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Explore : Bruny Island

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Every journey to Bruny Island (pronounced brew-nee) starts on the ferry. Our ticket to and from the island cost us $33, which includes a lovely 2×15 minute ride across the D’entrecastreaux Channel. Our journey would take us from the ferry terminal south through the Neck to the southernmost pub in Australia and onwards to Cape Bruny.

 

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FAST FACTS

  • Bruny Island is actually two land masses that are joined by a sandy isthmus, which is known as the Neck.
  • The whole island is 100km long.
  • Adventure Bay was named after the ship that was captained by English navigator Tobias Furneaux, who landed at the island in 1773.
  • The island is named after French explorer Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, who sailed the channel and discovered that it was in fact an island in 1792. It was known as Bruni Island until 1918 when the spelling was changed to Bruny.

 

When we got down south, radio and reception was starting to fail. At one point, all we got was some church radio station. We listened for a little while and chuckled about the breastplate of righteousness that guards your heart against the evils of the world.

 

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The Neck

The Neck is the sandy isthmus that connects the north and south parts of Bruny Island. There’s a lookout there, Truganini Lookout, and it’s one of the best lookouts we’ve visited on our entire trip around Australia.

 

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Once you ascend the umpteen timber steps to the top, you are gifted with a 360 degree view of the ocean and the narrow strip of sand that connects the north and south ends of the island.

 

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Get Shucked

By far the best oysters in Tasmania and comparable to those in Coffin Bay SA, Get Shucked sells pre-shucked boogers of sea-salty delight that slide down your gob with lubricated ease. Give them a bit of punch with a sprinkle of Tobasco sauce.

 

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The outlet has a great sitting area and they’re licensed so you can enjoy a glass of Seven Sheds beer while you slurp down some oysters.

 

Bruny Island Cheese Co.

This artisan cheese producer is owned by Nick Haddow, who has been making cheeses around the world for over 10 years. He’s recognised as the finest artisan cheese producer in Australia and is also currently the only cheese maker in Australia that is allowed to use raw milk to make cheese. However, laws have changed recently so there may be more raw cheeses in the future.

 

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Our tasting session included four cheeses.

  • The Tom – a hard rind cheese that has a complicated and mature taste with a curious dimension of flavour.
  • The Saint – a soft white mould cheese that had a lovely delicate flavour of mould with plenty of buttery cheesiness.
  • The 1792 – a soft washed rind cheese with some pungency but a lovely soft cheese with plenty of salty goodness.
  • The o.d.o – a marinated cheese that is only one day old and is a combination of a feta and a mozzarella. It has a strong lactic acid flavour but would be awesome on some bread with a bit of smoked salmon.

 

Outside, there’s a fantastic deck space and picnic benches scattered in the surrounding gardens, perfect for stopping for a coffee, cider or cheese platter.

 

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Adventure Bay

 

Before stopping at Hotel Bruny for a beer, we detoured to Adventure Bay to see what was the big deal. Adventure Bay is on the eastern side of the Neck and was named after the ship of English navigator Tobias Furneaux’s in 1773.

 

While it’s mainly a holiday destination with heaps of options for accommodation, we did stop at one of the beautiful beaches and marvelled at the dark coloured sand.

 

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Hotel Bruny

Australia’s southernmost pub is located across the road from Sunset Bay. Needless to say, the view from out the front is fantastic, the distant mountains reflecting on the water. It’s a small pub with a standard pub menu that is reasonably priced for the location (a chicken parma is $26).

 

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We stopped in for a drink – Juz enjoyed a yeasty and crisp Cascade Draught while Dave opted for a dark Cascade Stout.

 

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Cloudy Bay

Located at the southern end of Bruny Island, Cloudy Bay is a great place for a quiet getaway. There’s a 5km long sheltered beach that offers great surfing, and you can drive along the sand to get to the Cloudy Bay campsite on the eastern end.

 

This is where we camped the night and enjoyed the company of the friendly wallabies.

 

 

 

Cape Bruny

The lighthouse atop Cape Bruny is quite significant. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Australia – first lit in March 1838 and decommissioned on 6 August 1996. It was replaced by a nearby solar powered light.

 

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Grandvewe Cheesery and Hartshorn Distillery

No, Grandvewe is not located on Bruny Island, but both are attractions of the Huon Trail, and it’s only 10 minutes south of the Kettering Ferry terminal.

 

Grandvewe is Tassie’s only sheep milk cheesery and is the only place on earth where you’ll find Sheep Whey Vodka and Vanilla Whey liqueur. You’ll notice a lot of sheepy things, like wool in the garden beds and some cute sheep grazing in the paddock near the car park.

 

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Make sure you taste all the cheeses because they’re fantastic. We particularly liked the smooth and yeasty Brebichon and the Sapphire Blue, a mild blue cheese similar to Rochefort, so we bought a piece of each.

 

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There were wines and spirits available for tasting as well. The Sheep Whey Vodka had an interesting apple and pear flavour. We enquired how they make alcohol from a by-product that is predominantly protein. It seems that finding the right yeast was an important factor, and of the residual lactose in the whey, the glucose that is separated from the galactose is what is turned into alcohol.

 

We also tried the Vanilla Whey Liqueur, which was deliciously sweet, smooth and tasted like custard, as well as their lychee-driven Chardonnay and dry but fruity Pinot Noir.

 

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Cape York

Top 5 Things About Queensland

Birdsville

 

We crossed the border into Queensland at the beginning of September 2014, and didn’t leave the sunshine state until June 2015.  In the ten months that we spent in Queensland, we drove through the outback, went to the northern tip of Australia, spent time in the rainforests, got jobs in Cairns, watched the sugar cane whirl by, and soaked up the sun along the sandy beaches.

 

Here are our favourite things about Queensland:

 

Prehistoric Past

Queensland’s prehistoric past includes dinosaurs, volcanoes and megafauna.  During our time in the outback, we hopped on the dinosaur trail and visited the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum in Winton.  It was absolutely fascinating to learn about the dinosaurs that used to live on Australian soil – Banjo the carnivorous theropod and Matilda the sauropod.

 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs

 

Further north in Boodjamulla National Park (Lawn Hill) are the World Heritage fossils of Riversleigh, which date back 25 million years.  We got to see even more dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum in Brisbane.  They have a regular dinosaur exhibition that includes information about the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry.

 

Lawn Hill

 

As we headed towards the coast, we stopped at Undara Volcanic National Park and saw the incredible lava tubes that formed nearly 200,000 years ago.  We saw more evidence of volcanic activity as we travelled east.  Mount Hypipamee Crater and the Crater Lakes on the Atherton Tablelands were all created by volcanic activity, while the Glasshouse Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland are volcanic plugs of hard rock that have been exposed as the surrounding soft rock has eroded over time.

 

The Tablelands

 

 

Rainforests

The rainforests of northern Queensland are a well known paradise, the most famous being the Daintree Rainforest, which is the oldest and largest continuous rainforest in the world.  Exploring the area is easy when you base yourself at Port Douglas, and while you’re in the area, Cape Tribulation is worth a visit.

 

Cape Tribulation

 

Not far away are the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands.  Right in the heart of the lush forest is Kuranda, which is a beautiful little village with plenty to offer, including a range of fantastic wildlife experiences.  Paronella Park is another magical gem hidden away in the green foliage.

 

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To the south are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, an amazing example of subtropical rainforest that has remained unchanged over many millennia.  Part of this world heritage area is Springbrook National Park, where the Antarctic beech trees reside and the Best of All Lookouts offer views of the valley below (but not for us).

 

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Beaches & Coastline

Known as the sunshine state, Queensland is notorious for its beaches.  Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast is a huge beach with a big surf culture.

 

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Up north on the Cape, after visiting the northernmost point of Australia, we camped at Chilli Beach. The isolation of the area and the row of leaning coconut trees along the beach make it seem like you’re on a deserted island.

 

Cape York

 

Just off the coastline of Queensland is the beautiful Great Barrier Reef.  Juz had an opportunity to go out and snorkel on the reef, swim with turtles and get severely sunburnt, but if you’re not a fan of sunburn or getting wet, you can easily see the beautiful fish and corals at Reef HQ in Townsville.

 

Great Barrier Reef - Justine snorkling

 

4WDing

There are heaps of opportunities to challenge yourself and your 4WD in Queensland.  Our first major obstacle was the Old Telegraph Track on the Cape.  This was so much fun and there were heaps of water crossings, dips and surprises that required keen navigational prowess.

 

Cape York

 

Fraser Island was another 4WDing favourite with plenty of sandy tracks to sink your tyres into and a whole highway of beach to cruise on, while Blackdown Tablelands gave us an unexpected opportunity to cross some rough terrain.

 

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If you want to do nothing else but get loco on the tracks, head to Landcruiser Mountain Park.  This place is dedicated to challenging tracks of varying difficulty, from relatively easy to “ah fuck – I just broke my car”.  Plus, because the map they give you at reception is so shit, you’re bound to get lost and end up on a track that will push your limits.

 

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Freshwater Fun

Queensland isn’t all about beaches.  There are some beautiful lakes, creeks and waterfalls as well.  In the tropics, waterholes are the perfect spot to cool off and wash the film of sweat from your skin.  Josephine Falls and The Boulders are popular with locals and tourists alike, while Crystal Creek and Jarouma Falls make quite the pretty picture.

 

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Up in the Atherton Tablelands, the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit takes you around to three waterfalls set in the rainforest, while Lake Eacham is a beautiful turquoise lake that is great for swimming and kayaking.  Another beautiful plateau is the Blackdown Tableland further south near Mackay.  There are lots of creeks surrounding the camping area but the real beauty is Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.

 

 

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In country Queensland, there are three locations that are simply sublime.  Our favourite was Lake Elphinstone, and we were very fortunate to be there on the night of a full moon.  For those who are travelling along the Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a beautiful place to get your togs wet, and while we don’t recommend getting into the water at Cobbold Gorge (CROCS!), we do recommend a peaceful boat cruise through the gorge.

 

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Only 7km north of the border between Queensland and New South Wales is Natural Bridge, set amongst the Gondwana Rainforest.  Natural Bridge is a product of time, as water has washed over the rock, eroding it and creating a hole.

 

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4WDing : Landcruiser Mountain Park

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Landcruiser Mountain Park is a 10,000 acre haven for off road and bush camping enthusiasts.  It’s been in business for more than 20 years and offers over 200km of tracks of varying difficultly as a 4×4 playground.  While there are three campgrounds on the property with flushing toilets and hot showers, you can camp anywhere in the park and choose the wilderness over simple luxuries.  Firewood can be collected anywhere on the property, and as you explore the park, you’ll pass grazing cattle, but keep your eyes open for wild deer and kangaroos.

 

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We rocked up at around 3pm and had a quick chat with the most unenthusiastic lady we’ve ever met.  We gave her our money, she gave us a map, and we signed in before commencing our adventure through the park.  The map of tangled lines shows three levels of tracks, with green representing the easiest tracks and red insinuating death and destruction.  We would later find out that the map was almost useless, and we got lost regularly, finding ourselves on tracks that we had no intention of attempting.

 

We headed to Trekka Terrace Campground and set up for the night, built a nice little fire to keep us warm, and were shocked when we were sprayed with bullets of possum poo and urine from the trees above.

 

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In the morning, a cool mist covered the campground and we quickly packed up to get as much driving in as possible.  It became apparent on the first track we completed that Juz needed to put a sports bra on – the road was really rough, even on the green tracks.  There were plenty of creek crossings, some deeper than others, and we even got to see the head of the Brisbane River.  Our planned itinerary was to follow a green track that looped back to our campground, but as we said earlier, the map was shit and we ended up on a few yellow tracks.

 

While Dave was having the time of his life, Juz spent her time holding herself in her seat, catching books that were bouncing around the cabin, and praying that the Troopy was going to make it through.  Eventually, Dave had to kick her out of the car during hairy sections of the track.

 

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The real shockers were the steep inclines – even the green ones.  We found ourselves on the yellow ‘Troopie Trail’, which was completely manageable until we came to a crossroads.  We could either head north up green incline or continue east on a yellow incline.  Both inclines looked precariously steep and much to Juz’s alarm, Dave chose the yellow slope and told her to get out of the car.  The Troopy, as always, was surprisingly skilled at manoeuvring over the uneven tracks.  Even at a 45 degree side tilt, the Troopy stood its ground and made it up the hill.

 

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Further along, we saw an assembly of utes and 4WDs and stopped to see what the fuss was.  They were at the top of the Camp Road track, which begins with a red-coloured slope into the valley.  While it wasn’t incredibly steep, it was seriously bumpy.  There was no way we were going to drive the Troopy down that mess.

 

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By lunchtime, Juz was an emotional wreck, frazzled from being thrown around by the rough track.  Dave soothed her nerves with a few beers and by the time we got back to Cowan Falls Campground to eat, she was like a limp doll in the passenger seat.  After some revitalising food, we went for a walk to the nearby waterfall.

 

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We followed the trail of discarded undies amongst the rocks to the falls, and met a nice couple from Brisbane, and their two bichon poodles – aka Bichpoos or Poochons.

 

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People definitely don’t visit Landcruiser Mountain Park for the customer service – on our way out we stopped in at the office to sign out and the sombre lady behind the desk didn’t even ask if we enjoyed ourselves.  Landcruiser Mountain Park is great for people who love 4WDing and challenging themselves and their vehicles on rough terrain of various difficulty.  It does seem to attract a certain demographic though – pot bellied blokes clad in flannelette, with a beer permanently in one hand and the steering wheel of their souped-up ute in the other.  We reckon that with a few minor additions and a bit of enthusiasm, they could easily widen their demographic.  But it is what it is and what it is is a 4WD playground with heaps of potential.

 

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Camping & 4WDing : Fraser Island

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Heritage listed since 1992, Fraser Island is about 120km long and 24km wide.  It’s the largest sand island in the world, and the largest island on the east coast of Australia.  The island was made over the last 750,000 years by sand accumulating on a volcanic bedrock that acted as a catchment for the sediment.  The island is covered in various landscapes, from bare dunes and coastal grassland to eucalyptus woods and rainforests.  The reason why so many plants can grow in sand is because of a naturally occurring fungus in the sand that releases nutrients which are absorbed by the plants.

 

The island was named after Eliza Fraser, wife of Captain James Fraser who was sailing the Queensland Coast in 1836.  When their ship struck a reef, they made for the great sand island and Eliza was captured by aborigines.  She was rescued six weeks later.  The traditional name is K’Gari, which means paradise.

 

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You will most likely see dingoes lingering on the beach.  These dingoes have the reputation of being the last pure dingoes in Australia.  They used to be quite common but their numbers decreased considerably after a tragedy in 2001 when a boy wandered away from his family’s camp and was attacked and killed by a pack of dingoes.  Over 120 dingoes were killed in retaliation for this and since then, the dingo population on the island has been strictly managed.

 

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Other than dingoes, you will see plenty of tour buses and tag along 4WD groups.  While the 4WD groups aren’t that bad, try to steer clear of the big tour buses because the drivers are jerks.

 

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Day 1

Our day started slowly as we had spent the night with a hospitable legend from the Troopcarriers of Australia facebook page.  Not only was it great to meet Rodney, but he introduced us to two of his friends, Rob and Leith, who had just embarked on a year long trip around Australia.  We swapped stories all night and during breakfast, and it was great to see another couple excited about what was ahead.

 

We finally got our shit together at around 10am and booked our barge ride from River Heads over to the island ($95 one way off peak), as well as our camping permits ($11.50 per night) and vehicle permit ($45).  By the time we were sorted, we had 50 minutes to have a quick whiz around Hervey Bay, stop in at the supermarket for some supplies and get down to River Heads for the barge.

 

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The 50 minute ride over the strait to the island was pleasant.  There was a bar on board and a viewing deck just in case some dolphins wanted to come out to play.  We disembarked the barge and rolled along a jetty to Kingfisher Bay, a resort village.

 

As soon as the sandy tracks began, we put the Troopy into 4WD and plodded along towards Lake Mackenzie.  The track weaves through forests of varying density, some with ferns, palms and vines, and oscillates between relatively smooth to so bumpy it was as if the Troopy was bouncing on gangster hydraulics.

 

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Lake Mackenzie is one of the most popular places on the island and is a lake full of clear and beautifully blue fresh water, with shores of white fine sand of near pure silica.  We had a quick dip before realising we had a long way to go before dark.

 

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We made it to 75 Mile Beach on the east coast of Fraser Island just before the beginning of sunset.  75 Mile Beach is a national highway and there are several sections that are reserved for planes.  The tide was up and the sand was soft so we dropped our tyre pressure down to 22psi.

 

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Because we were racing the sun to get to camp, we cruised past the Maheno Wreck and managed to get to Dundabara just as it got dark.  The whole camp ground was fenced off and the entrance was an electrified grid to keep the dingoes out.

 

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Day 2

We got up nice and early to cover as much of the island as we could.  The condition of 75 Mile Beach was a big improvement from the night before.  The low tide meant we had more wet sand to drive on and we even got up to 80kph.

 

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Our first stop was the Champagne Pools – if it wasn’t so cold and windy, we could have stayed here all day.  The rock pools were a striking turquoise colour, but the shallow parts were coloured peach by the sand.  Every time a big wave crashed over the rock, foam would cover the water.  It was beautiful.  Make sure you bring your snorkel so you can see the colourful little fish in the pools, and don’t miss the brilliant view of the beach and Indian Head from the lookout on the cliffs above.

 

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It was time to start heading south and the wind was blowing hard by the time we got to the Pinnacles – a haze on the sand was swirling around our feet.  We had a quick look at the colourful sand cliffs and kept moving.

 

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The most anticipated stop on our journey south was the Maheno Wreck.  This is one of the best landmarks on Fraser Island, and is the rusty skeleton of the SS Maheno, which got beached on Fraser Island in 1935 because of a strong cyclone.

 

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Before heading back to the lakes, we did a quick walk through the Kirra Sandblow and marvelled at the massive dunes and different coloured sands.

 

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Before going back to Lake Makenzie for another dip, we stopped by the Lake Wabby lookout.  Lake Wabby is the deepest lake on the island, and the least acidic, making it home to the largest range of fish species on the island.

 

We stopped in at Central Station and did a quick walk along Wanggoolba Creek.  It’s amazing how different the plants are in this section of the island.  Massive pine trees stand around the old settlement, adorned with huge epiphytes that look like giant heads of lettuce.  Down by the crystal clear creek, the rainforest is super green – everything that isn’t already green is covered in green moss and lichen.

 

Further south, we stopped by Lake Birrabeen but it was late in the day and the lake was cast in shadow, making it grey and drab, with foam lapping on the shore.  With the sun setting, we arrived at Lake Boomanjin and quickly decided to spend the night here instead of back on the beach.  We simply didn’t want to set up in the dark again.  We went down to the lake at both sunrise and sunset and were treated with gorgeous smears of colours on the water.

 

 

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Day 3

Our departure from Fraser Island would be from the south via the Mantaray Barge.  We heard a rumour that the beach to the barge was impassable at high tide and by the time we got there, it was on its way down.  We waited by the mouth of a small creek for the tide to come down, and watched the stained water from the creek mix with the salt water on the beach.

 

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Soon enough, we were able to get to the barge waiting area, boarded the barge and paid the $75 one way ticket back to the mainland. The barge runs on demand and there were plenty of cars on the other side who wanted to get across to the island and start their Fraser Island adventure.

 

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Camping & 4WDing : Blackdown Tableland

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We were supposed to go to Carnarvon National Park to camp and explore the gorge but when the time came to book our campsite, we found that the park was booked out… for whole month!  We had to change our plans and chose to go to Blackdown Tableland instead.  We’re glad that we did because it was quiet and we practically had the place to ourselves.

 

The Blackdown Tableland is south east of Blackwater and covers approximately 47,950 hectares.  The elevation is nearly a kilometre above sea level, which makes the towering escarpment cooler and moister than the surrounding plains.  It’s a steep climb to the top that rewards you with great views of the surrounding areas, and smoke from a bushfire in a nearby valley wafted through the trees.

 

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We set up camp, cooked dinner, and once the sun had gone down we started to feel the cold.  They weren’t kidding about that cooler climate.  In the morning, we set off just after sunrise to explore the various walking and 4WD tracks.

 

Mook Mook Lookout is a short 1.2km one way track to a lookout.  The path passes massive sandstone formations, one that we named Mummy Rock because it looked like the head of a bandaged mummy.  There was a trickling creek, and a nearby waterfall to explore, and once we got to the lookout, we saw the source of the surrounding smoke.

 

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The next track was Goon Goon Dina, a 2.5km loop that weaved through the trees and told the story of the traditional owners of the land.  Stepping stones lead us over creeks, there was a rock art gallery, and charcoaled tree trunks hinted of a recent fire.

 

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These two tracks were near the campground so once they were completed, we packed up and headed south to Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.  There is a 2km track that leads to the water fall, with a pool of clear water at the bottom, ferns growing from the rocks and colourful stripes on the overhead cliff.  It was a really beautiful spot.

 

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From here, we took the 4WD track back to the entrance of the park.  It started off relatively smooth, with the occasional fallen tree that caused the need for an alternative route, but there are some steep rocky sections that definitely need 4WD and full attention.

 

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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.

 

Cape York 2014-09-24 095

 

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.

 

Cape York 2014-09-25 055water

 

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.

 

Cooktown 2014-09-27 0082

 

 

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

 

Old Ghan Trail

Outback Tracks : Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail

Old Ghan Trail

 

Our plan was to follow the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail from Alice Springs to Oodnadatta, but it didn’t really turn out that way.  As the track followed the old Ghan Railway, we saw ruins of sidings, each being identical to the last.  The track was also really corrugated and we were concerned about our shocker rubbers, which didn’t last long.

 

Chambers Pillar

One location we had wanted to visit months ago was the Chambers Pillar Historical Reserve.  Unfortunately, the road leading in was pretty shitty so we had to ask ourselves whether the excursion was worth it.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Chambers Pillar was named by John MacDouall Stuart after one of his sponsors, James Chambers.  It is a 50m tall sandstone pillar that was used as a landmark during the exploration days.  The base of the pillar is riddled with names carved into the soft sandstone, including initials by Alfred Giles from 1870 and scribbles by recent tourists.  From the base, you can see the nearby Castle Rock.

 

Camping at Chambers Pillar is available at a small fee, and toilets and BBQs are provided.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Once we left Chambers Pillar, the road did not improve.  We found that the track follows alongside the Finke Desert Race track so we switched lanes to see if the conditions were better.  While the race track was smoother, it was also consistently undulating, and after 20 minutes, we had to get off because we made ourselves seasick!

 

We camped at Engoordina Ruins, a crumbled siding for the old railway.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

Finke

We got into Finke 8am, just as some local men started work to the sounds of sappy love songs.  Is this a common thing in the Centralian desert – to listen to 90s love ballads about lost love and broken hearts?

 

While Dave fitted some makeshift shocker rubbers fashioned from scrap tyre, Juz wandered around and noticed she was being followed by stray dogs.  We considered continuing along the Old Ghan Heritage Trail but figured that this would be a better time than any to head back to the highway.  We were tired of seeing the same ruins over and over, and the corrugations were going to shake the doors off the Troopy, so we turned towards Kulgera.

 

Lambert Centre

On the way back to the highway, we stopped in to check out the geographical and gravitational centre of Australia.  Established in 1988, the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia determined the Lambert Centre to be the geographical centre of Australia.  Lambert was a former director of the Division of National Mapping.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

There is a monument that resembles the flagpole atop the Parliament House in Canberra and a visitor’s book, as well as a large camping area, smelly toilets and millions of flies.

 

Old Ghan Trail

 

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.

 

Red dirt - François Péron National Park

Experience : François Péron National Park

A short drive north from Denham will bring you to the turn off for François Péron National Park.  The area takes up 52,500 hectares on the tip of Péron Peninsula in the Shark Bay World Heritage area and is edged by striking cliffs, white beaches and deep red soil. There are many rare and endangered animals that live in the park, like euros, thorny devils and thick-billed grass wrens.

 

Cape Peron  - François Péron National Park

 

The park was named after François Péron, a French naturalist and explorer who travelled with Nicolas Baudin in 1801.  Baudin was sent to Australia by Napoleon to explore and map out Australia’s western and southern coastline.

 

The Péron Homestead makes for a great short visit.  The self-guided tour around the former sheep station, which ceased operation in 1990, gives you an idea of what life was like in the area in the early days.  If you have a 4WD, there is a great track that leads all the way to Cape Péron.  If you don’t have the appropriate means of transport, Ocean Park offers 4WD tours through the dunes of the park so you don’t miss out.

 

Camping is available at designated sites around the park but campfires are strictly prohibited.  Entry and camping fees apply.

 

The Péron Homestead & Heritage Precinct

A former sheep station that has been preserved to give visitors an historical experience.  You can walk through the old shearing shed that has a great diagram of how the sheep were processed.  There was a certain routine to shearing sheep and a ‘gun shearer’ would be able to complete the entire routine in 2 minutes.  We also got to see the old living quarters, complete with kitchen, beds and a bathroom with ironing board.

 

 

A picnic area and BBQ facilities are available, as well as the ‘hot tub’, a circular bath filled with artesian water that comes from over half a kilometre underground.  The water is naturally heated to 40 degrees, which was uncomfortably hot but we got in anyway.  After a few minutes, we started to feel a bit woozy so we rinsed off and headed for Cape Péron.

 

4WDing

At the beginning of the 4WD track are tyre deflators so you can bring your tyres down to about 20 psi.  The track cuts straight through the middle of the park, all the way up to Cape Péron.  There are a few offshoots towards the Big Lagoon, the Gregories and Skipjack Point, just to name a few.

 

We went to Cape Péron first and worked our way backwards.  All around us was this beautiful red dirt, which contrasted beautifully with the deep blue ocean.  At the very tip of the cape was a beach lined with cormorants, bathing and socialising in the afternoon sun.

 

 

Skipjack Point was fantastic!  There are two lookouts that provide an incredible view of the sea life below.  We saw a massive sting ray, a pair of manta rays, a shark and a few turtles.

 

 

The track is a mixture of a few firm, flat clay pans, or birridas, in between long stretches of relatively soft sand.  The clay pans are the remains of what used to be lakes many, many years ago.  The sandy track was easily manageable in the Troopy, even the one or two hairy bits didn’t require the low range gears.  Overall, the 4WDriving through the park was really enjoyable and we loved every minute of it.

 

Project Eden

The wildlife on the Péron Peninsula are under threat from feral animals and what Project Eden aims to do is control the number of foxes and cats in the area and reintroduce native wildlife so that their population can be brought back to a healthy number.  Two ways they are achieving this is with the Feral Proof Fence and removal of large stock like goats, sheep and cows so that the vegetation can rejuvenate.

 

Since the beginning of the Project, they have seen fantastic improvements, with the successful reintroduction of bilbies and mallee fowl.  They hope that the same results will happen with the bandicoot and hare wallaby populations, and continue to educate people about the importance of conserving the Peron Peninsula ecosystem.

 

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.