I’m really starting to fall in love with the feeling of freedom and relaxation that I have each time I get into the van and this Friday was no exception. After an earlish finish at work I met Matt at home and we took off towards Esk. We stopped in town at the first pub for dinner (on the slightly cryptic advice from a police officer that breatho’d Matt). What a great pub! The food was awesome and well priced and the place had a strong community vibe. We ended up singing happy birthday to at least 5 locals and bought some meat tray tickets to raise money for the Esk school.
Post dinner Matt got to put his newly installed light bar through its paces and boy did that thing shine. We don’t plan on doing a huge amount of night time driving on the big lap due to the kangaroo hazard however if we need it it’s there. We arrived at Crows Nest National Park unscathed, set up camp, took a moment to look at the stars and then popped into bed.
The next day started off with a crunch. When we bought the van it came with a couple of single burner gas stoves, nothing fancy just the $20 ones from bunnings and those little lock down gas canisters. I’m really paranoid about gas in confined spaces and will not sleep in the van with the canisters or stoves inside so each night I take them out and pop them underneath the van. This morning they met their demise when I didn’t want to get out of bed and asked Matt to drive closer to the picnic table so he could make me a coffee. We both forgot about the stoves and so Matt drove over the top of them crushing them beyond recognition. Fortunately for us Crows Nest had gas BBQs for us to cook our breakfast on.
Following all that excitement we went for a bushwalk down to Koonin Lookout. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of this or anything else until about 10am on Saturday morning because someone (it was me) forgot to charge their camera battery. Of course because I am a passionate landscape and wilderness photographer and particularly enjoy taking photos of birds the universe rewarded me with a stunning kingfisher which spent 30 minutes diving in and out of Bottlebrush Pool 5m away from us. I spent the first 5 minutes kicking myself for my lack of camera but the little fella was too entertaining for me to stay angry.
On our way to Toowoomba to pick up a new camp stove we stopped in at Crows Nest and had a wander about. We were pleasantly surprised to find a cute and pretty town where, despite the early hour, people were getting out and about. Interestingly Crows Nest is reportedly the only town in Australia named after an Aboriginal, in this case a man named Jimmy Crow that lived in a hollow tree. We stumbled upon an amazing factory that was making fizzy drinks and syrups and had been since 1903. The owner went out of his way to show us how the drinks were made and talked us through the carbonation process (the water is sprayed into pressurised CO2) which was basically the opposite of a sodastream. We spent way too much money there on a variety of technicoloured beverages for the road.
In Toowoomba BCF I ended up buying the Coleman Fyreknight Hyperflame Camping Stove, it was a pretty expensive piece of kit but it’ll be the stove that we take with us on the big lap. I’ll do more of a review of it when we’ve had more time to get to know each other but so far I’m really impressed!
We drove out of town and on towards the Bunya Mountains where we would be spending the night. The countryside was flat and dry which was nice in it’s own special way. The Bunya Mountains seemed to pop out of nowhere and suddenly we were climbing into the hills. Matt absolutely nailed the timing and we arrived right on golden hour. It was breathtaking looking at the country spill out below us with the occasional Bunya Pine poking out of the forest.
There are 3 campgrounds in Bunya Mountains National Park, Dandabah, Westcott and Burtons Well. Burtons Well is by far the most scenic however only Dandabah allowed campervans so the choice was made for us. We set up our spot and relaxed in the sun where we were joined by some of the adorable red necked wallabies.
The next morning we woke up to frost…in Queensland. It got down to -1 which is a record for the 4 years we have lived here. We packed up the van and drove down the road to the Burtons Well camping area where we started our hike up to Mount Kiangarow to see the view and the grasstrees. Mount Kiangarow is the highest point of the Bunya mountains and is definitely worth the effort. The forrest was full of birdlife (including Australia’s smallest bird, the Weebill). We caught up to another couple of walkers/twitchers who were searching the trees for the elusive Paradise Riflebird .
Rather than walking the whole way around the ridge and then having to walk back up the road to the van we drove down to Westcott and started the walk out to Koondail lookout. Around 15 minutes in I saw some movement in the tree up ahead and a flash of blue sure enough it was a paradise riflebird searching for lunch. I was beyond excited but I could not get a good photo of him (see bird butt below). The rest of the walk was stunning, filled with beautiful views, a swooping peregrine falcon and for some odd reason huge numbers of prickly pears.
Back in the little town of Dandabah we made a beeline for The Bunyas cafe and a much needed afternoon coffee. Open between 9am-8pm on most days this cosy little spot served up a great flat white and their dinner and lunch menus looked fantastic. We spent the rest of the afternoon relocating our campsite to the slightly sunnier side of the campground and then sitting in the warmth reading books and enjoying the wallabies.
On the way out of the national park the following day we came upon a group of 3 blokes next to a broken down car. They’d been working on a farm out near Crows Nest and had borrowed a car to drive up and camp for a few nights. Unfortunately the car was a dud. One of the guys thought if he could get a part in town he might be able to fix it so him and one of his mates jumped on the bed in the back and we turned around to Dandabah. Matt dropped me and the less mechanically inclined fella back at the campground and I spent the rest of the morning sitting with our neighbours, chatting, and drinking the coffee they made me. The man whose name I have forgotten is the owner of a Townsville pineapple farm and his partner runs the servo and a caravan park. They gave us a brochure so we will try and pop in an visit some time.
While Matt was away the camp ground was visited by a satin bowerbird, king parrots, a bush turkey, and a couple of crimson rosellas.
With car part in hand Matt returned, we made our farewells and then got back on the road and headed quick smart back to Brisbane to get ready for the work week to come.
Crows Nest National Park – I quite liked this small camping area (13 sites) but I couldn’t see myself staying there for any longer than 1 night. There just wasn’t that much to do. Facilities were limited but it was neat, tidy, and quiet. $6.55 per person per night 6/10.
Dandabah – This camp was made up of a open grassy area with vehicle access to sites. It was very close to a restaurant, cafes, and a small general store which made it super convenient. All our fellow campers here were really considerate and there was a huge variety of wildlife. The shower block and toilets were well maintained and hot showers were free! $6.55 per person per night 9/10. Loved it here.