Thursday, April 28, 2016

Canberra, Queanbeyan and Lowden Park

Friday afternoon we were packed ready to head off. This weekend we are driving down to Canberra, Queanbeyan and Tallaganda State Forest, having a few places of interest to explore and with an open mind to seek out more.

An easy 3 hour drive from home, along the Hume and Federation Highway, and only having one detour were we missed the turn off to Canberra but ended up exploring a country road which soon connected us to the main highway again. By 9pm we had arrived at Cotter Camping ground and it was packed. Camping trailers and tents everywhere. It was to late to look for another spot so we decided to stay and find a spot. We could of squeezed between two tents but decided to park in the car park area on flat ground and facing the river. The plan was to get a good view when the sun came up, and we sure did.

Saturday morning the sun was up and it was a good start to a beautiful day. With a nice coffee to get the day started while we chatted to some fellow campers. The ranger came round collecting the fees which were $12 per night/per person. (little bit pricey since we didn't get a camping spot) Taking our time we looked around the area then packed up and headed further along. Not far down the road we came across Cotters Bend a nice quiet location with no one around, amazing river frontage with trees lining the reserve, all the autumn leaves were falling with the slight wind it looked beautiful.

Further along we came across Cotter Avenue and Dam by now it was lunchtime and this place was getting quiet busy with picnickers. A popular spot for locals with picnic areas and playgrounds walking tracks, lookouts and viewing platforms. We followed the main walking track which combined the viewing platform of the Dam, and what was left of the old trout hatchery and a river crossings with suspension bridge, this was an easy relaxing walk. There are a few other walks in the area which take you to a lookout and Cotter cave. It was a beautiful area well worth a look, and the fact the trees were all losing their leaves made the place look amazing.

From here we headed further south along Paddy River Rd via the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex, an interesting stop, with huge satellite dishes and space history museum. Back on the road towards Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, this place had people lined up out the door of the information centre so we decided to keep driving. The scenic roads along the way are truly amazing, the landscape is dry, the hills roll on with huge rock formations scattered throughout.

Gibraltar Falls was out next stop, a beautiful picnic area with a great view. Walking down the falls is steep but well maintained with an awesome infinity pool and massive rock platforms above the falls. A definite place to stop and look if your in the area. The evening was getting close so we made our way to a Nature Retreat over near Queanbeyan. A privately owned place where you can camp for the night for $20 per night.

Next morning we had a bit of a sleep in then headed to Googong Dam foreshore a nice spot with lots of walks, picnic areas and water activities. Heading to the south side via Burra street, is the London Bridge Arch walking track woolshed and homestead. This walk is a must if your in the area, the London bridge arch is a limestone formation, the arch was created by water leaking through the limestone, until the passage increased for the Burra river to pass through it.

Starting at the woolshed and walking to the arch is approximately 1 km, the view is on both sides of the river and we got very excited when we first saw it, both rushing to get the best picture!! Spending a good hour exploring the area and the river. We continued alone the Burra river and up a hill to the homestead. The homestead itself is fenced off but you get a good idea of the heritage and the life style of our ancestors created back in the 1830s. The small bridge on the way in was the main attraction for us, the huge yellow trees had dropped all their leaves which had created the perfect picture, yellow leaves line the river with the reflection of yellow!! Being hard to describe but it was so beautiful and surreal. We took our time to wander back along the management trail to the van, the total walk was 3.4km and took a couple of hours.

From here we headed to our nights camping at Tallaganda State Forest. Hidden in the forest is Lowden Forest Park an old logging camp from 1930s . An interesting drive with an almost deserted road driving in, hoping we were on the right road as we found it hard to get information for this site. As we drove deeper into the forest we soon saw signs guiding us to the right place. We made it there before the sun set, had a quick feed and got the fire started to warm us up for the evening.

The following morning we woke early and headed off for a couple of walks in the park, both were short and easy with lots of opportunity for pictures, ferns, moss, mushrooms and ponds, the natural surrounding were beautiful. Such a peaceful place great way to start the day. Scattered around the park were remains of a water wheel which was used as a generator and is still working, an old traction engine and other old logging equipment. In the park were picnic tables wood BBQs The grounds are suitable for 2wd vecles and more camping spots were scattered further in forest for 4wds. Back at camp we started the fire and cooked up a late breakfast before we had to head home. The weekend ended with another great memory and some amazing places explored.

Our travel route here

Thursday, April 21, 2016

North West Easter Getaway

On the road again, for the Easter long weekend and heading to the North West NSW. We have a couple of places in mind, Gunnedah to hunt for wild Koalas and Lake Keepit to try some fishing, but were happy to wing it and just look around and explore.
Heading off Thursday night, first stop is Lake Wallace which is becoming our favorite overnight stop-over, the lake has plenty of room and a dump point, kids playground, dog friendly, hot showers, flushing toilets and free camping. The lake is an easy 3 hour drive from our home, besides the half hour wait to get into Blaxland McDonald's we didn't even make it to the driveway, so we decided to carry on hungry till we got to Lithgow. By the time we reached Mc Donalds Lithgow we were starving and it was just as busy as Blaxland Maccas. We waited half hour for food, quickly ate and headed up the highway to Lake Wallace. The lake had heaps of camping areas to choose from, we chose to stay away from the main camp area.

Next morning we awoke to a stunning sunrise, while Trish devoured 3 cups of coffee.... We then showered and set off back towards the highway. I said to Trish (who was the driver) do you know where we are going? Yes, she replied. Then I asked, should we use the navman? Yes, she replied again. And once I had set our course I found out that we were going the wrong way! Thank goodness we had only traveled a few kilometers, once back on course we started our long haul to Gunnedah. Our first stop was Mudgee and with being Good Friday there wasn't much open. We searched for a bakery to buy some buns for lunch, we found a small Asian bakery behind the Shell petrol station on the main street, which sold some beautiful bread roll and a variety of pastries and Asian dishes. Back on the road again and the rain started to fall but as we headed further north it slowly stopped. We took a quick break at Gulgong and had a look around, what a beautiful town lined with historic buildings, we cruised further north to Coolah and had lunch in a local park then set off for the final leg of the journey to Gunnedah.

Along the way there were field after field of some kind of crop growing, we stopped to look at it and didn't know what it was, and with a quick search on Google we are now aware of the sorghum plantations which grow in this area and also a little history on sorghum and its uses.

Arriving in Gunnedah we had a list of places to find the local koalas, we drove around and walked through a few popular areas, getting a little disappointed as we had not seen any. Then just as the late afternoon started to set in we found one hiding in a tree in the west end of the show ground. It seemed to be sleeping but at times would look at us so we could get a few pictures. We had found a couple of places on findacamp to stay for the night so we went to have a look. The first place was on the Naomi River on Kelvin Road just over the bridge past Coles and the tourist information center. The area is quiet nice with plenty of gum trees and the ground was dirt, there was no facilities and also had quite a few single guys hanging around, so we decided to move on. The showground also offered camping for $10 per person with facilities which looked good.

We thought lets try the 4 mile Travelling Stock Reserve which is 6km NW on Kamillaroi Highway from Gunnedah and just before the Blue Vale Road its on the right its a small gate with no signs. The entrance is a bit rough in the dry weather I could imagine it will be tough in the wet with a 2WD vehicle. Once past the entrance its dirt tracks which are pretty good, there is heaps of room here and no facilities but right on the river. There was a group of young kids at the other end of the camp site which were no trouble except the noise of the motorbikes.

We  awoke to a beautiful day, and while we enjoy a morning brew while chatting and admiring the view of the river and the cockatoos filling the trees along the river bank, we then saw an old war plane come past flying low and gave us our own private air show, it was pretty awesome! It was time to pack up and head back into Gunnedah, to the tourist information center to get some more info on where were good areas to spot koalas. The lady was very helpful at the information center and very friendly giving us lots of local advise about the area with things to do and see and also surrounding areas.

We drove around looking for more koalas around town. We pretty much explored the same areas as we did the afternoon before, but no luck. We ventured up to Porcupine Lookout on our search, but after a slow drive up and a walk around still no luck, the heat of the day was getting to us so we decided to call off our hunt and have lunch while enjoying the view over Gunnedah and the surrounding areas. The view from here is amazing the county expands for so long viewing 100km of flat land, On the northern platform you can view the town and Nandewar Ranges, and looking south Breeza and the Pullaming Plains.
We headed over to Keepit Dam and asked if we could have a look around , being the Easter long weekend it was packed with only a few camping spots left, also it was very dry and not much shade.

We decided not to stay and drove further north to check out Manilla which the tourist information lady suggested and said was beautiful. What a great tip it was too, we pulled up at the River Gum Caravan Park to enquire about vacancies and price. There was a note on the office door. "Please find a spot we will be back later and find you" so we drove around this small beautiful park and looked at a few spots, we spoke to another guest and asked if by the river was part of the park (as there was an open gate connecting them) she replied yes, so we ventured down and set up the van and awning and enjoyed a cool beer in the 30 degree heat while we organized our yabbie traps and fishing rods.

The last few hours of light we sat watching an array of parrots flying, feed and making a racket. It wasn't to much longer and we were then watching a stunning sunset which help the beer go down better and to cool down the days heat.

Next morning I went to check the traps while Trish practiced her barista skills. No yabbies, but we did get a great haul of freshwater shrimp, we went and sat by the river with shrimp for bait and tried to catch a fish. But no joy there either.
We packed up the van and headed up for a shower and to pay for our stay, well apparently where we had camped for the night was on council ground and the caravan park couldn’t charge us. We quickly apologized and said we were told this was part of the park, we did pay a shower/amenities fee of $5 each. The caravan park is small with clean amenities, tidy grounds with friendly owners, right on the river and very quiet.

On the road again with a tourist drive tip from the van park owner. We detoured from Manilla to Moonbi via Davison Lane and Moonbi Gap Road which was a beautiful scenic drive. We reached Moonbi a beautiful little town and very welcoming and decided to have lunch in the park. Trish went to check out the museum while I sat in the park.

Heading south again we passed through many small country towns until we reached Tamworth, Australia’s country music capital. So we pulled up to check out the golden guitar, and were surprised by the size of Tamworth

With not much time to spare we headed off to our next destination the Warrumbungles for the night. By the time we got there it was late in the afternoon, we quickly set up the van and cooked dinner before settling in to enjoy time in front of the campfire. There is a few camp grounds at the Warrumbungles we stayed in the un-powered camp ground area which was great for $6 per person a night it also has gas BBQ, water taps around the campground which needed to be boiled before drinking, there is also an amenities block with flushing toilets and hot showers and a communal area.

The following morning we were up early and planned a few small walks and lookouts for the day. This area is truly amazing and one we are eager to explore more of in the future, the area is stunning and bouncing back good after the bush fires . We saw heaps of kangaroos, a few emus, an eagle circling the skies and one lone snake, thank goodness there was no more. After a full day in the Warrumbungles we really didn't want to leave, but our weekend away coming to an end. A short drive away is Binnaway and to the Pumphouse Reserve which is a free camp area, the locals ask for a donation to help with up keep. There is powered sites which are $2 for 3 hours (coin operated meter), un-powered sites, BBQs and picnic tables, flushing toilets and hot showers, the showers are $2 for 5 minutes no matter what the temperature. There is also a laundry but you need to get the key from the IGA store in the town center which is about 1 km away. There is no dump point that we could see.

The locals also suggest to use their local shops to stock up on supplies and also try a few local eatery's in town to help out the local economy,
We set up and had dinner and a few beers, I was standing near the van door when there was a noise and rustle in the bush, Trish ran past me knocking me out of the way and jumped in the van ..... I said what are you doing its just a dog! We both laughed, it was pretty funny! it was time to headed off to bed.

After Trish finished her mandatory morning coffee we were on our way back home taking the long way home and loving the changing scenery.

Stopping at Mudgee to vist the Pieter Van Gent winery to pick up a few bottles wine and port for our parents. We filled the van with fuel and headed off to Lake Wallace for our final night.

Next morning after Trish has satisfied her coffee addiction we showered and headed off to explore the Zig Zag Railway.

The railway has suffered major damage in the bushfires a few years back. We managed to find the bottom of the Zig Zag and got some photos of a train and the old work sheds with tonnes of rusted bent steel. High in the distance we could see a few of the stone arch bridges that make up the Zig Zag Railway, I hope they can recover and reopen again soon.

Driving through the Blue Mountains we took a left turn at Black Heath to check out a campsite along the Megalong Valley Rd, Old Ford Reserve which looks great, situated next to a small stream with a few turtle’s swimming around. We stopped and had some lunch here, we defiantly will bookmark this place for another visit. This area is also on the path of the 6 foot track with much to explore. After a lazy lunch we started our journey home to Wollongong and back to reality!

Our google map travel route - here

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Cairns, Tablelands and Cape Tribulation

An early start and we were off to the airport for our week trip to FNQ destination Cairns. Booking this trip for 7 days we soon realized we were going to be busy, so much to do in such a short time. But we were excited to visit this area.
Arriving at Cairns airport on time and with no dramas with Tiger Airways ($75 each way) at 9:30am our adventure had begun.

We organized through Jucy Campers for a transfer to pick us up from the airport, they organize it through the local taxi company with a standard $20 fee. We just jumped in a cab and jucy had a voucher for taxi when we arrived. We booked the El Cheapo Van and collecting the Toyota Tarago it was defiantly a well used old el cheapo van. From here our first stop was the supermarket for supplies, as we started packing and organizing the car with supplies we noticed a few cockroaches and then a doona full of bed bugs!!! GROSS!!!! So we went back to Jucy and spoke to the guy who exchanged the van, the guys were pretty good and gave us a much better van and allowed us to return the van with an empty petrol tank.

So we were on our way, up the mountain to the Tablelands. Our first stop was at Henry Ross Lookout and the view over Cairns was breath taking.

We headed to Kuranda, but we by-passed the main town and headed over to Barron falls, the walk through was beautiful, a tree top boardwalk took us down to Barron Station to see the falls, it was an amazing lookout with a great view of falls. we spent the afternoon driving around looking at the scenery and decided to spend the night at a free camp at Kowrowa, about 10km out of town. A nice quiet spot on the river no amenities, bush camping at its best.


Our day started early being Andy's birthday I had a special surprise for him later in the day, we were going to ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway down to Freshwater then the Skyrail back up. But first we headed over to Davis Creek National Park we stopped at the first campground and wandering over to the river, the water was crystal clear a beautiful spot, venturing further up the mountain was an amazing waterfall we walked behind the falls and came across an infinity pool, I was so tempted to jump in for a swim but the rain decided to pore down at this point and we made a made dash back to the van. A great place and we will defiantly go back here to explore in the future.

We drove to Kuranda and spent a couple of hours wandered the streets, an awesome hippy town with market stalls scattered around, it had a great vibe about it and after a yummy Vietnamese lunch we headed down to the railway station.

All aboard!!! We boarded the old train and off we went slowly working our way down the mountain through the world heritage rainforest in Barron Gorge National Park. The views were magical and the train had commentary to explain the history along the way. The journey took approx 2 hours.

Getting off at Freshwater there were bus transfers to take us over to the Skyrail Rainforest Cable Car and up we went back up the mountain just meters above the tree line with great views underneath us. The Skyrail has 2 stops along the way were you can get off and look around the National Park, the afternoon went so quickly and we had so much fun. With a few hours left of sun light we headed over to Atherton were we found a room for the night with a great Chinese restaurant next door for Andy's birthday dinner.

Atherton,Yangaburra, Lake Eachem, Milla Milla

Waking up to a rainy morning we got organized and headed off our first stop was the Curtain Fig just out of Yarraburra the fig is one of the biggest fig trees in tropical north Queensland. And wow what an amazing sight, its a short boardwalk through the forest.

Next we headed to Yarraburra and made a turn into Lake Eacham, what a beautiful place. The water was crystal clear and we could see the fish and turtles swimming around on the bottom of the lake. Signs around stated no fishing or feeding fish. There are walking tracks along the lake front, picnic area, toilet facilities, camping and accommodation. The lake is a crater lake formed thousands of years ago and surrounded by rainforest, truly a amazing place.

Over to Milla Milla to the historic town known as the Village in the mist. We had lunch at a local park and headed for the waterfall circuit.

There are 5 falls around area but due to the rain and muddy conditions we had access to 3 which were amazing, Milla Milla being the most popular, with a local swimming hole. With the rainy weather it wasn't to busy this day, so we got some great pictures of the falls without people swimming.

The next along was Zallie Falls which after a short walk comes to a viewing platform near top of falls, this lookout is slightly over grown with trees in front, so we walked half way down a steep muddy track for a better look and it was worth it, the waterfall was amazing and we got to view from half way down.

The following Ellinjaa Falls was also an easy walk down to the falls base, very quiet and peaceful. Driving out of the mountain it had become so misty felt so surreal as were drove without much visibility in front of us. When we were at Milla Milla falls a local tour guide had told us about a river in Yarraburra were platypus are commonly seen and has a breeding program, so we decided to head back that way to check it out. Unfortunately we didn't see any (oh Andy said he did but I scared it away..Mmmmm) but the river had a great walking track and it was a so peaceful and calm. The day had soon passed so we started the drive over to Mount Molloy where they had a free rest area for overnight campers. When arriving we were suprized it was a nice place, little noisy earlier in the evening but soon quieted down later through the night. There is a dump point and flushing toilet with cold water showers and a few picnic tables with a donation box to go towards the up keep of the area.

Mossman Gorge

Mossman Gorge was our first stop this is located south east of the Daintree National Park. Entering through the information centre, a $9 fee to Mossman Gorge which has a bus that takes you further into rainforest, the bus doing a round trips every 15 minutes.

There are a number of walks when arriving at the Gorge, easy boardwalk's to the rainforest circuit walk which is 2.5 km this was our favorite walk. Starting just after the suspension bridge, the path leads to a lookout, past the river, through scenic rainforest and huge ancient trees, there was so much to see. The water was again so clear and blue with huge bolder like rocks scattered the river. We spend a few hours here exploring the Gorge having a picnic lunch back at the information center where they have a café, gift shop and picnic grounds. The Gorge is well set up and run by the aboriginal local people.

Next stop Daintree Village, a very small street with only a few shops and a caravan park on the river. They run river cruises from here and also crocodile tours.

We were thinking of spending the night here but decided to head over the river at the ferry crossing to the Daintree Rainforest. We headed to Cow Bay where we decided to booked a few nights in the Rainforest in a eco tent at Crocodylus Village. An awesome place hiding in the middle of Daintree. A glamping style tent/cabin, with toilet and hot shower and no electricity except lights in the room.

The village is run on generators, and there is common eating area that also sold food and drinks for guests and visitors. Guests have access to the kitchen to cater for yourself and a laundry . The manager was a lovely a local lady who was very helpful and great explaining local attractions.

Daintree, Cape Tribulation

Sleeping in the rainforest is one of those things you will always remember, the amount of rain that fell the first night was huge, all night and pretty heavy. Laying there in our tarp style cabin listening to the rain was so cool. The wildlife we saw as we ventured out to explore were green frogs, big spiders, fireflies, cane toads, and all kinds of big bugs. One of the main attractions we wanted to see and hoping to avoid was the local cassowary, it was of those animals that you really want to see in the wild but cautious as they can attack by kicking with both feet at once and those claws are so big.

Our morning started with a wander through a local walking track, (Jindalba) a boardwalk through the rainforest a free walk and pretty impressive.


A look down the local beach then over to the Daintree Discovery Centre we arrived early and only had to share the place with a couple of other people. The staff were lovely and full of local knowledge and willing to share information, although we really enjoyed the time wandering through and the canopy tower which was 23 meters high above the rainforest. I felt it was a little over priced considering there is so much free stuff you can do in area that is similar. But saying that I'm not complaining, it was a nice couple of hours wandering through the rainforest, and they had some good displays of snakes, also the audio setup if you wanted to know the information.

The drive up to Cape Tribulation was also a highlight of the trip, a short trip from our accommodation with lots of stops along the way to look at.

The furthest point we could drive was a lookout and Cape Tribulation beach. As you walk through the mangrove to beach the heat of the day just hits you so does the magical beauty of the rainforest meeting the lovely beach. Unfortunately the water is a no go area with stingers and crocodile's which was such a shame as the beach was amazing and looked so inviting.

Working our way back down coast we stopping at a variety of sights, another great boardwalk (Dubuji) which was set in the mangroves ,as we approached the waters I am so sure I saw a crocodile just under the water surface, we spent ages watching and also lots of crabs in the mud, the walk was another free activity, getting hungry we stopped for a feast of hamburgers at the beach front café.

The Daintree also has its locally owned tea plantation were it produces, fields and field of it, we stopped for a look. The farmer was cutting the tea and gestured we could take a small amount of leaves. we drove back to our accommodation.Our last night at our tent so we relaxed with a few cold beers, dinner and an early night.

Coast road to Trinity beach

Our day we planned to take our time and drive down to Cairns along the coast road first stop Wonga beach, Port Douglas a cute little holiday town, we stopped for lunch and enjoyed the view along the beach.

A lookout between Wangatti and Red Cliff, some creative person has stared to build the rock style tower so we stopped and added our own also.

Palm Cove was a nice spot we wandered the beach jetty. The road was a nice easy drive, with beaches and lookouts along the way.

We were at Trinity beach before we knew it were we decided to spend the night. Although beautiful as we live close to the coast at home and it was hard not to compare the coastline as they are very similar.
We had dinner in our apartment and later had a spa and finished the night off with a couple of cold beers watching the fire flies across the road.


We spent a few hours taking a trip to Cairns Zoo we looked around at all the animals, our main attractions we wanted to see were cassowaries and crocodiles. (as we didn't see any wild ones)  A really good set up and a nice lazy walk around. Another great display of snakes and lizards. It was a good way to spend a few hours before having to clean and return our hire car. As we walked to our hotel we stopped for a yummy Thai lunch in Cairns.

After lunch we checked into the Hilton Hotel which we had purchased months ago on a special for half the price. The room was great with amazing river views we spent the whole afternoon and evening hanging out in the room we were both worn out and wanted to relax. We spent hours watching ribbons of small birds across the sky and millions of bats heading towards the ocean, a truly amazing sight.