Category Archives: camping

Camping in Freycinet National Park

Rocks at the north end of Friendly Beaches, AustraliaIt’s only after a half-hearted dip and slip down some slimy rocks at the northern end of Friendly Beaches that I read in a guidebook:

Tempting as it may be, it is advised that people do not swim. The water is perishing for much of the year and there are rips.

Water droplets sit on top of goosebumps. I haven’t even wet my hair.

D-man goes for the full submerge. ‘You’ll feel good. It’s not too cold once you’re in,’ he says. I try to recall that sticky heat feeling of our Wineglass Bay to Hazards Beach walk, but it’s no good. I can’t do it. I scoop up handfuls of chilly water and shriek and shiver with every torrent that I pour over myself.

It’s done. I’m not convinced that I’m clean, but I’m refreshed. I’m also a little envious of D-man’s submerge; I’d love to feel fresh-haired but I just can’t bring myself to jump in.

Back at camp, wrapped in down jackets, we set up the camping chairs in a sunny spot at the back of our van, and we sip local Pinot Noir and slip lemon juiced oysters out of their shells. A wallaby nibbles on the bush some three metres away, occasionally looking up at us.

Other than the wallaby, we’re alone. Anyone staying the night at this part of the Freycinet National Park has pitched up and retreated to their own little camping coves.

The wind blows my towel off its makeshift hanger for the second time, earlier warnings of an impending storm showing signs of an imminent arrival in a sky top heavy with grey.

Time, then, for one last beach stroll before retreating to the comforts of a camper van.

And time to put away the guidebook. Too late to start caring about warnings at this stage.


What’s your experience of camping in Tasmania? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations. 

7 Comments

Filed under australia, camping, national parks, nature, travel

Does It Really Get Cold in Australia?

View from plane window on descent into Hobart. Grey skies and rain streaking across the window.

Welcome to Tasmania

I had been warned: it will be cold. Wanting to keep my luggage to a minimum I partially ignored the warnings. February in Australia, the end of summer, would surely still feel like summer, at least a little bit, right?

But this wasn’t just anywhere in Australia, this was Tasmania, located over 2,000km south of my departing airport in the Gold Coast and 42° south of the equator (only a 9° difference in distance that my home country, England, sits north of the equator).  Surely, then, I could expect some chills?

I wasn’t totally naïve. Tasmania is rumored to be a little unpredictable and so I had dug out some woolens, base layers and trek socks and shoved them into a little carry-on suitcase. Wearing closed shoes and jeans for the first time in months, I felt well enough equipped. What more would I need?

D-man and I arrived into Tasmania with a bumpy landing and rainy downpour. Our weeklong holiday looked threatened by grey cover and a pessimistic weather forecast but we were undeterred, filled with excitement for wilderness treks and time together.

Except it wasn’t looking good, at all. ‘You’ve arrived to the worst weather in a long time,’ said my friend Becky as we looked at the incoming storm on the charts, predicted to hang around for most of our time in Tasmania.

Becky’s partner, Hugo, mapped out options for our week that might match the weather movements. A trip to Bruny Island didn’t look like the go as the storm was heading straight for that section of coastline, and the near on plague of mosquitos on the south coast ruled that out as an option. Cradle Mountain was predicted to be swathed in a layer of clouds with the additional threat of hail storms, and the west coast looked as though it wouldn’t be any better weatherwise than the east coast, often cited as a safe option when all else was rained out.

Really, though, Hugo’s advice was simple: follow the weather. Head wherever makes sense on any given day. Over planning? Bleurgh. Unrealistic.

Realising we were ill equipped, he proceeded to dig out everything we might possibly need for a week camping out and about in Tasmania: stoves and five season sleeping bags, head torches and fishing gear and surfboards, double layered hats and down filled jackets. Oh, those last editions were the most welcome of the lot.

And so we left Hugo and Becky behind in Hobart and headed inland for Mt Field National Park to get our first taste of the highlands, fresh air and vastly fluctuating temperatures of Tasmania.

And believe me, Australia really does get cold. Oh yeah.

8 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, forests, hikes, mountains, nature, oceania, travel

Solo glamping(ish)

www.travelola.org

Kinda camping

The campsite owner was just shutting up the office when I arrived.

You’re in the red tipi. You’re here’, she said, circling a spot on a map, ‘here’s the kitchen, the bathrooms, the pool. And there’s your tipi. Is it just you?’

‘Yep, just me’.

I wished I’d said ‘No, a friend is coming later’, but the words had jumped out of my mouth and she’d written a bold, black 1 on the form that I was to hang outside the tipi.

Too late. Don’t overthink the safety implications.

At the tipi I went in to explore.  There was a double bed, a sofa, a single bed, a table. Stand-up space. Electrics. Call this camping? Pah! But maybe there is something to this new craze of glamping it up. Keep an open mind.

I tried the light. It didn’t work.

‘Do you have a spare bulb?’ I asked, back at reception, now barred closed. She brought out a new light.

Back at camp I plugged it in. It didn’t work. I scouted around outside for cables leading to plug points and, you know, I managed to sort it out. By myself.

I settled on down to an evening of thoughts and writing, of cooking instant noodles in the base of a perculator because I’d not brought any pots or pans, of perching a chair on a rotting wooden platform outside of my tipi and looking past the red glow of my tent, up through the bare branches at a waxing moon whilst I sipped on a camping cup of wine and ate mi goring.  And I was content.

$55, apparently, can buy you such a moment.

Tomorrow I’d get back on the ferry, cross back over the Richmond River, head back to Ballina. For now, though, I was taking a break from share house headspins and expat aches and busy-ness. It was back to just me and upgraded basics, for a moment.

4 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, national parks, oceania

Top 5: Natural Queensland, Australia

www.travelola.org5. Camp outs within the National Parks and State Forests, such as Brooyar State Forest and Cape Hillsborough National Park offered peaceful, beautiful stop offs that were affordable (starting at $6). Granted, there was a lack of facilities (and people) but what more do you need beyond fire pits and  ‘pit dunnies’?!

www.travelola.org4. For a Brit like me, Aussie beaches and rainforests are full of exotic appeal. Digging my toes into the sands at Smalleys’ Beach in Cape Hillsborough National Park was a great, calming way to end a day of driving whilst a hasty dip in the river at Mossman Gorge  whetted my appetite for future wanderings through strangler figs and soul-stirring greens.

Queensland Low Isles Great Barrier Reef3. Although I may have been somewhat spoilt by documentaries and coffee table books full of intensely coloured imagery, the Great Barrier Reef was still, undeniably, stunning. With only a half day to spare, I took the shorter trip out to the Low Isles where I snorkelled and splashed about, circumnavigated the island on foot (okay, it took all of fifteen minutes) and feasted on a smorgasbord of seafood delights. Literally.

Queensland desolate landscapes2. My first taste of desolate landscapes was on the drive out of Cairns towards the Eclipse 2012 festival in Far North Queensland. It intrigued me that anyone would live up tracks that disappeared away from dusty roadsides, further into environments where only the odd spindly bush and termite mounds survived.

www.travelola.org1. After days of driving through inland Queensland, particularly around Charters Towersbig skies have to come top of the crop. I felt fully surrounded, 360° around me, 180° over me – by a spread of resplendent blue skies, of fluffy, bouncy clouds, of stars piercing a blanket of blackness. I felt  my place in the universe: alive and conscious enough to observe it but little, tiny, insignificant overall.

To read my Queensland road trip in its entirety, join the journey here.

To readers who’ve joined me from Cruising Helmsman (and anyone else interested in reading my sailing adventures), click here to rewind to my time in the Galapagos islands and the beginning of a South Pacific adventure.

2 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, beaches, camping, culture, forests, national parks, nature, oceania, sea, snorkelling, tours, travel, wildlife

Queensland goodbyes and mischief making

www.travelola.org

Queensland Roadtrip Day 10: Isla Gorge National Park – Ballina (693km)

There was no sign of the boys when I awoke.

The sun was shining light on another blue sky day and I saw that we’d pitched the tents on dusty, rocky road, the route into the Isla Gorge lookout. As with many of the Queensland National Parks that we’d stopped off at in the last two weeks there was an undercover area and a seated long drop, fairly recently completed, it would seem.

www.travelola.org

Camp wake-up

I heard voices. The boys had returned.

‘The views are amazing’, said D-man, pointing me in the direction of the lookout. Breath hung in the still morning air.

I took the camera and went for an early morning wander, past the lookout, along a pathway that seemed to lead to a forever that was tempting me on and on.  I didn’t have any water. I was wearing flip-flops. I had no phone (and no reception had I even had a phone in my possession). In Australia, a land full of snakes and spiders and sun that can kill, I disappointingly had to be measured. Boring and responsible. I headed back to camp, away from a precipice walk and vast views across a gaping gorge.

www.travelola.org

Isla Gorge

www.travelola.org

And the path goes on…

Back on the road we cut through rocky hillsides and rolling landscapes dotted with tall, lightly canopied trees and past trucks pulling trailers of oversized tires until we arrived in Taroom, where we pleasantly breakfasted at BJ Coffee Shop before starting the journey reenergised and suitably caffeinated.

www.travelola.org

Heavy load

But I was drained, and whilst I hate to admit that I missed out on moments of Australian countryside splendour, I happily spent the next section of the journey dropping in and out of a light sleep. Maybe I was sensing the end of this trip – this travel adventure – and my mind was digesting the sights and sounds of the last ten days? Chinchilla and Dalby, with their farm machinery and posh utes did little to deter me from dozing some more, and my response to the sign stating Watch for 36 metre road trains was simply (and unusually) a shrug of fate acceptance.

It was unfortunate timing, but by the time I was awake and chatty and ready to observe the changing scenery we seemed to have arrived into a monotony of recently flooded farm land and continuous roadworks. So far, this inland route through Queensland had been full of well-maintained roads cutting across a quiet and striking isolation, but between Waru and Dalby we inched along past yet more empty fields to the tune of road repair trucks and the whir of a struggling air conditioning system. It wasn’t a moment for travel awe.

Thank goodness, then, for walkie talkies, a boy gadget that D-man had gleefully bought for our Eclipse 2012 festival excursion which now proved to have other purposes: to provide entertainment and speed on our journey. At a stop sign we looked towards another sign and then switched our walkie talkies to Channel 78.

‘We’ve got a white Mazda at the north end, happy to authorise access? Over.’ We tested.

‘Come on through. Over.’

It worked, which was somewhat unfortunate for those labourers because for the next few hours we probably caused all sorts of innocent chaos and confusion.  We immersed ourselves in local road building culture. We asked questions about progress and demanded timescales. We waved at the authorising workmen and thanked them, via walkie talkie, as we drove on by. We should have (maybe) known better and behaved far more maturely but time on the road can do funny things to your attitude and behaviour so that you end up doing things you might never do back when you had a responsible job and a mortgage and were functioning in a society of consideration.

Ah, cut us some slack. No one was hurt.

And so, with some mischief and a raft of memories from our Queensland road trip, we arrived back to New South Wales, homeward bound for Ballina. Just like that, it was over.

Leave a comment

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, national parks, nature, oceania, roadtrip, travel

Sensing isolation on the fringe of the Australian outback

Queensland Roadtrip Day 9: Charters Towers - Isla Gorge National Park (892km)

Queensland Roadtrip Day 9: Charters Towers – Isla Gorge National Park (892km)

Two hours into our journey the radio cut out. I checked my phone for reception. Nope. I looked out for other vehicles. Nothing.

Vultures drew black circles in a bright blue sky as we drove along straight, wide roads, over bone dry creeks and past dirt tracks that may or may not have led off to tiny villages or hundred acre farm settlements. We were leaving behind the spindly, pitchy trees of the Blackwood National Park, heading towards a hillier backdrop in the far distance.

Nerrell – our 1984 Mazda 323 – had thus far served us well on our Queensland road trip, but as we drove further away from civilisation and on into flat, barren lands and big, big skies, we acknowledged our vulnerability. If we were to break down now, I wondered, how long would our water last? Our food supplies? How long before someone found our shrivelled remains? Before the vultures moved in and made dinner of our weakened bodies?

Up ahead, something loomed on the horizon, visible movements. Someone? Where was their car? Their truck? Why were they on the road? Were they in need? Were we about to play out a scene from a terrifying road trip movie where the person in need pulls a knife and cable ties and wipes his blade clean after leaving us to bleed to death?

www.travelola.org

What’s that on the road?

We got closer. The shape didn’t move from the centre of the opposite lane. It was an eagle chomping on road kill, a bulky, black horror film bird who didn’t even acknowledge us spluttering past.

We weren’t to be the victims of this bright, bleak environment, thankfully.

Trees thinned out to expose open planes and squat shrubs, and still the road cut a red line through the green brown fringe of the outback. These were good roads, maintained roads along which only the odd road train thundered by, infinity trucks with bully noses, vehicles that wouldn’t – couldn’t – easily stop.

www.travelola.org

On and on and on. Just us, it would seem.

On and on and on until finally the rising banks of a coal mine and the first turn off in nearly 400km. Don’t take it. Wrong turn would head us back up north somewhat, back to the coast, back to Mackay. Nope, we were heading south by the inland route.

www.travelola.org

Back to industrialisation: Clermont coal mines

The midday sun beat down on the car but now the fuel tank was full and our water supplies replenished. We’d be okay. Breathe. Absorb this isolation, suck in hot air. Breathe. We chased mirages on new, unpainted stretches of tarmac before eventually arriving at the mown grain fields surrounding Emerald. We didn’t stop. Call us small minded, but tractors and trailers held little appeal, so on we pushed, back to empty landscapes.

www.travelola.org

Late afternoon skyscapes

It was only after Rolleston that the scenery started to change significantly, shift from open expanses to windy up and down roads hugged by woodland lushness and grassy verges dotted with little purple flowers; leaves, petals and blades colour saturated in the late afternoon sun.

www.travelola.org

Set up camp before sundown?

www.travelola.org

Nope. Definitely not.

We pulled into Isla Gorge National Park campground some hours after nightfall. Once again, we were alone. This would be the last evening with my road trip crew, finishing as we started, just the three of us sitting around a camp fire, eating instant noodles, chatting the journey, sitting quietly looking up at the sparkling night sky through a gap in the tree canopy.

www.travelola.org

One last wild camp

Still no phone reception, though. Ah, who cares? We were alright, just the three of us.  Out of the outback yet still covered by the same star blanket. Tired, safe, content.

2 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, culture, national parks, natural wonders, nature, oceania, roadtrip, travel, wildlife

And the heat and beat build

www.travelola.org

Queensland Roadtrip Day 5: Cairns – Palmer River Roadhouse (via Mareeba) (218km)

There was something about Kurunda that caught my attention that was less about the cute, independent coffee bars and tourist shops of the compact town centre and more about everything else. Like the gorge at Barron Falls, and the dense lushness of greenery, an environment of the richest greens.

We were barely half an hour out of Cairns, car weighed down with a week’s worth of drinking water for three people. We wound our way up into the mountains, missed the stop-off for wide angle views down over Cairns and the Coral Sea, and made a brief stop at the gorge.

www.travelola.org

Barron Falls, Kurunda, Far North Queensland

But now to face the matter in hand; the final inland stretch to Palmer River and the Eclipse 2012 festival.

We drove along straight roads towards more mountains and into a plateaued land of spindly trees, thirsty twigs and branches poking out of thin trunks, out into a vast, clear sky. Termite mounds rose up from the tarmac edge, dotted along into the far distance, some heading towards the two metre mark, traditional cone shapes alongside crazy distortions and face-like shapes, trip-like. No wonder the festival was being held out here. Mind enhancement seemed pretty unnecessary: let nature show you some magic instead.

A cow ambled along the roadside. Where was its nutrition?

Those far away mountains loomed close and once again we started to climb. With less than an hour to go, we pulled in at another scenic viewing spot and paused, looking out over a light brown landscape, a tinderbox of dryness.

One guy stops off to  take in the scenery. A moment of peace before the party.

One guy stops off to take in the scenery. A moment of peace before the party.

www.travelola.org

Dry, dusty environment… a taste of things to come

And then the last filling station, a few souls milling around grabbing smokes and snacks, what was left. Bottle shops and convenience stores from Cairns to Mareeba to Palmer River were running low. Fuel needed bulk replacing. It would be a good week for this little area of Far North Queensland.

We turned into the festival site, waved in by two guys and a girl, big smiles and a jiggle dance. A girl walked towards us, little shorts showing smooth, tanned legs covered in a thick layer of dust. She pulled down the cloth that was tied around her mouth.

‘You already got tickets?’ she asked.

‘Yep.’ I dug around in my bag. ‘Have you seen any crocs?’ I asked.

‘Not for a bit. Some guys pulled a couple out. It should be fine.’

Armbands on, we passed the quick car check and drove on down a few more kilometres of bumps and dust alongside water holes bearing signs that read ‘No swimming’ until we reached civilisation in the form of a rocky, hard-ground campsite. Many rocky, hard-ground campsites.

My mind flipped. This was a city of tents and abodes and set-ups, established within what felt to be the most inhospitable natural environment I had ever found myself within. It would be like no other camping experience. Of that, I was sure.

www.travelola.org

The final stretch into the festival site

www.travelola.org

And we arrive! Some 2,307km later. Celebrate.

7 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, culture, festivals, food & drink, nature, oceania, roadtrip

The need to budget for health whilst travelling

www.travelola.org

Queensland Roadtrip Day 3: Byfield State Forest – Cape Hillsborough National Park (430km)

It was an emergency that stopped me exploring our camp spot by light. Everything got thrown into the car; pots and unwashed coffee cups shoved into ill suited gaps, L-man’s backseat den more cramped than cosy.

Continue reading

6 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, cities, national parks, oceania, roadtrip

Fluid definitions of friendliness

www.travelola.org

Queensland Roadtrip Day 2: Brooyar State Forest -Byfield State Forest (563km)

I have a hunch that should I ever get the chance to converse with wallabies, I’d find them to be quite friendly creatures. Gentle, but friendly. I just get that vibe.

But on this Thursday morning me and the boys were on a mileage mission so chit-chat stop-offs with mobs of these macropods had to be forgone, and instead I stuck my feet up on the dashboard and settled down for a long day on the road, watching the occasional wallaby roadside bop as we bounced back along the mud tracks of Brooyar State Forest, back onto the Bruce Highway.

Read on! (+more pics)

6 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, culture, nature, oceania, roadtrip, travel, wildlife

Two dogs and a snake stick

www.travelola.org

Morning has broken

‘Here,’ she said, ‘take my snake stick. I’ve got a few. Be careful and beat the ground like this…’ She lifted the stick and brought its stout tip to the ground –thud thud – then rustled the grasses of her camp set up.

A little earlier I’d zipped back the tent doors to reveal a rolling hill clearing in the forest, three other tents dotted in undefined camp spots, some sleepy souls emerging into the gentle morning sunlight.

Read on! (+more pics)

5 Comments

Filed under activity & sport, australia, camping, forests, nature, oceania