AWOL Around Australia… A Drive In The Country – part 2

So we followed the Kidman Way, named after Sidney Kidman – once the biggest land holder in Australia, to the town of Griffith and then onto our stop for the night, on the banks of the Lachlan River at Hillston.


Sunrise the next morning.

A brief run following a main dirt road that ran along the river that morning.

Good size Goanna, doing a terrible job of hiding.

Passing through the town of Condobolin, we found a very country Australia art exhibition.

Natures art.

Then back on the tarmac, and onto the country city of Dubbo. Fuelled up (surprisingly expensive, compared to the smaller country towns…) then pushed on again. To the one pub town of Mendooran.

The pups were loving having new homes to explore.

More free camping. We were using the WikiCamps app to find these spots, which is a user information provided app, for camping all over Australia. You can search by filters, must allow dogs, no charge, 4×4 access only, etc. Also people can leave comments, which is a blessing and a curse. I’m undecided on whether this is a good idea, it makes it easy, maybe too easy to find camps. Removes the joy of discovering places, and can mean places can get very busy that might not otherwise. Anyway, I’m being a right hypocrite and using the app but not really contributing at the moment (since writing that we have left a couple of positive reviews for paid sites). Dunno why, the cat’s outta the bag and it ain’t going back in…

By now we had covered most of the distance we needed to, and could spend the next week or so exploring this area and slowly make our way to Coffs.

So we headed due east. Resupplying at the horse focused town of Scone.

Scone, tourist information.

Before heading out and then up, to the Barrington Tops wilderness area.

Wild fennel grew in abundance by the roadside. I tried digging up a bulb, but it looked pretty much inedible. I harvested some fronds to add an extra flavour to our food.

This is the second Land Rover crazy house I’ve seen with a small Toyota as back up. You can imagine the conversation/s that lead up to this point!

The road in is straightforward enough, until you get to the climb up to ‘the Tops’ . Narrow dirt, with the edge of the road again being the edge. I suffer from vertigo, a hangover from having Minieres Disease, so I’m more affected by such things, but anyway, I was glad when we got to the top.

Wild dogs, dingoes and foxes are not tolerated by the farmers around here. There was also a poison baiting program going on in the National Park and the State Forest – in fact in pretty much every government managed area of NSW we saw the same signs. Must be a big problem.

However the campsite was worth the testing road up.

Unbeknownst to me, I managed to pick up a leach through my sandals down by the creek. only noticed by N once it was full of my blood and crawling across the rug. Thoroughly grossed her out!
The first of a few meals garnished with fennel fronds!

We were camped here with one other guy, and his dog. Toyota FJ Cruiser, roof top tent, awning. All good stuff – ie; he wasn’t a hobo. We waved at each other as we drove in and out. He didn’t make any more effort to engage, which suited me fine, he also didn’t appear to go anywhere during the three odd days we were there. Not judging, just noting all sorts of people do this, it actually made a nice change from some of the bullshit conversations you have in more crowded areas (I am a grump).

Much as I would have liked to just chill in the forest today, I knew today was the day our house sale was supposed to be completing. When I bought that house, the then (somewhat mad) vendor had made themselves unavailable on completion day, resulting in me having to pay for something they should have done, to get it settled. If you’ve bought a house, your first, you’ll know how keen you are to get it just done and finished. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy, so we drove to find some service so I could at least check-in with emails and let the conveyancer know I was available if required. That drive ended up being the best part of two hour to the nearest town on Gloucester.

Full English. No point doing anything on an empty stomach.
Good views on the way down.

Anyway, all went through ok (‘a few last minute hiccups…’ somehow you get the feeling that’s always the case) we killed time in Gloucester whilst waiting for the call.

We dropped into the tourist information and picked up some good leaflets (told you I’m getting old) and were just utilising their large map when the lady in there asked us how we’d heard about them? We hadn’t, and what we were doing in the area – making our way up to Coffs for the WRC – which she knew nothing about. She then tried to advise us on a route between here and there, when it became apparent she was just guessing on where she would go, I wrapped up the conversation, in the nicest possible way (I am a grump, but don’t wing it in customer service roles…).

From the leaflets – Barrington Tops is such a dense wilderness area that a plane that crashed here in 1981, has never been found. Despite multiple search attempts, the most recent being in 2013, where they expected to go into areas that ‘may not have ever been visited by man’ or words to that effect. Anyway, compelling stuff.

The other plane wreck unfortunately involved only recently Prime Minister – Malcolm Turnbull’s father (I’m thinking that the title of Prime Minister in Australia should be changed to Prime Minister For Now), the young Malcolm’s parents had split up and he was living with his father when it happened. Shame, the young Turnbull obviously inherited his father enterprising spirit. As his father was a self made man, and Malcolm did pretty well for himself.

As an aside, many of these tales of aircraft crashes, the pilot always seems to have a risk taking streak about them – not something that necessarily goes well with flying, outside of combat one would think. It makes me think about my own risk vs reward ‘calculations’, some think I’m pretty out there, others think I’m way conservative. I dunno, just trying to get the best out of life, not hurt anything too much along the way, whilst not checking out too early.

So we drove back up into the mountains. It had been very hot and humid down in the town, so for once we were able to do what the guys in the US do when it gets too hot, and ‘just drive up into the mountains’.

I tried running a few local trails that afternoon, but most were closed.

Or due to dickheads with big tyres and no brain coming up when the trails were wet, according to the locals. Can’t fix stupid unfortunately.

Got my vego on for dinner that night.

Garnished with, you guessed it. Fennel fronds!

So, as it turned out our rest day wasn’t a rest day really. Anyway, themz the breaks. With hindsight I would have got the house sale and all ‘normal life’ stuff sorted before we left, but of course life is never that perfect is it? You want to balance leaving work in the right way, with your own needs. Anyway, first world problems!

We headed into the National Park, a brief chat with the Ranger on the way in, they were conducting the fox/feral dog control program.

You like yellow right?

Pretty trails, although the sky above was somewhat glum. Which after a while turned to sporadic but heavy rain. The trails were straightforward, but as the rain got heavier and the closed in bush not really providing any views we decided to head out and push on. We re-traced our steps back into Gloucester, refueled and restocked and then drive a short while north to the free camping at Bretti Reserve. I would have liked to have gotten further, but recognised that the concentration of driving these very steep roads, plus a few nights of broken sleep with our two old boy dogs meant my energy levels were a bit lacking. So we headed down by the river where the caravans couldn’t get (in theory) and pitched up.

I tried having an afternoon nap, but it wasn’t happening so instead I just got a lot of my book read, Donna Tart – The Goldfinch, worth indulging if you get there chance – I need to re-read her other two novels. The Secret History, which I loved and The Little Friend which I didn’t.

The sky was overcast but not foreboding in anyway, it was still properly hot and still. We were both in shorts and not much else.

“Big Chief’ in the caravan behind us, almost jackknifed it getting it in and then ground it out getting it out. I helped him do some of the manoeuvring, but in the end down here wasn’t where he wanted to be.

I crashed after dinner for a couple of well needed hours, and the woke up as N came to bed, watched some of The American’s on the iPad and called it a night.

The rain started about midnight. I awoke but thought it was probably just a passing shower, we had a few of them the last few days. The ground down by the river was so rocky you were lucky to get a peg in more than a few inches. I hadn’t put in the extra guy ropes or the fly sheet, mainly because I didn’t think we would need it, but also wasn’t confident of getting it pitched properly.

Sometime later I woke again, still raining, dogs want to go out. Out we go, big sag in the awning, full of rainwater, I drop the awning, whilst mostly managing to stay dry. I lie there contemplating what to do. I can try putting on the fly sheet, guaranteed I’ll get properly soaked doing that, and no guarantee I can pitch it in this ground. There is no wind to speak of, so there isn’t much chance of the tent getting damaged so I decide to wait it out, see how long the OzTents single canvas (albeit recently silicon waterproofed) can hold this continuous heavy rain, and the constant big drips off the trees onto the same spots…

6am we start to feel a mist coming through. 6 hours, not too bad and enough to grab a bit of needed broken sleep to go with my post dinner nap. We made a plan for the pack up in the torrential rain and got to it. How quickly can we pack up if required? About 15 minutes I reckon. It’s not pretty, and I normally advocate taking a bit longer on pack up to pay dividends come next set-up, but needs must and we got everything in (mostly) dry, except the tent of course. We said goodbye to the cows and drove out just before 0630.

The misty mountains were beautiful though.

As we were to discover, it rains a lot in these parts.

I put that t shirt on dry after trying to towel off in the rain before getting the the car, went well…

I had had plans today to make some km, and get a bit further north. We wanted to visit the Nymboida area, near the border with Queensland. This had been the destination of one of our very first 4×4 trips, about 13 years ago, with the Range Rover Club of Queensland. First, let’s knock over the 150km to the next town. Get some coffee and breakfast and then work it out.

We managed to pick up some AM radio on the way, all talk was of the rain. People calling in, 9mm here, 14mm there, hailstones somewhere else. N and joked what would the announcer talk about if it hadn’t rained…?

The drive up through New England was beautiful. Of course, to us poms the rain seemed appropriate for a region named so. We rolled into the town of Walcha (pron Walka), found some coffee and bacon and egg rolls, and immediately all seemed right with the world. The town had a nice feel about it, I had half made my mind up on the drive up and did some googling while I waited for breakfast. We decided to check into the caravan park, get our gear out and dry, and get ourselves sorted after multiple nights bush camping and the added hoo-ha of getting the house sale through.

Sometimes you change the plan and regret it, but most times it pays to go with you gut, and it was so.

Alby – the legend.
More Land Rover crazy. Look almost like model cars, hey?
Walcha has many art pieces dotted around the town.
Country cop car.

A couple of great days just relaxing, the (young) lady who owned the caravan park was lovely and had three Pomeranian dogs, so N and her hit it off a treat. Pub lunch, laundry, I managed to actually get a trip report up – easy to get behind on the journal I’m beginning to realise, and then too tempting just to skip to what happened in the last 24 hours – first world problem again, having too much fun I guess! I also got some good information on the surrounding area and decided we needed to do more exploring around here before pushing north.


More to follow, cheers.

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