Big Red Rock

After a few days of enjoyable ignorance we decided to check the news on our last morning in SA . We were both surprised when we got there that we were able to travel straight though unchecked and it was only another 20km up the road where we ran into the police. Much more relaxed than the SA lot we showed our passes, IDs, and were immediately let in. Another 100 clicks up the highway and we reached our spot for the night Erldunda Roadhouse. We picked this meeting point of highways to enable us to reach Uluru the next day and still have time to see a bit of it. From the outside and our dusty campsite it didn’t look too encouraging Erldunda turned into a bit of a desert gem, with a free washing machine, pool, and pizza for dinner.

The next morning full of anticipation and excitement (well I was anyway) we entered Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Even though I’d visited before it was no less incredible watching the enormous red monolith appear on the horizon and grow as we drove towards it. I wish I’d taken a picture of Matt while he was driving around the base and the way he was tottering on the edge of his seat and peering through the screen to try and see the top. We looked around the cultural center, went on three short walks (Minymaku, Watiku, and Dune Viewing), and set up our van in the sunset viewing carpark to watch what turned out to be a bit of a dud sunset and cook up some snags. Following dinner, we went into the town/resort of Yulara to catch our bus to the Field of Light art installation. I’d booked our pick up spot as the fanciest hotel I could find with the intention of having a drink before hand in a nice bar but it wasn’t to be, because Matt an I opted not to pay $45 per night for an unpowered site and stay up the road we couldn’t get served, not even one beer. After the disappointment of the booze denial the Field of Light more than made up for it. We had a 40 minute allocation to explore the 50,000 handmade, light emitting, bulbs and it wasn’t nearly enough. Photos do it no justice, it was just stunning.

Day two started with our second running over belongings event when Matt decided to shift the car and promptly ran over the washing up bucket containing 2 plates, a knife, the tongs, and my cup. I was stoked that it wasn’t my fault this time but was less happy to lose my insulated cup. Matt gave me his as compensation, so I was in a good mood again by the time we got to the Camel Farm. After hearing some great things about the Uluru camel tour we booked in for the 90 minute short version ($80pp rather than $135). We got introduced to our camel Kahn, had a quick safety chat, were shown how to mount a camel, and away we went. Riding on camels was very relaxing and the guiding was fantastic. We both learnt a lot about the camel farm, capturing feral camels, training them, and a heap of camel facts.

The afternoon was spent completing the 11km circuit of Uluru and learning more about the Anangu and the Tjukuritja (creation period when ancestral beings created the world/traditional law). It was interesting to see the complexity of the rock face up close and the lines and shapes within. There were a couple of places where artwork had been drawn on the roof of overhangs and small caves and areas where campfires had blackened the stone. Our favorite spot was the waterhole where we saw birds drinking and I saw a hopping mouse.

Our third and last day (entry is $ per person and only allows admission to the park for 3 days) was spent at the less popular and more impressive (in my opinion) Kata Tjuta. This area is of particular importance to Anangu men and is a 45km drive from the park entry. We decided to complete the Valley of the Winds walk which is by far the best walk in the park. The track was challenging but highly enjoyable and there were amazing lookouts and purple wildflowers everywhere. We made one last stop in the park to fill up our water tank, said a fond farewell to the incredible place and drove on to Curtain Springs to camp for the night.

Uluru Tips
Don’t pay an extortionately high amount for accommodation in the town area, there is a free camp on the side of the road 20km from the entry gate.
The IGA is surprisingly well priced.
Fuel is unsurprisingly not well priced, we paid $2.12/L.
Getting to the sunset viewing area an hour or two before the sun goes down will ensure you get the best spot to watch the rock change colour.
Use all 3 days, the first time I visited I didn’t even get to stay for a whole day as it was on a guided tour and was way too short. We felt like we covered everything well using all three.

Campsite Review
Erldunda Roadhouse – Great spot and very quiet if you are in the unpowered area, the powered sites looked like a casserole of madness. Said hello to their emus, very friendly camels, and rooster Cluck Norris. $30pn – 7/10.

Sandy View Rest Area – It’s a rest area on the side of the road but was quite a nice one. Next to no traffic after 9pm and a view of Uluru from the top of the dune. $Free – 5/10.

Curtain Springs Wayside Inn – Another spot that was effectively a car park but a big upgrade from the rest area. We had drinks in the beer garden and watched their cockatiels then splurged $4 each for a shower which turned out to be the best camp shower I’ve had on the trip so far. $Free – 7/10.


It was a bit sad saying goodbye to Copley for the second time and knowing if we ever got back there again it wouldn’t be for a very long while. I also contemplated how strange it was that such an out of the way town felt so friendly to both of us, more than any of the other places we have visited so far. If we’d been stuck there for two months instead of two days I don’t think I would have minded. But the road was calling and our new, heavy duty roof racks were screaming for a test run so we returned to the bitumen and continued our drive north. It wasn’t too long before we came to Lyndhurst and decided to stop for a spot of lunch. Lyndhurst was a lot like Copley in that the only things there were a caravan park, a pub and a couple of houses but unlike Copley it had a local celebrity, Talc Alf. As we pulled up to the rest stop I saw a bloke with a beard cleaning out the bins and I turned to Matt and said “do you think that’s him?”, sure enough it was and no sooner had we pulled the van up we were driving off again with Talc Alf heading for his house (constructed out of half water tanks) about 2km out of town. Alf’s place was brilliant and he spent a good 45 minutes showing us his studio, talc carvings, art and teaching us about his interpretation of the meaning of letters. We ended up buying a carving off him for $10 which is our first souvenir of the trip, we shook hands and promised to come back if we had to drive south through SA rather than NSW.

We’d made good time driving on the sealed highway and reached the “Historical Inland Town” of Farina (the local restoration group clearly don’t like it being called a ruin as they’d attached their own sign underneath the old one) just after lunch. Farina had been recommended us to Lee and Neil which was yet another great tip from them (cheers guys!). It was a fascinating and slightly eerie place with ruined buildings, streets, and cars as well as a cricket oval and the all important railway station. If you visit between June and July there is an operating underground bakery which sounds amazing. Unfortunately for us it wasn’t open but we still had a great time learning all about the town and its eventual demise.

Before we knew it we pulled in at Marree which is where the real part of the Oonadatta Track begins complete with dust, corrugations, and endless railway relics. Matt and I sat in the pub and drank a beer before settling down in the free camp behind the pub and watching the Inbetweeners 2 movie (the end was filmed in the area and the pub featured for about 30 seconds). The next day we wandered around and looked at the local sites which were, the Ghan engines, the “mostly accurate” camel sundial, and the museum inside the pub dedicated to a postman called Tom Kruise who used to drive the mail from Coober Pedy to Marree in a truck that looked like it would struggle on a normal road. We also filled up with petrol at an eye watering $1.95/l both well aware that it was going to get more expensive soon.

After deflating the tyres to the recommended corrugation PSI of 25 we tentatively began our next leg of the trip. I think both of us were feeling a bit worried about the roof racks as I spent most of the first hour looking up at them through the side mirror and Matt walked around shaking them every time we stopped (which was a lot because every 20km there was something else to look at). We saw a sculpture park that made no sense in any way, I figured the creator was a friend of Talc Alf and there was a greater meaning. There was more old railway infrastructure than you could poke a stick at, abandoned bridges, half falling down buildings filled with graffiti, stockyards, water tanks, a surprisingly large number of lizards, and an amazing lookout that allowed us the joy of walking down to and then across a small piece of Lake Eyre. Towards the end of the afternoon and quite close to camp we visited a conservation area where a number of mound springs were located. These strange hills are the result of pressure from the Great Artesian Basin forcing water and the minerals that it contains to the surface of the earth. We walked around enjoying the unusual landscape but the beautiful pools of crystal clear water had us both craving a swim so we left pretty early to get to our campsite at Coward Springs.

At $30 per night the date farm/camp ground is so far the most expensive place we’d been on our trip but the cost was 100% worth it because they have their own little spring that they’ve turned into a spa for the people staying. Within minutes of pulling up we’d changed into our bathers and jumped into the slightly warm water (29 degrees), it was such a nice way to get the dust off after a long day on the road. Following our swim we decided to pop over to the café near the gate and grab a date treat for afternoon tea. The owners were both serving so we had a chat about the date farm and what made them choose to move from their original home in the Adelaide Hills out to the middle of nowhere. We ended up having a date ice-cream each, Matt had coffee and I had chocolate. They were both amazing but I had to admit Matts was slightly better.

It was a short drive the next day through another abandoned town/telegraph station and then into the quirky pub at William Creek. We stopped for a cheeky beer, it would be rude not to, and played a couple of holes on the golf course. Matt hit a 6 and and a 5, I managed a 10 and a 9 but also shattered Matts only golf tee taking a wild swing at the ball and missing entirely. I’m so bad at golf! We camped up at a peaceful placed called Lake Cadibarrawirracanna (it’s easier to say than it looks) where I found the motherload of desert rose gypsum. Once again with my hat full of rocks I went back to the van to show Matt, they must be nice because even he admitted they were “kind of cool”. We watched the sun set and the stars come out one by one until the sky was alight with billions of tiny dots. It was one of the best night skies I’ve seen so we took some photos of the van, Matt light painted the van with his torch and I focused on the sky. What an amazing feeling, knowing that you’re the only people for at least 70km.

Campground Reviews

Marree Hotel – Cool hotel with museum and apparently good food (we didn’t eat but the restaurant was chockers). I’ll never not appreciate these kinds of places that let you stay out the back for free and use the toilets. It makes a big difference to the budget. $Free – 6/10.

Coward Springs – My favourite place we’ve stayed so far with amazing owners, a beautiful spa, cute welcome messages and amazing date products. Completely worth the price per night and we were a bit sad we couldn’t stay longer. $30pn ($15pp) – 10/10.

Lake Cadibarrawirracanna – The most peaceful place of the trip with only the scurrying of native mice at night or the chattering of budgies in the morning. We were the only people there which added to the magic. No facilities but you didn’t need them. $Free – 9/10.

Port Augusta – Roof Racks can Rack Off

Three weeks into our trip and it has all gone a bit wrong with our broken roof rack fiasco and unplanned extended stay in Port Augusta but hey that’s all part of the journey and it wouldn’t be an adventure if bad things didn’t happen every now and again. Our introduction to ‘Gusta was not especially welcoming, we showed up on Friday afternoon after driving down from Copley and started to do the rounds of the local crash repair shops and a welder. The first place we visited was pretty positive about the gutters being fixable but couldn’t give us a quote on the repair because the guy that does it is away until Tuesday. The second place we went to straight up said no, the third said he wouldn’t even look at it. Getting a bit desperate we went to see a welder who actually had a decent look at it and then gave us a more helpful explanation about why he wouldn’t be able to fix it.

The next day we started to have a look for replacement racks and ended up ordering from a shop in town that said they’d be able to get them in by Tuesday. I wasn’t feeling very positive about it because the guy kept messing up the amounts of each part we’d need but we didn’t have any other options. We decided to use the unexpected time that we had living in a motel (thanks RACQ ultimate) to clean out the van, change the linen, wash all the clothes, and take the van to a car wash for a good clean. On Sunday we’d already had enough of the town so we drove out into the country to visit Mount Remarkable and do the Alligator Gorge hike. The scenery was so different to what we have been experiencing for the past week with the beachy suburbs opening up to green farmland. The walk was serene, it was 9km long and twisted through a series of canyons with red stone cliffs towering above us and the creek running along the bottom. We had fun doing the last section of the hike through The Narrows as it was made up of a series of stepping stones we ended up hopping across so we didn’t get our feet wet. At lunch we saw a large lace monitor trying to find a snack and being scared away by a red wattle bird and a magpie.

Monday was a very exciting day for me because I finally managed to get into a vaccination clinic to get my pfizer! Woo hoo!! My one regret from quitting my job was doing it before I got vaccinated, being a healthy 30 year old it has been completely impossible to get it. Fortunately South Australia was giving anyone 16-30yo the jab so I registered for mine using the motel address. No worries at all. I’m going to try and get my second one in the NT, probably Alice Springs in the next 3-6 weeks. In the evening the weather went absolutely feral with lighting, winds of 50km/h and pouring rain. We decided that we didn’t want to cook dinner outside our motel room on our gas stove and headed for the local pub where we ate two very tasty meals, Matt had kangaroo and I had butterfish.

RACQ read us the riot act on Monday and told us without a quote they’d no longer be able to put us up in our lovely motel home so we had to move out as unsurprisingly the first mechanic still hadn’t given us any information about the van. With not so heavy hearts we packed up and left heading towards a free camp via the Arid Botanical Gardens. If you ever have the misfortune of being stuck in Port Augusta this is probably one of the only places I’d suggest visiting. There was a beautiful variety of plants, a wonderful array of birds, and the cafe had scones and cream with quandong jam.

The free camp Matt picked was a short drive out of town in a place called Winninowie Conservation Park, unfortunately when we reached the entry we found that the gate was shut due to the “wet road conditions”, we looked down the track and it could not have been further from wet so I decided to call Parks SA and see if there was anyone that could check it for us. After a couple of phone calls I spoke to a ranger from Mount Remarkable who told me it was shut from the 10mm of rain the previous night, I explained how dry it looked and he said the earliest he’d be able to get down would probably be the next day, bugger! Unsure of where we would be staying the night we spent a while looking at the other options and decided on a seaside town but as we were driving out to go there we saw an SA Parks car and sure enough the ranger I spoke to on the phone. He came down, checked the road for us and sure enough it was dry. We spent the evening sitting on the sandy site and enjoying the mangroves while the eccentric care taker Doug talked my ear off about how he worked for the CSIRO collecting data on the campers and taught me about the animals and environment where we were staying.

We both slept so much better staying out in the wilderness again so we were feeling fresh for the drive to Copley the next day after we popped back into Port August for the last time to pick up the roof racks. We ended up stopping thrice along the way, once at Quorn to look at the old buildings and railway, the second time at the historic homestead of Kanyaka and the third stop was Hawker to fill up with fuel. It was an amusing 3rd visit to Hawker which was 3 more than we’d planned to do. Back in Copley we were greeted like old friends by the publican wearing his standard uniform of footy shorts and his hat (a cross between the Harry Potter sorting hat and a cowboy hat) and by the caravan park manager with his greeting of “you two again!” and then by the town mechanic who seemed pretty happy to be gifted the basket that was on top of our roof racks and two gas cylinder holders. He even brought our spare tyre over to the caravan park on his gold buggy. Matt spent the better part of the afternoon assembling the racks and we celebrated with a meal at the pub.

Campsite Reviews

Comfort Inn Port Augusta – A pretty bog standard motel room in a pretty bog standard town. It was weird having a toilet in the same building as where we slept and we enjoyed having a couch. Glad that the RACQ paid for it – 6/10.

Chinaman’s Creek – Beautiful spot and we will probably come back in summer when it’s warm enough to swim. Caretaker was extremely eccentric. Toilets could do with some TLC and loo paper. $Free – 7/10.

Copley Caravan Park – $20 per night and automatically 8/10 because of how nice everyone in the town was and for how good the quondong tarts are.

Flinders Ranges I – Wilpena and Willow

We both have a couple of places on this trip that we are particularly looking forward to and the Flinders Ranges is one of mine, I was therefore especially excited when the rocky outcrops started to come in to view on the horizon and my spirits could not be dampened by the light drizzle that had set in. Matt was equally enthusiastic and had us stopping off so often at lookouts and landmarks that we didn’t reach our base for the next 3 nights until 2pm, despite it only being 40km up the road from the Cradock Hotel. I’d picked Willow Springs Station as our first site in the ranges because of its proximity to Wilpena Pound, the amenities, but most importantly the Skytrek 4WD adventure located on the property. We set up, made ourselves at home, and cooked dinner over the fire.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to find our camp chairs and my towel that I’d left out to dry were covered in a decent layer of frost, the locals have since told me that it’s not uncommon this time of year. We ate breakfast in the camp kitchen, removed the fuel from the roof of the van, took some of the more noisy things out if the kitchen and with key in hand headed off on our drive.

The way that the Skytrek works is that you book it at the station office, pay your $60 entry and get given a a key and an information booklet with all the interest points along the way. It was only a few hundred meters through the gate that we reached the first of 50 points in the booklet, a stream and spring next to a small cliff face. I drove the first 40km stopping off at each of the points and learning more about the environment and what it would have been like to work as a pastoralist during the 1880s in such an isolated place. The driving was not particularly technical and both the van and I managed it without issue. We stopped for lunch in a dry creek bed and spotted a family of emus. Matt took over the second part of the drive because we were warned before we departed that the last 15-20km of the drive was a lot more challenging (to the point where they had put in a route to avoid it entirely if you weren’t feeling up to it). Sure enough after another 20km we reached 2 steep hills which we tackled slowly and carefully with an occasional hit to the bash plate. It was completely worth a couple of scratches on the van because when we reached the top the views were simply breath-taking. 6 hours later, tired and happy we got back into camp.

On Friday it was my turn to pick an activity and I decided that we should try and get a bit more exercise in and do a walk into Wilpena Pound. I made the suggestion to Matt that we climb to Mary’s Peak (the highest point in the Pound) but was met with so much resistance we opted for 2 shorter walks. Matt has since informed me that he is happy to do more bush walking but needs to be trained up a bit before we do 16km hikes with 700m of climbing…fair enough. Our first walk was to the Wangara Lookout where we enjoyed views into the pound and received the happy news that our agent had found someone to rent our house in Glenorchy. Yay! On the way back we did a small 1.2km side loop called Drought Busters that had a number of information boards describing the animals and plants in the area, how they manage in the harsh weather, and the changes of the seasons. We made fantastic time so after lunch we got back on the road and visited Ridgeback Lookout (the best view in Flinders Ranges so far) and drove into Brachina Gorge where we saw yet another emu family but to our great excitement Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies!

All too soon Saturday morning arrived and we once again cleared out our campsite and said goodbye to the family of apostlebirds we made friends with to continue our journey into the far northern end of Flinders.

Campsite Review

Willow Springs Station – I think it says a lot when you rock up at a place and instantly sign on for another day which is exactly what we did. The staff were helpful, Wifi worked well, hot showers, clean camp kitchen, and spectacular night sky. $25pn – 9/10.

Nip into Burra

Nip into Burra

I finished my last post with Matt and I enjoying my woeful first attempt of camp oven cooking so we will take off again from there. We left the farm after saying goodbye to the animals and checking out the view over the river. Our first stop for the day was Waikerie, a surprisingly pleasant little town with orange shaped rubbish bins, massive TV aerials, silo art of a giant parrot, and most importantly the Nippy’s Factory Outlet. I’d like to say that Matt and I were restrained and did not buy a ridiculous number of drinks to the point where we had to stack boxes next to be bed but I can’t. Now in possession of every conceivable flavour of milk me made our way towards our next campsite in Burra.

Our unplanned lunch spot ended up being Morgan, which in it’s day was the second busiest port in South Australia after Port Adelaide. It was an interesting town and we spent a good couple of hours following the historic walk through the village, train station, and port area. I’d strongly recommend stopping in if you are in the vicinity, especially if you have kids as there is a playground that is shaped in one part like a paddle steamer and in the other part as a train station! So cool!

When we rolled into Burra in the afternoon we were faced with yet another pleasant surprise. There is definitely something to be said for travelling around without much of an idea of what you are doing because we are constantly rolling into towns and being amazed with what is there. Burra is so far probably the best example of this as not only did Matt meet a lady working in the visitor centre who was from Burnie with her relatives attending school with him but the town itself was amazing!

Burra was established in the 1840s after copper was discovered on a local property, it was originally a number of different towns known collectively as “The Burra” but combined later on as they began to expand into one another. At the peak of the copper boom the population swelled to make it the second largest city in South Australia after Adelaide. What was so interesting about Burra was the number of historic buildings and how well preserved they all were. For most people the best option to visit these sites is to purchase a Heritage Passport from the visitor centre. The key that is provided to you after paying the $30pp and $50 deposit will get you into all of the main attractions (and they are numerous), I hear that it takes about 5 hours to complete them all. For those of us that wander into town in the late afternoon expecting a standard country town and therefore not having nearly enough time driving around and looking at the outside of the buildings was still highly enjoyable and interesting. My favourite part was 3km out of town where we saw the house from the album cover of Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil!

We set up camp just outside town down a dusty dirt road at a place I found on WikiCamps called Red Banks, the sites were sunny in lowish bushland but with trees that were robust enough to put the hammock out. The next morning we walked to the Red Bank along a dry stream bed and then back into camp so we could pack up and make our way northwards. The drive towards Cradock was fairly uneventful apart from the loss of Matt’s straw hat. We’d pulled off the road (as we often do) to have a poke around an abandoned railway station at Eurelia and Matt decided to climb up the abandoned railway water tank. Just as he got to the top of the ladder a gust of wind caught his hat and blew it into the tank. I was very helpful and found him a new had in Cradock (pictured below).

Campsite Reviews

Red Banks – Stunning location for a free camp with interesting walks and an impressive “red bank” of sand a short walk away. Free – 8/10.

Cradock Hotel – This place was so much fun, the publicans were lovely, beer was cold and the food was delicious. Couldn’t have picked a better spot to do the census “there are 11 people in town and half of them live here”. Free – 7/10 (broken glass all through the camping area).

Goodbye Tasmania

Goodbye Tasmania

It’s going to take a while for it to sink in but after over 2 years of planning, saving, and waiting I can finally write the words that I’ve dreamed of for so long…we’re on the road.

Our last week in Hobart was surprisingly busy as we needed to pack up the house, clean it from top to bottom for the new tenants, arrange cancellation of the power, internet, and various insurance that is no longer relevant, and finish packing the van. Because of all the cleaning we ended up moving in to my parents place earlier than intended and spent nearly a week together while making the most of their hospitality and functional washing machine (ours broke last month). We also settled in our pets which my parents are looking after for us while we are away. It is such a relief to know that the birds and Mr Babbington (my dog) are in good hands and will be loved and cared for during our trip. We could not be more grateful to them for it.

On Friday we checked the van and moved another load of things that were culled back to our house for storage. I have a feeling that we will end up getting rid of some more stuff as the trip progresses, the van is absolutely chockers. In the afternoon mum and I walked around Knocklofty to say goodbye to my bird friends and that night we popped down to our favorite pub for our farewell party and enjoyed some drinks and food with our friends and family. Our get together coincided with the Matildas playing the quarter final match against the UK so we all had a fantastic time cheering them on!

We finally departed for our lap on Saturday morning, although the first drive (Hobart to Launceston) was one we’d done many times before it felt weirdly liberating to leave Hobart behind and be heading north. Matt had arranged our second departure party in Launceston and we enjoyed yet another night of good food, drinks, and friends. We parked up in Gerald (Matts brother) and his wife Danalea’s street for the night and had a very good sleep. The next morning Matt commented on how soft the bed was, getting nice sheets and a doona that wasn’t $15 from Ikea has made a big difference to the comfort level in the bed.

After breakfast we packed up to drive to Matt’s parents house in Burnie. On the way we stopped at the Tamar Island wetlands so I could get my Big Year (a bird watching challenge) off to a good start. There weren’t a huge number of birds around but I managed to tick off Chestnut Teals, Black Swans, Royal Spoonbills, Purple Swamp Hens, and Native Hens. We didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked because we needed to be in Burnie before lunch to give us enough time to check out Gunn’s Plains Caves.

Matt’s parents and brother made us a delicious lunch complete with a blueberry cheesecake and then drove us through the spectacular valley roads to Gunns Plains Caves. The cave system was discovered in 1906 when a local man, Bill Woodhouse, was out shooting possums and lost one down a hole. He followed it down and found the spectacular limestone cave that tourists can visit today. Because of the large amount of rain that has been falling for the last few weeks in the area the cave was quite damp and had a healthy creek flowing through the center. Our tour guide Trish explained that the formations were created by the water coming through the rock and that the cave was one of only 6 in Australia that had a permanent creek flowing through it. We didn’t see any cave critters but really enjoyed the incredible formations such as the Wedding Cake, Dagger, and Crispy Bacon.

Our last day in Tasmania was beautifully relaxing. I did some work on my cross stitch, vacuumed the van, packed up, and spent some time walking on the block and enjoying Matt’s parents garden. Matt decided that he wanted a hair cut and asked his brother to do it and create a mullet for him. I’ve put in a photo for your entertainment as it may well be one of the rudest hair cuts I’ve ever seen. It’s very funny but if people don’t want to come and chat with us I will know why. We left at about 5pm and drove on to a very empty Spirit of Tasmania at 6, waving farewell to Tassie and heading with our fingers crossed towards Victoria for our transit to South Australia on Tuesday morning.

Egg in the Snow

Egg in the Snow

It has been a long time coming but Matt finally got his wish to muck around in the Delica in the snow. With a promising forecast we headed off to the closest most accessible snow at Mt Field NP (kunanyi is closer but the road always ends up closed way before the snow).

On our way up the road towards Lake Dobson it really did look like we weren’t going to get anything but rain and then suddenly around a corner it turned into…

We kept heading up the mountain and reached Lake Dobson where we parked and met a few other adventurous people. The snow was absolutely incredible and by far the best I’ve ever seen in Tasmania, it was a dry white power and bizarrely not especially cold. We mucked around, went on a walk, built a snowman and then attempted to head off. Unfortunately this is where things started to get a bit complicated as the entry to the car park was getting clogged with traffic, mostly AWDs that really shouldn’t have been there. On our way out of the car park we had to move 3 people and dig out one of them. In the process of stopping we also got “stuck”, I say stuck in inverted commas because had we not needed to stop we wouldn’t have become stuck and also it took me 2 minutes to dig us out which is very different to the 3 hours in a clay bog hole we had last weekend.

Anyway, we continued to make our way down the mountain freeing a few more people and advising others to turn around as we went. Once we were out of the snowline it was much more easy going and were next to the fire in the National Park Hotel in time for lunch.

I felt a bit frustrated when we were on social media a couple of hours later and the local news pages had started reporting on the story of people getting stuck. The articles were all directed towards anyone going up into the snow and needing to be rescued was an idiot rather than; someone should have been policing the road and making sure only high clearance 4WDs were going up there, that the awesome 4WDers were spending a good portion of their day rescuing people without the correct gear and, that everyone got home safe and sound. I really hope there isn’t any kind of generalised consequence eg. shutting the access road, because some people didn’t think their actions through.

Enough of that rant. On the way home we stopped at the raspberry farm and got some syrups for our soda water. We were both really happy with how The Egg performed in the snow, as it seems with most 4WD obstacles it managed it was ease and we can tick off another terrain we have experience in. Matt is already working out the itinerary for the next snow day.

Van Improvements

Van Improvements

Sorry for interrupting your scheduled reading about our adventures in COVID-19 locked down Tasmania but this morning up on the big island (mainland) Egg has been picked up by Delica Garage for it’s 3rd visit to Johno’s workshop. I figured it was therefore as good a time as any to publish our list of services/modifications that we’re doing to get Big Lap ready. I’ll put the costings in too when I have them but Matt keeps forgetting to send them to me.

First Service

After buying Egg which you can read about here we did what all good second hand car buyers should do and took it in for a service. It turned out the couple that sold it to us had done exactly the same thing after they bought it from the importer so the garage already knew our van. They gave it a once over and made us a list of possible problems and improvements we could make to the van in the future.

Second Service

Following the absolute smash fest that was Spicers Gap Road (whoops) Matt took Egg into the Delica Garage for a second going over. Because our first visit showed that there were no major issues this time we were more interested in upgrading and fixing a couple of niggles. To say it was lucky that we did is a huge understatement, the weight of the internal build combined with our enthusiastic 4WDing had resulted in the transmission mounting breaking at 3 of the 4 connection points. We were one mount away of having it drop out…eep.

Along with remounting and reinforcing the transmission we upgraded to a new thicker radiator, added and engine guard, and completely replaced the springs so that they were correct for the weight of the van. This inadvertently also lifted Egg no word of a lie probably close to 15cm which looks absolutely ridiculous and means I now need to do a silly hop to get into the passenger seat.

Matt’s Water System

One of the things that we first noticed the van was lacking on our camping trips was a water storage system. We have been using a supermarket bought container of water which we have been placing on various chairs and logs. It is awkward and has resulted in spills on more than one occasion.

We ended up spending quite a lot of time debating water with Matt trying to convince me 30L was enough and me trying to convince him that was unacceptable and we needed at least twice that amount. We looked at jerry cans on the roof or mounted on the back, we looked at installing a pipe around the top of the roof rack for showering but ultimately we ended up settling on a 55L tank that slotted down the side of the van beside the draws and under the bed, and if we get desperate for showers/emergency water we will have a couple of back up camp shower bags.

The water system is still a work in progress as Matt is putting together a pump system and various connections so we can get water out with the press of a button. Once it is done I will get him to write up about it because it is that complex it’s beyond me.


The van came with two single burner stoves that we accidentally crushed on our third overnight trip. I replaced them with a Coleman Fyreknight Hyperflame Camping Stove which in turn meant that we needed gas bottles rather than small canisters. For ease of lifting and carrying Matt installed 2x4kg gas bottles on the roof in each rear corner. I’m stoked that I don’t have to go to bed worrying about gas in the van. Matt is currently looking at how he can run a gas line from the roof so he doesn’t have to keep climbing up to get the bottles down.

Third Service

That brings me up to where we are now. We’re still in Tassie but off to pick up Egg and drive her down the coast in just over a month. I’m so so excited to get her back. So before we bring her down we thought it would be a good idea to arrange one last visit to the Delica Garage Qld, which will be the last time Johno sees it before we go on the big lap. It is sneaking up on us so fast!

So the plan is that we will get the timing belt replaced and overhauled including all the little bits and bobs that go with that (spark plugs, seals etc) and have a bash plate installed to the front to protect the underside of the van. Johno is also going to look at our windscreen squirters and take off the stupid side steps that we smash on absolutely everything when we’re off road. We were also going to get a long range fuel tank installed but the shipping couldn’t get it to Brisbane in time so we’ll get that completed when we are on the road and going through Geelong.

Planned Upgrades

  • Re route the fan so it’s not running over the engine.
  • Snorkle (probably not though because Matt thinks it is silly)
  • Bigger tyres as with the lift our current ones make the van look like a toy car.
  • Bullbar (maybe ++ $$$)
  • Mosquito netting.
  • New awning (ours got broken at Freshwater Campground).
  • Long range fuel tank.

Day 9 – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Day 9 – Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

One of the things I love most about travelling with Matt is how I can rely on him and he on me. If one of us is having an off day 99% of the time the other can pick up the slack so things work out. Well today we both had an off day and while the consequences weren’t disastrous it made for a bit of a messy last day on the road.

After breakfast and a quick side trip for me to take some photos of the morning mist sitting on the mountains around the lake we popped into Queenstown and had a coffee at the very cute Tracks Cafe. There were two things I wanted to do in/around town before we moved on. 1. Visit the town of East Pillinger via the Kellys Basin track which is another of Tasmania 60 great short walks and 2. Go to the museum and look at the rocks. We decided to go hiking first and check out the museum after lunch.

The drive out to the track head was a short 42km that nearly took an hour, we did not anticipate the road quality was as poor as it turned out to be or that to get to the start of the walk we’d need to navigate another “4WD only track” which was completely achievable in a massive 2WD van. I’m starting to think these 4WD track only signs are attempts to stop unprepared tourists getting stuck in the middle of nowhere rather than actually needing a 4WD to do them. Anyway, conspiracy theories aside we reached the start of the walk close to lunch on to find that is was in fact not a short walk, but instead a 4h return hike. Whoops. Completely unprepared in winter to hike 4h into a place with no phone signal instead we walked maybe 20 minutes along the track, turned around, and made some noodles for lunch in the car park. From what we did see it looks like an amazing walk and we’ll definitely come back and do it another time.

After lunch and driving back into town we checked out the museum. Entry was $5 a head (cash only) which was great value. The best part by far was looking at the mineral specimens but there were some very cool photos of the mines being constructed and the railways. I also picked up one of the original core samples from Iron Blow that some old mate found while he was walking around the Queenstown hills.

Our planned stop for the night was the Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel. As we drove into the highlands spots of snow began to appear on the road and we started to lose light. We reached Derwent Bridge with mounting excitement for a hot meal and a beer but found nothing but a closed building with a for sale sign out the front. I tried to call a mobile number on the door with no response. Hungry, cold and getting tired we decided to keep going and see if we could find somewhere to stay in one of the hydro towns. It was pretty creepy driving through fog, snow, and nearly complete darkness as town after empty town rolled by. At 7pm we’d driven through the entire highland lakes area and found ourselves outside a pub in Ouse.

We could not be more grateful to the lovely woman at the Lachlan Hotel that took pity on us, poured us some beers, cooked us a couple of awesome steaks (which were served on fried bread for some reason) and then sent us up the road to the Bethune Camping Area where we had a very peaceful sleep. A complete mess of a last day but still a lot of fun.

What a great holiday.

Campsite Review

Bethune Camping Area – We arrived after dark and left before we’d even had breakfast so I’m not in a position to review this one. Nice large grassy area next to a river.

Day 8 – On the Gordon

Day 8 – On the Gordon

When I was about 12 years old my parents took my siblings and I on a trip around Tasmania. One of my fondest memories of that trip was getting to go on the Gordon River cruise. The weather on that day was truly atrocious but rugged up in a raincoat my sister and I stood out on the front of the boat getting smacked by the wind and rain and loving every second. Nearly 20 years later I really wanted to do it again so Matt and I booked in.

The ferry departure time of 8.30am and the 40 minute drive into town from our camp meant we were faced with a pretty early start. I was certainly grateful for my Banjo’s coffee and breakfast quiche that we ate while looking at the harbour.

At about 8:15am we wandered over to the cruise terminal and browsed the gift shop before we were called to get on the boat. Thanks again to COVID-19 the number of passengers was next to no one so we had a ton of space to ourselves and the company was waiving the window fee which saved us $35pp. The tickets were still expensive $140 each but with the free lunch, two guided tours, and nearly 6 hours of cruising we thought that it was good value.

The boat started off by travelling out of Macquarie Harbour past the fish farms where the seals were swimming lazily around looking for escapees. The harbour is 6 times the size of Sydney and reaches a depth of 50m. We made our way through the black water and towards the mouth of the harbour Hells Gates, as named by the convicts entering Macquarie Harbour bound for Sarah Island. Near the entry we were lucky enough to see a couple of southern right whales bobbing around in the bay on the left.

Heading South/East back along the harbour coastline we sat back and enjoyed the view whizzing by and had a cup of tea. In Trip Advisor there are a couple of complaints from people that the cruising time is too long and boring but if you think that you’re really missing the point. Tasmania is all about going slow and taking in the beauty around you. The weather was on our side as the boat slowed and entered the Gordon River so we were treated to the famous reflections. Matt and I stood on the deck and looked out at the rainforest above and below.

Our first stop for the day was Heritage Landing, a short boardwalk stroll into the dense rainforest where we learnt about some of the plants and animals native to the area. I really enjoyed the information cards as I’m notoriously challenged when it comes to identifying plants. When we got back onto the boat after about 20 minutes we were organised into groups and told to come up and collect our lunch. Returning once more to our chairs, plates piled high with smoked salmon you couldn’t wipe the grins of our faces. Too good.

The second stop for the day snuck up just as we were finishing lunch, Sarah Island. We were given two options, make our own way around or complete a guided tour. Almost everyone opted for the tour and it was fantastic. I’d hoped it would go into more detail about the cannibalism of Alexander Pearce but instead learnt a huge amount about ship building, day to day life on the island, and the living conditions of the convicts. Just as we got back on the boat it started to rain.

We returned to Strahan at about 2.30pm and decided that there was enough time and daylight left to hightail it to Queenstown and stay the night next to the famous gravel footy oval. Unfortunately it was closed because of COVID so we drove up and around the bends to head down to Lake Burbury. On our way we stopped to enjoy the lookout at Iron Blow, the site of the earliest mine at Mt Lyell. That somehow turned into climbing the barren hills and then watching the sun set over the valley.

Campsite Review

Thureau Hills Boat Ramp – The no fossicking signs got me off side immediately but the spot itself was beautiful. There were toilets and a little creek which was running nicely. I think Matt may have got some cooking water from it but I don’t trust water supplies in Queenstown. One of the rivers has a disturbing habit of running orange. Not bad, not great 6/10.