AWOL Around Australia… Northward Wanderings

We took the Solitary Islands Way, past this impressive Sikh Temple.

Then hit some dirt roads through the forests heading north.

Passing at one point a couple of ‘P plate’ trucks full of young lads – ah, it is ‘schoolies week’ the national celebration for kids who have finished high school.

We went round!


At the small seaside community of Minnie Waters I saw a National Parks sign for Sandon Village – 10km. This track wasn’t on my map, but it was where we wanted to go, great let’s take it. 10km up the beach, lovely. Tyres down and off we went.

We got to Sandon Village, at least part of it. Only to find it was separated from the other part, the part with the road north, by a small but nevertheless significant piece of ocean.

Oh, well there’s nothing for it but to follow in our own wheel tracks and scoot back down the beach.

After all of these shenanigans time is getting on, so we trundle to the village of Wooli and book into ‘camping hell’ caravan park – all the bush sites being full what with it being school holidays – we are definitely going to have to rethink this east coast touring…

Bloody expensive too, to add insult to injury.

In the end the ‘caravan park’ in Wooli turned out to basically be a retirement community, just without the official title. This got us thinking and talking about living somewhere suchlike – the idea seems detestable to us at the moment, but who knows how you’ll think in 20 or 30 years time, that’s as long as I’ve been an ‘adult’… It was cute to see all the little homes, gardens and interactions – sundowners every night, morning tea scones.

However it did get us thinking about living down some dirt road on the coast, with a plot big enough to grow our own fruit and veggies. The ‘prescribed’ life isn’t the only way, hey?

Next morning we aired up and headed out. Back into Grafton as it happens. To sort out some extra phone data, as we were chewing through it and it’s cheap nowadays. Then back to the same hipster cafe for some tasty and healthy delights, to offset all the sausage rolls we (me) have knocked over lately.

We headed north, through the ‘Beef Capital’ Casino (yeah, there are A LOT of ‘Beef Capitals’ in Oz). Then onto the country town of Kyogle. I badly needed to service the Land Cruiser and camping at Kyogle Showgrounds seemed like a good place to tick that box.

I just snapped this randomly walking back from the town. So green! We’re not in South Australia anymore Dorothy.

Dinner that night was Thai Crispy pork salad, a shameless ripoff of a great lunch we had at Moonee Beach, just north of Coffs Harbour. Perfect as the weather was starting to warm up.

A simple dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar. Really the fresh herbs, crunchy vegetables and belly pork are the stars of the show.

Next morning we awoke to a beautiful day and I cracked on with the first decent service if the Cruiser, since we left for the Red Centre.

Engine oil and filter. Air filter rotation/wash (I carry a spare). Fuel filter. Spark plugs. A good amount of time spent underneath the truck, checking bushings, trans fluid levels, greasing grease points, etc. As usual, ticking these boxes generates a few more to take care of. One bushing on the new suspension already had a small split in it, and the rear tyres were looking extremely average, and I think the engine mounts are toast. I’ll need to spend another morning, rotating the tyres and fitting the new handbrake shoes I have. I’ll keep an eye on those other issues – it was too hot and humid to want to work all day (that’s my excuse), and the rain threatened for the rest of the day.

I took a stroll around the town of Kyogle, window shopping – house prices are temptingly cheap, for a slice of basically paradise – again the old age question just rears it’s ugly head. What does one do to earn a (half) decent crust here?

The rain did eventually come in a short and very heavy burst. We bailed in the tent but we’re back outside ten minutes later. We made a few preparations, in case it was a wet pack up in the morning.

Cooked dahl. These (bloody tasty) lentil based dishes would be a staple for us. As we tried to keep part of our diet vegetarian whilst on the road. Not easy I admit.

So we settled down to watching a good movie we happened to find on You Tube (The Postcard Bandit – a movie about an Australian bank robber in the 90’s. A bit before our time here, but he robbed a lot of banks in South Australia as they were an easy target!). Sometimes its nice to have a steady internet connection while camping.

However there is something about these very cheap campsites, especially close to a town. ‘Semi permanent residents. Arguing. Of no fixed abode bogans, etc.’ those are my notes at the time and says all you need to know really. It had served our purpose, but it was time to move on.

We awoke to a dry morning. We could see rain clouds coming and so prioritised getting the tent down and our gear away dry. Then did the right thing and took the used car parts and oil to the town waste facility.

The drive out from Kyogle to Nimbin was very pretty, again the green-ness of everything almost overwhelming for our South Australian conditioned eyes. The Nimbin rocks came into view.

We stopped at, and had a walk around the ‘alternative’ capital of Australia. Touristy of course, but it doesn’t fail to raise a smile.





We had many offers to buy weed! Just imagine the quality… Buying off the streets here. Anyway, we’re way too square for such things these days. N thought she saw a dodgy undercurrent on the streets, maybe, proper bad drugs are an issue for any country Australian town in this day and age.

From here we headed up to Border Ranges National Park. A World Heritage listed area, and a rainforest that holds clues back to Australia originally being part of Gondwana Land.

Simple enough dirt roads on the way in. The overcast conditions we had seen most of the morning now turning to actual rain, which soon became torrential. So dark at times under the canopy that we were using the spotlights to see where we were going (and also to warn any others, coming the opposite direction of our approach on these narrow rainforest tracks). Wipers going full tilt and spotties on at 11am in the morning, it was certainly feeling like an adventure!

We arrived at the first lookout to find ourselves well and truly immersed in the clouds. Despite the fact we were robbed of the traditional view, the misty ethereal feeling of standing on the edge of the ancient volcano, whilst looking out into a sea of nothingness is not one I would trade.

The worst of the rain had past, and now we were just in a misty wonderland.

The crazy growth that only a rainforest brings.

We took every trail there was to take up here. As is typical of a National Park, nothing technical or challenging, but a proper 4×4 is always reassuring overly competent when the conditions turn inclement. Gun to a knife fight and all of that.

The sun did finally come out, as we were making our way down the western slopes of the ranges. Bathing everything in an almost eye burningly irridescent green.

Driving out, again through some picturesque countryside.

It was time to start thinking about camp. We had a couple of options upcoming, Woodenbong first, a bit crowded and a few too many people of no fixed abode, again. We pushed on to Urbenville. To have the ‘forestry park’ camp all to ourselves, why so quiet for this free camp, even though the Woodenbong one was from only from $5 a night? No signage for starters, plus only toilets, no water, no showers. Anyway, we weren’t complaining. Any place to yourselves is worth its weight in gold in this part of the country – or anywhere really.

Drying out the recently washed air filter.

Here it was time to finish the truck maintenance, Pt 2. This was actually an even better spot, still flat but with so many trees the shade cover was awesome. During the previous inspection a couple of days ago I had noticed the rear tyres  were significantly more worn than the fronts. Not more worn in terms of tread depth, just more hammered…



That’s the result of shouldering the brunt of the plus 3 (metric) ton load. I imagine most of the damage was done up the Oodnadatta Track, but still, we had run some gnarly trails since then. Anyway, those bad boys needed rotating badly, even so, I think I’ll still be up for a new set of tyres before we go to Tasmania. So luckily I carry a few jacks, so I could rotate the tyres by myself. While I was at it I fitted the new handbrake shoes I had ordered in at Coffs Harbour Toyota, at despite feeling good on the flat our handbrake was not holding on the really steep hills. My mechanic mate Ashley thinks new shoes might still not be enough, and so there is a mod we can do if they don’t work. Anyway, I haven’t had a chance to really test them out, but they already feel way better then the old shoes.

So those jobs done we spent a lazy day in and around Urbenville. N made a pagan offering, to scare off the locals (the things you do when you don’t have a job to go to…)

I made beef curry.

We took the picturesque bitumen roads out before once again spearing off onto a random dirt road that too, us up into the local hills.

A decent climb for about an hour led us to this open swampy plateau.

Then again into big tree country.

We took the track out to the falls, our expectations low as none of this area was publicised. We found a cool little pool on the way.

Bit of a slope getting down to the falls, but absolutely worth it.

Not much flow this time of year, but the big trees brought down shows how large it can get. Anyway just a cool spot to find.

The wind had been right up all day. In fact for the last few days many areas of the country had been experiencing gale force conditions. Hidden amongst the mountains we had been somewhat sheltered from it, but trying to take this track out, we got our serve.

Too much for the parang (machete) this one. We deliberated about whether to clear the track or back track. N was in favour of dragging/cutting the tree out of the way, but there was a good couple of hours work here to do that. Plus the wind was still right up, so there was danger not just from falling foliage, but never discount the fire risk in Oz.. There was potentially another route out (at least on the map) and if not there was maybe a 30 minute back track.

We tried the alternative route. This sign, not a problem.

Unfortunately a familiar outcome halfway down the track.

So round we went, glad there were no similar blockages around this route, that would have meant several hours of detour.

Anyway, this way out wasn’t too bad.

New growth on the eucalypts.

We passed couple of vehicles on the way in and alerted them to the issues up ahead.

Now we were back onto familiar territory. When I say familiar, I mean we were here about 12 years ago. Coming down to this area was one of the first trips we did in our old Range Rover Classic. We were living in Brisbane at the time and my Dad happened to be visiting from the UK.

So I knew what was in store at Bald Rock, but still worth the detour.

Whilst I climbed the monolith, I looked back to where we had come from and could watch a bushfire get going in live time. Later I looked at the fire map, it wasn’t exactly where we had been, but still sobering enough.

Now onto the town of Stanthorpe, Queensland. First time I had been back in this state since I was in the Army. Time to find a camp.

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