Why we love to visit Chillagoe in Far North Queensland and why you should too.

Chillagoe is one of my happy places. Its a tiny little town on the edge of the Outback. Blink and you’ll miss it. Its special though and always recharges our batteries. Its a little off the beaten track but definitely worth visiting on any holiday to Far North Queensland.

The reasons why we find it special are as follows

THE NATIVE BIRDS – the silence in Chillagoe is only broken by the symphony of native birds. Some melodic, some loud and raucous but all together music to my ears. No airport or highway noise continually droning in the background – just birds. The joyous sounds of Galahs, Red-tail Black Cocky’s, Budgies, Apostle Birds, Butcher Birds and our favourite the Magpie.

THE WEATHER – Blue skies and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. Hot in summer so perfect for swimming, mild in winter and perfect for exploring. Dry weather always means great campfire wood.  We love having a campfire in Chillagoe.

THE CREEK – Such a gorgeous, idyllic, refreshing, wonderful place to swim. Chillagoe Creek is just on the edge of town and walking distance from the campground. Most outback creeks are murky from silt but this creek is special. The region is rich in limestone and the lime in the water disperses the sediment quickly. Most of the creek is quite shallow but there is a couple of deeper holes with water cascading over rocks. Its beautiful and shady fringed with trees and ferns.

Who says you can’t be a mermaid in the Outback?

THE CAVES- The main attraction that draws tourists to Chillagoe are the caves in the Chillagoe-Mungana Caves National Park. The spectacular karst landscape hides a mysterious underground world. The Savannah landscape here is dotted with limestone outcrops that were the living Coral reefs in a shallow sea 400 million years ago. Inside these outcrops are a myriad of cave systems. Ranger Guided Tours are available to explore a few of them. You can also do some self exploration. We go to the Archways and I love the absolute silence and the coolness in these underground worlds.  We feel like we are in a scene of “Picnic at Hanging Rock” when we explore. It would be so easy to get lost and it feels mysterious and a bit eerie.

THE FREE FISH SKIN CLEAN THERAPY – If you sit really still below the weir in the creek, the tiny fish , start darting in and nipping at your skin.  Its such a weird but quite delightful sensation. Totally free and with a view like this absolutely a priceless experience.

THE CAMPING IN TOWN THAT FEELS LIKE WE ARE OUT BUSH – We always stay at the Eco Lodge Campground in Chillagoe itself.  Its a huge campground with room to spread out and feels just like a bush setting. The bonus being that campfires are allowed. Very affordable at $10 per person unpowered and the birds here are just amazing. The sounds in the morning are just wonderful. So its like camping out bush but with the bonus of hot showers, a small restaurant and walking distance to the pub for a quiet ale or dinner.

Our camp site in town. Who could ask for more?

THE STARS AT NIGHT in Chillagoe are exquisite and mind blowing.  Clear, dark skies are amazing. The Eco Lodge Campground has an Observatory with a powerful telescope and night sky tours. The opportunity to look at far distant galaxies and the rings of Saturn through the high power telescope is not to be missed. The tours operate on moonless nights during the tourist season.

Honestly, for us bush romantics, Chillagoe ticks all the boxes for all the right reasons. It does get very hot in the summer wet season though, so if you have an aversion to high temperatures, come in the dry. Also avoid public holiday long weekends when it gets crazy busy with locals escaping the city.

I guess what I’m saying in this blog is that you don’t have to drive thousands of kilometres into the vast Outback regions of West Queensland, the Northern Territory or West Australia to get away from it all. Its not about the distance travelled but about the state of mind that changes as the landscape changes from coastal fringe Rain-forest to the dry Savannah. Three hours to achieve that is just brilliant. We love Chillagoe.

Karma Waters Station on the Mitchell River – Camping around Cairns – North Queensland

Complete solitude and relaxation by a remote Gulf Savannah River. An all day lazy campfire, the sound of running water and sunny blue skies. That’s camping at Karma Waters.

We have two reasons for coming out here. Firstly, to recharge our depleted mental batteries in a way that only being by a campfire next to an outback river will do and secondly, to test out our new Trayon on a Trailer configuration a little bit off the beaten track. How adventurous can we really go now?

It’s a lovely drive from tropical rainforest into the drier Gulf Savannah. Two hundred kilometres northwest of Cairns, Karma Waters Station is just over a three hour drive. We travel for 2 hours on sealed road up the Kuranda Range to Mareeba, Mt Molloy and Mt Carbine before turning off 10 minutes past Mt Carbine onto the dirt station track sign posted to Karma Waters and Hurricane Station.

The next fifty kilometre stretch of dirt takes just over an hour. On the left, 10 minutes after turning off the bitumen, is the short track to Cooktown Crossing. We take a quick detour to check it out.

This causeway on the Mitchell River is a free camping spot and is popular (because it’s free) but doesn’t have many ideal sites. It’s much better at Karma Waters despite the $25 per night camping fee. The drive from here follows the Mitchell River and is slow going with dips, creek crossings and cattle to avoid but lovely with nice views in the distance.

Karma Waters Station is private property and they have nine camping locations on the banks of the Mitchell River. The beauty of camping here is that you have absolute privacy and solitude. The spots are a considerable distance apart. After checking in at the station homestead we head for camp site number two, through our own private gate, go over a sandy, somewhat dicey, 4WD only crossing into a lovely canopy of shady paperbark trees right along side the river.

This little bit of sand would be not a problem with just the car but add a trailer and its a whole new ball game. Going in was fine but getting out again a little bit more challenging.

There is the option here of canoeing down the river, swimming, fishing and catching a few cherubin (yabbies) in opera house nets. Or you can just be lazy and sit on the banks with a good book and enjoy the views. We choose option two as the river still has the after wet season flow and is flowing very wide and strongly. Too strong for our inflatable kayak. We did have a refreshing dip or two though.

Just sit and read a book while enjoying the view and the sound of running water.

So we learn some things about travelling with our new trailer while at Karma Waters. On the open road it tracked behind us beautifully with only a slight difference to fuel consumption. On a dirt road it’s great and it handles the bumps and dips really well but there are limitations we need to be aware of now. We realise that we are now the length of a bus and need a very wide turning circle. We realise that this will create situations where we will need to unhitch the trailer and manually push it around because there is no other way to avoid low overhanging branches. We realise that two thick sandy bumps close together with jagged rocks to the side can be a bit perilous with a trailer. Being bogged and wedged between them in a V shape is not much fun and serious off road stuff should be avoided. There is no way we’d take it through the Simpson Desert. We learnt that we are virtually a mini caravan now. Gotta love those adventurous learning curves.

Ummmmm. No room to go forward, no room to go backward, too many low branches. Lets just unhitch and turn the trailer around manually.

However, we were still able to access a remote site that would be completely inaccessible to a caravan. We were able to unhitch easily and be independent of our living quarters. We were able to stop on the way and collect heaps of firewood and just chuck it in the back of the ute and we had storage space in abundance. Empty cupboards in the Trayon is unheard of. Amazing.

Nothing beats an all day campfire with all that firewood

Karma Waters is a nice weekend escape destination from Cairns, especially if you want to a break from the coastal humidity and need a dose of outback scenery. You do need to book ahead though, especially on long weekends. Some rules apply as well – there are no facilities so they request you bring a chemical toilet, no weapons or hunting dogs allowed, no motorbikes and quads. This is all good as it makes for a much more pleasant camping experience for all.

Did I mention the flies got a little annoying.
Some enjoy the views from a chair, others from a tree. Each to their own.
A shady home amongst the paperbarks

Love an early morning campfire with campfire vegemite toast. Yum.

Another great cattle station camping option in North Queensland is Woodleigh Station. A bit more easily accessible and very lovely. Click on this link to see Woodleigh Station – Camping Around Cairns – North Queensland

If you have a taste for remote station camping, check out my post on Lorella Springs. Now this place is truly amazing Lorella Springs Station – Savannah Way, Northern Territory

THE EVOLUTION OF TRAYON NO. 773

EVEN TRAVELLING GYPSIES AT HEART NEED A PLACE TO CALL HOME. THIS IS OUR JOURNEY TO CREATING OUR ULTIMATE TRAVEL HOME ON WHEELS.Trayon at Woodleigh Station

So is it a camper trailer, a slide on camper or a mini caravan?

Before we part travelled Australia in 2017, I wrote a blog on why we chose our Trayon Camper as the travel accommodation of choice. You can read all about it here Camping in the royal swag – The story of why we bought a Trayon Camper.

Now an evolution has taken place and our trusty Trayon slide-on camper has turned into a hybrid creation – part slide-on (it still slides on), part camper trailer (it now lives on a trailer), part caravan (our fridge, cooker and sink are inside like a caravan).Trailer new 6

As our travel goals change over time so too does our idea of what makes the ideal home away from home on wheels. Luckily the Trayon has a degree of versatility that allows us to modify where we place it.

We thought we had the absolute perfect set up with our Trayon Camper on the ute tray – the no tow way to go. As well as many shorter holiday trips, we travelled Northern Australia and the West Coast for four consecutive months with our home on our back, like a turtle. It was for the most part, pretty spot on. We loved the simplicity, the comfort and the ease of remote Australian travel. It really is a great camper and we have never once regretted purchasing it 5 years ago. However, it wasn’t absolute perfection on our extended adventure. Toward the latter stages of the trip we realised that we need to be able more easily ditch the home perpetually on our back. Sometimes it was just not convenient to have it there. Like when we needed to pop out from camp and collect firewood – a simple task that we didn’t want to go to the effort of putting our Trayon on its legs for.

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Camped at Cape Range National Park WA on “Legs”. There is some ‘wobble’ on legs but its sturdy.

The Trayon does come with “legs” for the purpose of removing it from the back of the ute. When you want to use your vehicle for sightseeing, shopping, fishing down the beach or collecting firewood it’s convenient not to have to pack up camp again to use the car. However, unlike the ease of setting up camp while it’s on the ute, putting the Trayon on its legs and then getting it back on the ute again afterwards, is time consuming. It’s quite an art form as well. Kevin purchased an additional leg wind down tool for me so we could stand on opposing sides and wind the legs up and down simultaneously to avoid the tedious process of Kevin going around and around in circles trying to keep it level. It’s not a simple process and then requires some driving prowess to reverse the ute in precisely between the legs again and a bit of heavy duty pushing of the Trayon on the tray to get it in the exact right spot (by Kevin because I literally can’t budge it). In my case it’s not a girl friendly option. Plus, although it won’t fall down, it never felt 100% stable on legs – there is a bit of wobble despite sturdy, pegged out support wires.

Putting the Trayon on its legs, quite frankly, became the bane of our travelling existence when we had to do it over and over again. Our favourite “keep it simple” philosophy was failing.

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Simplicity at its finest. An overnight stop with the Trayon (sans legs). Just flip it open, clip down the canvas and 5 minutes later “home, sweet home” wherever you happen to be.
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Sometimes though it becomes necessary to put it on legs, even for a quick overnight stop. Those damn split rims had to go. Note the large tool box being carried on the roof rack. Space issues.

The limited storage space was also a small issue. The Trayon has ample cupboard space inside, however there is no space for larger accessories that we carry such as our inflatable kayak and oars, our Weber Baby Q, chairs and camp table. These sat on the floor inside the Trayon and bounced around on rough roads. We had a generator and large tool/sundry box in a roof rack over the cab. Kevin sure got jaded with climbing up and down and balancing precariously when he needed a tool though.

So what to do to solve these issues on future trips? We had some time to ponder on this dilemma since coming back in September 2017. Financially it was in our best interest to hang onto our quality Trayon Camper, it has served us well and we do think it’s a brilliant concept and a quality investment.

So, give the Trayon it’s own set of wheels and tow it was the obvious solution. Slide the Trayon onto a specially built flat bed trailer instead of the back of the ute. Not quite a camper trailer, not quite a caravan and not quite a slide on camper anymore. A hybrid of them all.

Way more cost effective than replacing our entire set up with something totally new. Of course it will add extra expense in terms of trailer registration, tyres and possibly fuel usage but that’s the trade off for the convenience of being able to unhitch easily, still spend our 5 minutes setting up camp and be able to use the car.

A second consequence of the Trayon being independent of the ute is that we will now also have all that extra storage space on the tray. Two huge lockable boxes on the tray. Both issues solved. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. Plus one day we may decide to go back to a wagon rather than a ute and can still use our Trayon as long as we have a tow bar.

We don’t think it will restrict us in any way as our purpose built off-road trailer has fully independent suspension and is designed to go off the beaten track. At this stage we will also still have the option of putting the Trayon back on the ute, should we decide to venture to the Simpson Desert or Canning Stock Route for example, where towing is a definite disadvantage. Best of both worlds.

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The only way to do the Simpson Desert in style – with a Trayon Camper. We wouldn’t do this or the Canning with a trailer but pretty much every where else we would.

Our priority for our trailer was a very solid construction with fully independent suspension, treg hitch, hot dip galvanised and a storage box on the draw bar being the only extra ‘frill’. It was constructed so we could add additional features such as under body tool boxes in the future if required. We decided on a wooden slat floor as it provides less slippage for the Trayon’s aluminium underbody support beams. The current hook system that is used to secure the Trayon to the ute will be used for the trailer as well, so it can be removed onto its legs if required. We can then use the trailer for another purpose if needed.

A local engineering firm here in Cairns was engaged to build our trailer. We know Trayon on the Sunshine Coast do build a great trailer mounted option, however, for us, that price tag was unaffordable and the build time lengthy. We enquired locally to scope out other options and found a winner with Reef Engineering, Cairns. You can find them on the web.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Scott and Matt at Reef Engineering were familiar with our Trayon as they had previously made new hooks for us when we swapped our Nissan Navara for a Landcruiser. The cost factor was really important to us and their quote was very prompt, reasonable and affordable. Great people to deal with too. Camper trailer construction is one of their specialities and we knew we would get a quality well built trailer so didn’t hesitate to engage them.

We ordered it on the 21st February and it was completed on the 14th of April. Just over six weeks from quote to completion is a pretty good turn around time and we are so happy with the result.

So how exactly does putting our Trayon on a trailer improve our lifestyle?

  • It will encourage us to travel slower. We rushed our travels due to our reluctance to put the Trayon on its legs. A quick exploration of a spot, set up camp, sit around all day, pack up camp and move on was tending to happen. We missed a lot because we couldn’t use the car to explore further after we had set up camp.  The colours were extraordinary here at Francois Peron National Park but we didn’t explore the myriad of tracks for this reason. In hindsight that was such a shame.
  • It will allow us to give each destination the justice it deserves. By simply unhitching our ‘chateau on wheels’ we are free to explore to our hearts content knowing our camp site will be there to come back too. Sometimes we just packed up the Trayon to explore and some bugger nicked our spot while we were off for the day. These two gorgeous camp spots were great examples of this dilemma.
  • As a result of the first two points it gives us more freedom and I love freedom. My favourite word. The heart of my blog site. “Let us Be Free”
  • It gives us a bigger carrying capacity. Not that we want to carry too much stuff as our philosophy is to ‘keep it simple’ but to be able carry a few frills is nice. I mean why would you not want to carry a kayak and a Webber Baby Q to experience this while camping?
  • We can collect firewood. Hooray. So many National Parks had signs before the entrance gate “Collect Firewood Now”, as it is not permitted to collect firewood in the National Park. We just couldn’t as we literally had no space to put it. Believe me, missing out on a campfire under a starry night sky in Australia is just plain sad.
  • It will make our storage of the camper at home easier. Just reverse the trailer under the carport. Full stop. You wouldn’t believe the hassles it gave us. Kevin had to let the air out of each of the car tyres to fit it under the low carport. Then out comes the air compressor to re pump the tyres. The carport is a confined space but we put the Trayon on its legs under there for protection from the weather. Its an investment we want to look after. Then of course we have no access to the inside of the Trayon to get organised before a camping trip as there is not enough room to open the stairs. Blah, blah, blah….I could go on here for ages. Just trust me, it will be easier and a whole lot less time consuming.
  • We will still be able to ‘go remote’, go ‘off the beaten track’ and take the road less travelled. Unlike a full caravan we will not be restricted or hesitant about turning onto that dirt road. Some of the best discoveries are made away from the crowds and we love the ability to escape from the beaten tourist track.

With the glorious North Queensland winter weather approaching we are so looking forward to testing out our TOAST- (Trayon on a Sweet Trailer) – at the beach, in the rain forest and by a lazy outback river or two. Stay tuned for a performance test in a week or so at Karma Waters, Hurricane Station on the beautiful Mitchell River, four hours west of Cairns.

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To be continued………

The Waterfall Loop from Cairns Nth Qld

Michelle’s guide to Waterfall sightseeing in Paradise

Cairns and water go together. Like strawberries and cream. Add the mountain backdrop and it’s a recipe for a green paradise. As local residents we tend to get a bit blasé towards our own natural scenery. On occasion though we do take off the blinkers and really appreciate this place we are lucky enough to call home. You just cannot possibly ignore the beauty of nature when viewing falling water up here in the North. So over two days at Easter time we do the Waterfall loop.

We have had an incredible amount of rain in the last week of March. I love our wet season rain. Its not a gentle pitter, patter of raindrops. Our rain is torrential and really loud. It’s like the pendulous storm clouds just dump the whole lot all at once. Like those wet playgrounds with the bucket of water that drops it’s load when it reaches tipping point. Tropical rain is truly a wonder of nature in itself. It takes the edge off the steamy humidity and creates a vibrant green visual feast. ‘Rain’ forest is called that for a reason I guess.

So after a week of torrential, flooding rain we decide to enjoy our most wonderful natural splendours at their finest – the Waterfalls. We are literally surrounded by them in Cairns – all beautiful, all different, all glorious and it’s easy to do a loop and not a huge distance. It has to be the best place in Australia to do a waterfall crawl.

Barron Falls just up the Range at Kuranda is our first stop. The power of these Falls is immense when the Barron River is bulging at the seams. It’s a long drop and there is nothing delicate and dainty here. The water plummets a long distance bouncing from boulder to boulder with the sound of thunder. Its a worthwhile short stop with a lovely rainforest walk to the falls viewing platform.

Barron Falls

Between Kuranda and Mareeba off the Kennedy highway are Davies Creek Falls and Emerald Creek Falls. Both these lovely falls are unique as the Northern portion of the Tropical Tablelands are characterised by open eucalyptus woodland, with granite outcrops and clear flowing streams. The smell is gorgeous – that eucalyptus fragrance of the warm Aussie bush. Both of these Falls are similar, plummeting with a thunderous roar over a granite escarpment. From the top the views of the Tablelands are magnificent. Below each fall is a fast flowing stream being channeled through granite boulders in continual cascades. You can find a quiet calm pool for a refreshing swim. I did just that at Emerald Creek and it was delicious.

Davies Creek Falls
Emerald Creek Falls
A refreshing swim in Emerald Creek

Coffee time. The Northern Tablelands are famous for coffee plantations and most offer tours and serve scrumptious barista made coffee. We stop at one of our favourites, Jacques Coffee. A delicious treat.

Jaques Coffee Plantation Cafe

We then turn South at Mareeba toward the rolling green hills and rainforests of the Southern Tablelands. The quaint, idyllic village of Yungaburra is our destination for the night and we arrive with time to wander around on foot and try to spot a platypus in the creek. A misty rain makes our motel room a cosy haven.

In the morning it’s only a short drive on to Malanda Falls. There is a bit of perfect symmetry in the low natural cascade. The water has a brown tinge due to recent flooding. Usually folks swim in the clear pool beneath the falls but today it’s closed. The current is too strong.

Malanda Falls closed over Easter for swimming

We continue driving south in misty rain through rolling green hills of the Southern Tablelands, very reminiscent of being in Victoria, except the weather is warm. We head to my favourite of the three sets of falls on the Millaa Millaa waterfall circuit. Millaa Millaa Falls. This is misty waterfall perfection. Perfectly manicured by Mother Nature. The exquisite tropical tree ferns frame a photo beautifully.

The perfect Millaa Millaa Falls

Zillie Falls, a further 8km on, took me by surprise. These are usually a bit ordinary after the exquisite perfection of Millaa Millaa Falls but with the wet season flow they were powerful, intense and even pretty as the water plummeted over the abyss pummelling the rocks below. The walking track down to the bottom is a bit hazardous though in the wet. Tree roots, mud, slippery rocks and a steep descent through tangled rainforest.

Zillie Falls flowing strongly

Elinjaa Falls, 2km on is very pretty cascade. Like a lacy curtain. There’s no better place to find yourself, than standing by a waterfall listening to its music and this one had a lovely melody.

Elinjaa Falls

From Millaa Millaa we head down the Palmerston highway toward Innisfail back on the coast. We stop at Henrietta Creek to walk the 4.4km rainforest walk leading to Silver Falls and Nandroya Falls. This is our first time here and it was truly incredible. The trail to the falls took us deep into the beautiful tropical rainforest. A long walk but nothing strenuous and the reward was the gob smacking view of Nandroya Falls. Silver Falls were just stunning. Delicate and very pretty but Nandroya Falls were in a league of their own. An absolutely amazing spectacle. The sheer power, the noise, the mist. It was an incredible sight. Violence and beauty thrown together in spectacular fashion. Definitely worth the walk.

Beautiful rainforest trail to Nandroya Falls
The petite and gentle Silver Falls
The many layers of Nandroya Falls
The spectacular and powerful Nandroya Falls cascading from pristine rainforest

After a spot of lunch in Innisfail we head North toward Cairns and detour shortly after to Josephine Falls in Wooroonooran National Park. Its a 700m stroll through stunning pristine rainforest. So pretty to look at but you can sense the foreboding and danger when you reach Josephine Creek. So many have died here, lured into the water by its beauty and clarity. Its so clear, deep and inviting with natural fun filled rock slides but the churning water is powerful, turbulent and will suck you under the boulders with its fury. I don’t swim here, especially with flash flooding warning signs. Crazy, but others still do. Spectacular waterfall though.

Another lovely rainforest stroll
The clear water of Josephine Creek is inviting but deadly
Say no more
Josephine Falls

So waterfalled out, we head back home. It’s been a lovely two days and just the tip of the iceberg. It has renewed our sense of appreciation for the joys of living in this paradise we call home.

With love from Cairns

Mt Ossa – The Roof of Tasmania Via The ARM RIVER TRACK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t know if I’ve happened to mention it before but I adore Tasmania. The natural scenery is stunning from Coastline to Alpine Plateaus, there are hiking trails, waterfalls, forests and National Parks in abundance, the distances are short and the little towns are quaint with delightful bakeries. Even the thriving metropolis of Hobart has a uniqueness.

On our first visit to Tasmania as a couple in 2010, we flew in and completed the seven day hike of the world famous Overland Track. We did it with a tour group and it was our first taste of extended hiking. We were hooked with both hiking and Tasmania. It was just the most adventurous experience. The walk started with drizzle, turned to rain, the wind was perpetually icy cold, it sleeted on us and then finally it snowed. This was in January. We slept in tents and put on wet clothes, socks and boots every day on bitterly cold mornings. I shudder at the memory. We walked on a trail that at times became a river, slid on tree roots, sloshed in deep mud and due to persistent clouds we missed all the views.  This all, no doubt sounds quite horrendous but it was exciting, unpredictable and we felt like we had achieved something really special at the end.

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How cold was the Overland Track? Check out the look on Kevin’s face. It was COLD.

The only regret we had was that we were unable to climb Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak, due to the poor weather conditions. Mt Ossa is located pretty much in the middle of the Overland Track and is a four day walk in. So we figured we had missed our opportunity as it was unlikely we would ever complete the whole Overland Track again.

Never say never though. A little bit of google research goes a long way. Mt Ossa is accessible without doing the whole Overland Track. There is a 12.2 km shortcut (on foot) that intersects with the Overland Track called the Arm River Track. It’s a bit of a local secret. and you don’t need to purchase the costly Overland Track pass to do it.

So on our third visit to Tasmania on a grand and glorious road trip we decided to ‘give it a bash’. Of course we knew how very important it was to time the adventure with the weather and some careful planning ensued. Wet boots are always inevitable but were were so hoping for Mt Ossa to be out of the clouds.

We planned to spend two nights at New Pelion Hut, the central Overland Track hikers hut, to give us a whole day to summit Mt Ossa.

We camped at Mole Creek and early morning packed up camp and turned left onto Mersey Forest Road where we then had to keep an eye out for tiny Maggs Road which was our turnoff.  We followed Maggs Road to the end and found the tiny car park which is near where the Maggs and Arm Road meet. This is the start of the Arm River Track.  There was only one other vehicle there and with us the car park was full.

Incidentally it was drizzling with rain and cold but we knew it would be. Tomorrow was the day the sun was supposed to shine. The all important day.

One minute into the hike we had to cross a small stream and Kevin sank in thick mud. Right over the boots. Great start. It was actually hilarious. Nothing like a bit of levity before a  45 minute extremely steep trail straight up into the clouds.

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Up into the clouds in the drizzly rain. Wet weather gear on and rain covers on the packs.

It levelled off somewhat after that and we crossed rivers balancing on logs which was a bit hairy and I had a big fat leach sucking on my head.

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We did a lot of this. Fortunately the bigger streams did have bridges.

We walked and walked. Had lunch beside a lake in the mist. A quick lunch because we had a few leaches. Then we walked and walked again. It was a lovely walk. At times the track became a river, we slipped on tree roots and walked in mud. But this was all starting to feel very familiar to us.

New Pelion Hut was a very welcome sight after about 5 – 6 hours. We were very weary.

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What a grand and glorious sight. New Pelion Hut in the middle of the Overland Track and it was nice to sleep indoors despite the snoring. Always bring ear plugs

Whether it was brilliant planning, a fluke or divine intervention I’m not sure but the next day was gloriously sunny. Perfect timing.  We faced another uphill slog for a couple of hours on our friend ‘The Overland Track’ before we came to the junction of The Mt Ossa Track.

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Check out that beautiful blue sky
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And there she is. Mt Ossa in sublime weather in full view. We didn’t see this our first time here as it was completely shrouded in cloud.

The walk up Mt Ossa started off easy but turned a little challenging as we got higher. All I can say is thank goodness for long legs.  Clambering over the boulder scree required them.

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This is where it started to get a little tricky with hand over hand

It got so challenging a bit further up that we were actually having second thoughts on whether to go on. This was serious climbing at great height.  Luckily we banished those traitorous thoughts and after a false summit or two finally found ourselves perched upon the roof of Tasmania. What a moment. Those sublime views were the most amazing reward for having made the effort to do this. It was really the most amazing natural high feeling (no pun intended).

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On the summit of Ossa. Woohoo
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And of course I had to have a drink of pristine water from the highest little tarn in Tasmania

So with that ticked off the bucket list we were able to enjoy the more leisurely stroll in the sunshine back to New Pelion Hut where we spent another enjoyable night chatting to those folks doing the hard yards on the Overland Track. We took great glee in revealing our sneaky little shortcut to get here.

The walk back down the Arm River Track was also in pleasant weather so we saw it in a whole different perspective the following day.  It was so very nice though to see our car waiting patiently in the car park.  We were both so tired but in a contented, satisfied kind of way.

We walked a total of 38.7 km all up and it was so worth it.

Also check out my blog post on hiking into THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM Hiking the Walls of Jerusalem NP TASMANIA An absolute must do hike in Tasmania.

Hiking the Walls of Jerusalem NP TASMANIA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Its wild and remote yet gentle and incredibly peaceful. A high exposed plateau with jagged walls of rock that shelter an alpine valley. A myriad of tarns that glisten like jewels, mounds of button grass, alpine wild flowers, king billy pines, the occasional trickle of tiny streams and then total silence. Its another world where human civilisation ceases to exist. To give us such visual beauty though, nature asks a price. It was cold. So cold. We froze at night, especially Kevin in his wafer thin sleeping bag. Our tent was wet, our sleeping mats insufficient and our bodies had so many aches and pains from hauling heavy packs up wickedly steep inclines, over long distances. However, beyond any doubt the stunning scenery more than compensated us for the discomfort. This is Tasmania in all her glory. We climbed Mt Jerusalem, The Temple and Solomons Throne and the views were sublime. It was quite surreal and I feel incredibly blessed. Sometimes the natural world just blows you away and yes, I had a tear in the eye as we departed through Herods Gate. Special moments are like that.”

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Like a true girl I got the small pack sans tent. 

These were my words straight after completing the three day overnight hike into Tasmania’s Walls of Jerusalem National Park. So what is this place and what made it stir my soul to tears and more specifically why would I include it in a blog about 4WDing in Australia?

The following excerpt is from the Parks and Wildlife website and is bound to get you a little intrigued.

“The Walls of Jerusalem are located in a remote area of the Tasmanian highlands and are part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  The area is a spectacular labyrinth of alpine lakes and tarns, dolerite peaks, ancient but fragile forests of Pencil Pines and unique alpine vegetation.

There is no road access into the park and entry is only possible by walking. There are no facilities for shortstop visitors other than toilets at Wild Dog Creek. All tracks into the area are steep and rough and are subject to extreme weather conditions that can include heavy rain, hail, snow, freezing temperatures and blazing sun. Low cloud can reduce visibility to a few metres and snow can cover the track making it difficult to follow. There are limited track markers so navigational skills are essential during poor conditions. These conditions can occur in any month of the year and the weather can change dramatically within a few short hours.
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Those cold mists roll in and out. It just adds to the mystique of The Walls
 There is one way and one way only to get to see this amazing place. On foot. With a backpack, a tent and a great pair of hiking boots. Those Coopers 4WD tyres are of absolutely no use up here.
Bushwalkers must walk into the park from the car park located off the gravel Mersey Forest Road near Lake Rowallan. The car park is reached from Deloraine by following the B12 through Mole Creek and taking Mersey Forest Road (C138 then C171) to Lake Rowallan. A gravel road approximately 4.8km past the Lake Rowallan dam wall on the left just after the Fish River leads to the car park. The only infrastructure near the carpark is a registration booth. There are no public phones or toilets. It is not advisable to leave valuables in the car. There is no public transport to this area, although some operators may offer charters.”
Our 4WD with Trayon Camper was parked in the remote car park as it was the only way we could access this National Park. Its part of what makes the Walls of Jerusalem so special. The challenging access means its way less touristy than nearby Cradle Mountain National Park. I admit we were quite concerned about leaving all our worldly possessions sitting unattended for three days after being informed on the website not to leave valuables in the car.  The nearest Camping Park is at Mole Creek.  We stayed here prior and after the walk and could have had the option of leaving our camper set up here over the duration. However we decided to take the risk and it was a good call. Our car was not interfered with at all and there were quite a few other vehicles as well to keep it company. Its popular with the local Taswegans.
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That’s our blue Nissan with the Trayon on its back.

On this Tasmanian 4WD odyssey, although our space was limited, we squeezed in backpacks, the hiking tent, sleeping bags and self inflating mats. It was always our intention to fit this hike into our itinerary, subject to February weather. As luck would have it the weather was forecast to be quite good. Not perfect but overcast is better than sleet, rain and snow. That was how we experienced the famous Overland Track on a previous visit. Now that was an adventure.

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Overland Track. Cold, wet, rain, sleet and snow for seven straight days. Vicious at the time but a great memory now that gets better with each re-telling.

I won’t deny it – the trail up to the Walls is steep. Puffing, wheezing steep for a good couple of hours until we reached Trappers Hut and then another hour beyond that. Kevin had a big pack complete with most of our gear while I managed with a day pack. Yes, that was fair and I really can’t understand why we nearly broke Kevin coming back down. Chuckle. Then finally once up on the thankfully flat plateau we pass a myriad of mesmerising tarns called Solomon’s Jewels, Wild Dog campsite and pass through Herods Gate and into the Walls of Jerusalem. We camp one night inside the Walls at Dixons Kingdom and one night at Wild Dog Campsite.

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Solomons Jewels with the Walls of Jerusalem in the background.
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Our camp at Dixons Kingdom. The ground was spongy and very wet. One of the coldest nights we have ever experienced. Kevin only had a 3/4 mat so had a wet sleeping bag to top it off. However the scenery was stunning.
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Wild Dog Campsite has platforms so you are not quite so exposed , however it is further to walk for exploring the Walls so we stayed here on our way out.  It was still incredibly cold in February.

The pictures below show our time exploring within the Walls.  There are various options and we tried to do as much as we could. The cold mist kept sweeping in and out, sometimes obscuring our views but it was such an incredible experience that we didn’t care.

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Reading THE MAP on the summit of Mt Jerusalem with a view of the whole world.
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Kevin on top of The Walls on Solomons Throne. The reward for a steep climb is always the views.
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A crystal clear Tarn with the Walls in the background. It was overcast but magnificently pristine.
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Ever tried to dry socks and boots over a camp stove while cooking dinner? Tasmania and wet feet kind of go hand in hand.
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Not stylish but definitely loving every moment. We wear gaiters in Tassie for protection from Tiger snakes and they help keep your pants a bit drier.
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The delapidated hut at Dixons Kingdom. Not usable for campers but a nice photo.
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Some of the trails are not for the faint hearted
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But you do what you gotta do to sit up here on top of the world a million lights years from civilisation and mediocrity.

So the Walls of Jerusalem were just wonderful. However, we had to get down again and Kevin felt every bit of that steep trail on his titanium knee.  He nearly didn’t make it and literally hobbled the last few steps back to our car. That car park was the most beautiful sight in the world at that point.

I must mention that on the way down we passed quite a few people going up. The weather forecast for the weekend was perfect so the locals take advantage of the opportunity. Two of these people were hippies. Bare feet and no packs. No shoes, no tent, no jacket, no food, no nothing. The mind boggles. Surprised we didn’t hear on the news about two frozen hippy corpses the next day.

So is it worth going out of your way to explore The Walls of Jerusalem? Absolutely. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Coming Home and Lessons Learned

So we’re home. And home is lovely. After months of living in arid landscapes, red dirt and deserts we had forgotten just how ‘green’ Cairns is. It’s so pretty with the mountain backdrop and rainforest. The ocean isn’t the glorious aquamarine of the WA coast but its lovely in a north QLD kind of way. Isn’t it wonderful we have experienced it all?

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The beach vista in North Queensland. It is rather lovely.
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The West Australian Coastline is worlds different in light and water clarity. Totally lovely.

So we did it, the trip of a lifetime, and it was just grand. No regrets. We gave up our jobs and drove 20232 kilometres across the top, down the west coast, across the middle and a quick dash down south. Fantastic. Australia is amazing.

So here are some random statistics on our experience travelling remote Australia by 4WD.

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Free camp near Karajini National Park. Totally splendid view and I have ordered this photo as a huge metal artwork for our wall at home. Great photo by Kevin.

The ultimate trip cost

  • We were away for just over 16 weeks in total and we spent $18 681 in total. I’m happy with that. I had budgeted for $1000 per week plus an extra $4000 for car repairs and maintenance. We came in under budget in our weekly spending averaging at $800 per week and went over in the car expenditure which blew out to $5860. Three services in Kununurra, Tom Price and Kapunda, front wheel bearings in Broome, rear parabolic springs and 4 Cooper tyres in Geraldton and, thanks to the Simpson Desert, new rear shock absorbers in Kapunda. We didn’t actually need the new Coopers but we were getting frustrated with the flats we were getting on the skinny split rim tube tyres and opted to replace them with fatter tubeless. No flats since so it was worth it.

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    Sexy beach shot on the beach in Geraldton. New shoes and a nice butt lift.
  • We travelled 20232 km and spent $4696 on fuel. The most expensive fuel was at Mt Dare Station SA just before the Simpson Desert at $2.15 per litre and the cheapest in Kapunda SA at $1.21 per litre. That’s a bit uncanny that South Australia wins the crown in both cases and it wasn’t even planned.

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    Good on you South Aussie – both cheap and expensive
  • Food came in at $4514 and we ate way too much chocolate. We would stock up on chocolate and other assorted snacks when we got to a big supermarket as that sort of stuff is too expensive to buy in remote locations. We bought 6 blocks of chocolate in Broome (after 2 weeks on the Gibb River Road) as it was so cheap and ate them all in 3 days. That’s why I had to buy moo moo’s in Broome. We ate a little too well and were not as disciplined as we are at home. Let’s not talk about all the kitchener buns and chocolate donuts in Kapunda. I’m paying for that extravagance now.

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    A South Australian Kitchener Bun. Taste bud heaven. One for breakfast every day. Need more moo moos.
  • Accommodation costs were very reasonable at $1957. A good mix of free camping, national parks, the luxury of three nights in a cottage at Geraldton and a couple of nights in a cabin at Kapunda because it was freezing cold.

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    Free camping at its finest. James Price Point north of Broome
  • Miscellaneous spending was $1654. This money was put aside for tours, entry fees and everything else. There were quite a few Op Shop purchases in there. It was one of my favourite activities in a town; pottering through an Op Shop in an exotic new destination. My wardrobe expanded unnecessarily and exponentially much to Kevin’s perturbed amusement and mild disgust. (Chuckle)

See my other blog on more detailed trip costs The Savannah Way from Cairns QLD to Broome WA: How much does it cost?

Other random observations as follows…..

  1. Between us we managed to read 28 books and listen to 3 audio books. Every book swap was taken advantage of with much gusto. That’s what we did in the evenings. Read books and ate chocolate.
  2. Ugg boots are just the best footwear on holiday, even in warm country (clean feet with ease)
  3. I made bread 14 times in the Weber Baby Q, and with home made lentil soup this was our most popular meal choice. (Chocolate for desert of course) We called our Weber ‘Baby you fat bitch’. A little harsh I know, but she was so big and heavy and took up a lot of space in the camper. We wouldn’t have gone without her though. She gave us so many awesome meals.
  4. The two equally worst roads were the Simpson Desert crossing and the Kalumburu Road to Mitchell Falls in the Kimberly. Both were particularly punishing to our vehicle but the scenic reward was worth it so no real regrets there.
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    Simpson Desert bounce over 1000 sand dunes like this. New shock absorbers……
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    Corrugations on the Kalumburu Road. They were doozies….

    See my blog THE GIBB RIVER ROAD for more on this…….

     

  5. People ask what was the absolute highlight of the whole trip and I find it impossible to narrow it down to one place. We saw and did so much that was absolutely stunning, each in its own unique way. So many ‘wow, moments. I loved it all.
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    Dales Gorge at Karajini National park

    So the highlight has to be the length of our trip. Four months was an ideal time frame. We didn’t feel pressured for time and we felt the pure joy of freedom to explore at our leisure. That was a sufficient length of time though as by the end we were both weary. I don’t think you can keep appreciating it as much if you do it perpetually. It was time to come home and we actually started to look forward to a couch, a TV, our own toilet and a bed where Kevin doesn’t have to climb over me to go out for a wee. It’s the little things.

  6. Kevin and I, for the first time, spent 24 hours a day with each other, for four months in a confined living arrangement. We survived, we laughed a lot, we became more tolerant, we relaxed into a comfortable camaraderie and it made our relationship stronger. It was a fantastic experience to share.
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    A shared experience at its finest

    See my blog for more on snorkelling with whalesharks Waves, Wild Wind and Whalesharks

  7. We saw hundreds of emus in all states. They were the dominant wildlife on this trip which was great because I love them. They’re so quirky.

Lessons learnt along the way

Follow the weather. The perception of a holiday is 95% dictated by the weather, especially when living under a canvas roof. A place that is simply magnificent in sunshine becomes bleak and horrid in wet, bleak, cold and overcast weather. During the winter months the North of Australia is the place to be. Gotta love warmth and sunshine.

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Just add sunshine to turn an ordinary scene into paradise

 

Less is more and will save you grief. We overpacked. Too much ‘stuff’. I tried to be minimalist when we packed but failed and it became obvious when at our first service, the mechanic assumed we were there to get our suddenly sagging rear springs replaced. We carried too much ‘just in case’ stuff and things that only got minimal use. The heavy generator and max tracks sat on the roof rack the whole way with no use, the boat only got used twice, the BBQ plate that got used once, there was too much stuff in our internal cupboards like the heavy camp oven that didn’t get used, too many clothes (in my section). The excessive weight of our vehicle became stringently obvious in Kapunda when the mechanic replacing the shockers couldn’t lift the vehicle with a 4 tonne hoist (our gvm is 3.3 tonnes). No wonder we suffered trying to cross the Simpson Desert and had the considerable expense of replacing our suspension.

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Up and over the dunes with our heavy load. There is a lot of useless weight on that roof rack just to start with and I’m pretty sure ‘Baby the fat bitch’ was bouncing her way up and down the floor. See my blog Crossing the Simpson Desert: What the heck were we thinking?

It’s nice to have a home to come back too. We did actually consider selling up everything to travel perpetually prior to this trip. Sell the house, hit the road and be totally free. That’s a romantic notion though and I’m glad we didn’t go down that path. It’s wonderful to be free but living in a confined space, always on the move takes its toll. I’m positive that the thrill of travel wouldn’t be as great if it was a way of life rather than just a holiday. I guess it’s a personal thing because some people happily do it but we need a place to go ‘home’. Then we can plan and get excited about the next adventure. And there will be more………..

Thank you

So to those people that faithfully followed my blog on this adventure, thank you for coming with us, thank you for the likes and nice comments and I hope you enjoyed the journey. I hope I encouraged other people to do similar and inspired you to visit these amazing places in our beautiful country. It is so worth it. We are much richer for the experience. Kevin and I have luckily both got our jobs back straight away so we didn’t even have to line up at Centrelink, which is a huge bonus. We took a risk and the reward was beyond our expectations.

There will be more………….

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Cape Leveque with my favourite WA colour scheme

Broome and Dampier Peninsula

OCHRE CLIFFS, BLUE SEA and CREAMY SAND with a touch of MELANCHOLIA

Laverton to Uluru: The Great Central Road into Australia’s RED HEART.

Just what is it about Lawn Hill Gorge?

QUOBBA STATION AND RED BLUFF : SWELLS, SURFERS AND HUMPBACK WHALES

Adrenaline filled adventure at Karajini National Park

and more …….

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Home is beautiful too, lets never forget that.