Day 6: Friday 2nd June

From: Cooper Creek

To: Ayrshire Hills bush camp off the Old Lansborough “Highway” (dirt road), an hour south of Kynuna, central QLD

Distance: 560km

Time: 7.30am  – 4pm = 8.5 hrs


Leaving Cooper Creek in the dawn light we headed north again on a single lane road (tarmac) and playing

1.  Spot the road train coming

2. Spot the suicidal roo

3. Hold your breath until the next bend (about 130km so we lost that one!)

We arrived at the birthplace of Qantas, Longreach, and resupplied with the de rigour huge Queensland bread rolls and a few other essentials for the road trip still to come. A series of podcasts and before we know it we are eagerly trying to find our camp for the night. WikiCamps again delivers – we turned off at some low lying hills along the Old Lansborough Highway (the first hills we have seen for days) and follow a dirt track around their base. I manage to drive a bit too close to a washout and the road collapses, the car dropping about half a metre into it! Low range is enagaged and reverse gear backs us out safely…phew…

We then pull up to our camp for the night facing the setting sun. A quick clamber up the low hill behind us and the view opens up. The sandy plain is covered in footprints from camels, kangaroos and goats, plus shows us evidence of snakes and lizards which had passed by during the day.

It’s wine o’clock and what a sunset.  It has to be a spag bol with a delicious red from our wine cabinet after a show like that!
The evening continued with a fabulous moon and starlit night – the lack of light pollution allows us to try out some more star photography…and yes, we can still wear shorts at 10pm! 

Day 5: Thursday 1st June – Cunnamulla to Cooper Creek (nr Windorah, Qld)

From: Cunnamulla, Qld

To: Cooper Creek, about 11km east of Windorah, Qld

Distance travelled: 532 km

Time taken: 7 hours 

Sunrise in Cunnamulla, Qld

After a perfect night’s sleep (peace, darkness and an incredible view of the Milky Way) we awoke to another stunning blue sky day. We enjoyed hot showers and topped up with fresh water in preparation for a few nights off the grid on our continued journey. It was about 0 degrees centigrade first thing (making for a quick dash back to the luxury apartment…I mean van…after the shower) warming to a fresh 19 degrees during the day.

 A slightly blurry Milky Way 

From Cunnamulla we headed west along the excitingly named Bulloo Development Road and then north up the Quilpie Thargomindah Road. The landscape became decidedly red and scrubby, with the roadkill (mainly roos and emus…but disturbingly the occasional cow, pig or sheep) on the single track road frequent and needing to be avoided. 

This land is the domain of the road train, and as soon as you see one of these giants roaring towards you, you immediately pull off on to the gravel at the side of the road. Road trains, for those who are unaware, are ‘long vehicle’ delivery lorries on steroids – often three massive trucks long, pulled by a single giant engine. There is no arguing with a road train – they have right of way and do not stop for anything. The good thing for us, is that the rule seems to be that anyone smaller than you will pull off to give way – single Utes or 4WDs would pull off completely for us, where other caravans would half pull off, as would we, meaning we have half the car on the Tarmac. The unspoken rules of the outback, it seems.

Lunch today was at the side of the road, seated at our table admiring the raw outback beauty. At first glance you might see it as scrubland, but when you realise how little rain it gets out here, you begin to recognise the strength of the place, the lack of contours on the land only serving to allow us to admire the curvature of the earth. We are both truly beginning to feel more connected to Australia on this trip, and it is only our 5th day.

We pulled into Cooper Creek, a free camp beside the water and road, at around 4.30pm. With around 10 caravans and campers already set up here, it was the busiest traffic we had seen all day (no, not missing Military Road in Sydney at all!). It seems to be a crossroads for travellers with many of those we chatted to heading south, and others on their way north like us, but none mentioning the Kimberley. Based on the feedback from other people we had expected to see more ‘Grey Nomads’ heading our way, but so far we’ve met none. Perhaps once we hit Mount Isa on Saturday (I must admit I had to look up the day – we already have no idea what day of the week it is – ha ha!).

We’re hoping for a peaceful night – given we are about 50 metres from the road and the road trains still seem to be operating at 8pm, there is some doubt….but fingers are crossed. We are heading towards (and ultimately past) Longreach tomorrow, the birthplace of Qantas Airlines. More new ground to cover and adventures to be had!

 Cooper Creek at sunset 

And finally…the top 3 things learned from podcasts today:

  • Most of the dinosaurs I learned about in my childhood are no longer the same – either they were incorrectly identified (eg Brontosaurus was 2 dinosaurs!) or don’t actually stand up like Godzilla. Perhaps I’m the last to learn this!?
  • One of Saturn’s moons potentially harbours alien life! Scientists have already identified snow, glaciers, an atmosphere and salt water…the moon is only 500km across
  • 1-3% of any population is born with both male and female organs – that’s a lot of people we don’t hear from!

Day 4: Wednesday 31st May:

From: Baan Baa, NSW

To: Cunnamulla, SW QLD

Distance travelled: 645 km

Time taken:  Just under 11hrs…big day

We left at day break….

and drove initially though the Liverpool Plains with the Warrabungles in the distance to the east – this was last time we saw anything elevated for the rest of the day. Pretty flat scrubby country up to the border with QLD. We stopped for lunch in Mungindi which is the only town with the same name in both QLD and NSW…A historic marker showed where an expedition in 1846 had passed through trying to find an overland route to the north coast from Sydney. We just can’t contemplate the toughness of these guys spending months on end trekking through this harsh country. 

We had a minor issue –  we couldn’t open the larder cabinet door! We rang Zone RV and soon had someone on the phone helping us sort – a pin inside the locking mechanism had come unscrewed. Good service…we accept there’s going to be things that go wrong on the van – mostly so far its been operator error – we are learning all the time.  

To pass the time we listened to podcasts – ranging from the history of robotics to “My Dad wrote a porno” (the funniest thing we’ve heard for a long time – thanks Donna and Andy for the recommendation!). 

So much bird life on the road – mostly going after road kill. A wedge tailed eagle being the top of the tree (as it were), but these galahs were tucking into some seed spilled on the road.

At 4.30 pm the light was starting to go and the roos and emus were out in force trying to throw themselves under our wheels. We usually like to get off the road by kamikaze hour, but were still 90 mins away from our planned camp for the night. So we slowed down and kept our eyes peeled. 

We rolled into a caravan park out in the bush the other side of Cunnamulla as the sun set and it wasn’t until we went to check out the shared fire pit and acoustic busker we realised we had been here before a few years ago. A great spot on the Warrego river, which is about 2 metres from our van. Hope it doesn’t start raining! Catherine is cooking up a curry storm, I’m selecting some wine from the ample store (a Leconfield Cab Sav that stands up to the curry beautifully), Eileen Jewel is singing “Sweet baby”  and all is good with the world. 

We loved our camper trailer, but to just pull up after a long day like today with no set up is brilliant. 

Day 3: Tuesday 30th May:

After an amazing couple of days in the Hunter with friends celebrating a birthday, we headed of on the first leg of our caravan trip. 

From: the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Hunter Valley

To: Baan Baa  –  which means “swim away” in the local aboriginal language – apparently the area is prone to flooding (I think we are safe – they have been in drought here for 5 years). This is a small settlement north-west of Tamworth, now experiencing the boom of mining investment. Baan Baa’s claim to fame is having the longest railway station platform in NSW at one stage, now servicing a strong farming and mining economy. 
Distance: 340K

Campsite: The grounds of the now renovated Baan Baa school. The owner has become a bit of a celebrity on WikiCamps (our digital camping bible) as she is so welcoming. She has a collection of irons and other antique memorabilia displayed in one of the restored houses. She’s passionate about preserving the heritage of this place. 

Highlights: Hitting the road for the first day of a massive trip was such a buzz. We’ve had such a wonderful time with Scott and Cathy, Donna and Andy and other friends, but to now be heading into the unknown (for us) is awesome. As soon as we left the Hunter the vistas opened upo as we drove into “Big Sky Country”. The light changes and becomes sharper. The traffic thins out. The people get friendlier…the menus get more predicable 🙂 We’ve just walked to the local pub for dinner and its  “steak or chicken Parmie”. We topped up with fresh veggies on the way – we aren’t relying on seeing much green stuff from here on. Tonight the forecast is for the temp to be 0 degrees! Been a long long time since we have experienced that. Diesel heater in the van about to get a workout I think. 

Here we go…locked and loaded for a 6mth trip around Oz

Well here’s the rig ready to go! Today we head up to the Hunter,  then Tuesday set off on the big drive to the Kimberley.

It’s been a challenge to try and think what we will need for 6 months on the road – no doubt we have too much but its hard to know on our first trip. We know we will be facing some cold nights in the deserts, and despite being winter, some mid 30s days in the Kimberley. So plenty of layering options in the clothes and bedding dept. The car has had a good service with new brake pads, air filter etc, and Premium Plus NRMA membership as our comfort blanket. The shocks are good – tyres OK but have some wear already so expecting to replace at least a pair. The van had its first service as well, and is designed for the types of conditions we will encounter, so let’s see. We know we have things to learn, like  how to pack the fridge to cope with the corrugations. We accept there will be casualties. 

In the toy department. we have our new packrafts all stowed and ready for the Ord river in the Kimberley – slightly worrying to see this article last week!! 

Yup – that’s the Ord river! Apparently with the huge Wet season they have had this year, salties have been wandering further afield than usual…mmm…inflatable v 3m croc? Bets on the winner?

We are also taking our mountain bikes, we have had racks mounted on the extended drawbar by Wardy – did his work allow for corrugations deeper than small children? We will find out 🙂

The car is also crammed with camping gear as we intend to leave the van a few times and head up some tracks too rough and steep for even the mighty Zone RV. In extreme circumstances we might even climb into our hiking boots 🙂

In the power dept we have 3 x 300W solar panels mounted on the roof of the van, and a generator as back up in case of cloudy skies. There’s also a “solar blanket” for car camping – a flexible panel you can lay anywhere to catch some rays. We have carefully organised the majority of power needs to be USB chargeable (right down to the electric toothbrush!) so we can maximise our ability to stay off the grid on 12v. So 3 AGM gel batteries should give us enough juice to keep the essentials going (fridge/freezer). 

Tools – well as most of my friends know I am barely able to recognise the right end of screwdriver to use – but a good socket and screwdriver set is on board, together with recovery gear if we get stuck. A couple of sets of MaxTrax on the roof, to put under the wheels if we’re bogged in soft sand, snatch strap to get a pull out from another vehicle, and a electric winch on the bull bar  if we on our own or on a steep hill. An axe and bush saw to clear a path if a fallen branch is blocking the track (and for firewood when we are allowed to gather and burn it). 

Then we have all the gear for those evenings round a campfire; a portable fire pit to contain a fire and minimise damage to the ground, chairs and table, and a rather large supply of red wine (carefully packed in inflatable sleeves – $6 for 50 on Alibaba direct from China!).

The larder is packed with all those spices and sauces we don’t expect to find on the shelf of an outback store. The fridge and freezer bursting with the contents of our newly immaculately clean and empty fridge in the house.

In the entertainment dept we have digitised our complete CD collection, Catherine has her sketch pad and paints and I have my e-books. We do have a TV (I know!) with DVD player so last night Catherine downloaded the final series of The Good Wife (yes we are addicted we have been binge watching on Netflix), and a whole series of Australian Geographic documentaries. 

So its time to lock up the house and cross our fingers we soon have it rented to pay for this trip, or we will be coming home earlier than planned! 

8 days before departure!

Well time has flown by and here we are the weekend before we head off. Mr A has been extremely busy organising and sorting out the house in preparation for renting out our house while we are away. The local charities are about 10 bags of clothes and other donations richer, and we have a good sense of feng-shui living in an extremely well organised house!

The one blip this week was having to go into hospital yesterday for an emergency bronchoscopy to check out my airway which had been having some issues recently.    Thankfully it is all looking healthy and hopefully a nice long holiday will sort me out!

So we leave a week on Sunday, our first stop being the Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley for a couple of nights of catered-luxury before our 6 months of self-catered luxury! We then drive for about 7-8 hours a day for a week up to Lake Argyle, the Bungle Bungle and the Kimberley.

Here’s our plan so far:

We estimate we will be in Perth/Margaret River in August and Adelaide in early September…other than that we are footloose and fancy free. If anyone wants to join us at any time, just let us know and we’ll loop you in!

Here’s hoping no more blips before our departure next weekend…