Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Most Remote Musical Festival on the Planet

The Big Red Bash is held 39 km west of Birdsville on private property and the stage for the artists who preform over the three days and nights, has a 40 metre high sand dune as its backdrop. Big Red is the largest and first major dune to cross if you are heading west across the Simpson Desert.

Adria Downs is an organic cattle property, and one of the prerequisites for camping there, is that no grey water is allowed to be dropped on the ground. There is a facility to siphon your grey water into but there is no facility for emptying your toilet cassette.

Even though the event organisers supply toilets, we still prefer to use our own. With that in mind and considering we are staying for five days we purchased an extra toilet cassette just in case it was needed.

Our vans grey water tank holds 90 litres so showers will certainly be rationed during our stay. The purchase of several packs of extra large wet wipes as back up was also a wise decision.    

Our early entry pass had us arriving at the "Bash" site two days before the music began. Mal Leyland gave a talk on one of these days along with one of their films displayed on the large screen. After the movie the crowd were given the chance to ask Mal questions about his life which we all found very interesting. 
His fondest memory of the 1966 crossing of Australia was seeing rain cascading down Ayers Rock/Uluru.

This is our first "Bash" attendance so we are not really sure whether we will enjoy the experience or not. No doubt time will tell.
Our decision to take out insurance in case of breakdown or illness, was also a wise move considering we were handing over $1200 for the experience.

When away camping our preference is to avoid crowds whenever possible, but we thought we would give the "Bash" the benefit of the doubt, and see just what its like to be surrounded by thousands of people. In this case there were 10,000 who attended.

Saturday morning the 7th of July the "Bash" office opened so the mandatory car stickers and wrist bands could be organised before heading out to Big Red. We also purchased some of the merchandise on offer at the same time.

First thing on Sunday morning we were hooked up and ready to rock n roll just before 7:30 am.  We joined the queue of 4WD's, caravans and camper trailers on the slow dusty trip out to Big Red. At times speeds were down below 40 km/h, at that time of the morning there was very little wind.

While we have been out to Big Red before, we have never been in a convoy with so many other people. 
Totally surprised that the trip out only took one hour and fifteen minutes.

Amazing organisation has gone into moving this many people in such an orderly fashion, but I think this is the 5th year so they have had time to perfect it.

The headline act at this years "Bash" is John Farnham who will be supported by the likes of the Hoodoo Gurus, The Angels, Daryl Braithwaite, John Stevens, Kate Ceberano, Adam Brand, Russell Morris, The Black Sorrows, The Wolfe Brothers and Amber Lawrence.

 It was wonderful to meet Mal Leyland. Later during the day we wandered up and purchased a signed copy of his 2015 book "Still Travelling"

Each day we enjoyed wandering around the camping area checking out others setups. There were road vans, so called off-road vans, real off-road vans and god knows how many different makes of camper-trailers. There were also many in tents and swags, like we used to camp in when we were younger. Thank god that's over with!!

Our early daily ritual was to climb Big Red to take photos and marvel at the amount of campsites spread out below.

There were many food vendors selling everything from wood fired pizzas through to Mexican, coffee vendors, seafood, hamburgers and steak sandwiches and even a  Wendy's outlet.

The "drag" race is surely a site to behold. Apart from being entertaining, more importantly it raises money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). 
This year there were hundreds of men dressed in drag and running across and down Big Red.

A representative from the Guiness world record people were also on hand to adjudicate the world record attempt of the Tina Turner song "nutbush city limit" dance. The previous record was 522 people who must dance continually for five minutes. This attempt was smashed at the "Bash" with just over 1700 participants. 

The drag race and the nutbush dance combined raised just over $50,000 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS)

Ros was shouted an early birthday present with a helicopter flight over Bashville and Big Red which she thoroughly enjoyed.

Of all the artists who performed over the three days and nights, we thought that Russell Morris, Cate Ceberano, John Farnham and Joe Camilleri and the Black Sorrows were the standout performers. 

Would we attend in future? Hmmm that would have to depend on the lineup of artists otherwise we thoroughly enjoyed our time at the 2018 "Bash"

Thursday, July 5, 2018


We arrived in Birdsville two days earlier than we had planned. This was brought about because the Cordillo Downs and Arrabury roads heading north from Innamincka were still closed from last weeks rain.

These road closures forced us north towards Windorah via the bitumen. We then joined the Birdsville Development Road 118 west of Windorah where the single lane bitumen ended. The remaining 261 km of dirt into Birdsville was not effected by the previous weeks rain.

Our hot water heater stoped working four days ago. In the mean time we have been boiling water on the stove and washing by having a sponge bath in the shower cubicle. 
I used a pin that I inserted into the small hole where the gas enters the flue, but this didn't clear the blockage. As a last resort, I had a needle attachment in my bag of tricks that is used to blowup footballs/basketballs. This fitted neatly into my compressor hose and I was able to clear what must have been dust stuck in the gas line. End result happy wife is a happy life.

We are currently camped on the town common about 1.5 km south of town. Water taps are dotted throughout this area and there is a dump point nearby. There are probably about forty vans currently camped here with people arriving each day. 
The caravan park still has vacant spots but I'm sure this will fill in the coming days.

So our days here have been spent reading, relaxing, walking into town each day and watching the new arrivals enter from the south.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Destination South West Queensland

For our first day, Monday the 25th of June, there was no real hurry to be on the road, so a late departure was the order of the day. 
The reason for the late start is because we are only travelling 152 km. 
I haven't towed the van for several months so the decision was made, that this many kilometres would do nicely for our first days run, just to get us back into the swing of things. 

In early June we started testing all our vans equipment to ensure that everything was working as it should.

Apart from bearings and wheel alignment the next two most important items were our hot water service and our diesel heater. Both of these will certainly be getting used daily once we leave home with the diesel heater probably being used each morning and evening for at least the next three weeks. I have also added several cups of kerosene, just to pickle the diesel fuel tank to ensure the diesel does not freeze. 
Water tanks were drained and flushed with just two being re-filled for the first several days of travel. The others will be filled before we leave for drier inland areas.

We have been keeping tabs on the daily temperatures for the areas we will be travelling through. For these first three weeks, we are looking at minimum temperatures below five degrees, with some even measuring in the minus degrees. Daily temperatures have been up around the middle to high teens mark. So at least that will be nice.

Tonight we are camping beside the Mann River at Cangai, 61 km west of Grafton. We were surprised when we arrived to find only three other vans here for the evening. But then I suppose the cold weather in June has something to do with so view being camped here.

Its a lovely free camp, even though its on private property, it is very picturesque with river and mountain views.
In the afternoon you share the site with the cows, who venture down to drink beside the river.

Ros always prepares and packages meals that we place in the vans deep freeze before any trip. These include different types of curries and her special spaghetti bol. These meals are ideal as a back up when its too damn cold to cook outside, its raining and windy or I just don't feel like cooking outside, which of course isn't very often especially when away camping.

So on our first evening we enjoyed one of those curries along with a lovely bottle of Henschke Henry's Seven shiraz blend, to celebrate our first night out on the road. The diesel heater purred away in the background and was just enough to take the chill away.

We love camping or should we say glamping, considering that our van is well set up for extended travel with all the latest mod cons. Our lithium battery system and solar panels, power all our accessories from our 12 Volt fridge, washing machine and even satellite TV. Caravan parks visits for us are as rare as hens teeth.

It was a rather cool morning for our second day on the road, with the outside temperature at just 3.1 degrees at 7am. The fog was so thick that we were just able to make out the trees 20 metres away. 

Lovely hot brewed coffee followed by breakfast was next on the agenda while we waited to see if the fog would lift. It was still thick as pea soup at 8:30 am so we decided to head off anyway and as soon as we had climbed out of the valley we were bathed in sunshine.

Today's drive is just on 300 km, so its not a huge day. We climbed the Gibraltar Range which peaked at 1089 metres above sea level. So glad we spent the money having the torque converter and engine remap done. The auto transmission temperature never climbed beyond 74 degrees for such a long and winding climb.

As soon as we passed by the national parks at the range summit the countryside changed from lovely green to paddocks with nothing but dead grass. The countryside continued like this for the remainder of the day.

Our campsite for tonight was 23 km east of Moree. Another camp beside a river, but this time on the banks of the Gwydir.

Gum Flat Reserve is a camping area, accessed via a dirt road north of the Gwydir Highway. There are two areas here, one 2.4 and 3.1 km  from the highway.
A drop toilet along with a BBQ and shelter, have now been built at the first site, and there is ample room at both sites. There were just three other campers here when we arrived with two more arriving just on sunset.
Another cool evening had us inside quite early, as we had our showers before sitting down to have a few drinks, followed by another of  our pre-made meals.

Overcast skies kept the overnight temperature at 10.4 degrees. Our weather app informs us that there will be a 70% chance of rain today and it got that right. An hour after leaving we came across the rain that continued onto St George. A fuel fill here at $157.9 cpl followed by a visit to the bakery for a pie and sausage roll to help ward off the cold, or was that just an excuse.

Our campsite tonight is in the small town of Bollon, situated 111 km west of St George on the Balonne Highway. Today's drive of 373 km will be the largest number of kilometres for a days drive for this entire holiday. 

This is a lovely camp site beside Wallam Creek with toilets and showers and a walking path into town. A donation is appreciated so please leave something to support the community. We are happy to leave a donation even though we always use our own facilities. The pub serves great meals and the beers are certainly cold.

Our fourth day on the road was a real mixed bag. We left Bollon just after 9am heading further west towards Cunnamulla. A close encounter with an emu who ran across the road in front of us nearly ended in disaster for both of us. I'd forgotten just how bad the roads were in western Queensland. How do road builders who have just re-tared 150 km of road manage to make it with corrugations?

Apart from the road surface we had light nuisance rain fall for the whole journey, then as we approached Cunnamulla we encountered very thick fog with the visibility down to about 400 metres for the last 20 km.

A lunch stop in Eulo before continuing further west to camp in the sand dunes on the shores of Lake Bindegolly National Park. Unfortunately the part of the lake that we could see was bone dry, even though the many creeks we passed by today contained water. Its estimated that nearly 200 species of birds rely on this lake.

We followed a sandy winding track south of the highway and found ourselves a suitable spot to camp for the evening. There were already two other vans here but we continued past them for several hundred metres.

We have been monitoring the road closures around Innamincka and particularly the two roads that head north towards Birdsville. 
After visiting the information centre in Thargomindah and hearing that the road closures were still in place and could be for some foreseeable time we decided on our plan B. Our plan involved heading north towards Quilpie just 193 km away. This road was made up of single lane bitumen with about 30 km of good quality dirt. We camped just east of town in a very large area along a dry creek that joins the Bulloo River south of town.

After setting up camp Ros tried unsuccessfully to light our hot water service. Its been working up to this point. Gas is not the issue with all the stove burners lighting without any problems. I've looked briefly on the internet for possible causes but yet to determine  the best possible way to rectify the problem. These type of problems always happen when your away from civilisation. So we are down to boiling water on the stove and have a sponge bath each night.

Next morning more overcast sky with the hint of rain about so we packed up and headed north towards Windorah. Its many years since we last travelled this section of road and I'm pleased to advise the road surface is a vast improvement on our last trip. It is single lane bitumen with the occasional passing lane thrown into the mix.

Our camp for tonight is just south of Cooper Creek about 12 km from Windorah. We refuelled here at $171.0 cpl and once back at our campsite I fitted our "Stone Stomper" net for when we hit the dirt tomorrow.

The single lane strip of bitumen ran out at 118 km west of Windorah and we stopped for coffee while I aired down our tyres for the Birdsville Development Road.

Road was in good condition and we passed road crews who were grading some of the rougher parts.

Tonight our camp is beside the waterhole at Betoota. Its amazing to find lovely campsites with water views out in the middle of nowhere. A lovely end to the day with a beautiful sunset.

After being closed for many years, the Pub reopens in August for the Betoota and Birdsville races. 
Arrived in Birdsville just before lunch on Monday 2nd July and set up camp on the town common just south of town.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Towards Home

Leaving Dubbo just after 8 am we took the most direct route along the Newell Highway passing through Gilgandra, Coonabarabran and Narrabri before turning north east heading towards Bingara.

The drive through Mount Kaputar National Park with its steep and winding roads gave the torque converter a real test.  At some stages we were down into third gear but the auto transmission temperature never climbed above 80 degrees so we are more than happy with those figures.

Bingara is one of our favourite spots to camp, and we have been coming here for the past ten years. Unfortunately the introduction of Wiki Camps and Camps Australia, has meant that more people have also found out about just how wonderful it is to camp along the banks of the Gwydir River. In the early days we almost had the place to yourselves.

We have always camped east of the bridge with camps spreading for many kilometres but this is the first time we have camped north of the bridge and within the town area.

Camping is now permitted in three locations all bordering the river. We camped in the largest area just across the river from the golf course. It was the largest of the three and we were lucky to find a great spot surrounded by trees and shrubs that afforded us some privacy.

Most of the other sites strung out along the river provided no respite from the heat and were described by one of the campers as being very hot and similar to camping in a caravan park.

Bingara is renowned for receiving bad weather in particular storms with hail. One only has to look at the roofs on all the houses to realise that they are all new, even on the oldest of the homes.

On our second night we thought we may be going to experience one of their storms with the sky off to the north east being very dark but then it looked like we had missed it. In the early hours of the following morning, we were woken to the most amazing thunder and lightning show followed by heavy rain. Our thoughts turned to several years ago when our van required a total re skin after a hail storm but thankfully this time we escaped although further north did experience hail.

We had planned to stay four days but with the weather being so nice and having our lovely camp spot we stayed for the allowed seven days. We spent about $400 in the town buying diesel, groceries, going to the bakery most days and eating at the pub one evening when friends Deb and Hank where passing through on their way home.

After heading north east on the road to Delungra we joined the Gwydir Highway as we headed towards Inverell and then onto Glen Innes, before heading down the range between Washpool and Gibraltar Range National Parks.

Our campsite tonight is at the bottom of the mountain at the Cangai Bridge. As you cross the grid your confronted with a sign informing you that the road is unsuitable for caravans but this only applies to the road further on after crossing the two bridges and the camping area. 

The area is quite large with views up the valley and the Mann River. Unfortunately yet again there were already eleven vans here when we arrived. It really didn't matter as we were just here for the evening before heading home. There are no facilities here except clean river water that could be used for filling your non-potable tanks. The nearest dump point is at the caravan park at Jackadgery where they charge $5 to empty your cassette.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Heading to Dubbo

Before reaching Burra we had organised to have our V8 twin turbo 200 Series Landcruiser booked in with Stephan Richards in Murray Bridge in South Australia to have a torque lockup kit fitted.

While I was dropping off the car another Landcruiser owner was having the same work done along with an ECU/transmission remap. Of course I had heard about having this done but wasn't completely sure about the benefits. 

Stephan explained in simple terms what these were and said that if I was interested in having both done together we would reduce the transmission remap by $400.
This was only possible because we had already installed a larger aftermarket exhaust. The rest is history.....

After the installation Stephan took us for a test run where he explained the use of the switches. 

The auto lockup master switch on the left remains on at all times and the right switch locks the torque converter at around 75 km/h. The converter remains locked until slowing to below the unlock speed of just under 75 km/h. As a result our new forth gear is now fifth which reduces rpm and a slight decrease in fuel consumption of around 3 l/100km.

To activate the low speed lockup press the right button which will illuminate the switch showing that it is active. The torque converter will automatically lock at 35 km/h and the unlock below 30 km/h. When the low speed lockup is active then gears are also reduced as if you are driving a manual. 

This will be very helpful when we are towing our van over dirt roads with corrugations, where in the past we have seen our auto transmission temperatures increase considerably sometimes reaching as much as 120 degrees.

Our auto transmission temperatures since having the work completed have stayed around the 66 degree mark and  the 4wd is a completely different vehicle to now drive. 

We are currently camped at Frogs Hollow at Lake Cargelligo. Its a ten minute walk from town but the space here is quite limited. There is an area for probably three vans where they could park right on the lake but after recent rains its very muddy. The remainder of the foreshore has large gum trees lining the lake and one would have to be either stupid or very game to camp under these. So we are camped against the fence but still with a view of the lake.

After three days camped here and spending money in the local IGA buying food and alcohol to help support the town for providing this free camp we were heading north. 

Today's drive of 92 km will take us to Condobolin. We found the road to be very rough, narrow and with broken edges on the bitumen helping to make some parts of the road even narrower. I pulled over for many B doubles coming towards us to ensure we weren't showered with stones as they passed. 

We are just over 3 km west of town and camped at Gum Bend Lake. Its a man made lake, built to commemorate Australia's bicentenary and when full has a depth of 1.75 metres. A gold coin donation is appreciated for camping here and we are more than happy to donate as we filled our tanks with their water. 

There are hot showers and flushing toilets but we prefer using our own. Unlike Lake Cargelligo, there are no views of the lake from the camping area. We enjoyed a few beers and lunch at the local RSL yesterday after purchasing some groceries at the local IGA. Its quite a large town with a population of 3,800 people. Our plan was to stay for three days but no matter what repellent we used on ourselves we couldn't keep the flies at bay. 

As we were heading for Dubbo we thought we may be able to brake the drive so checked Wiki Camps and came up with Bogan Weir 6 km west of Peak Hill. When we arrived, there were five other vans camped here and another arrived after dark.
Its a large area probably the size of two football fields with just rubbish bins and phone coverage.

Just a short drive of 75 km today towards Dubbo. We are staying at the Red Earth Winery just south of town and on the southern border of the Western Plains Zoo. Camping fees are $15 per night for power and water or just $5 without power but you can still fill your tanks.

On our second day we visited the zoo and spent the day pedalling our bikes around the different enclosures. No visit to any zoo would be complete without spending a good amount of time with the amazing meerkats.