Balonne River at St George – OR, M, W, F, D, ND. Camping is below the weir at St George, just over the Bridge. Access can be a little rough in places. Several areas to camp near the river or further up. Short pleasant walk into town. Drinking water to fill up water tanks is available at the information centre; you just have to see them inside for a handle for the tap. There is also a dump point into town ask at the info centre. We found St George to be a friendly town. Rating – 4.
Usually when we stay at Swinging Bridge it’s a one night stop and a quick early get away in the morning. This time it was nice to have a leisurely breakfast, let the canvas dry, go for a walk all before packing up. We had morning tea under the shade of the trees enjoying the tranquil setting before heading off.
We stopped at Moonie for lunch near the info and craft centre with the local post office next door. This is across the road from a big servo/ local hotel with descent fuel prices. There is heaps of parking for large rigs and trucks. In 1961 Moonie was the site of Australia’s first commercial oil field and still operates. It is also the home to monthly yabbie races.
The road to St George is very bumpy. Last time we were in St George we were passing through and it was a few months after the 2012 floods. The temporary levy bank was still in town. The area had 3 floods in a row 2010, 2011 and 2012 all record breaking with 2012 being the worst. It would have been a difficult and terrifyingly time for the locals and for people’s houses that were flooded.
We have stopped for a few nights below the weir on the Balonne River at St George. Not a bad spot, river is muddy and is a little stagnant but still has plenty of bird life. We found it very peaceful and stayed here 3 nights.
It is opposite houses though and the track is a little rough to get in but it is on the flood plain of the river. Sandy is spots, rocky in others and rutted in other parts where people have driven in the wet. In Wiki Camps it has some very mixed reviews.
Some of the trees had some interesting roots, some of which were very high and Chris was able to stand under them.
Jess loved the water but not so good for people swimming, very brown and every arvo a slim drifted in only to clear the next day.
There are 3 caravan parks within the St George Town area and one a little further out. From what we could see they all seem to have plenty of people staying. The town is busy with travellers coming and going. We spent the cost of several nights accommodation on various businesses around town. So by providing a camping area for free the town certainly didn’t miss out.
We found the town to be very friendly and well maintained. Riverside parkland has a great walkway that runs along the river to at least the town area. Plenty of tables and chairs, benches, bins, water taps and shade with some play equipment for the kids. Drinking water to fill up water tanks is available at the information centre; you just have to see them inside for a handle for the tap. They have completed stage 1 of a permanent solution to flood proof the town.
We had a fire several nights and had fun taking pictures at night of one of the trees near our campsite, experimenting lighting the tree up with torch light, then later when the moon came up and lit the area. First pic was lit by torch light, second was by moon light it just about turned day into night.
That is the plan this trip, to head west of home for a few weeks, just following our nose, stopping at whatever takes our fancy. But our distance west won’t be any further than St George, QLD, due to time and a dog that is still not keen on car travel. Since we have travelled a lot further west on previous trips, St George doesn’t seem that far west these days. Once upon a time it seemed like a long way away.
We headed off Friday after Chris finished work heading for Cooyar staying at our usual stop when heading this way Swinging Bridge. We stopped at Kilcoy for tea and to give Jess a break. Due to some very expensive motion sickness tablets she hasn’t been sick but was still anxious in the car. She travelled better after Kilcoy and even settled down for a sleep.
There are quite a lot of vans here this time, the busiest we had seen it but still plenty of room to spread out. There are several new power boxes at $5 per night payable at the local pub.
The old toilets have been removed with a new rural fire brigade building taking is place. Toilets can now be found at a new park across from the pub.
We are staying here a couple of nights, chilling out enjoying the peaceful surrounds, bird life and lovely deep blue sky.
Lederville Rocky River Retreat – OR, D, W, $ – Carton of Corona 26km from Drake NSW. Drake is situation on the Bruxner HWY between Tenterfield and Casino in NSW. Tenterfield is 44km East of Drake. Turnoff is just outside of Drake along Long Gully Road. It’s 26km to Lederville Rocky River Retreat from the turnoff, the first 8km is sealed the rest is a dirt/gravel road which is pretty windy, has some wash outs and creek crossings, it’s slow going but a nice drive. In dry weather a standard car can access the property. Phone reception at Drake.
Ed and Zoe are the owners of Lederville Rocky River Retreat and they generously allow people to camp on their property next to the river. The fee is a carton of Corona Extra Beer regardless of how long you are staying. For groups I think they charged $5 per person per night. No need to stop at the farmhouse, Ed and Zoe will come down and see you sometime. Ed also provides free firewood; there are no facilities so you have to have your own toilet. Lederville Rocky River Retreat can also be found in Wiki Camps. Camped here Easter 2016. Rating – 6
This year we broke our rule about not going away at Easter as we find most places to be pretty busy and packed. But with the week before Easter off it made it a 10 day break so we decided we would chance it. We were also staying put, no touring this time.
Our destination was Lederville Rocky River Retreat which is 26km from Drake NSW. Drake is situation on the Bruxner HWY between Tenterfield and Casino in NSW. Tenterfield is 44km East of Drake. Our turnoff was just outside of Drake along Long Gully Road. It’s 26km to Lederville Rocky River Retreat from the turnoff, the first 8km is sealed the rest is a dirt/gravel road which is pretty windy, has some wash outs and creek crossings, it’s slow going but a nice drive. In dry weather a standard car can access the property.
Ed and Zoe are the owners of Lederville Rocky River Retreat and they generously allow people to camp in an area that is approximately 2km stretch along the river. The fee is a carton of Corona Extra Beer regardless of how long you are staying, Yep, pretty incredible. We have friends that were staying for a month and it was still carton of Corona Extra Beer. For groups I think they charged $5 per person per night. No need to stop at the farmhouse, Ed and Zoe will come down and see you sometime. Ed also provides free firewood; there are no facilities so you have to have your own toilet. Lederville Rocky River Retreat can also be found in Wiki Camps.
There is plenty of room to spread out with several access points to the river. We were told this was the lowest the river had been in several years. You do share the camping area with some of Ed’s and Zoe’s friendly horses who like to come and say hello and at times, try and nibble on tents, hats, clothes, solar panels, chairs etc., inquisitive bunch. At times they were too friendly and we had to gently shoo them off. As well as running horses and cattle they also grow organic garlic.
Our friends had arrived earlier than us and had grabbed a spot with a great view of the river and easy access. There are several really great camping areas it’s hard to pick a favourite.
The first few days were peaceful and restful which suited us just fine as we really just needed to chill out, relax and read a few books. It’s unusual for us to stay in one spot for so long but we have been very busy we really just needed that break.
There are also goannas around. We had several in our area and one kept trying to get the rubbish from our friends family’s camp.
Up to and including Easter more people started to arrive, we had heard they had 300 people there the year before. We were a little worried but the area is so big it easily handles the numbers. We were fortunate there were 150-200 people this Easter. Things were a little noisier but we have had worst and no one was camped really close.
During the day it was pretty warm so we were thankful for the river, taking many a dip and going Kayaking up the river. We did also have a bit of rain.
This was our first major trip with our dog Jess (10 ½ month old Labrador), she isn’t real keen on the car yet, but we did manage to get there and back without any major issues. It was the first time Jess had come across a large body of water and of course being a Labrador she loved the water. She had no issues of putting her whole head under the water if she saw something in there she wanted like a stick. She happily sat in the front of the Kayak watching the world; fish, birds, rocks etc. pass by.
Another group had a couple of Aussie Swags one of the owners we had just met on the Aussie Swag Facebook group so it was nice to meet in person.
Highly recommend this area, be mindful it is a working property. Trail bikes and the like are not recommended. Ed doesn’t take too kindly to people riding fast around the horses.
The river is great with many interesting rocky areas with little spas and pools to sit in.
We left Easter Sunday to avoid the Easter rush back home and had a pretty good run. All in all we had a great time, we would certainly go there again but not over Easter. Think we will be sticking to our rule of not going camping at Easter.
It’s been a while since we have been out and about. After our last big trip to Western Australia we came home and bought a house. After 5 years of renting and with some bad neighbours we decided it was time. So we bought ¾ of an acre which is surrounded by larger acreage, ahh it is bliss. No loud heavy metal band noises coming from the neighbours, no screaming and yelling, no lack of privacy, it is so very peaceful here. The house is over 22 years old with still the originally kitchen so our first priority was putting in a new kitchen, which of course involves a lot more than it sounds especially since we did it all ourselves. But what all this has meant is we have been very busy and not able to get out onto the road, exploring Australia. With the reno all but done we are finally getting to go on a few trips this year and we are hanging out. First one is just before Easter for a 10 day break.
We also have another addition to our family and her name is Jess a Yellow Labrador and she is beautiful, currently 10 mths old. We could not ask for a better natured dog. It has meant we had to do a few alternations to the back of the Ute to fit Jess is. Our only issue with Jess is she gets car sick. So it could be fun.
If you recall on our last trip we had a few repairs, we lost a tyre on the Tanami. Chris was able to fix it on our trip but it did leave us with no hand brake and other brake issues so it left us with a few repairs to do. Chris fixed the brakes issues as soon as we got home. We didn’t realise until we got home that somewhere along the way over the very rough roads we did a shock absorber on the trailer, with some upcoming trips, Chris finally got around to fixing it.
The time has come. I’ve known I needed to change the shock absorbers for a while so with a couple of trips coming up, it’s time to get this job out of the way. Why? Firstly, noises, squeaks when driving slowly into a camp site or manoeuvring at home. It could have been other suspension components but there isn’t a lot that can make noise. Secondly, further investigation showed oil leaks from the LHS damper. It’s hard to confirm their failure on the camper as manual pushing down on the body and releasing didn’t show any problem but it is heavy and hard to check like that. The sure way was to remove them.
So I jump underneath in the shed and take the leaky one off. It’s fairly easy and only takes 10 minutes but in my case the shed is so full that I had to crawl through from the draw bar end. With the first one off I could verify the problem, it was soaked in dirt covered oil. The only place this oil could come from was inside the shock. To check it I used a half inch extension bar through one end eye and held that to the ground with my feet. Another extension bar through the other eye then push and pull on the shock. It moved about 20mm either way without resistance before starting its damping action – not good. So I pulled the other one off as they should be changed in pairs. It turns out it wasn’t much better but it didn’t show the oil leak. Another possible sign of wear was that they didn’t extend to their maximum length slowly by themselves. I say possibly because I’m not sure if that is the expected action from these foam core shocks.
The old shock absorber
Now it’s time to get replacements. These original ones are Pedders Trakryder foam cell shocks, part number 9529. Looking them up on-line – $200 each – ouch. I wasn’t too impressed with their short life span either, only about 30 to 35 thousand km, so I thought it might be time to try something different. The question is what something different? You can’t exactly look up Aussie Swag on the shock absorber manufacturer’s website. Looking again at Pedders part number 9529, it lists vehicles such as Chev Silverado, Mitsubishi Canter, Toyota Coaster Bus, Toyota Dyna and Toyota Landcruiser 40 series, all heavy off road or commercial vehicles (sounds about right). I chose to pick one, a Toyota 40 series FJ front and look up its part number. I found a pair of new Gabriel nitrogen gas shocks part number 745431 on eBay for about $90 delivered that sounded OK. They had the same closed and open length (extended length 456mm closed length 307mm) and other specs seemed good. They aren’t foam core but our tow ute uses OME (Old Man Emu) Nitrocharger sports that have done much better than the Pedders’ so that sounded OK at less than a quarter of the price of the originals. OME Nitrocharger sports to fit the 40 series front are about $170 each so I didn’t go that way. My on-line investigations also seemed to suggest that Pedders 4WD shocks are manufactured by Gabriel.
The Gabriels turned up quickly they were new so in good condition in their original boxes. A side by side comparison showed the lengths to be correct. The similarities (other than colour) were remarkable. Looks like the same factory. Even the stamped symbols are the same. Compare the “TOP” symbol in the photos for example.
Side by side comparison
I did re-use the Pedders’ stone covers. When I took them off the old shocks, there was lots of red dirt compacted around the shaft, along with oil on one of them. I see they are more for avoiding stone damage than for keeping dust out. The old ones were in good condition after a wash with CT18 and leaf blower dry (sounds like they had a day at the spa). I added a couple of heavy cable ties to the bottom of the stone covers to try to stop them creeping down and separating at the top as the old ones had.
Ready to install
I thought re-fitting them would be simple but getting the new bushes inside the eyes on the camper wasn’t simple. I had to fight them on using a couple of screwdrivers as levers being careful not to damage the rubber bushes. Fitted the bolt and nuts (new nylock should be used) without over-tightening so as not to squeeze the mounting lugs on the chassis together at all. The bottom mount was probably harder because the shock had to be compressed to get it into place. This isn’t as easy when you’re on your back on a trolley that wants to roll around. Same issue with getting the bush to fit but less ability to wiggle the shock now. Anyway, they are now on and ready for a test tow next weekend.
In thinking about the life span of the old shocks, I may have been a bit tough. While they may have only made 30 to 35 thousand km, it was across some of the toughest roads in the country. This included the Birdsville Track, Oodnadatta Track, Dalhousie Springs, Finke Road (including the desert race track), the South and North Telegraph Track, Weipa Road, Peninsular Development Road, Virillia Beach, Old Coach Road, Lakefield National Park, Bloomfield Track, Gulf through Hells Gate (twice), Plenty Highway, Tanami Track, Gibb River Road, Mitchell Falls Road and much more. Should they have lasted longer? I don’t know but I’m trying something cheaper now. If we get a quarter of the life out of the Gabriel’s then we are still ahead. The OME’s on the ute have done all of that and a lot more and still seem to be in perfect condition.
7/08/2014 – It doesn’t seem to matter how long you are away for, when it’s time to go home, you are keen to get there. For us it’s catch up with family and friends. Don’t like the unpacking, packing is so much more fun 🙂 .We have a few repairs to do on the Ute before we can head off on another adventure, where too we aren’t sure at this stage. We have the birth of our second grandchild in a few weeks, so that will keep us busy for a while.
It’s been an awesome trip, the Kimberley has been on our to do list for a long time, it was an epic journey, few mishaps along the way. But what’s life without a few challenges.
We have seen some awesome gorges, stunning waterfalls, swum in some beautiful waterholes and hot pools, met some wonderful people, seen a lost city that blew the mind, camped in some remote places, seen some incredible Bee-Hives, travelled on some iconic outback roads, paddled up beautiful Lawn Hill Gorge, ridden some camels, covered a lot of kms and got home safe and sound. We have such amazing things to see in Australia, we are very fortunate to live in such a wonderful country.
Until next time, stay safe everyone and happy travels 🙂
6/8/14 – Chris had to change a slow leaking tyre this morning, the same tyre that came off the ute on the Tanami, which seems so long ago now. The tyre has done well really, considering everything it has been through, it is hopefully repairable.
We have passed through Mitchell so many times and have never been to the Artisan Hot Pools in town, we had intended to in 2012 but the complex has been flooded in the big flood and was under repair. Since hot pools seem to be the flavour of the month we decided we were going to go there this time. It will be a once off though, cost us $8 each, $6.50 for pensioners, after Blackall it seemed rather steep. The fee was for an all day pass but even if you were staying in town I don’t Know how many would come and go, it’s not like Blackall where you could hang out at the pools for hrs.
The hot pool was 39.1 degrees like stepping into a bath that is too hot. There are notices up and you are told to limit your time in the hot pool for 15 – 20mins at a time. There is a cold pool at 21 degrees that those that are game can hop into to cool down, Chris did. We were told by one couple who had been dropping into the hot pools on their travels for several years that they had seen two people on separate occasions be taken away in an ambulance, so take heed to the warning of not staying in too long. We personally did find it too hot. You are also encourage to drink lots of water.
Roma is another town we just pass through, so we stopped and did a walk up the Main Street and called into the Big Rig. After we had a cuppa and afternoon tea we moved on to find our night spot. Judd’s Lagoon was full so we went a few kms down the road to a gravel pit, our last night on the road.
We drove back out of town 5km to stop for the night hidden and protected from the wind behind some trees.
We then headed back to the hot pools, had a swim and a chat with other travelers before buying lunch at the pool. $10 for fish (Barra), chips and salad. It was great, big piece of fish, decent salad and proper knife and forks. After that it was a other dip in the hot pool. The pools are great value and encourage people to stop in for a dip.
We then headed off out of town stopping a few Kms south of Augathella for the night.
3/8/14 – We had been to the Riversleigh Fossil site near Lawn Hill on a previous trip in 2012, and to be honest it didn’t mean or do a lot for us. However the Fossil Centre in at Mt Isa helped shine a light, more information and the significance of the Riversleigh site. It would have been beneficial to have seen the Fossil Centre first then see the Riversleigh site, would have all meant a lot more.
Anyway the Fossil Centre is well worth doing. Over 200 different mammals were found at Riversleigh as well as insects, birds etc many of them were ancestors of animals we see today. Like the Big Bird, Crocodiles that lived on land as well as water, meat eating Kangaroos called Fangaroos. Kids will love it, there is a sand pit with buried Dinosaurs fossils for the kids to dig up.
We had planned to give the trailer and ute another wash as it was muddy and dusty once again but the car wash said no trailers, or caravans so we couldn’t. So we headed off once more towards Cloncurry.
We stopped at Cloncurry for lunch at a lovely park called Mary Kathleen, there was a large play area, heaps of trees providing shade, table and chairs and also the info centre and outside museum. Closer towards Mt Isa there is Mary Kathleen ruins, you can buy a map for 50c from the tourist info centre.
Next stop was McKinlay and the famous Walkabout Creek Hotel as seen in the Crocodile Dundee movie. They welcome, well play on the famous role and invite visitors to stop and look around and maybe buy a pint or two.
After Kyunua the area was pretty flat, any rest areas were open and close to the road. We didn’t see anyone using them. About 70km out of Winton were several jumpups with 3 caravans spread around one, we decided it was a good place to stop as well. It was until the wind came up. It howled all night, canvas was flapping continuously, we both had a rough night sleep.