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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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.

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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

Day 34 – 4th May

After a good night sleep we were ready to hit the road again. We have had blue skies and awesome sunsets the last few days we have been driving but the day we are to arrive in Byron Bay it rained all day.

We got to Byron mid afternoon and checked into the First Sun Holiday Park, which is right in the centre of Byron Bay with beach frontage. I guess it’s due to its closeness to town and the high number of back packers but they are very strict, with needing ID which they take a copy of, a list of rules you have to sign including some zero tolerance ones. The rules aren’t a problem for us but I think some would find them a bit excessive. It’s not cheap either $38 for a powered site off peak in the centre of the park if you want a beach frontage one the price jumps to $50 a night, $20 extra per person over 16 years. Because it was our last few days of our trip we decided to stay here due to its closeness to everything which we can walk to.

Byron-Bay-Lighthouse

Byron has changed since the last time I was here over 25 yrs ago. I can’t believe how busy it is, cars, people and shops everywhere, it use to be such a sleepy laid back chill out town. Don’t get me wrong there is still plenty of chilling out going on here, it still has its strong hippy, opps “Alternative lifestyle” and the people that brings with it. Shops have names like Earth and Sea, First Sun, Buddha Bar, Osho’s House healing Centre. There are day spas and wellness centres, back packers, big health food shops, Crystal shops and lots of shops selling tie tied clothes, jewellery and shoes that only the more alternative would wear. You can even buy Organic Donuts as if that somehow makes them healthier. It seems most shops have the smell of incense pouring out of them; maybe it’s to cover up the smell of unwashed bodies. Their industrial estate is not called this but a more name fitting for this area, “The Arts and Industry Estate”. There are whiz bang vans everywhere, often lined up along the beach. Byron Bay, Lismore and Nimbin are now called the “Rainbow Region”.

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I used to come here before tourism really hit this place. It wasn’t the trendy place it seems to be now, there were no crowds only a few shops and lots of hippies all looking to find that dream and beautiful beaches, as I said much is the same but wow it sure got busy.

So we are going to just chill out here for a few days before heading home, walk along the beach, visit another lighthouse, checkout the interesting shops and try not to inhale anything. So we will end the trip here.

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Day 33 – 3rd May

Well it was noisy night for Chris mostly as I had ear plugs he woke with a start a few times during the night with trucks pulling up beside and behind us. We were up reasonably early and on the road by 8am. We had to get off the Hume to fill up in Goulburn, lucky it was on and off pretty quick. Sydney was not so easy, they hit you with a toll when you go onto the M7 and when you get off, we had to get off to find fuel. Getting back on was not so easy, our GPS told us one way but the signs said Newcastle another so we followed the signs and not our Bossy Betsy the GPS. Well the signs took us closer to Sydney in busy traffic with a van is not fun, taking us around what we know as the older route to Newcastle instead of on the M7, off course when we did get back on we got hit for more tolls. The Highway is by passing the towns these days which is great if you just want to fly by them but a pain when you have to get off and find fuel, we had a red dot on the gas a few times. There are several service centres along the hwy which we used when we could.

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We have pushed on hard today and got a lot of kms under us, just driving is all rather boring. There was a lot of road work along the way, at one point we were stop by road works for nearly 30mins. We have stopped for the night north of Kempsey at a rest area called Paddy’s Rest, not used by trucks, Chris backed us into a spot as far off the road as he could.

Day 4 – 4th April

It was a quiet night with no trouble. It has only been in the last few weeks they have started having some trouble with the youth and they are getting right onto it nipping it in the bud. Forbes is an RV friendly town and it’s obvious they are proud of their town.

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We did encounter a few more hoppers along the way today. The locals keep saying they are bad this year. Everyone is cleaning windscreens at servos. We might have to take the car and van through a car wash as its pretty bad with bugs but Chris said wait until we get some mud on it from the high country that will cover the green slim up.

Another act of nature we saw today were these grass seeds things like little tumble weeds all over the edge of the road. In one place they were all over the road and we had to plough through them.

We have found the camps 5 book to be not that accurate in this area. We have stopped a few kms out of Bright. We had planned to stop 40 odd kms back but we couldn’t find the site listed even using the GPS co-ordinates. The stop we are now staying at is listed in the book as a night spot but at one end there is a sign saying no camping, but we have come in the other end, as have another lot of travellers. What sign???

So far it hasn’t been that cold, tonight is cooling down a bit, there are a few trees that have changed colour.

Day 3 – 3rd April

In the morning we went for a walk to Hickey Falls taking a few photos. We only had a short drive today so no need to rush off. The first few days of any trip is mostly driving with nothing to exciting happening on the way. But today we meant a force of nature we had not encountered before.

Hickey-Falls

Just outside Dubbo we passed several cars coming in the opposite direction that looked like a flock of birds had flown over them and dropped their cargo, with hardly any clear windscreen. We passed more cars in much the same state; we then noticed the car grills were full of bugs. Then we hit them, swarms of grasshoppers, you could see them in the distance but could do nothing to avoid them as they crossed the road. Not only did you hear the thud as they hit the windscreen we could see the visual impact as they splattered over the windscreen, sliding up with the force of the wind, leaving slim marks as they went over the roof. They got worse the closer we got to Forbes seeing hundreds of dead bugs on the road as we drove along. It was bad enough hitting a couple of grasshoppers but when there was a great big swamp crossing the road it was thud, thud, thud, slim. Slim, slim. We have found out grasshoppers don’t have red blood but lime green, with evidence of it on the front of the car and van. By the time we got to Forbes there was very little clean windscreen left and we looked like the same flock had dumped their cargo on us. My job when we fill up with petrol is to clean the windscreen. The locals at Forbes have said they are nearly in plague proportions this year.

We have stopped for the night at a lovely rest stop at Forbes right on the creek, an older local couple came to give us the phone number of the local police as they are having trouble with some of the local gangs, asking us to call them if they turn up, this is a popular rest area with several other campers. One of the other campers has taken it upon himself to warn all the other campers. Very nice of him but gee he could talk under wet cement.

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We went for a nice walk around the creek which has a loop walking track around it. We saw fish jumping and quite a few locals fishing.

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Days 1 & 2 – 1st & 2nd April

Day 1 – 1st April

We left Brisbane just before 6pm, we heard on the traffic report the main Highways were bumper to bumper and there had been a multi car accident on the Ipswich Hwy heading west causing big delays. So we decided to take the longer way in km’s but most likely shorter in time through Esk, Gatton, Clifton to Allora for our first night pulling in rather late. There were several other vans already there it was a fairly quiet night.

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Day 2 – 2nd April

We had a big day travel today, leaving Allora and heading down the New England Hwy, planning to stop near Narrabri for the night. But none of the rest stops looked that inviting so we pushed on, they got worst the closer we got to Coonabarabran. So we pushed on a bit further to a rest area at Hickory Falls. 3 other vans were already settled in for the night. Was a pretty good spot for the night, there was some Hwy noise.

Camping at Hickey-Falls

Day 34 – 11th May

Our first stop was The Dish at Parkes, checked out all the info, Chris found it particularly interesting. We stopped at Dubbo for lunch, before heading onto Gilgandra, stopped at a lovely park with lovely autumn leaves at Coonabarabran for afternoon smoothie. Took some photos of the park before moving on through Gunnedah we have stopped about 70km out of Tamworth for the night. This is old stomping ground for us, we worked out Chris hasn’t done the run between Tamworth and Coonabarabran for approx 17 years, doesn’t seem that long.

Looking-Up

Tomorrow we may look around Tamworth before heading up to Armidale onto Girraween National park for a few days. Plan to be home for the weekend


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Day 33 – 10th May

Happy Mother’s Day to one and all, Chris made me pancakes for breakfast before we had to quickly get ourselves packed up and ready to move out of the van park and on our way.

Today was mostly driving, a few things we did notice on our travels and it wasn’t that far heading north was things were greener, there was a lot more trees and tall ones too and it was also warmer.

We pulled into a lovely free spot at Forbes for the night lots of green grass, trees right next to a lake, lot of birds too; it was also a popular spot for other travellers. We had a lovely walk around the lake.

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Day 28 – 5th May

Brrr it was a cold night and a cold morning a diesel heater sounds like a good idea and I think if you found yourself in cold areas a lot it would be worth considering.

Darter

We packed up pretty quick and headed back along the corrugated, wet, dusty dirt road back to Mildura. We picked up a few food bits, a new frypan for my pancakes and some more yummy, Sun muskets, like sultanas only yummier.

Drove approx 28km up the Stuart highway on the NSW side then 2km dirt road in towards the Murray and have set up camp for the night on the banks of the Murray at a place called Bottle Bend Forest Reserve, free camping. Have the genie on so we will be able to put a heater on later. We will just sit back and relax for the rest of the day.

Lovely-Spot