Farina ….. An abandoned town in the outback

Who has visited Farina in South Australia?

As you drive along the dirt roads of outback South Australia, you see many ruins along the roadside and scattered throughout properties, some in remarkable condition and some basically a pile of rubble. But one of the most complete is when you visit the town of Farina.

This was our second visit to this amazing place which, in the 1890s, had about 600 people living there, but now it’s nothing like it would have been back then. Although it is slowly being transformed by an amazing group of volunteers, from ruins to a town that once was.

Back in the day Farina was home to two hotels, a school, post office, a railway line .. but over the years people started to move away and by 1957 the school was closed and apparently the final permanent residents left in the late 70’s/early 80’s.

This is one place you should visit. Do yourself a favour and head out and take a walk around the town, read the signage and try to imagine what life would have been like there back in the day.

Farina is also home to the most remote underground bakery in Australia. There is no guessing where to go, the smell as you walk from the car directs you exactly where you need to be! This fully functioning underground bakery was the only mainly intact building on the site and volunteers were able to get this bakery back up and running, a feat in itself, considering it had laid unused for 80 years or so.

The bakery itself only opens for about 8 weeks each year around May-July. This is all run by volunteers and the new ‘cafe’ building, next to the bakery, provides a huge range of breads and sweets, coffee, souvenirs and a seating area. Yes, we did sample quite a few of the goods on offer!

There is a great camping ground to stay as well, just behind the town. We drove through on our way to the cemetery (as you do!) and it looked like a great campground, plenty of room, shady sites, toilets and fire pits. We will definitely spend a night there next time we are over that way.

The cemetery also reflects the town’s diversity. There is a well marked Afghan section in one corner. Chinese, Aboriginal and Hindu burials are also recorded here.

Several hundred people are recorded as being buried in the cemetery, however most graves are unmarked.

We must end by congratulating the volunteers on the truly amazing job they are doing in preserving Farina and bringing it back to life. It’s important that these places are here for future generations to see and learn about. The interpretive signs along the way reveal much of the town’s past, and every volunteer we met was so happy and proud to tell us about the town and the work that is going on. Whilst you can visit Farina at any time of year, it’s great to be able to visit whilst the volunteers are there and have a chat with them to learn a little more … and of course to visit the bakery!

George on radio!

For everyone who has been asking, here is the link to George’s segment on the Camping & Off Road Radio show from last week.

This was recorded from a free camp in Eulo as we all sat by the campfire watching and listening and for his first radio segment we think he did great!

What do you think?

Betoota and beyond

Our stay at the Betoota Pub was great, camped out the back with the most amazing outback sunset that was constantly changing, the colours were like nothing you see in the city.

None of us had been to the pub before and whilst we are glad we visited, we didn’t even step foot inside! The line was so long with people wanting to get inside that we took our photos and had a look around outside, but will visit again down the track when it’s not so busy.

The town of Betoota has a population of zero and the pub is literally the only thing in town! This hotel ran for 44 years before shutting it in 1997 and becoming derelict. Someone took on the big job of cleaning and refurbishing the hotel and it reopened again over 20 years later in 2020.

So we walked back to camp and spent the night by the fire and the amazing sunset and night sky. This was our last night camping with Steve from MDC as he will be camping with the MDC Owners Group once we head to the bash. For this last night we also met and were joined by Vaughan, the owner of MDC Campers & Caravans. It was a great night all round.

It was an early pack up in the dark (and cold!) the next morning for the drive to Birdsville. Love the early morning, watching the sun rise as we drove along, no-one on the roads, except for hundreds of birds soaring above. This really is the life.

We arrived in Birdsville around 9am, went straight to fuel up with only 2 vehicles in front of us. We later spoke to people who arrived later in the day and were lined up over the bridge on the approach to Birdsville and waited over 2 hours for fuel … and the diesel eventually ran out too! Well worth getting up at 6am!

Duck went and grabbed our passes for us and we headed off to Bashville – about 35km or so from Birdsville. It did take us quite a while to get in, probably about 2.5 hours in total, but it’s a huge job to get this many people in and set up so we weren’t complaining.

Camping fun in outback QLD

After a night camped at Eulo we left to start the drive to Windorah, our home for the night.

An easy drive of about 500 km on mainly sealed roads, but the landscape is so green. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen it so green out here. Areas that were bone dry and rich red dirt during our last trip out this way are now covered in differing colours of green grasses and shrubs.

Plenty more traffic heading our way today too and everyone you speak to is heading to the bash. Every conversation starts with ‘where you headed?’ or ‘off to the bash?’

Arrived in Windorah late yesterday afternoon and headed straight to fuel up. With one fuel station in this small town, and being a major thoroughfare for a lot of the 10,000 people making their way to the bash, you can imagine the lines and wait times! Luckily we are early and didn’t need to wait too long.

We had intended on camping behind the servo as Duck knows the owner, but their pet donkey wouldn’t let us in the gate! It was hilarious watching it all unfold and we weren’t sure if he was friendly and just wanted play, whether he wanted to escape or whether he wanted to kill us 😂, plus, once we got through that gate we had a horse to deal with at the next one! There was an evil looking cow also eying us off, so guard donkey got his way and we decided to move on!

So we headed off back out of town to free camp on the banks of the Cooper Creek, but after a little rain yesterday that wasn’t an appealing site at all, so back to a rest area we headed which was on mainly gravel and far less muddy!

Ended up being a great night, even the small amount of rain didn’t worry us.

Today we are off to Betoota to camp at the pub. None of us have been before so are looking forward to checking out the iconic pub. The pub is literally the only thing in town!

Quick side note … it pays to check fuel prices as we filled up yesterday in Thargomindah at 21 cents a litre cheaper than the others! FuelCharge app is a lifesaver with outback travel.

Bound for the bash

So it’s finally arrived and we are off to the Big Red Bash! An early start to day as we headed out to North Richmond to meet the first of our travelling companions for the next week or so, then off over the mountain to meet another just out of Lithgow.

That first night we pulled in to the little pub in Byrock called the Mulga Creek Pub and camped out the back. Of course you can’t stay at a great country pub without having a beer or two, so we headed over for dinner and drinks. Great food, great service, friendly staff and locals and a great little pub all round.

Day two we continued our journey towards Birdsville, via the Dowling Track, an easy 4WD track. We had a quick lunch stop at Hungerford and a quick visit to the Royal Mail Hotel. This pub was established in 1875 and is the last remaining pub used by Cobb & Co as a staging point enroute from Bourke to Thargomindah.

Ended up in Eulo where we decided to stay the night in a nice little free camp by the river. Quite busy with travellers, but still plenty of space around. Beautiful sky at sunset, we love our outback sunsets and can’t wait for the next week where they will hopefully just keep getting better.

This was also the day that George made his radio debut! He’d been so nervous about it for days, but he didn’t need to worry, he did great! All recorded from our camp on the river in front of the camp fire.

Stay tuned for more on this soon where we will share a link to his segment on The Camping & Off Road Radio Show so you can listen on replay!

We arrive at Bashville

The area where the concert is held is on a privately owned organic cattle farm which gets converted into ‘Bashville’, a mini pop up village in the middle of the desert. The workers build everything from scratch on site, including the stage, toilets and even road markings, laneways and campsites.

This year we are camped right on The Plaza with direct view of the stage, no need to even leave camp to watch the concerts. Couldn’t have a better campsite and friends to share it with. Pays to know the right people!

We arrived two days before the concert started so had plenty of time to settle in, buy our merchandise and check out the stall holders before the actual concerts started.

We are camped next to one of the food vendors and have all visited a few times already trying out their food, nice people, yummy food and very conveniently located!

It already feels like we’ve been away from home for a month, doesn’t take long to relax once you hit the outback. Our days are spent wandering around the bash site, chatting with people, sitting and back and drinking beer by the fire … what more could you want!

We’ve had plenty of people visiting, including Greg Donovan, the owner of the event. What a great guy he is, and when you hear the story of how this all came about, it’s quite interesting.

The Redarc guys have been around helping with a few charging issues, a few of the MDC Owners Group came to visit and lots of fans who listen to The Duck on the radio or podcast, everyone is so friendly and great to talk to.

There are 3 days of concerts which generally run from about 1-8pm each day. Mornings are filled with different activities run by the event, or you can simply relax and do your own thing. Around our camp Duck was working on a podcast interviewing Jimmy Barnes, and Shelly also did her first interview, link will follow at some point!

The first of the concert days started yesterday with 7 different artists performing, finishing with Jon Stevens, he was awesome. Cannot wait for the next few days.

Travel … we love it, but why do we do it?

Let’s be real here, who doesn’t love travelling?  You get to explore new and exciting places, you spend time with family and friends and you make memories that will last you a lifetime. Why wouldn’t you want to travel?

The thing is though, traditionally a lot of people have disregarded travel within Australia, in leiu of the ‘more exciting’ overseas travel. Australia is this huge vast land with some of the most spectacular scenery and many Australian’s never even get close to seeing it all. We all travel overseas to Europe, Bali, Thailand …. but we forget about this marvelous place that is right here in our own backyard.

Camel riding at Uluru, NT

The realization of this came years ago when George met a traveler from overseas who was telling him about all the places he’d visited during his holiday to Australia ….. he asked “Have you climbed the Harbour Bridge”? … No, “Have you seen Uluru”? … No, “What about snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef”? … No. It was at the moment that George decided that it wasn’t right that foreigners have seen more of our country than he had.

Uluru, NT

Luckily we both have the same love of Australia and of camping so this was the perfect plan! Over the years we have tried to experience as much of our country as we can, making the most of every experience that is thrown our way.

We can now say that yes we have climbed the Harbour Bridge, we’ve watched the sunset at Uluru on top of a camel, we’ve snorkeled the reef, we’ve explored underground mines, flown over a pearl farm in a helicopter, watched the sunset over Cable Beach, seen the Staircase to the Moon in Broome, held a baby crocodile, played with a baby lion and Tasmanian Devils and traveled through every state and territory in Australia. We still have so much more to explore, but we are getting there bit by bit. You see, the thing we decided to do was to just get out there and do it. We didn’t want to wait, we didn’t want to lose our chance to see the country.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

This all really hit home to us when Shelly’s mum passed away quite suddenly at the age of 71. It was then that we realized just how short life can be, you never know what lay around the corner so never ever put something off. We wanted to make the most of life and experience all the weird and wonderful things that come along with that, whether it’s standing on the tip of Australia, driving a racecar around a circuit, cuddling a Tasmanian Devil or even spending nearly $2,000 for a day trip to the Horizontal Falls, we want to do it all! There may never be an ideal time to travel, you may never have enough money, and you may never have enough time …. But if you leave it too long, you might lose that chance altogether.

We met back in 2003 and now 18 years later we have so many memories and experiences we have shared together. We both still work full time, we are paying off a mortgage, we have pets and families, is this the ideal time to be travelling? Maybe, maybe not? But we make it happen, we work hard to save money for our travel and we fit it in between work. We aim to take one extended trip of around 2 months every 3 years, with many, many smaller trips in between! We don’t have all the time in the world and we certainly aren’t rich, but we make it work for us.

We need other people to realise that you can do it, you don’t have to wait, you just need to find what works for you and your family. It’s great now that we are starting to see so many young families travelling and doing the lap, the life experiences those children are going to learn just can’t be taught anywhere else. We are both very passionate about travelling Australia and want nothing more than to share our adventures and inspire others to do so as well. And now with Covid and travel restrictions in place, maybe it’s the perfect time for you to get out there and explore what Australia has to offer as well?

For this reason we have our website, blog and various social media pages where we document our 4WD adventures and share our experiences with everyone. We all like to pry into other people’s lives don’t we, well here’s your chance! Hopefully we inspire others to also follow their dreams and get out there and explore our great land. There are so many new adventures waiting to unfold. Life is too short to live with regrets ….. So go on …. get out there!

ᑭᖇᗩᗪO ᑌᑭᗪᗩTE – It’s home!

Wow, what a journey that was! Like one of our mates said ‘there’s never been a more followed engine rebuild’

For those that are new to following us, here’s a quick run down of what happened …… we were holidaying in South Australia over Christmas and unfortunately we didn’t quite make it home! Our Prado broke down on 28th December 2020 (cracked a piston) and we were picked up and towed (including our camper trailer) to RH Automotive in Whyalla. These guys were great and went above and beyond to help us in so many ways. Unfortunately due to COVID and being Christmas/New Year, many places were closed and it was hard to work out what to do. Did we have it all towed back to Sydney (quotes were well in excess of $10K), did we get a new engine, a reconditioned engine (or recon ours) or did we sell and restart all over again? We did the sums and went with the most cost effective option for us. Luckily we have our NRMA Premium Roadside service which assisted us in this whole process and also contributed $3,000 towards towing, accommodation etc.

When we first put the post out there on Facebook about what had happened, so many of you (many we don’t even know) contacted us with information, offers of help etc. One in particular was our mate The Duck who rang George first thing the next morning and gave us a number of his good mate who owns a workshop in Adelaide, he couldn’t recommend him highly enough and said he’d already spoken to him and he was awaiting our call. Obviously it was something we hadn’t considered, having the car repaired in a different state and with people we knew nothing about. But after numerous phone calls and discussions we decided that it was our best option (and most cost effective). So on 4th January 2021 the Prado was towed to and dropped off at Auto Masters Salisbury. These guys also securely stored our camper trailer for us (at no cost) for the duration so that was a huge help.

Throughout this whole process, Tony kept us up to date and was always available whenever George called and texted with a query. It was a comfort to have that contact, considering we couldn’t just ‘pop in’ to check up on anything! It was also great when one of our followers spotted the Prado in the workshop (and later driving on the road) and sent us photos both times! It appears we have little spies everywhere!

Anyway, finally after a long 3 month wait, on Friday 9th April 2021 we flew to Adelaide to pick up the Prado (and it’s brand new engine!) and our camper trailer. Huge thanks to Tony and Dave and all the team at Auto Masters who were involved in the whole process, we couldn’t be happier to have our Prado safely home!! 1,400km in 2 days and we are home and the Prado did great. As we didn’t want to do Adelaide to Sydney straight up on a brand new engine, the mechanics had driven it around prior to us picking it up and put about 600km on the clock and checked it over.

So far, the engine sounds a lot quieter than the old one, feels smoother and has more power and we are still wearing it in, so all looking great so far.

So what does just over $21,000 give you? ….. apart from a very sad looking bank balance!!

  • Brand new genuine Toyota long motor
  • Brand new genuine Injectors
  • Brand new genuine Turbo
  • Brand new genuine Map sensor and filter
  • Brand new pump
  • Plus other things which were required to be replaced such as oils, filters, belts etc

Yes it’s expensive, but believe me, it was our best option and it gives us back our freedom and ability to get out there and travel and do what we love to do so that is priceless.

This was quite the experience and one we certainly don’t want to go through again! But throughout this whole process we were constantly surprised by how kind and genuine people can be … from being lent a car to drive around in for free in Whyalla, to being offered free accommodation (which we turned down), the hotel discounting our nightly rate, family and friends offering to drive to SA to pick us up, strangers contacting us with advice and their experiences with cracked pistons. We even went to look at buying a second hand car to drive home in and the car salesman called a friend who owned a trucking company to see if they could ship the Prado back home! It was all very surreal, but was nice to feel like we weren’t alone in such a stressful time.

Thanks again to The Duck, mate if it wasn’t for you pointing us in the right direction, giving us the confidence we’d made the right choice and constantly checking up with us, who knows what may have happened.

And of course to Auto Masters Salisbury, thank you for everything …. Guys, if you’re in SA and you need a mechanic, go check these guys out (they have stores in numerous locations). We can’t fault their work and service and would happily recommend them to others.

Lastly, the only downside in this whole situation is the lack of help from Toyota Australia – numerous phone calls and emails and not a single reply. We are on our second Prado and we also have a Hilux so we obviously love our Toyota’s, but it’s very disappointing to have no contact or backing at all from Toyota. We have a copy of a 4 page Toyota bulletin outlining this problem so we know they are aware and admitted that cracked pistons are a common issue with these engines so it’s very disappointing they won’t even reply. But like we said, that is the only downside to our whole situation and hopefully one we will never, ever have to go through again!

On the way home from Adelaide, free camping, campfires and sky full of stars …… back doing what we love doing best!

The natural beauty of Fraser Island

Hands up who’s never visited Fraser Island …. if you are sitting there with your hands in the air, what’s wrong with you! You really need to get off your butt and get yourself up to this amazing part of the country!

You’ll find Fraser Island located off the east coast of Queensland, about 4 hours drive north of Brisbane. Covering an area of 184,000 hectares, it is the largest sand island in the world. But it’s more than just a bit of sand surrounded by water, it’s one of the most naturally beautiful places you’ll visit.

You’ll find some of the most beautiful lakes filled with crystal clear fresh water, ancient rainforests, long white beaches, coloured sand cliffs, shipwrecks and a splash of history thrown in.

Fun facts about Fraser Island

  • Fraser Island stretches over 123 km in length and 22 km across at it’s widest point.
  • Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
  • Fraser Island is World Heritage Listed.
  • The highest dunes on the island reach up to 240 meters above sea level.
  • Fraser Island is home to 40 perched dune lakes (which is half the number of perched lakes in the world!).
  • It’s said that over 350 species of birds live on Fraser Island.
  • The dingoes of Fraser Island are the most pure strain of dingoes remaining in eastern Australia.
  • Fraser Island is the only place in the world where rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of more than 200 meters.
  • 75 Mile Beach is a gazetted highway and all normal road rules apply, and police do regularly patrol.
  • 75 Mile Beach is also a runway and landing strip for light aircraft.
  • Fraser Island’s dunes have the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world.
  • At 200 hectares, Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.
  • Fraser Island is home to half of the world’s perched lakes.

How the island formed

An island like Fraser Island doesn’t just pop up overnight, it has been forming over many hundreds of thousands of years and is still evolving to this day. Many years ago the wind and ocean currents moved sands from all around the world and it began to accumulate in one place and formed an island, therefore Fraser Island is made up completely of sand. Over the years animal matter and debris started to form a base which then allowed plants to start growing. A sand dune is considered stable when plant colonies start to take root and you can see this towards the centre of the island, where you’ll find huge trees and rainforests growing in the more sheltered parts of the island.

Closer to the beach where the dunes are subjected to the more fierce weather elements you will see that they often only have a small covering of grasses and smaller plants that have learned to live with the constant battering of sand and wind.

Fraser Island Lakes

There are over 100 freshwater lakes on the island. The only area in Australia that has a higher concentration of lakes than Fraser Island is Tasmania. There are Perched lakes, Window lakes and Barrage lakes.

Perched lakes form when organic matter builds up in a depression in the dune. Leaves, dead plants, bark etc collects over time, slowly decomposing into the top layer of the sand and eventually forming a cement like crust which stops water from filtering through the sand. With the water being trapped it will eventually form a lake. Perched lakes are dependent on rainfall to maintain the water levels.

Fraser Island’s Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.

Barrage lakes form when moving sand dunes block off the path of a watercourse, creek or natural spring.

Window lakes form when a depression in the dunes exposes part of the regional water table. These lakes are generally found in dune depressions where the water table is higher than the ground surface level.

Fraser Island’s Lake Wabby is actually known as both a window lake and a barrage lake.

Whilst the lakes on Fraser Island are some of the most naturally stunning sights you’ll see, many of them hold nothing but water. Because of the purity and acidity of the water, they are not home to any creatures. There are a few lakes that do have fish and turtles living in them and a particular species of frog that have adapted to survive in an acidic and nutrient deficient environment.

Fraser Island History

Captain Matthew Flinders was one of the first white men to have contact with the islanders of Fraser Island in 1802.

In 1836 the ‘Stirling Castle’ was shipwrecked and after spending weeks in a lifeboat at sea, they landed on the island. The survivors lived on the island for a few weeks before being rescued. One of these was Eliza Fraser, the wife of the Captain, James Fraser. It was after Eliza, that Europeans named the island Fraser Island.

The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island and their traditional name for the island is K’gari (pronounced “gurri”), which means paradise. According to Butchulla legend, Fraser Island was named K’gari after the beautiful spirit who helped
Yindingie, messenger of the great god Beeral, create the land. As a reward to K’gari for her help, Beeral changed her into an idyllic island with trees, flowers and lakes. He then added birds, animals and people onto the island to keep her company.

The island is now referred to as both “K’gari” and ‘Fraser Island” (and “Great Sandy National Park”), and whilst the Native Title rights were handed back to The Butchulla people in 2014, the day-to-day management of the island is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Heritage (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service).

Fraser Island Logging history

Logging is a huge part of the Fraser Island story. Due to the abundance of timber available and the quality of the pines, logging on Fraser Island ran for quite an extended period of time, first starting in 1863 and continuing until the end of 1991.

Logging initially started near Wanggoolba Creek by ‘Yankee Jack’ Piggott. In 1913 the first State Government Forestry Camp was set up at Bogimbah Creek, later moved to Wanggoolba Creek and in 1920 this moved to Central Station. In 1918 building began on the first and only timber mill on Fraser Island at the McKenzie’s Jetty site. McKenzie Ltd. was responsible for this mill, a jetty and a number of steam locomotives and tracks servicing its logging areas. When the Forestry Camp moved to Central Station, there were workers and their families living there and a community formed, including huts, houses and sheds, a school for the children and nurseries and vegetable gardens.

Nowadays Central Station is a camping and picnic area, but it also includes plenty of information on it’s former life as a logging camp.

Fraser Island’s WWII Connection

Many wouldn’t know, but Fraser Island played an important role in WWII.

The Fraser Commando School trained personnel for the highly secret ‘Z Force’. These personnel lived on the island and were trained to operate undercover behind enemy lines. The ruins of the training school are found on the western side of the island near Kingfisher Bay Resort.

The Maheno shipwreck, located on the eastern beach, was also used during the WWI as a target for explosives training.

Maheno Shipwreck

The Maheno shipwreck is one of those must visit places on Fraser Island. You’ll find it on 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side of the island, not far past Eli Creek.

The ship ended up beached on the island during a cyclone in 1935 and has laid there wasting away ever since.

The Maheno was built in Scotland in 1905 and was the world’s first ever triple screw steamer. She was initially built as a luxury passenger ship. During World War 1 she served as a hospital ship treating and transporting the wounded from Gallipoli and the Western Front. She was later used by a shipping company for journeys between Sydney and New Zealand.

By 1935 the ship had been declared outdated and taken out of service and was sold to a scrapping company in Japan.

On 8 July 1935, while under tow to Japan, the Maheno became caught in a cyclone and the towline broke. After drifting in rough seas, the Maheno eventually beached on Fraser Island.

The ship was unable to be re-floated and no buyers wanted her, so she was abandoned on the beach and remains there today.

It is said that the locals put the shipwreck to use in the year or so after it washed ashore by holding weddings and concerts aboard. Years later the wreck was used as bombing practice during World War 2.

She has definitely been showing her age in recent years as the constant battering of waves and the environment take their toll on her. Our photos of the Maheno from our first visit to the island 13 years ago compared to now definitely show the deterioration.

Today, the rusting hull is all that remains and this is gradually being washed away with every tide, wave and storm that hits.

Definitely still one of our favourite places to visit and photograph on the island though.