Pioneering fun in Swan Hill

The drive from Morgan to Swan Hill was fairly long and included some interesting town names along the way. Markaranka made me think of Mataranka though I’m certain taking a dip here would’ve been a tad icy compared to the tropical delights of Bitter Springs! Chinkapook I think was Miss7’s favourite name though.

After a couple of long driving days I was keen not to have to cook and as we’d run out of meat, was looking forward to a non-vegetarian meal for the night. Once we’d set up camp at the Big4 along the river in Swan Hill (almost required taking out a second mortgage to stay here! Note to self: get full quote over the phone before booking, not just the minimum price), we did some grocery shopping to stock us up for dinner tomorrow and another couple of breakfasts then it was off to the pub for tea.

The next morning we got ourselves a pass to the nearby Pioneer Precinct, paddle steamer and sound and light show. We spent the entire day wondering around the Pioneer Settlement and the kids had a great time learning how to make rope, taking a buggy ride with the gorgeous Clydesdale Gemma (Miss7 was a little disappointed she couldn’t pat the horse I think). We got our own personal guided tour of the paddlesteamer Gem – the original piece marking the start of the Pioneer Precinct, before playing ‘schools’ in the local Pioneer school, touring replica shops and homesteads.

The kids got to help make butter churning it the old fashioned way before enjoying it on some fresh and hot damper for a delicious morning tea. Miss7 made herself a peg doll with wooden peg and scraps of material before we watched the wood turner transform a square block of pine into a patterned ball for Miss7 to keep for herself. It was fairly quiet at the precinct despite it being the school holidays so we were spoilt by attention and one-on-one displays.

We decided to visit the blacksmith next, a quirky young man who’d learnt the trade from his grandfather as a twenty year old and been smithing at the Pioneer precinct for the past five years. He was a great story teller and kept us entertained as he made a small horseshoe in front of us. Miss7 was very excited when he told her that he could stamp her name onto it for her if she would like – the horseshoe is now among the treasured momentoes from the trip.

We headed back to camp late in the afternoon to get dinner started so that we could eat and return to the Pioneer Precinct at 7pm for the evening sound and light show. It was pretty cold by evening so we rugged up before heading back and we’re pretty happy when staff greeted us with some blankets to keep us warm during the show too.

The show used lights, water and fire to tell the story of the Murray River and Mallee region over time. Projections onto the sprays of water, along with bubbles and snow brought the prehistoric, indigenous and Pioneer settlement stories to life. It was a spectacular show and incredibly creative use of water and light to tell a story. The kids loved it and so did we.

Our pass entitled us to two days at the precinct so after we’d packed up camp the next morning, we headed back for some last minute activities before the drive home to Melbourne.

The precinct had a 100year + old Dodge Brothers car on site and I think mum was as excited as the kids to be given a ride around the precinct. We went and checked out the indigenous display and I think Miss7 was a little baffled at how Aboriginal people could use the bark of a giant red gum to build a canoe – she was most impressed. 

We made our way to the drapery shop where the day before we’d had a great showcase of the pianola and other ‘old fashioned’ musical contraptions including an old record player that the kid’s great grandmother would’ve listened and danced to. We headed out the back to try on some ‘olden days’ outfits for some family portraits in the studio before making our way outside for some more pics. Miss7 is now excited at the idea of getting her own ‘olden days’ clothes from the op shop to add to her dress ups box!

Back in the car for the final drive home. Though we’ve only been gone two weeks, it feels like we’ve been away much longer yet not long enough! Lots of new places to add to our growing list of places to either visit or revisit for more. 

Arriving back in Melbourne it was thankfully not raining and the sun was even promising to make an appearance before we need to acclimatise to the icy cold of Melbourne’s winter.

Where the bloody hell is Morgan?

Our final night at Brachina wasn’t as cold as the previous night so I managed to sleep without socks and beanie and woke to a less frosty camper.

We could hear our 5yr old neighbour scuffing his feet in the dirt patiently waiting for Miss7 to come out and play with him. The two of them played together while we started to pack up the site and they even managed to put on a few new cute little musical performances for us in the process.

Our neighbours were on their way up to Darwin through the centre and I’d offered to share my experiences and any hints I’d learnt along the way. After they’d finished their pack up they came over with their maps and we looked through some of the great sites they were about to embark on. It was so lovely reminiscing on our travels up the centre and time spent previously in Darwin visiting my sister.

We headed off by mid morning meandering our way slowly out of Brachina Gorge admiring the views and lookouts on the way. I think the Flinders Ranges are definitely a future holiday destination to pull up camp for at least a week to get out and explore.

We stopped in Orroroo at the Giant Gum Tree and then a picturesque park by the water for lunch. From there we drove through Peterborough and the kids and I reminisced about our visit here last year (had no excuse to visit the cute Dr at the hospital this time around – I’ve successfully avoided cockatoos at close range this time!). 

The plan was to make it to a Murray port town called Morgan (my brothers namesake) for the night. The drive was picturesque and changed from the rugged ranges of the national park to a gentler rolling landscape – different again to the flat vastness of far north of SA after leaving Birdsville.

The landscape was littered with countless abandoned ruins the entire trip – it seems such a shame to see so many old homesteads and drovers huts just left to crumble in the countryside. I daydreamed of restoring them and making homes for people or little day-stops for travellers.

We arrived at Morgan in the late afternoon and were greeted with a gorgeous port and familiar scenery of River Red Gums along the mighty Murray River. We were also greeted by phone service as our phones all started going off with missed calls and messages – seems it had been a while since we had contact with the outside world! 

It rained overnight at Morgan and it started to feel a little more like coming home. The kids played on the playground down at the port area while mum and I admired the view and mum grabbed a few souvenirs with my brothers name on them. The town was small (though still had two pubs) with a lovely Main Street overlooking the Murray and a ferry service to get across the river.

From here we were heading to Swan Hill for two nights before the final drive home to chilly Melbourne.

Farina to Flinders Ranges National Park

From Marree we headed to Farina for a morning exploring the old ruins of the former town. The town was slowly being restored by volunteers after a group of 30 Victorian travellers decided to try to bring back some of its former beauty. They now have around 220 volunteers over a nine week period each year working on restoration and running the bakery using the original, in tact underground bakers oven.

We explored for a few hours and checked out the campsite while we were there – definitely another site to pull up and camp when I next make the trip with some avid ‘free camp’ fans. 

Lunch at the bakery included a second helping of their pasties – the pastry was so delicious I couldn’t help myself! In Marree one of our fellow travellers recommended Brachina Gorge at Flinders Ranges National Park so we decided that would be our next stop.

I couldn’t resist taking mum to the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna where we’d enjoyed our feral antipasto platter last year. We were still too full from our stop at Farina for the platter so we opted for some wedges and a cold drink. Though I’d remembered the food I’d forgotten just how beautiful the hotel itself was. I would love to come back here and stay in the hotel among the artworks and gorgeous building.

We arrived at Brachina Gorge and planned to put money in envelopes for our campsite at the gate as the signage instructed us however, there were no envelopes or money box so we simply drove through with intentions of sticking a note on our camp for the rangers informing them that we’d drive to the office or pay online if possible.

It turns out that bookings must be made now for campsites and can only be done online (tricky when we’d had no service since leaving Birdsville and certainly had none here at Brachina). I found this out of course when a lovely young couple turned up at 5pm to let us know we were in their spot. They were really lovely about it though, and went off to another site they remembered was vacant when they booked.

As it got dark and we’d had our fire going, the young couple drove back to let us know that 3 other campers had turned up to the site they’d moved to but as it was so big, were happy for them to stay tonight and move back the next morning. They had also booked another backup site so we could move to that the next day. By this stage I was a bit teary and exhausted so was grateful not to have to pack up and move in the dark.

It got VERY cold by nightfall – the coldest night we’ve had so far in the camper. I went to bed with the hot water bottle, socks, flannelette pj’s, singlet, thermo long sleeve top, beanie and my dressing gown and slept under 2 blankets! Master15 doesn’t feel the cold and slept in jocks and socks (that he eventually removed as his feet got too hot?!).

We woke to a wet doona and canvas and water in a bucket outside had frozen solid on top during the night. We reluctantly did a rough pack up so we could move and let the young couple have their site back. I drove to where they were camped to offer them their camp fees back (they refused the money) and a bottle of wine for their trouble (they accepted this thankfully). They’d all also decided the area they were in was big enough for all of them so we could stay where we were!

Miss7 was pretty happy with this as she’d made friends with the 5 year old boy next door and the 2 of them were happily climbing trees and playing make believe. 

We went on a lovely long hike with Miss7’s new friend and his mum while Nanna stayed back to read. We followed the river bed up for ages admiring the views, climbing over rocks and water and playing with slime. On the way back we played Eye Spy when Miss7 turned around for a hint only to find a mob of Emus had walked up behind us! We couldn’t believe how close they were to us and didn’t seem phased by us at all. We walked quietly alongside them before they ran ahead of us and eventually into the trees. This has certainly been the trip for Emu watching.

Leaving Miss7 with our neighbours for some afternoon animal spotting, I took Master15 and mum for a drive to Wilpena Pound. While we were there were got some supplies for us and our neighbours and a few sweet treats to enjoy later (a sweet tooth is genetic in this family!). 

Master15 decided he couldn’t wait to get back to camp to enjoy his chocolate delight so he ate it in the car as I logged on to try and book us a 3rd night at our site. Midst booking he told me his tongue was itching and the back of his throat… luckily we had the epipen in the car with us but I didn’t want to use it if it could be avoided (neither did Master15!) I had antihistamine in my bag so I gave him one of those and we waited 5 minutes to see the effects. His lips began to tingle but no hives came up and his breathing remained fine so I gave him another antihistamine and waited 5 more minutes. Our anaphylaxis plan always includes antihistamine first, wait 10 minutes (unless symptoms worsen of course and breathing becomes an issue – then its straight to epipen) then reassess. After 10 minutes his symptoms had resolved themselves and he felt fine. 

During the drama I’d forgotten to finalise my booking and when I went to hit confirm, someone else had snuck in and booked the site from under me. Looks like we’re only staying 2 nights at Brachina. 

We headed back to camp via an old gravestone of a 2yr old girl who’d lost her life in 1860, some old ruins from a former drovers hut and about 30 odd kangaroos.

We ate dinner by the fire again after Miss7 and her new friend performed a musical concert for us. I added an extra layer to the bedtime wardrobe in the hopes of staying warm and not waking cold during the night tonight. If only I had some sort of 12v electric blanket to help keep me warm!

Familiar faces on the Birdsville Track

We could hear plenty of campers leaving to queue at the gates before dawn to be the first offsite when they opened at 7am. I was fairly confident that their plan to have all 7,000 campers offsite by 12noon was an ambitious one so we took our time to pack up and joined the queue a little later.

The drive back to Birdsville while less than 40km, took over 3hours and at one point we all turned off our cars and Miss7 and I pulled out the hot pink footy to have a kick on the side of the road. This prompted another little girl from a car in the line behind us to jump out of her car excitedly yelling “I do Auskick too!” and join in the fun.

As the trip back to town took so long, we stayed overnight before hitting the Birdsville Track the following day. For some reason our gas stove stopped working when we got back to town so I stopped in at the ‘more than a hardware store’ for some butane gas before making one last stop at the Birdsville Bakery.

The track was something I’d wanted to do for the past two years yet in 2015 and 2016 when I’d come through this part of the world it had been under water and open only to 4WD. I was determined this year to make the trek – even going so far as to get myself a new car that was 4WD with a 50mm lift kit.

The irony of having a solid 4WD with off-road camper and the track being in such good condition that the trusty RAV4 could’ve made it easily wasn’t lost on me! To think the track had been closed only a week earlier and we were now averaging around the 80-90km/hr speed slowing for some rocky spots and passing cars. I’d go so far to say that the Birdsville Development Track on the way into Birdsville was rougher than this.

We arrived at the Mungeranie Hotel, fuelled up and set up camp. After some hot showers and dinner we headed to the pub for a drink and bowl of chips. The pub reminded me a little of the Daly Waters hotel with its Akubra hats, thongs, shirts and ID cards pinned to the walls and ceiling. The quirky distinction here however, was the fairly large collection of people’s ‘rats tails’ nailed to the ceiling… I’m surprised at how many people happily cut these off and left them behind – there were a few there that had clearly been growing proudly for decades before their untimely end at the Mungeranie Hotel!

When we sat down I noticed a woman looking at me and thought I’d sat in her seat. She approached us and I immediately recognised her face but couldn’t think from where until she asked if we’d been at Home Valley last year. It turns out that we’d both been travelling the Gibb River Road last year on our respective family laps around Oz and now, both families had made the trek out to BRB2017. We’d managed to camp only two bays away from them at the festival and even stayed the same nights in the caravan park before finally crossing paths on the Birdsville Track! 

We spent the night by the fire with them enjoying some drinks and reminiscing on our stories from the Kimberley and travels around Oz. As footy fans and with family in Melbourne it’s likely they’ll make the trek over from Kalgoorlie to Victoria in the future so we exchanged details and farewelled each other the following morning with plans to stay in touch. I’m still blown away at the fact we managed to find each other again in the middle of nowhere after both having gone back to ‘real life’ and taken time off for a quick holiday to Birdsville.

The second half of the track was in great condition too so we made good time getting along it and stopped for lunch at Clayton’s Bore just after noon. I’d hoped to camp here the night but I was met with a few ‘there’s nothing here’, ‘I’m not interested in another hot spring’ and ‘the flies are so bad’ comments that I decided the troups wouldn’t be happy with this plan (besides, you’ve always got to leave something for next time). Miss7 had a dip and I soaked my feet in the hot spring tub while we ate lunch.

After stopping off at the Lake Harry ruins where Miss7 managed to score a $2 coin from an older guy using his metal detector and we got some photos, we got to Marree and checked into the Oasis caravan park.  

We took a look around town at some of the Ghan railway remnants before making a stop at the old pub with its beautiful stonework and museum of Tom Kruse the Birdsville Track mailman. Sitting outside enjoying a cold beer in the afternoon sun we started chatting to some fellow travellers. A couple of ladies had their daughters playing in a makeshift treehouse that they’d put together up the road so Miss7 joined them while we enjoyed a chat over some cold drinks. When Miss7 came back I asked if she’d had fun – she was happy talking of her new friends and when I asked about the cubby she replied ‘I wee’d in it!’. Apparently this was a good thing, all the girls had done it and it was just part of making it their home!

As the sun set with its red and orange hues, it set off the pinks and purples in the clouds and sky in the north and east. The full moon started its rise over the horizon in the east as a bright yellow in a cloudless sky. It’s moments like this I wish I had a better camera. It cooled rapidly after this so we farewelled our companions and headed back to camp.

We’d booked a powered site and were looking forward to a hot shower. Turns out a fellow camper had a faulty appliance that kept tripping the power out across the entire park! Whenever the power went out, the water would turn off and what was left was cold. We could easily have been staying at the Mirage Caravan Park where we had the illusion of a hot shower but where you were instead left standing naked in a dark shower block with no water just hoping for warmth and a wash.

Whip cracking and country music

Final day of BRB2017 today with a country flavour to keep us entertained. Miss7 and I started our morning with a special performance from festival hosts ‘The Crackup Sisters’ S.T.Ruth and Twiggy were a very funny and talented duo who put on an hysterical show with hoopla hoops, creative whip cracking, some magic, humour and even a pet cow (dog in cowhide). Now that Miss7 knows they live at 100 Main Street Winton QLD, she’s determined to visit and help the, out with their dream of creating an arts studio for outback kids.

We followed up the morning entertainment with some line dancing lessons that eventually included the Nutbush, Busstop and a range of other dances I was impressed I could remember in daylight and sober!

Once we headed to the concert area Miss7 had to ensure she was right in front of the stage whenever the Crackup Sisters were on stage. Today we managed to have a great slide down Big Red and Nanna and Master15 had full view of our exploits. I even managed a go and was surprised and just how much speed you could pick up going down the hill.

Today seemed like a lot of fairly short performances before Troy Cassar-Daley came on for a great set. He’s a genuine performer with some great stories to tell. He was followed by the McClymonts who started their set as it was dark and really got the crowd going – I couldn’t believe their bass player was 38 weeks pregnant! Lucky the excitement of the gig didn’t end up in a BRB baby.

The headline act got tonight was Lee Kernaghan celebrating 25 years of his outback club. His opening song showcased a video clip on the big screen and we thought it was just part of the opening of his big show. It turned out that most of his songs were accompanied by a video clip and for quite a while there we thought he was miming. The dance floor area seemed to fill as quickly as many families seemed to pack up their chairs and leave.

His video clips were a little MA15+ with plenty of bikini clad women pole dancing in the back of utes or with bare chested men laying on top of them. I’ve enjoyed some of his songs in the past but as a live performer I thought this was a pretty disappointing end to BRB2017. 

Rockin the Simpson Desert

After falling asleep to the sounds of ‘Party rock anthem’ and ‘Footloose’, I was awoken by the sounds of the first morning helicopter ride over the Simpson Desert for day 2 of BRB2017. 

The evening had been quite mild and today promised to be pretty warm with plenty of dappled cloud cover in the otherwise clear blue sky.

The festival was kick started today by the Big Red Bash Drag race – even in the middle of the desert there’s a fair contingent of blokes keen to dress up in women’s clothing – Priscilla Queen of the Desert style. Miss7 and her new friend Brissy11 thought it quite the spectacle – I was impressed at some of the costumes and that they’d not only made it to the top of Big Red to start the race but ran at a fair pace to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

I’d prepped some afternoon snacks and dinner ready for later and packed up our chairs to take down to the concert area. Although we got there not long after gates opened, the crowd was already thick with camp chairs and akubra adorned music lovers.

KFC decided to ‘bring the bird to Birdsville’ with a huge dining area, truck, slide and art activities. While we weren’t interested in their food – the kids and I did have a go on their Big Red slide before waiting for ages so that Miss7 could get her face painted. The young girl doing face painting had made the rookie mistake of starting the queue with full face paint and so had to offer the same to every kid that lined up afterwards – and she was doing it all with only a tiny brush – no sponge in sight! 

When we got back to our seats, Nanna was happily rocking along to Russell Morris so Miss7 and I headed up Big Red with the boogie board and some solid shoes and socks. I happily sat on top of Big Red to take in the view while Miss7 practised her sand dune surfing now to the sounds of Kate Cebrano.

We waited on Big Red until sunset to take in the view and snap a few pics. The cloud cover had remained and the clouds formed many small patches all seemingly making a run for the sun and creating lovely patterns in the sky. The colours of Big Red changed as the sun got closer to touching the dunes. From deep red to blue tones when you got close.

After grabbing some quick pre prepared dinner and a sneaky couple of beers, we were back to the concert for the final set with James Reyne and Mark Seymour. It was lovely watching Nanna having a good time and even lovelier to see Master15 so happy that she was having such fun.

The clouds seemed to have chased the sunset all the way past the horizon and though the moon was bright, it wasn’t enough to keep it warm. 

After a great day of music it was off to bed to the sound of Dolly Parton ‘9 to 5’ followed by ‘knocking on heaven’s door’. Our camp neighbours certainly have eclectic tastes in music.

Welcome to Bashville 2017

I could hear people leaving the caravan from before the crack of dawn to head to Big Red. I was happy to lay in bed until a more reasonable 7.30 and let the early birds queue at the gate – the line the day before for early bird ticket holders was apparently 12km long!

As we packed up I checked the water tank where I had repaired a slow leak yesterday to see if it was still holding out. The leak had started again so I was under the van in my newly washed clothes to try and stop it. Our camping neighbours had some plumbing repair tape (I’d used all of ours driving to Mitchell Falls last year and forgotten to replace) and marine selastine that greatly assisted the repairs. As long as it holds for the next three days out at Big Red we’ll be fine.

We grabbed our wrist bands at the information centre along with some souvenirs. Miss7 then sat and watched a play while we walked across to the bakery for a cuppa and some sweet snacks for later. We headed out to Big Red just before noon and enjoyed an easy drive out with good road conditions and not much traffic.

We could see the sea of cars and campers before we got to the entrance – it’s certainly a bigger event this time around! We were guided by one of the 350 event volunteers to the back blocks where we set up the camper as the sun beat down. Despite it only being about 23 degrees, the Simpson desert offered little shade and certainly none anywhere near our camp. The awnings were to be our only campsite shade for the next few days.

The kids and I headed up to the top of Big Red for a slide down the sand dune on the boogie board. I was quickly reminded just how hard it is to walk up the 40′ sandy hill whilst dodging the country’s biggest bindies! On the way back to camp Miss7 boots had quickly filled with prickles scratching her ankles so I sacrificed my feet, gave her my thongs and walked back to camp barefoot – it was a slow and painful experience! 

We grabbed our camp chairs and some drinks and snacks and headed to the concert area ready for the festival to start. A Welcome to Country via a gorgeous video and live elder welcome, a few obligatory sponsor acknowledgements and Bashville was officially opened for 2017.

Missy Higgins opened the festival and she was brilliant. I fondly recalled all of my favourites from my teens as I sang along with Miss7 on my shoulders in the dance area and then on my knee at our seats (my back didn’t hold out very long!). Big Red again made a magical backdrop to the lights and sounds of the Bash. 

The dust lay thick like a fog on the horizon as the sun set over Big Red. I guess 6-7,000 people camping in the dirt will do that. I was grateful for our campsite up the back as we made our way along the track to camp together with the thousands kicking up the dust along the way. The foot traffic settled significantly by the time we got to camp as too did the dust.

Destination Birdsville

Despite being one of the last to leave camp in the morning we were off by 9am heading toward Windorah. We were met with a ‘Sold Out’ sign on the first fuel pump we came across but after a short queue we managed to find a pump and a friendly face to get the tank filled.

While we were in town we stocked up on some groceries and an overpriced leopard print sun hat for Miss7 as I’d left our sun hats at home (they’re hibernating in the cold in Melbourne). Travelling with vegans is easy on your meat supply but I’m not sure I stocked enough fresh veggies to cope so buying them now was an expensive exercise! Back on the road and despite Google maps telling me today’s drive would take 13 hours (!!) we managed it in around 6 with a few stops on the way.

One of the stops along the way was at a drop loo where some fellow travellers quickly warned us off using the loo for the smell. According to them they were the worst loos in Australia – they’d clearly never used the loos at Mt Connor or Kata Tjuta!

When I stopped at the start of the gravel road to let some air out of the tyres a local cop pulled up to check I was ok and told me not to bother with the air. I assumed that advice came with a guarantee that if I blew a tyre, he’d come and help me change it and I hit the gravel ready for the bumpy next stage of driving. I’d forgotten how rough this road was – with all the traffic heading to Birdsville there was a lot of dust but the new car handled it all easily.

Once we hit town in Birdsville and refuelled I got mum to run into the caravan park on the off chance they’d have a site. When I’d called to book several weeks ago there was a 7 day minimum stay on powered sites or 3 days unpowered so I’d opted for free camping on the common. As mum arrived the lady in front of her was cancelling her powered site to opt instead for a cabin – she was already sick of camping so we scored her site for the night.

After setting up we put a load of washing on and enjoyed a nice hot shower before making our way to the pub for a meal and a pot of beer. The whole town was packed – much busier than our last visit in 2015 and the pub had smorgasbord meals on offer to help feed the hundreds of people there that night. The food was delicious and the beer lovely so I had a second pot before we headed back to camp ready for the drive out to Big Red tomorrow for our three days of fun at the Big Red Bash.

Fire and rain in Thylungra

After our last sulphur shower at Charlotte Plains we were back on the road counting emus by 9am. We refuelled in Cunnamulla but decided to head towards Birdsville via Eula rather than Charleville. We banked on having a better run than the KFC truck that got bogged in Eula on the way to the bash.

The drive was long and hot today. When we packed up at Charlotte Plains it was cold so I’d left my long sleeve top on and was quickly regretting it as the outside temperature got to 28 degrees (only 11 back in Melbourne apparently so I dare not complain!).

Quick stop for lunch by the side of the road and we were back on our way for an arvo stop in Quilpie. There was more traffic on the road this leg of the trip and most drivers were courteous, moving off the slim bitumen onto the side gravel to happily share the road, slowing to avoid too many rocks flicking up onto passing cars. One impatient douche was in too much of a hurry to slow down though and flew past us on the gravel flicking a big rock onto our windscreen leaving a lovely crack! I’m certainly breaking in the new car on this road trip.

In Quilpie we got some random phone service while waiting in the queue for fuel so I got to brag about the weather to friends and family back home. The Main Street of Quilpie is lined with rustic metal cut outs of cattle all the way down the medium strip – it really is a lovely town. We made a quick stop for the loo and some cold water and take away beers at the pub before we were on the road again toward Windorah. On our last visit here the library was running a free teddy bears picnic for kids and Miss7 (then Miss5) got to make teddy bear biscuits to enjoy in the car.

The drive west from Quilpie showed off some spectacular sky views. The sky was filled with fat fluffy clouds with a few breaks in them where the sun’s rays were sneaking through and creating a heavenly backdrop for us to drive into.

Drove for about an hour or so before pulling into the Thylungra campsite for the night – Nanna’s first side of the road free camp! Even though it was still 25 degrees we lit the fire and ate dinner outside with a cold beer then off to bed just as the rain hit to cool things down.

Fell asleep to the sounds of rain falling on the canvas roof – not quite the same as a tin roof but bloody close when you’re camping in remote places around this beautiful country.

Soaking it up at Charlotte Plains

The drive from Cobar to Cunnamulla was less about 80’s music and more about Emu spotting! I think I lost count after about the 20th mob of Emus – most with young though we never saw the black and white coloured babies.

Just before hitting Cunnamulla we turned off to head to Charlotte Plains Station after I’d seen a friend camp here only a few weeks earlier. I was looking forward to a 2 night stop & revive. At the first gate we had the option of 15km of bitumen then 15km dirt or 20km of gravel to get to the homestead so we took the gravel. The road was in good shape though you could tell they’d had rain recently and our new car and clean camper were quickly caked with rich red mud.

We arrived at the homestead and were greeted by the two youngest residents – a gorgeous 4yr old girl who hit it off immediately with Miss7 and her 2yr old brother. I paid up for two nights with power at the shearing sheds and a tour the next day for mum and I to take with the owner (grandma to the kids).

At the shearing sheds campground we set up with four other campers and joined them by the fire with a glass of red wine. It took some effort to get that glass of wine – mum had brought it for me and it had a cork top so it took us all some time and cursing to get the bloody thing open with the old fashioned bottle opener in the camp kitchen. Needless to say I ended up drinking two glasses that night after the effort of opening the bottle.

It was a cold night in the camper down to about 2degrees overnight and I was awoken at 6am with a slight drop on my face. In my sleepy dilusion I put my hand up to feel the tent and ended up with a deluge of icy drops on my face to wake me up! I mopped it up with a towel and laid back in bed for a bit to keep warm and let the sun come up properly before getting up for the day.

We met Robyn (who had brought her Miss4 with her to play with Miss7) and another couple at the woodshed to hear about some of the history of Charlotte Plains Station that had been in her family for 94 years. Master15 was hoping to skip the tour and get dirty doing some real farm work but the truck they were expecting hadn’t turned up so he joined the tour. After seeing and hearing about the shearing shed,  Jack’s hut (& later Willy’s hut), the station cemetery and the homestead – we’d heard Robyn speak for hours about her family’s history – Miss7 had run off for lunch with her new found friend and we went back to camp for our lunch.

After lunch we grabbed our bathers and towel and headed to the bore and hot tubs, I think Miss7 may have been more excited at the site of the ‘cacoons’ (aka kayaks) by the hot bore drain. We spent a few hours soaking in some old tubs hooked up to the bore, floating in the bore drain and kayaking. As the sun began setting, the colours over the bore got richer and more vibrant – the blue of the sky was in stark contrast to the reds of the earth, and the greens from the recent rains were being enjoyed by some local Roos having a nibble and paying no attention to us.

We navigated the slippery and wet dirt roads back to camp, via the abandoned Jack’s hut and Willy’s camel paraphernalia and after a failed attempt to find a recently dead big black boar out on an old track. A hot shower to wash off the ‘mousse’ (aka moss) from our bathers and I was ready for a yummy hot dinner in the camp kitchen. It turns out that while the sulphur of the springs is great for weary bones and softening the skin, it’s not so good for Pandora bracelets. My once silver bracelet is now a golden bronze.

A quick game of cards with the kids before bed and pack up in the morning. This is definitely somewhere you could pull up camp for a week. Maybe next time we’ll stay down by the bore at the unpowered bush sites – who needs a hot shower when you can soak in a hot bore tub every day?