Swinging Bridge Park in the new camper

We are camped at Swinging Bridge Park at Cooyar for our first weekend away in our new camper an Aussie Swag, yeah.

Ute

We hadn’t actually planned on staying here, we had planned to camp and had booked into Emu Creek Campground in the Benarkin State Forest near Blackbutt. When we got to Clancys Campground (12 km of dirt road) there was a sign in the middle of the road blocking the road down to Emu Creek Campground, saying the road was closed. We weren’t impressed, there was nothing on the National Park web site to say it was closed and they happily took our money for the booking. So they might be getting an email asking for a refund. (Follow up; the National Parks are giving us a refund) We could of stayed at Clancys but we knew they was quite a few booked to stay there over the weekend and with very few flat spots we thought it would get crowded out and the point was we didn’t want to stay there, if we knew Emu Creek was closed we would of gone somewhere else. So check before you go, Emu Creek was closed when we were there on the 29/07/11.

The trip through Woodford was a little slow due to the Splendour on the Grass Festival. There was road work from just outside Moore to just outside Blackbutt with only one lane open and the lights working 15 mins one way then 15 mins the other. The roads works will be happening for quite a while so keep that in mind if heading this way.

Finally arriving at Swinging Bridge Park, we found a spot right down the back. Flipping out the camper only took a min; attaching the awnings and putting them up took a wee bit longer. Something I’m sure we will get quicker and better at over time.

Setup

Lunch was a breeze in the kitchen quick and easy to set up. We had stopped at Moore for morning tea, pulling out the kitchen for a quick cuppa was very easy and quick, no hassles at all.

For people who aren’t familiar with the Aussie Swag camping trailer the kitchen is stainless steel with 4 burner gas hotplates with a grill underneath, has a sink with storage under it for all our plates, cups etc., it also has a flip out short bench. It slides out and swings around to run along the camper body. Our 2011 model has a stainless steel splash back and wind break. There is also a 100 lt stainless steel pantry draw that sits just above the kitchen, when its in the camper, to access it just slide the catch and it slides out smoothly. All models from ours onward have different taps, they no longer use the flick mixer type, they have changed it to 2 tap version one as it’s stronger.

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The 80 lt Waeco fridge/freezer also slides out from a vented storage box, they now have a stainless bench that sits on top of the fridge that flips over and is braced back to the fridge box. We went for the short bench version but you can get a longer one that requires screw on legs to help support the length, we opted for the shorter one because it was quicker to set up. Even has a place for the t/towel with a rail at the end of the shelf.

Kitchen

With our Baby Webber Q it completes a pretty snazzy kitchen.

We have to confess we have put an overlay on the inner spring mattress, which is why we didn’t have the awnings already attached to the camper; going home we will take the overlay off so we can close the camper with the awnings attached. We knew the current overlay was pushing it but we went with what we had, we will have to pick up more of a mattress topper for that extra bit of comfort, did I mention we had a gas heater installed too, and running hot water, now this is  glamping (glamour camping).

Bed

Charger

New Bainbridge 60 amp battery charger.

Batteries

We had 3 105 amp hr. batteries installed.

This spot is great, large grassy area, lots of trees and mostly flat. It’s peaceful, with just the sounds of the Maggies singing their songs and babies looking for food, with the occasionally dog bark from a local house. A cocky has just started to squawk and some cows have started to moo, little birds have now started chirping as they flitter from tree to tree.

Swinging-Bridge

When we arrived there was only one whiz bang van set up, as the afternoon has gone on, more are arriving, we are way down the end so shouldn’t get too many people if any down this far. There is a slight cool breeze, going to be a cold night.

Of course there is the swinging bridge, it’s a little wonky and it does swing when you walk on it, not for the faint hearted. Gets quite a swing up when you are trying to cross and the local kids think it’s fun to give it a good swing. After walking across it a few times the legs felt a bit like jelly. The original swinging bridge was washed away in Feb 1988; it was re built very quickly and opened a bit later in the year. It joins one part of town with the other part that has the pub, think it would be a bit hairy to cross after they have had a few. There is an old hay bailer on the other side that is worth a look.  There is also a small grave of a 5 year old girl that died back in Dec 1904 drowning in the creek.

After tea we retreated to the warmth of the camper with the gas heater running and watched a movie on the laptop. It actually got quite hot, hard to find the just right temp on the dial, seems to have big temp range on the thermostat. We turned it down to 2 1/2 on the dial for bed time but did find it was quite a bit cooler up on the bed, with our heads up the other end near the canvas, was warm under the covers but my head was cold. It got down to 1 degree outside, no frosts but lovely fog in the morning.

The hot water for the shower worked a treat, we tried out the creek system pumping water from a 20lt container interesting to note now much we used, 5 lts each. We have deliberately run the 12v hot water all day seeing what effects it has on the battery, does drain them a lot when left on all day. Chris has been having fun moving the solar panel around catching the sun.

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Haven’t done much today, kicked back enjoying the peaceful bush surroundings having lots of cuppas. Talking and admiring the camper, there are few mods we might do to give it our personal touch. Overall we are very impressed with the quality and workmanship; they are a good tough off road trailer that is going to take us to some awesome places. We will miss some of the conveniences and quickness of the van, especially the setting and packing up parts but the camper will get us into those hard to reach, beautiful, remote places of Australia.

As the sun starts to sets, the temperature is dropping and there is a lovely smell and sizzling coming from the Baby Webber as our roast dinner is cooking. After dinner we will retreat into the warmth of the camper with our heater running, tough life but someone has to do it and it may as well be us.

Another cool night but nice and toasty in the camper, another plus of the gas heater is it stops condensation on the inside of the camper. But you do get condensation in the bins next to the bed; have to be careful with what we put there.

Kitchen-and-Webber

We had a leisurely morning, and then slowly packed up while we were waiting for the canvas to dry from the overnight dew. Yeah we got it all closed with the annexes attached. All up it did take us a while to pack up but we do have things here and there at the moment as the Ute is not setup how it will be once we have a canopy on.

Chris

We stopped for lunch just outside Crows Nest, love the kitchen so quick and easy to use. We are going home via Esk for a different route home.

N – Mann River Nature Reserve

Mann River Nature Reserve – T, F, OR, W. 131 km W of South Grafton or 47 km E of Glen Innes. 12 km down Old Grafton Road, down a steep hill, slippery when wet. Large grassy area on the banks of the Mann River. Some sites close to the river have been washed out due to the 2011 floods. Great swimming, lots of granite boulders, birds, kangaroos & wallabies, popular spot. Camped there 5/01/09 and 13th & 14th Nov 2011. Rating – 5

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Mann River NSW

Our 2nd trip in the camper was to Andrew Drynan Park to meet up with the campertrailer.org group. A really nice friendly bunch of people, as newbies we were made to feel very welcome. There were many different campers, some quiet interesting, it was fun to talk to the owners and have them show us their pride and joy. We also loved showing off our own pride and joy. The fully enclosed ensuite come private room drew some interest, people thought it was a good idea and were impressed.

The ground is pretty slopy and we had to put the floor up on some blocks to fill in the gap to the ground, otherwise we coped well. Chris has come up with a few ideas to be able to deal with slopy ground quickly. Not a lot of flat ground to be found at Andrew Drynan, apart from that it was a lovely spot with great company.

We left on the Sunday before lunch after some drizzle in the morning. We headed down Lions road, though to Kyogle. From Casino to Grafton we were hit with our first storm which had some hail in it, it was thumping it down and at times was quiet hard to see. In Grafton we checked the radar and saw another storm was coming and that on the way to Mann River Nature Reserve we were going to drive through it. There were a few other cells a long way off but didn’t think they would hit us again.

Up through the Gibraltar range we had some fog, up the top we cleared the fog and could look down at all the clouds sitting on the ranges below us. Once we turned off onto the Old Grafton Road and started the downward trip to Mann River we really it hit heavy fog. It was drizzling when we arrived and we were losing light quickly, unfortunately for us there were several other people already set up from the weekend. A caravan just before us got one of the last level spots left.

We eventually found a spot right up the end very private and quite and quickly setup as the rain started to get heavier. This time we put up the side walls as we knew more rain was coming. Well it started to bucket it down, both of us got wet particularly Chris he was drenched. Once set up, first port of call was a shower and then tea. The ensuite ended up being a God send giving us a another room fairly dry, at one stage we had lots of puddles and we were walking in ankle deep water under the awnings in a couple of dips in the ground.

We had tea and had to fight off every bug in the neighbourhood. We must of been the only ones with an outside light on and all the bugs honed in on us. Never have we had so many bugs, beetle, mozzies and big ones at that, moths, flies you name it we had them.

Storms, pop quiz, how many storms can you get in a row, answer a lot. From 2pm until about 4 am we had one storm after another, thunder, lightning rain, lots of rain. Our trailer has officially had its christening, few leaks around zips. But considering the amount of rain it did very well. We are camped pretty close to a little stream that flows into the Mann River 200m further down stream. Chris kept a close eye on the creek level during the night making sure it was not coming up. He turned the ute around in case we had to make a quick escape during the night. We would not of camped here if we known we had a run of storms like that coming throughout the night. There are signs up showing the 2011 flood level, we as well as many other campers are camped below that level.

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We woke to beautiful sunny blue skies, the sky is always bluer out in the country. Hasn’t take long to dry every thing off. Before morning tea we went for a walk along the creek chatting to other campers along the way. Some had been here over the weekend and said it was packed.  Camps sites used to run right along the creek, now there is deep wide ruts, damage from the 2011 floods. A ranger called in a said they had several inches up stream so to expect the river to come up a bit higher.

We have been here before and you could hop across the river going from one big granite boulder to another. kids were swimming in the big swimming hole, sliding down some small rapids. Now those same rocks have fast flowing water over them, the swimming hole is like a big lake filled with muddy water. We chatted to an older lady that was traveling on her own. She was here over the weekend and said yesterday morning before the storms came the water was crystal clear and you could walk over the granite rocks to the calm clear swimming hole. She said it has come up quiet a bit overnight and this morning.

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Ahh we are camped in a beautiful spot overlooking the flowing creek cascading over the granite boulders. An Azure Kingfisher parked itself on a branch in front of us for a while and then moved up the steam a little stopped for a while before moving on. There are little Superb Fairy Wrens every where as well as some other wrens and birds tweeting every where. We are sure they are here to get a really good feed on the many bugs flying around. The lovely creek setting before us looks very inviting we were imagining a nice arvo dip until we put our feet in it, brrr wee bit cold.

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For lunch I made up some Cheese, Chives and Onions Rolls cooked in the Baby  Webber Q and yum they were so good. Smelt really yummy while they were cooking we couldn’t wait for lunch. For people that don’t know I (Kate) have strict dietary requirements which means I can’t eat any grains, so these yummy little rolls were made with non grain flours. The recipe can be found here.

Webber-Rolls

The Roos have come back out after last nights storms and are cooling themselves lying in the shade of the trees.

roos

After an arvo walk in the hot sun we succumbed to the cool running waters of the creek. Was a bit of a thermal shock so we slowly got lower and lower into the waters. Was very refreshing to say the least. There is something around our campsite that is affecting Chris’s nose and the bugs are bugging me. The green ensuite is attracting them, you would think it was night with the number of bugs in there. Early tea tonight and retreat into the safety of the camper before the bugs carry us away.

It’s about 5.30pm I just said to Chris the bugs have dropped off, he said they have clocked out before the night time ones clock in, ha ha.

We had a bit of a treat last night. A wallaby came down and had a drink in the creek right next to our camp, was lovely watching it drink from the cool refreshing waters.

We have decided to move on from Mann river and head to the coast where hopefully we will get a sea breeze. It was very very hot this morning. Chris suggested we go to Evans Head where we first met nearly 27 years ago, seems appropriate for our Anniversary tomorrow.

We had packed up just before 10am, we are getting the pack up down quicker, once the Ute is fully set up it will be even quicker. If anything it was the heat slowing us down this morning. Another reason we decided to move on is we were told by one of the other campers rain was forecast for today. With the temp as high as it is today it will more likely be another storm.

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We have taken the Old Grafton road to Grafton. It’s a very scenic drive. Crossing several creek crossings, cattle grids and passing lots of cows and horses eating the lush green grass. Plenty of Roos as well. The road isn’t too bad, bit bumpy in a few places but nothing the Ute and AS can’t handle.

This road is unsuitable for caravans and you can see why. It becomes quiet narrow and with cliff rocks jutting out in a few places, tree branches and lantana hanging out over the road making it even more difficult with a van or a high vehicle  like a motorhome. There is also a small tunnel that has been dug out by hand through the side of the mountain.

Tunnel

We  did a 500m detour to check out the Guy Fawkes River State Conservation area, Dalmorton Camping Area, nice private camping area along the Mann River, be lovely in cooler weather. Camping fees apply and in NSW day vehicle fees also apply.

Just to prove this road is a little bit rough, windy and loose gravel, we just past a small 4wd had come off the road in the loose gravel and gone into a really big ditch. It was some younger youths who said. It wasn’t caused by speed as they were only doing 40, but that is a little debatable. There was another vehicle there with some work men working out how to pull it out. One man said to us not to lend your cars to your kids, maybe it was his car. Going to be tricky getting it out of that hole

Evans Head

It’s been over 25 yrs since we were last at Evans Head at an Easter camp. Things have certainly changed, we noticed several new buildings as we drove in, we are yet to walk around town.

We have booked into the Silversands Holiday Park for 2 nights on an unpowered site $21.50 per night and 20 cents for a 5 min shower. We are on one of those sites you walked past and wished you were camping there. Totally river frontage on Evans River, large site with no one near us. Awesome view over the river and only a short walk to the beach. We have some entertainment tonight watching people playing night tennis at the courts near us. We do have a walk way and bike path right out the front but during the weekend shouldn’t be an issue.

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The Coffs caravan club has taken over most of the power sites in the area, the office people kindly warned us not to camp too close. There are about 70 vans in the group, we walked past when they were having happy hour, talk about a noisy bunch all having a ball.

It’s so much cooler here, lovely sea breeze no bugs to speak off, some sand flies are about at night so have covered up.

Eagle

There is still plenty of bird life, some kookaburras are laughing in some near by trees. Maybe laughing at the people playing tennis. We have see some Blue Headed Honey Eaters, some Minor birds, a Sea Hawk of some kind in one of the trees above us and sand crabs.

Crab

Evans Head – 16/11/2011

We have kind of gone from the sublime to the ridiculous at the moment. Our nice sea breeze has turned into gale force winds. The canvas on the trailer is flapping around, and every now and then when we get big gusts. Everything is holding and hopefully by the evening it would of calmed down a bit.

We went for a quick dip in the river, the winds were coming up so we didn’t stay in too long, it was a nice refreshing dip. This morning we walked to the beach and out to the break wall and had the pleasure of seeing 3 dolphins. We then walked up the street for a few supplies. Things haven’t changed that much. It was very warm in the sun and very little breeze up the street. We got some fish and chips for lunch, as soon as we can back to the river the nice breeze was back. Then the bad winds came. That’s the luck of the draw with the coast, storms are supposed to be coming this arvo/evening. Being right of the river we would feel it more, a few rows back and they might not be getting much at all.

Oystercatchers

It really is a lovely place, one we plan to come back to. We do have a few more caravans and a motorhome near us all opting for the unpowered sites. By this arvo there are quiet a few more.

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Despite the wind we are going to stay another night, we had fun this arvo doing some bird shooting. Darters, sea gulls, white faced heron, plubber, a couple of sea eagles with a nest up the top of one of the trees near us. Lots of fun.

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Around 6pm the fishing trawlers go out for the night, nice to watch them cruise by.

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A special tea tonight for our anniversary of roast lamb and roast veggies. We have had a lovely day.

17/11/11 – The wind eventually dropped and we had a good night sleep. Was a bit over cast this morning and the sea breeze has just picked up again. One disadvantage of being in this spot is the walk way, not an issue during the day, but people doing their very early morning walks having a chat as they do so, wake you up.  Friday and sat nights as well as holidays might be more of an issue, but that is the price you pay for such a great spot. Apart from that we have a great view and are getting lots of comments about what a great spot we are in. The camper gets a lot of looks. We can testify to the benefits of the wind guards on the burners.

When the tide goes out you can walk around on the sand and watch the sand crabs scurry back into their holes. The birds come onto the sand looking for little fish and crabs. When the water goes out it leaves shallow pockets of water that are great for little kids.

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We have had some entertainment from yesterday arvo. Some people in a motorhome aren’t satisfied with whatever spot they are in. We watched them arrive and move the motorhome from one spot to another fiddling around and finally settling on a spot. Within a few hrs they were moving finding another spot supposedly better. They moved up to right in from of the tennis courts, of course once the night time tennis started them moved again. Then this morning they have up and moved again. Wonder how long this spot will last.

Kookaburra

We went for a walk over the bridge to the other side of the river this arvo. As usual when we don’t take the cameras we come across heaps of birds.  Corella’s, Fig birds, Darters, galah’s and more. Across the river is where all the fishing trawlers dock, there is a fishing co op where you can buy fresh fish.

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Chris really likes this spot and is finding very relaxing so we might end up staying a few more days yet. Our only concern is how noisy the walking track will Friday and Sat nights.

18/11/11 – We have decide to stay here for another few nights and head home on Sun morning. It’s such a lovely place. We do expect it to get a bit busier and noisier over the weekend. We are already seeing a few more campers arriving filling up the front row.

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It’s a popular spot for fishing with the locals and the holiday makers. We have seen several fish jumping in the river in front of us. Lots of people go out with those worm suckers things to get the big long worms out of the sand. It’s also a popular day picnic and swimming area for families along the sand and grassed area along the river.

We went to the Evans Head RSL for lunch fish, chips and salad for $10 each. It was very nice and he staff were very friendly, worth calling in for a meal if you are in this area.

Gull-Flight

In the arvo we took a run into Ballina, very busy on the roads be good when the by pass is done. Bought a bin for the camper very exciting.

19/11/11 – We had a bit of excitement this morning. Looks like there was some big police sting off the coast. A police rib  had a boat in tow with cops in both boats, down the Evans River, then we saw a massive police boat poke it’s nose into the heads up the river. A police helicopter was also flying above us. Then the rib went back out to meet the police boat. Exciting.

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Wind has really come up today, people have batten down the hatches and added more ropes and pegs. Not us, the trailer is all going great. It’s so nice to have some inside room where we can escape the wind. It was blowing up grit and sand. We have had wind up to 32km/h with wind gust up 44km/h, hope it knock backs soon.

We went for another walk across the river and tried to get some more birds shots. Few different eagles or kites about that we had loads of fun shooting. Hard to shoot holding onto a hat and a camera. Away from the water the wind drops off and the sun has some real bite in it. Back at camp the wind is still not letting up.

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