as I enjoy playing with the Troopy and learning how to fix bits and pieces, laying on my back in the dirt on a hot day isn’t ideal.  Either the left side had previously been repaired too or colour-coding of wiring was an optional extra back in 1993!  Anyway, I got it all sorted soon enough, but it would’ve been quicker with a 12v soldering iron.  Mental note: get a 12v soldering iron!

 

While we were driving through the Kimberley, the Troopy’s brakes started getting a bit spongy.  Nothing too serious – pump, pump, pump the pedal and it pulled up just fine.  When we got to Wyndham, I made a brake-bleeding kit out of an empty plastic bottle and a bit of physio hose and prepared to bleed brakes for the first time.  I got Juz to be my beautiful assistant and had it sorted in no time.

 

The brakes were better for a little while, but they started getting really bad within a day or two.  And the Troopy decided started pulling to the left under brakes too.  We were heading south to the Bungle Bungles then back north up to Kununurra.  It’s only 600kms – she’ll be right.  Right?  WRONG!

 

Dampier Peninsula

Troopy Report : Issues, Repairs & Extra Bits

Yo – Dave here!

 

Welcome to the second Troopy update.  Were now six months in to our trip and we’ve gotten to know our vehicle even more.  We’ve done plenty of 4WDing, added a few more bits of kit, and had to deal with some frustrating mechanical issues.

 

Steep Point - to the BLOWHOLES! 

 

4WDING AT STEEP POINT & FRANÇOIS PÉRON

I was absolutely gagging to do some 4WDing by the time we got to Shark Bay, and I wasn’t disappointed.  François Peron was a 4WD dream, with a mixture of flat claypans (birridas) and soft sand.  It was great fun and the rewarding views and marine life put this place very high on our list of recommendations.  Most of the tracks at Steep Point were very corrugated, which was annoying, but the sandy sections of track were really enjoyable.  In a couple of parts, the steep sand dunes forced us into low-range, but the Troopy powered through with minimal effort.  Along the western edge of Steep point, the tracks are covered with very sharp rocks, so take it easy.

 

As we do every time we’re going to be driving along a rough road for a while, we let our tyres down.  This serves two purposes, it makes the track less bumpy and it helps protect against punctures.  When we got back to the bitumen, we pumped our tyres back up with our nifty little compressor that we got from BushJunkie.com.au.

 

 

Exhausting the Tanks

Whenever we fill up the tanks, we always use the rear tank first.  The main reason being a precautionary measure – if the wiring to the fuel tank selector solenoid fails or gets ripped out, the solenoid automatically defaults to the front tank.  The secondary reason is that there’s no low fuel warning light on the rear tank, so it’s guesswork figuring out when it’s empty.  The front tank is kind enough to let us know when it’s running low by displaying a light on the dash.

 

To make estimating the remaining fuel even more fun, fuel sometimes drains between tanks when the Troopy is parked on an angle.  Occasionally the rear tank runs out before making the switch to the front tank and the Troopy stalls.  This is a bit of a pain because I have to pull over, open the bonnet and pump the fuel primer to push fuel back into the lines.

 

Fuel Filter Issue

We’ve noticed that whenever we do some really bumpy 4WDing, the Troopy gets a bit temperamental afterwards – it starts getting really jerky and losing power at around 1200 – 1500rpm.  It happened when we were on our way to Coolgardie after the bumpy road near Cave Hill and it happened again on our way back to the main road from Steep Point.

 

When it happened in Coolgardie, we were a bit worried because we weren’t sure why it was happening.  I checked the fuel lines for kinks and other damage and couldn’t see anything unusual.  The interesting thing was that the next day, the problem disappeared. When it happened again after Steep Point, everything started falling into place in my head – the bumpy roads churn up the sediment from the bottom of the fuel tank which blocks up the fuel line.  Formula time!!!

 

Driving speed (D) x bumpiness of road (B) = amount of fuel tank sediment raised (S).  When S reaches critical mass (X), the sediment blocks up the fuel line.

 

When it happened at Steep Point, it was really sucky.  We had to struggle for about 100km of rollercoaster road and it ended up taking twice as long to get back to the main road.  We spent the night at Gladstone Scenic Lookout watching a storm hit Shark Bay.  The following morning, the Troopy was its old self again, roaring along the highway towards Carnarvon.

 

Minor Repairs

When I was checking fluids in the Troopy before we left Broome, I noticed that the mount for the radiator overflow bottle had broken and the bottle was only hanging on by the bolt through the plastic.  With a few cable ties, the problem was solved.  Always carry cable ties; they’ll fix at least half of your issues when you’re on the road!

 

Cable ties are really handy!

 

On our way back from Cape Peron in Francois Peron National Park, we heard a metallic rattle from the front passenger wheel.  I stuck my head in there and noticed that one of the rubber spacers at the top of the shocker was completely chewed up.

 

 

Lucky for us, there was a wrecker in Denham with, literally, a bucket load of random rubbers.  He handed me the bucket and said “see what you can find”.  I went through the whole bucket and found two that were close enough.  I gave the guy his bucket back and he was nice enough to let me have the rubbers for nothing.  Seeing as it was only the top rubber that was busted, I had the new one on in about ten minutes.  I’m really glad I didn’t have to pull the shocker out to get to it because that would’ve sucked massive balls.

 

Chewed up rubber spacer!

 

Extra Bits

We’re now the proud owners of a “Life straw”, thanks to our good friends at Bushjunkie.com.au.  This thing purifies unsafe, undrinkable water into perfectly safe, drinkable water.  It’ll purify up to 1000 litres of water and kills 99.9999999% of waterborne bacteria and parasites.  Stay tuned for our review once we give it a go!

 

Our mates at TRED sent us a bag for our recovery tracks, so now, instead of the fluoro green tracks on the front of the roof racks, we have a sexy black bag with the TRED logo emblazoned in red.

 

 

We also have an extra jerry can now.  While in Geraldton, Jeremy and I were taking rubbish to the tip and there was a recycling centre there as well.  It turns out that the recycling centre is also a huge second hand joint, so I suggested we have a look.  I could’ve spent all day there, but a few hours were enough to find some goodies.  I picked up a jerry can and a brand new box of trivia cards for $10.  This means we can now carry an extra 20 litres of fuel, which gives us around an extra 150km.

 

 

Cable Beach

Town Profile : Broome

Located at the southernmost tip of the Kimberley about 18 degrees south of the equator, Broome was the first example we’ve seen of an Australian tropical town.  Palm trees and boabs line the streets, birds of prey circle the skies and everyone walks around like they’re on holiday.  The atmosphere is really laid back and after a while, you’ll learn about Broome time, which ticks at a much slower pace than Melbourne time.  Monsoon season between October and March can make some of the more remote areas around the town inaccessible due to rain, so if you plan to visit and want the best weather, make it between April and September.

 

 

William Dampier was the first to visit the area in 1688 and Roebuck Bay on which Broome sits is named after his ship, the HMS Roebuck, but it wasn’t until 1883 that Broome was declared a town. The largest pearl shells in the world were discovered in Roebuck Bay, and this led to Broome’s establishment as a pearling town.  People from Japan, China, Malaysia, Europe and the Philippines arrived to seek out the ‘Pinctada maxima’ shells, and while pearling was super-profitable for the pearling master (or as we see it, the pimp), the divers had it tough and suffered from the bends, shark attacks, cyclones and drowning.

 

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Broome produced 80% of the world’s Mother of Pearl shells, but after the plastic button was invented and cultured pearls were introduced in the 1970s, they were only producing about 65% of the world’s stock.  Paspaley is the largest and oldest pearling company in Australia and the producer of the most beautiful pearls in the world, and it has an outlet in town.  Juz took it upon herself to try on some pearls; about $98,000 worth to be precise, and while we were there, we also learnt about how pearls are valued.  They need to be smooth, unblemished, round and shiny, and there are different types of pearls that are available (black, white, gold, champagne and baroque).  Baroque pearls are asymmetrical pearls that are made when the oyster tries to spit them out before they’re ready.  The pearl ends up developing an irregular shape instead of a smooth spherical shape.

 

 

If you’re lucky enough to be in Broome during August/September, this is when they hold the annual ‘Festival of the Pearl’ called Shinju Matsuri.  The town celebrates their history, the pearl harvest and their multicultural heritage, which includes all the Asian and European folk, as well as the local Aboriginal people.  We were really happy to have a chat with a few of the locals, including a lady who was brought up by the Sisters in Beagle Bay, a super happy guy carving a boab nut in Chinatown, and another guy who came and sat down with us in the park while he waited for his mates to hurry up.  They were all friendly, welcoming and happy to share their stories.

 

There are two movie outlets to cater for all sorts of weather – Sun Cinema, which is indoors, and Sun Pictures, the oldest operating outdoor cinema in the world!  You can also enjoy the Staircase to the Moon at certain times of the month, when the full moon reflects on the mud flats and creates the illusion of a staircase.

 

So, whether you enjoy picking up some noodles in Chinatown, trying on expensive pearls or lazing on the beach, Broome has something for you.

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Chinatown

The original commercial centre of Broome, Chinatown demonstrates the multiculturalism of Broome.  While we were expecting more Chinese restaurants and tacky neon lights, we were satisfied with the Asian architecture on telephone booths and Johnny Chi Shady Lane, which mainly contained clothing outlets that sold colourful dresses, a café with a terrible soundtrack and lots of souvenirs.  A great place for kooky food items is Yuen Wing Grocery Store…

 

 

Town Beach

A great spot to spend the day!  There is a great little park with BBQ and picnic facilities, right near Pioneer Cemetery, and the beach is clean with safe waters and outdoor showers.  We had lunch here with our travel buddies, Mark and Alexis before they hopped on a long bus ride to Darwin.

 

Cable Beach

This beautiful beach that stretches for 22km is named after the underwater telegraph cable that links Australia to Indonesia.  It is one of the most famous beaches in the world and is a great place to go swimming, play beach cricket, and watch the sunset.  Be careful though – between November and April, box jellyfish and stingers like to hang about, and if you get stung by one of those, you’re gonna have a bad time.

 

 

If you go north of the rocks, you can get your kit off in the nudist section (yes – we did), which also happens to be the 4×4 section and the area that the camels are parked to advertise the tours.

 

 

 

We considered going on a camel ride, but after walking past a group on their pre-sunset tour, we decided against it.  The camels stunk and we figured that we could get a much better photo off the camel rather than on top of it.  We did appreciate that the camels had shit bags attached to their bums to stop poop from getting on the beach.

 

Juz works on healing - at arms length...

 

Japanese Cemetery

There are over 900 Japanese divers buried in the Japanese cemetery, which shows just how dangerous the early pearling days were.  What makes the Japanese cemetery a beautiful place is the raw sandstone headstones that are inscribed with ornate Japanese text.

 

 

Courthouse Markets

We got up nice and early on Saturday morning to check out the Courthouse Markets, which were just down the street from the Kimberley Klub YHA. The markets run from 8am-1pm every Saturday and are the largest art and craft markets in the Kimberley.

 

Stalls surround the courthouse, selling pearls, semi-precious stones, tie-dye t-shirts, hippie clothes, summer dresses, jewellery, exotic food and soap while musicians were dotted around with their hats out.  One kid really stood out – long blonde hair covered his face as he smashed out wicked riffs on his electric guitar.  He was totally grunge and had a sign out that said “Need money for a haircut” – what a cool kid.

 

Gantheaume Point

The weather was precarious when we got to Gunatheaume Point (which Juz called Guantanamo Point because she couldn’t pronounce ‘gan-thoom’ point).  We walked past the kooky lighthouse to see the dinosaur footprints, but unfortunately, the tide wasn’t low enough.  It has to be at VERY LOW tide (1.3m or lower) before you can see the real footprints, so the concrete mould at the lookout would have to suffice.

 

We did climb down the cliffs to check out Anastasia’s Pool, which was built by the former lighthouse keeper for his arthritic wife, who found relief in the warm salty water.

 

 

FOOD & DRINK

Matso’s Brewery

The first place on our list of places to go to was the Matso’s Brewery.  This award-winning full mash hand-crafted brewery created the Smokey Bishop, a dark larger that was awarded Australia’s best dark larger during the 2006 Australasian Beer Awards. If dark ale isn’t your thing, there are fruity beers, hoppy beers, refreshing light beers and ciders, so there is something for everyone.  Matso’s Brewery is open 7 days a week from 7am until late, and they also offer tours on Wednesday and Fridays. http://www.matsos.com.au/

 

 

We spent the afternoon in the awesome beer garden drinking and chatting with our new mate Billows, who works for the local radio station.  The beer garden has a small stage for live acts, as well as the Curry Hut, which is run by an Indian chef that makes his own authentic North Indian curries.

 

  • Hit the Toad Lager – 3.5% yeasty and fruity with a hint of lime and minimal hops.  Very refreshing!  The beer was named to support the Stop the Toad Foundation, which works to raise awareness about the cane toad invasion across the WA/NT border.
  • Monsoonal Blonde – 4.7% a cloudy wheat beer with a fruity, floral taste and no bitterness. Very easy to drink.
  • Pearlers Pale Ale – 4.5% rich and heavy, full malt beer that is smooth and hoppy.
  • Smokey Bishop – 4.9% full bodied, dark, caramel and toffee flavours, deliciously smokey.
  • Mango – 4.5% sweet enough to be a dessert beer, it was fruity and tropical, very smooth with a hint of hops.
  • Chilli – 4.5% not for the faint hearted.  Juz’s lips were burning as soon as they touched the foam!  A great chilli flavour in a light, refreshing brew.
  • Chango – 4.5% Juz’s favourite! half chilli beer, half mango beer.  The sweetness of the mango was great to diffuse some of the chilli burn.  A beautifully tropical beer.
  • Lychee – 4.0% smells very much like lychee but the first taste is like a light, refreshing beer with a fruity aftertaste.
  • Ginger Beer – 3.5% not as sweet as expected.  Herbaceous and smooth without any ginger spice.
  • Mango Lime Cider – 4.0% a clear, light green cider with lots of fruits flavours and a smooth, buttery finish.

 

We headed to the Broome RSL after Matso’s Brewery and on the way out, we spied a raised up, 4WD HQ station wagon.  Dave creamed his pants…

AWESOME!

 

Broome RSL

The first thing we noticed was the yellow lights, which were probably installed to deter the insects.  The Broome RSL is a friendly, welcoming place full of happy locals having a great time with other happy locals.  We were there on a Friday night and took advantage of the $10 meat pack offer.  The meat pack contains two sausages, a chop and steak that you cook yourself on the BBQ. The RSL provides salads and veggies to accompany the meat you’ve cooked up.  What a great feed!

 

Before we entered the Broome RSL, we met a great lady outside walking her three tiny dogs.  She was an aboriginal woman of the Stolen Generation who grew up in Beagle Bay with the St John of God Sisters.  She told us about her dogs and her upbringing before inviting us back to her house for more chats.  We told her that we’d love to come over after a few drinks at the RSL but unfortunately, the more drinks we had, the fuzzier the directions to her house became.  After wandering around in the dark for about 20 minutes, we admitted defeat and went back to the hostel.

 

 

Divers Tavern

A short walk from Cable Beach will bring you to the Divers Tavern, a nice place for a meal and a drink, until they turn up the volume on the footy so you have to yell at your friends just to have a conversation.  We went here with Alexis and Mark after a few hours north of the rocks at Cable Beach.

 

They have a few meal specials, including a $20 schnitz and chips that we couldn’t overlook.  We ordered a serving with mushroom sauce and within 10 minutes, it was presented in all its deep-fried glory.  The chips were fairly average and the sauce was basically gravy with mushrooms, but the chicken schnitzel was crispy and hot.  Juz sampled the quesadillas and they were actually delicious and great value at $4 a serve.

 

The Roey

Popular with the locals, the Roebuck Hotel is a cool place to catch up with mates for a drink in the Asian-style beer garden, adorned with red lanterns hanging off the ceiling.  Dave’s cousin Tony met his wife here back in the day – they were both shitfaced and it was love at first sight.

 

We met Tom and Bella here to catch up and have something small to eat.  We shared two sides because we weren’t super hungry – the chips were delicious and well seasoned and the onion rings were crisp and tasty but not the best.  Later on, Billows turned up and we were happier and with our mouths open!

 

 

INFORMATION & ACCOMMODATION

The Broome Visitor Centre is located on Broome Road, right in the town centre.  Their phone number is08 9192 2222.

Kimberley Klub YHA 62 Frederick Street, 08 9192 3233.  Check out our post on the Kimberley Klub YHA.

 

Steep Point - the Blowholes

4WDing : Steep Point

When we arrived in Shark Bay, we were aware of all the typical tourist attractions such as Monkey Mia, Hamelin Pools and the surrounding bay, but what we were really looking forward to was Steep Point – the westernmost point of Australia!

 

Steep Point - we made it!

 

Steep Point got its name from Dutch sailor William de Vlamingh when he anchored by the southern tip of Dirk Hartog Island in 1697.  The general area is called Edel Land and stretches from Steep Point all the way down to False Entrance.  The land has been purchased by the state government for conservation purposes and will soon become a national park.

 

 

The landscape is a combination of limestone, surreal sand dunes and secluded beaches.  The cliffs drop down 200 metres into the ocean and make for some truly terrifying scenery, and the colours are a huge contrast to the red sand dunes of Francois Peron National Park.  The area is only accessible by 4WD and you need a permit or park pass to enter.  Day passes are $11 per vehicle.

The Track

The turnoff to Steep Point is 88km south of Denham. The total distance between the Northwest Coastal Highway turnoff to Steep Point is 185km.  A few kilometres of the road is sealed, but then it’s about 114km of unsealed road before the final stretch over very soft sand.  You have to reduce your tyre pressure to 15-20psi before continuing into Edel Land, otherwise you risk getting bogged, and you don’t want to have to pay the fee for recovery.

 

The road was fairly corrugated, which made the drive slow going, but once we got to the sand dunes, the real fun began.  Up and down with lots of tilts, the Troopy conquered them all.  The track mainly required high-range gears but there was one soft uphill section that needed low-range.  It took us about 3 hours to get to the Ranger hut, just short of Shelter Bay.

 

 

Before leaving for this trip, make sure you’re topped up with fuel because there are only two petrol stations nearby, and the closest one is about 180km to the east.

 

Camping

Pay your camping fees to the ranger, who was a plump lady with a lovely smile, tanned leather skin and a white bob – it’s $7 per adult per night to camp.  The nice ranger lady advised us to stay for one night only and to be outside of Edel Land by midday the next day, because a storm was coming.  She said if it rains, they’ll close the roads, and if they close the roads you’ll be in here for at least four days.   She gave us the westernmost camp spot available, took our money and wished us luck to get out before the storm.

 

There were lots of people camping in Shelter Bay.  You could see boats anchored in the bay as well, which means that they were there for the fishing.  Game fishing is huge at Steep Point and while we would have loved to drop a line, the potential storm did not allow us the time.

 

Steep Point - gorgeous beach!

 

We got to camp at dusk, had a quick dinner and settled in for the night.  First thing in the morning, we set off for the signpost to advertise our position.  There was something really scary about Steep Point.  There was a real sense of being at the edge of the world.  The cliffs were sheer and rugged and we were hesitant to get too close to the edge.

 

Thunder Bay & the Blowholes

Afterwards, we moved onwards to Thunder Bay and the Blowholes.  We would have loved to drive along the Zuytdorp cliffs but we were told that our tyres might not make it past the treacherously rocky track.  The Blowholes blew our minds.  They were like huge nostrils of a snoring dragon, breathing in and out with a blood curdling noise.  Juz found a teeny tiny blowhole and let it suck in her hair.  There was also a huge coastal gorge along the cliffs that made us look very insignificant.

 

 

False Entrance

We only had two hours left before midday, so we scooted south towards False Entrance.  This huge beach has the most ferocious waves – there was no way we were going to have a dip!  We had a quick bite to eat and continued to the exit.

 

 

That night, we made it to Gladstone Scenic Lookout (-25.985206,114.298046) that gives you a great view west over Shark Bay.  We watched the clouds roll in, flash and purge, and then went to sleep, only to be woken a few hours later with the Troopy rocking about in the wind with rain and lightning all around us.  Lucky we weren’t stuck at Steep Point…

 

 

Thunder Bay Blowholes from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.


 

Pink sunrise

Camping : Torbay Inlet

Only 28km west of Albany, Torbay Inlet is a great camping ground with basic facilities.  You can camp near the coastal scrub and be near the drop toilet, or if you have a 4WD (like us), you can drive along the narrow, sandy road to the beach and spend the night listening to the crashing waves.  The Albany Wind Farm is visible in the distance and the sunsets are absolutely spectacular.

 

 

We did some fishing in the estuary (with no luck) before turning in for an early night.  Sunrise was very colourful and we did a quick run along the beach before packing up and moving on.

 

Pink sunrise

 

YEEHAW!!!! @ Loveday 4x4 Adventure Park

Experience : Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park

Imagine a place where you can take your beloved 4WD and put it to the test on a variety of landscapes, from rocks and steep inclines to muddy pits and soft sand.  A 4×4 utopia where you can have a beer with your mates after a long, dusty day touring the Riverland scrub.  An off-road dreamland that offers great bush camping next to the Murray River.

 

Well… you don’t need to dream about this place because it’s waiting for you at Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park!  This unique feature of the Riverland is run and owned by Tony Whateley and consists of 8000 acres of privately owned land that has been manipulated into a 4×4 playground for off-road enthusiasts. Pitch a tent next to the Murray River, and fill your day with 4WDing pleasure on their practice playground and touring track.

 

 

It all started in 2006 with an idea to take backpackers around the property and entertain them with bullshit stories about drop bears, hoop snakes and other imaginary Australian creatures.  The idea evolved and eventually steered Tony to look into the 4WDing scene.  With the philosophy of, “If you build it, they will come”, he created an amazing 4WD track, held a competition, and the rest is history.

 

The park has also been visited by 4WDTV Simon Christie, who gave it a big thumbs up of approval!

 

Playground

This is where the practice happens.  It has a variety of terrains from rocks, bumps, hills, dips, tyre mounds, sand and mud puddles. We were a little apprehensive at first but after a few confidence boosts, the Troopy was roaring over the obstacles.

 

 

Tour Track & Sandhills

At the top end of the property is the tour track, a series of 4WD tracks of varying terrain and difficulty that snake through the dry scrub.  It is designed to give the impression of isolation, with the option of winching yourself out if required.

 

  • The Boob Shaker track has sections of little bumps that certainly get the titties wiggling.  The name comes from Tony’s nanna, who jovially cried, “Oh it’s making my boobies shake… haha!”
  • The Rollercoaster has an apt name – there are ups and downs and heart-stopping tilts.  The terrain changes from smooth and sloping to rigid and bumpy.  This track was heaps of fun.
  • 150 Bumps is self explanatory – a never-ending road of crests and dips dug so close to one another that the Troopy’s bum would scrap at nearly every one.  It’s also known as the spew track for anyone who gets a little seasick.
  • The Divorce Track got its name from countless wives screaming, “if you go through it, I’ll divorce you!”  Dave and I breezed through the track and passed the obstacles that were outside of the Troopy’s limits, thinking that the only reason why anyone would divorce over this track is because the passenger would realise that they married the driver, who is a fuckhead that does stupid shit.

 


Near the riverside camping are the Sandhills, an area of soft sand dunes.  Driving over this landscape is a great learning experience and allows you to feel how the car’s course is influenced by the soft sand.  We also did some target practice shooting arrows at bullseyes drawn in the sand.

 

Race Track

Built for competitions only, such as the Riverland 4×4 Challenge, this track sits out the front of the Loveday Tavern and includes several jumps and hairpin corners, as well as an area for stunts.

 

 

The person who holds the record for the fastest lap is Tony’s teenage son, Toby.  He completed the track in 107 second.  To be perfectly honest – the kid is a whiz!  He can fix any bunged up 4WD you give him, he taught himself to drive a car on two wheels in an hour, and he can catch rabbits with his bare hands, trick ski, wake board and do car stunts.  We were lucky enough to be taken for a quick lap around the track and got airbourne a few times.  What a thrill!

 

 

Camping

There are several sites on the property where you can camp right next to the Murray River.  Fishing is good if you want to catch carp, or you can chuck the net in and nab some yabbies.  The skies were filled with pelicans, whistling kites and wedge tail eagles.

 

 

We camped at Old Shady Campground but often visited the site next door, The Hills, to find and chase bunnies.

 

 

The Essentials

If you are only going to visit for the day, 4×4 self drive day trips are $40 per vehicle.  Camping by the river and use of the 4×4 track is $60 for the first night, then $10 for each additional night.  Dogs are allowed, as well as camp fires, provided it’s not a Total Fire Ban Day.

 

To make a booking, call Tony on 0418839787. When you get to Barmera, get your map to Loveday 4×4 Adventure Park from the United Petrol Station on the Sturt Highway.

Website: http://www.loveday4x4adventures.com

 

30 Days of Packing Spot Lights

Day 26 : Driving Lights

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that… and what better way than with some wicked driving lights from Bush Junkie 4WD and Camping!

 

These guys are hooked up to be operational when high beams are used to provide greater visibility in country areas.  Squinting and straining to see in the darkness can be tiresome, so stay alert and turn the lights on!