All posts by Camping Girl

Camping Gear: Camping Lights

I’m going to do a series of posts looking at the type of gear you need to take with you to make camping comfortable when out exploring in you 4wD. As they say – any fool can be uncomfortable camping!

To me there are 3 main types of lighting needs you need to consider:

General Camp Lighting

That’s the ambient lighting around the camp site. In Australia camp lighting has a big problem- it attracts the insects like you wouldn’t believe! You may want to think about that before you set up your camp! Keep the lighting a reasonable distance from tents and the cooking area. Although some swear by the old-fashioned gas mantle lights I find them annoyingly fiddly to set up and damage prone. I prefer the new low power LED lights which run on batteries or power and are cool to run, have low power requirements and don’t attract the insects as much

Tent Camp Lighting

Inside a tent I found that you only needed a small tent light- which run on batteries and clip onto the roof using its own magnetic strip. Not enough to read by good enough to find your shoes.

Personal Lighting

This is where LED camping lights come into their own.  I prefer a headline style torch – which keeps the hands free and works well for both reading in bed and cooking. I also found for a computer you can get LED lights which power of the computer’s USB port – though of course  this will drain your battery a bit.

Photo Credit

Hiring a 4WD for the Gibb River Road

I came across this great post by Carol R on the Thorntree Forum I thought it deserved not to be buried in the Thorntree archives never to be found again so with Carol’s permission I’ve reproduced here:

Have been meaning to put a post on this since we returned from our three week journey along the Gibb River Road and then back along the Great Northern Highway. We started our journey in Broome. As we couldn’t get into the Cable Beach Resort we went to another one just down the road. I think in hindsight I would have preferred to have been in the town itself and gone out to Cable Beach for the superb sunsets and that cold glass of wine. We only had two days in Broome but would have perhaps liked four.

Anyway, we hired a Land Cruiser and left Broome early for breakfast in Derby, a nice easy drive on sealed road of I think around 200 ks or a bit more. It was interesting that our travel insurance specified we would not be covered on unsealed roads – why would you otherwise hire a Four Wheel Drive ?

The bitumen ended once you turned off onto the Gibb River Road, about 63 kms in. It was 56 kms on unsealed road to the turn off into Windjana Gorge (20 kms in).We viewed that and had a walk around, beautiful and lots of crocs, from there we drove to Tunnel Creek another 40 kms of very, very rough road. We then back-tracked over the ground covered to Gibb River Road once again. It would have been possible to travel at this point along the Great Northern Highway and go into Tunnel Creek from there and onto Windjana Gorge and out onto Gibb River Road, but sometimes that road is closed.

Windjama Gorge, WA

Windjama Gorge, WA

From there we travelled another 100 kms or so onto Imintji Safari Camp run by ATP which is used by its tours but also anyone can stay there but is inaccessible during the wet season. These Safari Camps are scattered along the road and offer good value for those who are not set up to camp. They are actually called Wilderness Camps The tents have wooden floors, two single beds with sheets and proper bedding. There is a toilet block and shower block separate. They offer dinner, bed and breakfast. The breakfast was great as was the evening meal. We enjoyed the company of our fellow travellers around an open fire – there wasn’t a tour bus in that night. We stayed two nights as by the time we got there we were pretty tired.

The distances are vast. You can really only travel at about 60 km/hour or less depending on the state of the road. The next day we enjoyed our walk into Bell Gorge, again a couple of hours drive to get there. Our next stop was Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary. We left Imitiji (where there is a roadhouse and a fuel stop) and drove an easy 25 kms to the turn off to Mornington. A mere 80 kms. in but it took us two and three quarter hours to drive in.

Bell Gorge, WA

Bell Gorge, WA

There is camping here and again permanent very plush safari tents. These are set up high and overlook Annie Creek where the kangaroos and other wildlife abound. The meals here are in an open style restaurant and were delicious. Again this is dinner, bed and breakfast and lunch comes in a small fridge lunch box. There are two gorges here, Diamond Gorge and Sir John Gorge. You can also hire canoes, no crowds and just so peaceful.
We spent four days here and loved every minute of it. It takes a couple of hours to drive to each Gorge but you can swim in each of them and they are beautiful. Back on the Gibb Road, we refuelled at Mount Barnett Roadhouse. Another 90 kms on (a couple of hours) we took the turn off to Mt. Elizabeth Station – a working cattle station – 30 kms. of very, very rough road. The only disappointment of the whole trip for me. They advertise as staying in the ‘homestead’ rooms tacked onto the side of the house, and ‘eating with the owners’ all a bit misleading – I know you are out in the never, never but it was very expensive and the meal was ghastly. In fact, being Australian it was embarrassing with Italians, Swiss, Germans etc. eating this absolute ‘s t’ food.

There were lots of staff running around so really so excuse. If you were camping there it was $100 a double for dinner and I wouldn’t feed it to my worst enemy. Anyway enough of that. Our next stop was 150 kms down the road to Ellenbrae. Different story here. You can stop in for a Devonshire tea and be welcomed by two very nice people who seemed to manage dinner that night beautifully.

Sure it wasn’t the Ritz but it was a very nice meal with some produce from their garden. This is a permanent mud style tent set up. Very comfortable with double beds, nice clean sheets and a beautiful setting and alot more reasonable than the aforementioned. Ellenbrae 08 9161 4326. Only accept cash, won’t deal with travel agents, no deposit required.

From here we drove towards Kununurra, however we by-passed Home Valley but had good feedback from others on the road about it. Also can’t talk about El Questro as we couldn’t get accommodation there.

We spent five days in Kununurra. It was nice to have a break. We flew over the Argyle Diamond Mine and the Bungle Bungles and did a river cruise of Lake Argyle. Hidden Valley National Park in Kununurra is well worth going to and so accessible.

Bungle Bungles

Bungle Bungles

We left Kununurra early in the morning and travelled 650 kms the next day to Fitzroy Crossing. I was dreading this journey but really it was a breeze.

The vegetation changes so many times and I enjoyed travelling through remote places that I have heard of since I was a child. Such vastness can only be appreciated when you travel them. There are plenty of places to stop and chill out along the road and quite a few free, of course unpowered, camping spots. We stayed at the Fitzroy Crossing Lodge but again in ‘tented’ accommodation.

The next morning we caught the early morning tour of Geikie Gorge run by an aboriginal group and it was beautiful. That night we spent in Derby before embarking on a sea safari of the Buccaneer Archipelago. This was for four days, three nights. A sea plane dropped us off near Horizontal Falls and after a quick ride on a small boat through the Falls we ventured off on our next adventure, four days of fishing, looking for oysters, swimming, mudcrabbing and generally having a great time. They have different tours, some four days, some more. Our’s cost approximately $1950 for four days.

We slept on the beach in mozzie dome tents and had huge fires on the beach at night. It was basic and only ten people aboard and three crew. The owner is a local fisherman and knows all the spots.

So we came to the end of our journey. We didn’t have any mishaps with our vehicle although we saw lots who did. Apparently its important to have low tyre pressure when travelling on these rough unforgiving roads (worth finding out about). Someone mentioned mozzies in a post, but no, we were prepared with products that could kill us before a mosquito did, but we didn’t get bitten.

No-one tells you anything and there isn’t any information in the vehicles. I felt sorry for overseas visitors who haven’t been advised of 1) tyre pressure and 2) speed. When you come from countries that travel a lot faster than us it must seem crazy to have to go slow, but you have to unless you want trouble. Look into it, talk to people, find out what your tyre pressure should be and what speed you should do. The commaradie on the road is fantastic, everyone waves to on coming cars and people help one another. It was an amazing trip and one I’m proud I have done. It’s pure Australia and I loved it. I hope this is of some help. I found it hard to find information and it would be great if others could post their experiences. We also hired a gas car fridge in Broome which was essential for that cold beer at the end of the day.

Esperance & Cape le Grand National Park

On the beach front I have a high standards so when we saw the local Shire’s tag line: “the best beaches in Australia” I was cynical to say the least.

A great beach means not only gorgeous to look at but also warm enough to swim, somewhat safe, well not immediately life threatening (rips, sharks, crocodiles, stingers). Also not covered with a few thousand people! To be honest the much hyped Queensland beaches have some serious drawbacks (crocodiles, stingers, people, too shallow to swim), but I am starting to get very impressed with the Western Australian entries into the best beach scene!

cape-le-grande-npHowever on arrival at Cape le Grand I was, to be honest, pretty blown away! The sea is a really ridiculous shade of blue and aquamarine which will guarantee that your friends will accuse you of enhancing your photos (no I didn’t)! The sand is so white and fine that the sand literally squeaks when you walk on it. Arriving on a weekday we found the beach deserted except for a single surfer, a seal, with only a handful of campers at the adjacent campsite.

Cape le Grand National Park is an easy 50km drive from Esperance on sealed roads. It’s fair to say though that the port of Esperance, is a long way from anywhere, 750km SE from Perth, 400km south of Kalgoorlie.

Lucky Bay, Cape le Grand NP

Lucky Bay, Cape le Grand NP

The southern ocean only allows year round swimming for the wet suit equipped, but over the summer months its a pleasant temperature and there are some excellent surf breaks, but seek local advice before you venture in.

Cape le Grand has sealed roads to its many beaches and other beauty spots, including Lucky Bay and Frenchman’s Peak’s carpark for the energetic 3hr walk to the top A 4WD will allow you to drive on the beaches, which is permitted in the park. Even the un-sealed roads are well maintained and accessible by 2WD.

Make sure you detour off the Cape le Grand access road to find the unlikely-located lavender farm which includes a local artists’ gallery and excellent cake and coffee!

Standard day entry for a vehicle is $10 to the park plus $7.50 per person if you intend to camp at one of the several campgrounds next to beautiful white sand beaches. More details on WA park passes here.

Esperance

Is a busy port town of about 13,000, which is both a port for a the local grain industry and the mining industry. The port has a queue of container ships lined for loading, but around the next corner there are beaches with surf breaks, and more beaches with sheltered swimming. There appears to be a whole new suburb of new brick 3+2 bungalows going up so presumably it is doing well on the resource boom like the rest of Western Australia.

The centre of town includes the usual tourist amenities, including a museum with bits of Skylab, it fell to earth nearby, Look a little further and you will see lots of businesses supporting the agriculture industry, including engineering, farm machinery and other bits and pieces you didn’t know you needed. That said there is plenty of tourist shopping and some excellent restaurants featuring the local seafood.

Esperance has one of the most temperate climates in WA, it can actually get cold in the winter! The best time to visit: November – March

Come to see: the brave claim “the best beaches in Australia” by Esperance Shire may just be true!

Beach, Cape le Grande

Beach, Cape le Grande

Think like a Buyer to Sell a Vehicle in a Hurry

I intend in the future to do into the details of buying and selling paperwork in the variousCar for sale states of Australia, but today I found Dave’s post where he’s just sold his car in the States.Its always stressful when you are need to sell an expensive asset in a limited time frame. You might need to sell a car or a house before you leave home, or sell a car and other gear after you have finished touring a country. The key to success, I believe, is to think like the buyer. They don’t care what you paid for it, or how much you have spend fixing it or that you are emotionally attached to it and want it to go to a non-smoking, Christian family! So when you come to sell your baby car / 4WD make sure you:

  1. Know the current market price in the place you are selling it. If your price is not reasonable compared to what else is in the market you won’t sell.
  2. Know the checks on ownership the buyer may want to make and facilitate this if possible. Continue reading

Classic Australian Drives: The Big Lap

When Australian’s talk about the “big lap” they mean the idea of circumnavigating Australia, generally on Highway 1. It’s an awesome adventure, and one that can be undertaken by a conventional vehicle as you don’t have to go off road. Its just if you have a 4WD you will have a lot more options! Just remember its over 30,000km and you will need at least 6 months and preferably a year to make it comfortably!

Cameron Corner, Qlds/NSW/SA

Cameron Corner, Qlds/NSW/SA

The Big Lap Route

Can start anywhere and go in either clockwise or anti-clockwise (check the weather prior make a final decision) but assuming you are in Sydney and traveling clockwise.

Sydney, Princess Highway south along the coast to Melbourne, following the coast, along Continue reading

How much will a budget trip around Australia cost? Part 1: Day to Day Costs

The key costs I split into setup (capital if you will) and running costs (day to day budget). Obviously you need the money to buy gear and the vehicle up front but hope to get most of this back at the end of the trip. There is an old saying in Australia, “any idiot can be uncomfortable in the bush” and depending on what you spend you can substitute experience for gear!All costs are in Australian dollars try this site for conversions to your currency

Day to Day Costs

Accommodation

Caravan Parks $20 – $35 Typically $24 for 2 people for a powered site.

Although we have a tent we prefer a powered site so that we can easily charge the electronic gizmos and the camping lights. We found that the Council owned parks in smaller centers although often well-situated next to a beach or a river tend to be poor value as they only provide an amenities block. Private caravan parks particularly in popular areas tend to include well provisioned kitchens, BBQ’s, games rooms, laundries (extra cost), swimming pools, wireless internet and children’s play areas. The best deal is to joining one or more of the main groups of private parks : Family Parks of Australia, Big 4, or Top Tourist Parks. For example Big 4 costs $40 for 2 year’s membership – giving you 10% off their rates – staying only on powered sites you save $2.50 to $3.00 per a night after two weeks you’ve paid for it. However as larger cabins can cost over $100 you can in fact pay back your membership in a few days if staying in these! You don’t need to join in advance or even when you check-in – just during your first stay at a park and they will give you the discount retrospectively! Continue reading

Explore Australia by 4WD

I thought I would do an occasional series of book reviews of books, maps and other gear that is of interest to those wanting to get off-road.
Explore Australia by 4WD by Craig Lewis and Cathy Savage describes over 25,000 kilometers of remote tracks with detailed route directions and GPS readings. .It doesn’t include the main sealed road routes at all. However if you are interested in exploring more remote corners of Australia such as the Tanami Desert , Canning Stock Route, Gibb River Road or the Cape York Peninsular then this guide is very useful. Along with the well know tracks, the 18 tracks detailed include the less-well known such as the Connie Sue Highway west from Coober Pedy, and the Holland Track in Western Australia. Continue reading