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…