Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tracking Australian Silo Art - Victoria

Last September we spent the evening camped at Thallon in Queensland. We were there so that we could photograph the towns beautifully painted silos.

In 2015, the first silo ever painted in Australia was in the small town of Brim located in the Wimmera-Mallee region of western Victoria.

Following on from the success generated by this, five other silos in the same region have now been painted, creating the first silo art trail which covers 200 kilometres, and links the neighbouring towns of Lascelles, Patchewollock, Brim and Rupanyup. There are  two other silos that are located at Rosebery and Sheep Hills.

Future art trails are now being planned which will turn these large drab silos into wonderful works of art.

Many smaller towns have now seen the economic benefit generated by having silos painted. Instead of driving through these towns, people are now spending time viewing them which in turn leads towards accommodation, food and fuel.

GrainCorp who own most of the silos have made more available to be painted throughout regional Australia. Very few of these now store grain, instead it's now stored on the ground covered with large blue tarpaulins.

Before tackling the silo art trail we made our way south from Cobar to camp just outside Balranald. We camped overnight in the Yanga National Park beside the Murrumbidgee River. 

From here we crossed over into Victoria at Tooleybuc, before passing through Ouyen and taking a minor road through to Patchewollock. Its the most northern painted silo. From here we will continue to head south over the next two days photographing each silo.

 A local sheep and wheat farmer 'Noodle Hulland' from the district is depicted on this silo. Painted by Fintan Magee a Brisbane based street artist this silo was completed in October 2016.

With the next silo located in Lascelles just 59 km away, we thought we would continue onto here and spend the evening. When we arrived the local RV stop wasn't very inviting as it was located on the highway so we took our photos and continued on. 
Painted by Melbourne street artist Rone these silos depict the faces of local couple Geoff and Merrilyn Horman. They were painted in June 2017.

A possible campsite on Wiki Camps looked inviting. It was located on the banks of Lake Lascelles at Hopetoun. Its a gold coin donation to stay here and is quite popular.

Knowing that the silos at Rosebery and Brim faced west, we left just before lunch so at least we wouldn't be looking into the sun while taking our photos.

The Rosebery silo was painted by artist Kaff-eine. She assisted Rone who painted the Lascelles silo. This silo was completed in October 2017.

The Brim silos were the first to be completed in 2015 by Guido van Helten. This inspired other artists to paint the other five silos that make up this trail.

We were really taken with the silos at Sheep Hills. Painted by Adnate, a street artist famous for his work with aboriginal communities. The detail and colour were just unbelievable especially as we took the photos just after sunrise during the golden hour. The silos here are away from the main highway and there are just a few houses nearby and an old pub that has since closed its doors. This mural was completed in December 2016.

We ended the silo trail in Rupanyup. Here the silo was painted by Russian artist Julia Volchkova and completed in April 2017. She mainly focuses on portraits.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

North-West New South Wales

At Armidale we joined the New England Highway as we headed south towards Tamworth.

Leaving Tamworth, we joined the Oxley Highway as we steered ourselves west. Our campsite tonight is just off the highway 12 km east of Gunnedah. Its known as the Redbank camping area and is beside the Namoi River. Its quite a large area with flushing toilets. 

We backed in as far as we could to try and lessen the amount of truck noise during the evening but Ros unlike me is a light sleeper, so she was awake on and off during the night.
Once we had both had several hot coffees and breakfast out of the way we left just on 08:30. 
Passing through Gunnedah just 10 minutes later had us now on our way to  Coonabarabran. There are currently severe water restrictions here with showers limited to 2 minutes and no watering of gardens, so you just imagine how everything looks. 

We wanted to photograph the water tower in the small town of Gulargambone with the most direct route taking us out through the Warrunbungle National Park. The load limit on the bridge just past the national park boundary is much lighter than our rig so we took a detour via Gilgandra to get our photo.

Where possible we prefer to take minor roads rather than highways so cross country we went for the next 86 km until we reached Warren.  Here we joined the Mitchell Highway at Nevertire before reaching Nyngan.

It was so sad to see the result of the drought on the country we have been passing through. The irrigation channels around Warren were bone dry and where there are normally crops growing in the fields, now there is nothing. The strong winds we have been experiencing for the past two days are just blowing what top soil there is away. 

It was still quite early so we pushed north towards Bourke. We found a spot to camp 44 km north in the small town of Girilambone. Its in Wiki camps and a gold coin donation is requested for stopping in the local CWA park. They have one flushing toilet and shower.

Even though we didn't use these facilities we were more than happy to leave $5.00 at the pub to help with the upkeep. Over a few beers the publican told us that the town was nearly out of water. Unfortunately the towns bore water has far too much salinity and council will now be arranging to install tanks at each house and have water trucked in. Of course there will be a daily limit on usage.

The camping area as you can imagine after many years of drought has the occasional tuft of dead grass. The whole area was covered in prickles so thongs just weren't the go.

In the morning we shared the area with some kangaroos. I'm not sure how they are surviving.

We encountered a B Double on one of the minor roads and I was forced to move over and hit a large hole on the side of the road. Our chine bar on our vans near side has cracked.

We had planned to continue onto Bourke and do the top part of the Darling River Run as far as Wilcannia. But after seeing the result of the drought and needing to have our chine bar welded we retraced our route back to Nyngan and continued west towards Cobar. We are holed up in the caravan park with the temperature outside currently at 40 degrees and climbing. Our vans aircon is now down to 28 degrees and dropping.

The Waterfall Way

I know we need the rain but whenever we head off for more than a week we normally have to hook up and leave in the rain. 

This particular trip was no exception. 

The "Waterfall Way" stretches from just south of Coffs Harbour through Bellingen, Dorrigo, Ebor and onto Armidale. 

Its 30 km to Bellingen from our home in Sawtell. After leaving the Pacific Highway its a lovely drive heading west as we pass by many rural properties before reaching Bellingen. All the while we have the Great Dividing Range as a backdrop as we continue through Thora before we start the climb up the range to Dorrigo.

As we headed towards the range after passing through Bellingen, we could see the mountains shrouded in mist which continued for the next 100 km until just short of the small settlement of Ebor. 

The road becomes steep and winding but that only lasts for about 15 to 20 minutes until we reach the northern tablelands just east of Dorrigo.

Its usually a very scenic drive passing through national parks, rain forests, beautiful valleys, lovely green rolling hills and of course numerous waterfalls but today the thick mist had completely hidden all of this. Visibility was down under 100 metres and so was our speed.

One of the most spectacular and easily accessible falls are just outside Ebor. 

Here the Guy Fawkes River plunges 100 metres over two waterfalls. There are viewing platforms giving wonderful views of the falls and the deep gorge that the river has sculptured over the years. 

Friday, February 8, 2019

Yuraygir National Park - Illaroo Campground -

This will be our first trip away in our van for 2019.

Over the past three months our weather has been less than ideal with very strong northerly winds blowing from early morning and sometimes lasting all day and even into the night. 
But now it looks like the weather gods are smiling on us with the forecast for our week away to be with gentle to moderate winds.

The Illaroo campground in Yuraygir National Park lies just 116 km north from our home in Sawtell. 

Its the largest coastal park in New South Wales and covers 65 km stretching south from Angourie in the north to just north of Red Rock in the south.

Travelling times have been greatly reduced thanks to the ongoing upgrade of the Pacific Highway to dual carriageway that is continuing from Woolgoolga through to Ballina.

From the highway turnoff its 38 km to the campground. Although this road is bitumen its quite rough in places with lots of twists and turns and not too many overtaking possibilities for other vehicles.

The campsite is right on the beach and features include echo toilets, drinking water, picnic tables and BBQ's. There is a north and south campground with around sixty sites all up, with the northern site being larger.

The camping fees are steep compared to national parks in other states. Its $12.00 per adult per night and if you don't have a parks pass then your slugged another $8.00 per night for entry.

Having an annual parks pass like we do, means the $8.00 entry per day is wavered.

We only ever camp here during the week as we find its far too busy on weekends and school holidays. 

By road the small settlement of Minnie Water is 3 km south of the campground and has a caravan park along with a lovely takeaway that also sells coffees alcohol and fuel. There is a 1 km path that leads from the camping area to Minnie Water. The small village of Wooli is 15 km south and has more facilities including a general store, bowling club, hotel motel and several outlets selling coffee lunch and takeaways. 
All major facilities are just 45 km away in Grafton.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Crowdy Bay National Park

We have just returned home after five days away, camping at one of our favourite spots.

With the near completion of the dual carriageway on the Pacific Highway south of Coffs Harbour, our travel times have now greatly reduced. And so have our stress levels as we no longer drive on sub standard and badly maintained roads. 

Crowdy Bay National Park lies roughly 44 km south of Port Macquarie and has been a favourite of ours since our first visit here in 2006. 

Leaving the highway at Kew its just 7 km until you pass through Laureiton, before turning south towards the national park boundary. To access Diamond Head where fees are paid involves 10 km of good quality dirt road with just minor corrugations. 

There are numerous campgrounds here but we prefer Kylies Beach campground. It has less facilities than some of the others with just a drop toilet, cold shower and non potable water.

It's named after Australian author Kylie Tennant who lived in Laureiton and whose writing retreat hut still exists not far from the campground.

 Its a lovely campground without those dreaded bollards and has large open grassed areas to camp on. 

Being just 200 hundred metres back from the beach, it offers much needed protection in case the weather turns nasty.

Each afternoon the kangaroos come out to feed and if your lucky you may get to see the  resident koalas in the gum trees that surround the camping area.

All available services are located just 13 km north at the town of  Laureiton.

We only ever camp here on weekdays as we find its just far too busy on weekends and particularly during school holidays or over the Easter period. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

DJI Mavic Pro 2

I was really surprised just how quickly my Mavic Pro drone has sold. It was just a matter of hours once I had listed it on a Drone Facebook group.

Why was I selling a perfectly good drone? 
Well I'm upgrading to the latest offering from the DJI factory.

The new drone comes in two versions. There is the Mavic Pro 2 and the Mavic Zoom 2, and both are far superior to the original one. 

Camera House here in Coffs Harbour were sold out when I enquired, and they suggested I go online and and purchase the drone and have it shipped to my home address, rather than the store. 

By doing it this way I would jump the queue of people who were already waiting for stock to arrive. More importantly a second price hike is eminent since this drones introduction in August, so I've also dogged another bullet.

I've chosen to go with the Mavic Pro with its larger image sensor after DJI teamed up with Hasselblad. 
The Hasselblad camera has been around since 1941 and the Swedish design is well known around the world. The sensor is four times larger than the original one which of course lends itself to much higher quality and colour performance.

The larger sensor means an increased ISO setting from 3200 to 12800 and an increase in megapixels from 12 up to 20 will now produce even more stunning photos.

The original drone with its fixed aperture has now been replaced with an adjustable aperture of f/2.8-f/11 giving even more control for handling different light conditions.

There are many more differences between the old and new with features like an increase in colour profile from 16 million to over 1 billion colours. Hyperlapse is also another addition.

Another important feature is the introduction of omnidirectional obstacle sensing. Sensors are now positioned in the front, rear, sides and underneath, whereas the original only had forward sensing.

It now has 4K HDR support and the drone can be plugged directly into a 4K TV to view your footage with the correct colour tones and contrast.

Flight time from each battery, along with a 8 km transmission distance from the remote control device and speed have all been increased. Mind you I only ever fly within line of sight. 
Top speed is now 72 kph in sports mode. It also features low noise flight technology making it much quieter than the original one.

I also purchased a Fly More Kit. It includes two sets of props, a car charger, two extra batteries and a charging hub that you can connect all the batteries too. Purchasing the kit instead of buying these items separately saves well over $400.00.

Unfortunately the price has also considerably increased with the introduction of this new drone and its added features.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Heading Home The Long Way

Our van has spent two days at the Bushtracker factory in early September having two items replaced under warranty along with some extra items installed. We have also been experiencing a problem with our hot water system but a hot water and gas service soon rectified this annoying problem.

While the van was getting some much needed TLC then so were we. 
We stayed at the Rivershore Resort in one of there luxury safari tents with all the mod cons. The resort is a 15 minute drive from the factory and the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.


Our Camec 4 kg washing machine decided to give up the ghost about a month ago and we have been experiencing problems with our DVD player.

You can imagine our surprise when we found out that the washing machine warranty was for two years and the Fusion DVD player for three years. So two brand new items fitted for nix. Talk about happy days.

We also installed two rear stabilizer legs along with a bike rack that fits behind our generator box. It was fitted by South East Stainless who are just down the road from the Bushtracker factory.

It was a shortish drive north to Cooroy, where we have spent three days camped near this lovely little town.

The Cooroy RV stop is for fully self contained vans with no power available and with all water to be contained. Its lovely and quiet with a dump point 100 metres away and fresh town water. And at $10 per night it suits us just right.

We left Cooroy on a Monday morning heading south along the AI or Bruce Highway as far as the Landsborough turnoff. This road runs parallel to the highway but is a much quieter option. From here we took the Peacheaster road that eventually joins the D'Aguilar Highway just north of Woodford.

From here we headed west on the D'Aguilar Highway through Kilcoy and onto Blackbutt for a brief stop at the bakery before turning south at Yarraman. We briefly followed the New England Highway through Cooyar and Wutul before heading cross country on minor roads to spend the night at the Jondaryan Woolshed. 

The woolshed is heritage listed and the oldest operating woolshed in the world and was built in 1859. We camped down by Oakey Creek but at $22.50 we thought that was a bit rough, considering we used all our own facilities.

A brief stop outside the Nindigully Pub for a coffee break before driving south to camp at Thallon. 

We passed by Thallon in June on our way to the Big Red Bash held at Birdsville in July, but we are staying here for the evening to photograph the art on the nearby silos. 

These silos are the first to be painted in Queensland and the first painted working silos in Australia. 

It was just wonderful to be heading off this morning without the strong winds we have been experiencing for the past two weeks. There was just a gentle breeze in the tops of the trees that continued for the rest of the day.

We steered ourselves south towards Mungindi. From just north of town, we headed south west towards Collarenebri. On the way we stopped off to see the One Ton Post beside the Barwon River 8 km west of town.

This post is the largest survey peg in Australia and was erected by John B Cameron in 1881. Cameron's Corner where the three states meet was named after him. It marks the eastern end of the 700 km long fence which divides New South Wales from Queensland along the 29th parallel. 

The first 40 odd kilometres towards Collarenebri and the last 15 kilometres before reaching town is bitumen. In between is quite a good dirt road with few corrugations but most of this is covered with quite deep bulldust.

Our plan was to camp on the Barwon River west of town for three days. But the drought has really taken hold of this area like so much of the country we have passed through on this holiday. Its very depressing passing by properties where the cattle and sheep are being fed because the paddocks have no grass just dirt.

From Moree it wasn't to much further towards Gum Flat Reserve on the Gwydir River. We have stayed here before and have another nice site along the river. There is an eco-toilet and rubbish bins.

After reading threads by other Bushtracker owners, we decided to purchase a Snow Peak fire pit from Drifta. Its made in Japan from marine 316 stainless steel. The frame that sits over the pit can be adjusted in height to suit different heat levels. After just a week of use we both agree that it was money well spent. Snow Peak

While our Ryobi reciprocating saw sort of handled the job of cutting firewood, we have replaced this with a Stihl battery operated chainsaw. While its not cheap it will definitely last much longer than the Ryobi product.
I cannot believe just how good this product is with its 12" blade and a lithium-ion battery that takes just an hour to charge and the battery is good for cutting 100 logs on a single charge. Just like a hot knife through butter. 
Our last night before returning home was spent at Cangai. Its a free camp on the Mann River west of Grafton and there are no facilities here but the water from the river is suitable for our non-potable tanks.

We arrived home after three months away were we covered 10,905 kilometers. Our fuel average was 20.2 L/100 km and the Big Red Bash at Birdsville a definite standout.