Perisher – Sun 6th to Mon 7th August

It has been a while since we last hit the slopes, the last visit was before our big lap of Australia.

Previously we have stayed at ‘The Station’, which is just outside Jindabyne.  Owned by Perisher it is basic but not as outrageously expensive as the luxury houses on offer.  This year, however, it was time to try out the camping at Sawpit Creek.

It is an official campsite just inside the national park, at about 1,000m elevation.   So a shorter drive up to the snow each morning.  It is also surprisingly popular, we had booked a few months out and the only spots left were unpowered tent sites, so it looked like no trailer for the weekend and sleeping on the floor

If you don’t ask you don’t get; on the Friday a quick call to the camp to ask about cancellations revealed a last minute cancellation on a trailer site.  Great news.

There is not much to say about the drive from Sydney to Jindabyne, other than it is long, dull and goes near Canberra.  One thing worth mentioning is ‘Some Cafe’ at Collector. Just off the motorway there is plenty of space to park and the cafe offers a wide selection of delicious cakes (and a very tasty cheese toasty) – it is well worth a stop.

A short stop in Jindabyne later, to pick up skis and lift tickets (and the equivalent of a small nation’s debt paying for them), and then it was up to the campsite.  It probably looks better in the summer, now it was a rather wet and very, very cold (no surprise there being winter….).  Fortunately, and unexpectedly, there is a great little stone hut with a fireplace in it, which provided a lovely warm spot in the evening.

Having the trailer with us was so much better than the tent would have been.  Being off the ground, on the mattress, under a heap of blankets we were toasty warm.  However the morning run to the amenities was rather chilly.

The weather forecast was for snow, and it certainly delivered.  Sadly it also meant the visibility was poor for most of the weekend, even if the snow was lovely.

What is amazing is the people who ignore the signs saying snowchains are required.  On the Sunday morning there was a little 2wd sedan which had ignored the snow all over the road, getting half way up the last climb before losing traction.  I have no idea how they got out of there, but the policeman in attendance was decidedly unhappy with them.  A great thing about the 110 is, being a 4wd, no chains are required.

If anything the snow was heavier on the Monday, with overnight falls leaving an inch of snow on the trailer and more on the road, making for a very challenging drive up.

However it also rewarded us with some great icicles when we got back in the afternoon….

Olney State Forest – 1st July 2017

Olney State Forest is about 90 minutes drive north of Sydney, just to the west of the central coast.  Together with the Watagan National Park, which it sits alongside, it offers a huge range of tracks and trails.

Getting into Olney is an easy drive, it is a dirt road but well packed and would be easy enough in a 2wd in anything but heavy rain (although the Ford Mustang we saw did look a little out of place…)

We weren’t, however, there to test our off-road skills, but to get out into the woods and enjoy a relaxed camp.

There are roughly 5 official campsites (and no doubt many others), with 4 of them in close proximity.  Arriving at 10.30am, in mid winter, it was surprising to see how many people were there.  Turpentine camp was quieter, probably as it does not have toilets (it is a 150m walk to the Pines camp toilets), with a great secluded spot at the end.

The Pines itself was busy, including the obligatory clown sharing their music at high volume that night (bad country & western rather than doof-doof in this case), It wasn’t so bad where we were, but pity the people next door.  Ignoring the noise the Pines was a decent camp, so long as you don’t mind being alongside others.

A feature of the camping here is that it is among the trees.  It wouldn’t be a place to come for a week and rely on solar power, as most of the time the sites are shaded.

Another aim of the trip was to test out a new acquisition.  For a while now I have been thinking about getting a battery chainsaw for firewood gathering.  Why battery and not petrol?  Two reasons, firstly no need to carry fuel around and secondly it is much quieter. OK it is not as powerful but I’m not gathering a winter store, just enough for a night or two.

So how did it go?  It performed very well, easily cutting enough for the night / morning and some left over and still have three quarters charge left on a 5Ah battery.  From 20m away it is no noisier than standing near to a hairdryer.

Perhaps next time we will let the tyres down and explore the bumpy stuff…..

 

 

 

 

 

Jindabyne – 22nd to 24th April

A venture further afield, and a revisit of an early stop on our lap around Australia.  Only this time we had company; Jason, Amie, Maddie and their new camper trailer.

Also joining for the Saturday night were Chris, Rachael, Esther, Felicity and Rhiannon. Unfortunately Bonnie had ballet exam practise, so she and Hils could not make the trip.

For many Jindabyne may just be a gateway to the skiing, seen only in the cold of winter, which is a shame as it has more to offer than that.  Being autumn many of the trees were turning glorious shades of red and gold; the poplars especially were beautiful.

Jindabyne Holiday Park is conveniently located in the middle of town, just opposite the main shopping area and right on the lake shore.  With a slightly elevated position the views across the lake to the national park are outstanding.  The morning mist just added to the magic.

The name Jindabyne is derived from an aboriginal word for valley, and the original town was lower in the valley, beneath what is now the lake.  In the 1960’s the town was relocated to its present position, when the Snowy River was dammed.  When the water levels are low glimpses of the Old Jindabyne can apparently be had, particularly the top of the church

17-04-22 Jindabyne 1The facilities were certainly a step up from the Easter excursion; hot showers, tv room, kitchen with heat lamps and even a pizza oven, which served to make make some cracking garlic pizzas to go with the bolgnaise & chilli (thanks Rachael).

Whats Up Downunder happened to be filming whilst we were there; who knows, in a few weeks the girls may be on TV…..

Apart from relaxing by the lake (another time we will bring the paddle boards) the main aim of the trip was to climb Mt Kosciuszko.  At 2,228m this is the highest mountain in Australia.

Despite the height it is not a difficult walk; from Thredbo at 1,375m you can take a chairlift to Eagles Nest at 1,937m.  From there it is a 6.5km boardwalk to the top of Kosciuszko.  It is also certainly not a lonely walk, a constant stream of people going up or down.  Despite that the views are awesome, if a little desolate

Coming back down is strange experience, the first time I have come down a mountain in a chair lift, it looks an awful lot higher from the ground that going up.  A decent view of Thredbo though.

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Sharing the mountain with the walkers were dozens of mountain bikers, definitely something for the next trip; the idea of catching the chair with your bike and doing nothing but descending has a certain attraction!

Another great trip, made all the better by stopping over in Canberra with Chris & Rachael on the way back and heading to the ANZAC dawn service on the Tuesday morning.

Coorongooba – Easter 2017

Long weekends have always been an excellent reason to stay in Sydney.  Half the population leaves and suddenly its easy to get anywhere, get a park at the beach or a table at the cafe.  Oh, and no sitting in a 5hr queue on the motorway.

So time to break the habit, and what better reason than a few days camping with friends.

Coorongooba is in Wollemi national park, about an hour out of Lithgow.  Head towards Mudgee and turn left at Capertee in the direction of Glen Davis.  Its an easy drive in, but after some rain would be pretty slippery.

Fifty Toes Walkabout had headed up on the Thursday night, and lucky for us they had otherwise there may not have been room for everyone.  Being a national park site it is first come, first served, and being Easter the campsite was packed.  It being free to camp may have also contributed to the crowds.

On any another weekend there probably wouldn’t be more than a handful of cars here, now there must have been over a hundred.  With only 2 long drops the morning queues were amusing to watch, 10 deep for hours, certainly no danger of getting a cold seat…..

Along one edge of the campsite runs the Capertee River, not that deep right now but with some swimming holes to keep the kids amused – a bit chilly though.  On either side the site is nestled between sheer cliffs, which catch the evening sun in striking red shades.

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It wouldn’t be a weekend away without a bit of dirt on the wheels.  Just up the road is the Ben Bullen trail through Baal Bone Gap.  It is a beautiful drive along the ridgetops and down through the valleys between.  The crux is an off camber stone slab, I’m told it is not too bad with decent wheel placement but that was something for another day.  The dirt bikes behind us seemed to have no problem though.

All in all a fantastic weekend.

Turon Gates – 1st & 2nd April

I’ve written about Turon Gates before, a wonderful place nestled in the bush.  Also a great place to head away for the weekend with Charlotte, who loves the horse riding.

The horses were in the back paddock camping when we got there, and even better there were more of them than other campers so we could really enjoy the peace and quiet.

As well as the horse riding there is plenty of bush walking available, just behind the campsite is the start of Devils Climb.  It is very steep, but worth it for the views back down.

With all the exercise in the day it was time to enjoy a relaxing evening with dinner over the fire.

Spotted on the drive home, this has to be best pub courtesy bus ever

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Turon Gates – 9th to 11th September

Turon Gates is one of those places which you want to go back to often.  Originally planned as a weekend treat for Charlotte, with horse riding as a reward for studying hard, the trip expanded until there were almost 20 heading over the Blue Mountains.

When travelling it is not too much of a chore breaking camp in the morning, then settling in somewhere else.  Probably as everything you need is already on board.  Weekends away are slightly different – I always prefer to make it a 2 night affair if possible.

So Friday off work for Hils and I and a day off school for the girls.  It seems odd that over here it is just an e-mail to the school office to let them know, but in the UK they would probably fine us for providing the girls with experiences beyond homework and watching TV…..

One thing hadn’t changed, however, from our trip last year; no matter where we head to someone is either already there or turns up shortly after.  Being early spring, with Friday forecast to be wet I’d assumed we would be first in, but no!  Another group had arrived on Thursday and set up, in the back paddock, right where I had my eye on.

Silver linings still exist though; instead of camping in the back paddock we found a cracking spot in the main camp area, tucked under a grassy bank next to the river and out of the wind.  This was very handy when the rain set in mid-afternoon.  Talking next day with Sonia, wife of Soren, who together own Turon Gates, the back paddock can get belted by the wind: seems we had the pick of the spots.

Arriving before midday, there was plenty of time to sort out the fire pits and test run the pit which was to host the spit roast next day.

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Arriving later that evening was Chris although no family this time as they had returned to the UK.  With the addition of a rooftop tent and drawers in the back of the Toyota he was well set up.

Saturday was supposed to be a few early showers but then fine and sunny.  Maybe the forecasters need some more computers (or to look out of the window), as the showers continued through the day.

We were so well sheltered in our little spot under the bank (sounds like a scene from wind in the willows…) that we hadn’t appreciated quite how windy it had been.  Sonia drove over to say there was a large tree down across the road in, so the horse riding lady couldn’t get in.

Actually a great big tree across the track sounded rather fun, but the SES are very efficient out here; by the time we got to it they had been and gone with just logs remaining.

On the plus side it meant that the rest of the party could get in.  John of Fifty Toes, his mate Nick a great new introduction and Jason with Amie and Maddie.  Unfortunately their better halves had decided home was a good option, so Hils was sole torchbearer for the ladies.

Also on the plus side, Charlotte could get her horse ride.  One of the fantastic things about Turon Gates is the riding is reasonably priced and realistic in managing risk.  Try riding in Kangaroo Valley and they would put Charlotte on a lead rope due to her age; here she had a 2hr ride matched to her ability, so plenty of cantering.

With recent wet weather the Turon River was a touch higher than last time we were here, but nowhere near its peak, even with the overnight rain.  Apparently a couple of weeks before it was 2.5m above the bridge on the way in.  The fast flow didn’t seem to hinder the feral goats though as they cross back and forth, and was still safe for the kids to invent their own games along the banks.

 

So to the spit roast!  The fire pit had worked out well the night before, and we’d been out to get plenty of firewood.  When choosing what to roast it makes life easier to choose the more basic cuts, which can handle a long slow cook; in this case boneless pork shoulder rolled and tied.

I’d like to report that the kids were pressed into action turning the spit, earning their keep.  However they had been replaced by a 12v battery, much more reliable and no complaining.

With the meat turning itself there was plenty of time to test camp oven skills, me with a lemonade scone cake and Jason with beer damper (funny how there is always some beer left over for the chef to dispose of…)

 

5 hours later and the feast was on, with John excelling with accompanying potato bake and oriental salad.

With Sunday came the fine sunny weather promised for Saturday, perfect for a lazy morning around the camp fire (aside from the packing up….) whilst the kids headed off on the horses.

 

It is funny who you meet when out for a drive.  Whilst the others packed up camp Chris and I headed off towards Sofala.  This is a rocky, narrow, track; would be hard towing but otherwise a fairly simple drive through beautiful country.

At the Sofala end there are some reasonably deep causeways, at the last of which there was a bloke with video camera looking uncertain

It turns out he was trying to shoot marketing material for Dodge RAM.  With him was the first import of their smaller truck, only 6.8l of engine!  Plenty of grunt but too long to be a decent off-roader.

Anyway, he was uncertain about the water crossing – ironic given his truck weighed as much as a small tank and about the same pulling power.  With Chris in the passenger seat and me starting the camera he got his video – hope we get a mention in the credits!

25/26 Jun – Yalwal & Monkey Gum Fire Trail

Another old mining area, but gold rather than silver.  About 3hrs south of Sydney and 30km west of Nowra where the Dangera and Yarrramunmun creeks meet in near Morton National Park.

First discovered in 1852 the last gold discovery was the Fountainhead in 1938 before the town was pretty much destroyed by fire in 1939.  Mining then fell away until 1971 when the Danjera dam was completed and flooded most of the area.

Whilst much of the mineworkings were flooded some historic items remain, like the old stamper on the edge of the lake.  The lake itself is beautiful, and apparently good for bass if fishing is your thing.

Alongside the lake there is a free campsite, basic with just toilets but in a great location.  It’s a bit of a lottery though, as it is a popular weekender and can attract campers whose idea of the bush is noise and drinking rather than nature.  A second area, just before the main site, was a quieter option when we were there.

Being June it can be pretty cold though, so its lucky that fires are permitted. Best to bring wood in with you, though maybe not by dragging a tree trunk up the road behind your ute (yep, we saw it go past).  Even so, it was freezing.

Part of the attraction of this area is there are still trails open to be driven (unlike around Yeranderie).  These range from the cruisy to the insane.  Perhaps one of the better known is Monkey Gum, which was the target of our weekend.

It’s easy enough to find, just take Deans Gap Rd to Mintbush (on the right heading south) and follow this until it merges into Monkey Gum which ultimately winds its way through to Braidwood Road.

Mintbush is an interesting drive, lots of rocks and a bumpy descent down to the river.  Part way through there is a log bridge which provides a nervy crossing as one end is part washed out leaving just the width of the car the squeeze past a huge hole.

The landcruiser in the pictures isn’t me, it belongs to Chris.  If you followed the blogs from last year you may recall we first met Chris (and Rachael and their 3 girls) in the Kimberley and spent a fair bit of time travelling with them.  Lovely people.

Monkey Gum itself is quite a challenge.  I had looked at plenty of pictures and Youtubes of others on the trail, but it is always hard to get a feel for what it is really like.  All I can say is it really tested us, both in driving and also planning.

A fair bit of time was spent walking the route and building the trail to avoid some nasty panel damage, or rolling into crevasse sized washouts snaking along the trail.  Would I do it again?  Perhaps, but would be giving consideration to more aggressive tyres and perhaps a lift to make things easier.

Ultimately planning and elbow grease got us through without incident, or needing to winch, but it was touch and go in places.  On some of the trickier bits putting your wheels in the wrong place could end very badly.  Sorry, the photos don’t show the “best” of it, too busy wrestling cars to take photos at those points

Once you get through the last climb there is a great lookout on the right (look for the ladder propped against the rock), before the trail flattens out and the only hazard is the bog holes.  It hadn’t rained for a week or so but even then some looked deep enough to swallow the 110.

Had to feel sorry for the trail biker we met who had dropped his bike into a hole and drowned it – gave him a cam strap so his mate could tow him along, saw them again a few hours later still towing.  A couple of days later a shiny new strap turned up in the post, good on them.

Another well known trail in this area is Powerlines, which is exactly what it sounds like, a trail following the powerlines which run roughly north-south.  Depending where you join it can seem like a cruisy drive, but it sure has some surprises; a nasty rock step turned us around as the risk of damaging both 110 and trailer was too high.

Rejoining the trail further along there is an insane rocky climb.  From a distance it looks like a sheer cliff.  Close up it is not much better, but you can see the rubber marks on the rocks where someone has driven up it, crazy!
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