A few years ago whilst travelling in Western Australia we got talking to a local in Karratha who told us about this town called Wittenoom. The more we spoke, the more intrigued we were about this remote town in the Pilbara region of WA and we wanted to find out more. We were given directions and decided to visit after leaving our camp in the Millstream National Park.
For those that don’t know of Wittenoom’s history, it was where they used to mine the deadly blue asbestos from the 1930’s to mid 1960’s. Wittenoom was a town that literally lived and breathed blue asbestos. A huge portion of those who worked in the area have subsequently died from asbestos related illnesses. A town was built near the mine to house and service workers and their families and by the mid 1950’s it was the largest town in the Pilbara. At the time no one knew of the hazards of asbestos, miners would return home covered in the deadly dust and the asbestos tailings were even being used in construction of gardens and roads all around the town.
Prior to mining beginning around Wittenoom in the 1930’s, the area was predominantly pastoral. Mining in Wittenoom Gorge commenced in the mid 1940’s. From 1950 until the early 1960s Wittenoom was Australia’s only supplier of asbestos. The mine closed in 1966.
After leaving Milstream National Park we were on our way to stay in the mining town of Tom Price and had already decided to drive the Rio Tinto rail access road, which required us to sit through an induction video, complete a short training module and acquire our driving permits. This is a privately owned road that runs parallel to the train network throughout the Pilbara, providing maintenance access to the railway.
Rio Tinto do allow the public to drive on the rail access roads as long as all drivers hold a valid permit.
This road is an unsealed road, but as we have generally found, most roads owned by mining companies are pretty well maintained and in good condition for a dirt road. It was actually quite a pretty drive, but very secluded, we saw very few cars all day.
Generally the only car we passed was a mining vehicle, but for the majority of the day it was just us and our surroundings…… and lots of dust!
Eventually we arrived at the town that used to be called Wittenoom. We say used to be called because in 2007 the State Government wiped this town from the map, the town was degazetted, their electricity and postal services were taken away and all reference to the town has been deleted (as shown on the photo below), it simply doesn’t exist anymore.
All road signs and maps have had all reference of the town removed and access to the area has been limited, it’s now like the town never existed.
It is a shame that this town has such a tragic history as it is situated in an absolutely beautiful location. The backdrop of the town is stunning and such a contrast to the town itself. The signs that greet you as you reach the town tell of a not so beautiful story, a stark reminder of how not everything is as it seems on face value.
It’s hard to imagine now that this was once a big thriving town with shops and schools and many houses. It’s now like you are walking into a real life ghost town. Doc Holidays Cafe is boarded up, houses are abandoned and the whole town lays in a derelict state.
As you drive around you really feel like you are in another world …. one you should be in. It’s a very strange and eerie feeling being there. It’s hard to explain, I’m not sure if it’s that you know you are somewhere you probably shouldn’t be, or that you feel like you are encroaching on someone’s space, or that you can feel the bad spirits of a town with such a tragic past …. whatever it is, it’s hard to explain and even thinking about it now it’s taking me back to that day we were there.
Although the town is no longer and all services have been stripped away, apparently there are 3 or 4 people who remain living in the town. Such a shame as it’s in such a beautiful location.
Many of you would know Midnight Oil’s song ‘Blue Sky Mine‘, but did you know that this song was inspired by the experiences of workers at the Wittenoom mine. If you listen to the words in the song, the “blue” refers to blue asbestos, and the “sugar refining company” refers to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd (CSR), the owner of the mines.
Asbestos fibres and dust are said to still be all around the town and the gorge itself still contains piles of the mine tailings.
Now we aren’t going to tell everyone to go and visit as the signs are pretty direct as to the health risks ….. but we were so intrigued we wanted to have a closer look. Were we concerned? … of course we were, those signs do make you think!
But we didn’t stay long, although we do regret that a little now and would love to go back and explore a little further. Although filled with asbestos mine tailings, from photos we have seen, the Wittenoom Gorge is absolutely stunning. It’s such a tragic, yet interesting story of yet another stunning area of Australia.
You could quite easily spend a few weeks exploring the Flinders Ranges and surrounding areas, particularly if you are going to do any of the bushwalks.
Below are just a few of the places we visited while in the area.
The Great Wall of China
Just outside the Flinders Ranges on the road between Wilpena and Blinman you’ll find the unusual formation which is named the Great Wall of China. This is made up of lines of rocks which are topped with ironstone.
The historic town of Blinman is actually the highest town in South Australia. Copper was discovered here in 1859 and mining began soon afterwards. What was once a popular busy town in the mining boom is now a quiet little town home to just 22 residents.
The Blinman Hotel, known as ‘The Pub in the Scrub’, first opened in 1869.
The site is a place where the Adnyamanthanha people gathered to tell stories. It’s believed that the engravings are up to 40 thousand years old.
It’s quite an easy and picturesque walk into the canyon along a dry river bed, lined with ancient river red gums. What makes this place different to other Aboriginal artworks is that they are actually engravings carved into the rocks, not paintings.
It is unknown who actually made these artworks as the memory of these people has been lost to the local Adnyamanthanha community.
Nuccaleena Mine Ruins
Copper was discovered at Nuccaleena by William Finke in the mid 1850’s. The mine became partly operational in early 1860 when 100 tons of copper ore were mined in 5 weeks by 16 men. By March 1861, 88 men were working at Nuccaleena, including six miners, five masons, four sawyers, two cooks and a medical officer.
The Great Northern Mining Company built a small town around the mine site, where the miners and mechanics of the company resided. Of course, the township also had the Bushman’s Hotel, as well as Captains apartments, office, stone stables, a goods store, smith’s shop, a workshop, general store, doctor’s house and huts for the miners.
You can walk around this old mine site and we would have loved to have done so, but it was unbelievably hot the day we were there and walking from the car to the information sign and taking the photos below nearly killed me (George stayed in the comfort of the air-conditioned car!)
Kanyaka Homestead Ruins
We both love exploring old ruins, learning the history and imagining what these places must have been like …. filled with people and chatter. Walking around some of these ruins we come across, you are the only ones there and it’s hard to imagine what life must had been like.
The Kanyaka ruins consists of various buildings, the main homestead and various other outbuildings. There is also the woolshed, which was one of the largest in the state.
This was our second visit to these ruins and this time we also noticed that there is a small cemetery across the creek bed …. we all know Shelly loves a cemetery and had it not been over 43 degrees she would have taken the walk over to check it out!
Old Moxans’ Hut
You will find this hut on the SkyTrek Track on Willow Spring Station property. Old Moxans’ Hut was built around the turn of the century and was actually occupied permanently by a station employee until the early 1960’s.
Located at Parachilna, the Prairie Hotel is one of those places that everyone wants to visit, why? To try their ‘FMG’ – Feral Mixed Grill ….. a dish consisting of kangaroo, camel and emu. Apparently this is listed as one of the top 100 Gourmet experiences in Australia! We would have liked to try this (well George would have), but the hotel was closed for the summer so we will have to visit next time, but we did take a drive out to the town anyway.
The Parachilna Hotel was first licensed in 1876 and changed its name to the Prairie Hotel when Ross and Jane Fargher purchased the hotel in 1991.
Now Parachilna is one of those blink and you’ll miss it type of places …. it’s literally nothing more than a railway station, the hotel and a few other buildings. It’s a strange little place, there was no one around (that we could see!) and to be honest it felt pretty eerie. Would we stay there ….. NO, would we go back when the pub is open …. Probably, did we feel like someone was going to jump out and kidnap us and chop us up into a million pieces …. YES!
This friendly little guy was a constant visitor at our campsite during our stay. He was very inquisitive and was never far away. We are always very careful about not leaving food or rubbish around while we are camping, but we did come back one day and find the grease tray from our Webber lying on the floor ….. we have a feeling maybe this little guy had something to do with that!
Plenty of 4WD Tracks
As previously posted, there are plenty of 4WD tracks available and the Flinders Ranges are centrally located should you wish to extended your holiday into another area …. there was a part of us that wanted to jump on the Strzelecki Track and head off to Innamincka for another visit ….. the hotel sells awesome chips!
Wilpena Pound Welcome Talk
One of the highlights of the trip was attending the welcome talk at the resort. Each night they hold a free informal talk where you are welcomed to the area in Yura Ngawarla, the language of the Adnyamathanha people, the traditional owners of Wilpena Pound and the Flinders Ranges area. The talk included the welcome, as well as stories and beliefs of the Adnyamathanha people as to the creation of the pound and surrounding areas. To hear of stories passed down from generation to generation and to feel their passion and spiritual connection is something we love to be a part of. To visit places like this and see that many of the staff are of Aboriginal background makes it just feel right. We love hearing the Dreamtime stories, knowing that they have carried these beliefs down the generations, it’s a privilege to be a part of that. If you are visiting the Wilpena Pound Resort, this welcome talk is a must-do activity.
We basically spent 5 days driving around and exploring. We generally left camp by 8am and we were lucky to be back before 7pm most days. During our whole trip we drove 5,136km. Above is a screenshot of our hema map app of where we drove in the Flinders Ranges.
The morning we left to start the track everyone was up and ready bright and early …. there was just a little bit of excitement in the air ….. and maybe a bit of nervousness and anticipation of what was to follow.
We arrived at the Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to fill up and do some last-minute vehicle checks, check pressures etc as this was the last fuel for a few days. Bramwell Junction Roadhouse is also the start of the Old Telegraph Track …… a small wooden sign marks the start of the track.
This is one of those iconic 4WD tracks that is on everyone’s bucket list. A visit to the cape isn’t complete without being able to say you completed the Old Telegraph Track. Although not an overly long track, there are many challenging parts, with lots of water crossings and deep, steep, slippery river banks to deal with.
Although this track is a 4WD’ers dream, it’s also an important part of our history. In the early 1880’s the Queensland Government enlisted JR Bradford to survey a route along the Cape York Peninsula to Thursday Island for the construction of an electric telegraph line. The line consisted of galvanized cast iron ‘Oppenheimer’ poles which were manufactured in Germany. Some of these poles are still standing today. After more than 100 years of service the line was closed in the late 1980’s.
The Old Telegraph Track is basically split into two sections, the southern section and the northern section. The southern section runs from Bramwell Junction to Bamaga Road, while the northern section runs from Bamaga Road to the Jardine River ferry.
You could drive the whole track in a day, but most people take at least 2 days to do it. It’s such a beautiful area and an amazing experience that we didn’t want to rush it, so we took 2 full days to drive the track, which gave us plenty of time to explore.
As with most of the tracks in the area, track conditions change significantly every year. The wet season comes through, fires sweep through the area and even from the beginning to the end of the tourist season, the tracks change.
We were interested to see how much had changed since our visit 5 years ago and wow, this track had definitely changed!
The first major obstacle you come to is Palm Creek. Now last time we went we were told we wouldn’t get up this without a winch, but we did! This time …… we didn’t!
We all stood at the top of Palm Creek and looked down the huge rutted drop and wondered if we really should attempt it or not. Finally George decided he’d give it a crack and the rest said they’d follow if we made it through! Everyone lined the banks of the crossing and waited in anticipation to see if the mighty Prado would make it. We made it down the first side and into the creek crossing without an issue. The Patrol, BT50 and Triton all followed. Our other two vehicles decided to give it a miss and met up with us later that day at camp.
After all making our way safely down the first side it was time to tackle the next hurdle and get UP the exit. We nearly made it all the way up , but couldn’t quite get there so our winch was used for the first time, and boy did the winch get a workout here! After only about 15 minutes on the track we then spent over 1 1/2 hours winching every single vehicle up Palm Creek! Our 4WD Supacentre Domin8r winch certainly got a work out that morning (Shelly really does buy the best presents!).
So at this point we are still only about 15 minutes into the tele track and have a long way to go and there is so much more action still to come, so stay tuned! ……..
So we’ve returned from Cape York and we had the most amazing time, but as you would have realised we didn’t do too well on the blog writing while we were away!
Anyone who follows us on Facebook & Instagram would have been kept up to date with plenty of photos, but unfortunately our blog community was a little neglected!
You see, it was just too hard this time travelling in a big group, too much time socializing and drinking! 🍻, we just didn’t find the time to write and post the blogs.
But don’t fret, we didn’t forget you all, there are plenty of photos, videos and stories coming your way …. so sit back and enjoy!
⬇️Check out the short video below of some of the 4WDing we did up the cape!
We will also take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful friends for an awesome trip filled with amazing memories. Also thank you to mum and dad who looked after the house and animals while we were away (and everything else you did!). Thank you both so much xx …… Gelly & Charli loved having nonna and Gedo here to stay!🐾
And lastly thank you again to our mechanic, Adam from A1 Autohaus, for getting the Prado ready for the trip, we nearly got by without an issue this time, but more on that later!
Last weekend we headed off to the Tuff Truck Challenge. We hadn’t been for a few years and decided to go back this time, just for the day.
The Tuff Truck Challenge started as a relatively small event back in 2001, but it’s now grown into one of the biggest, and probably the most extreme, Australian 4WD events on the calendar.
It’s now known as The Tough Dog Tuff Truck Challenge and has something for everyone. The event is marketed as a ‘family’ event and it certainly is, there are plenty of activities for the kids and it really is a great weekend out. The event is held over 3 days on a private property at Milbrodale, in the NSW Hunter Valley.
As for event itself, this is for those serious hard-core 4WD competitors and their trucks. The event is a gruelling test for competitors and navigators as they push themselves and their vehicles to the limit over 12 stages that consist of courses full of rocks, boulders, ruts and mud, a Show n Shine, Travel Ramp and verification & engineering …… all based on a point scoring system. The terrain is pretty full on and certainly not for your average 4WD. Some people think what wedo is full on ….. well that has nothing on what these trucks are capable of!
There is always something happening, with numerous stages running at the same time, the merchandise and exhibitors stands, as well as numerous food stalls. Also, if you are camping there for the weekend, everything is relatively close to each other so it’s an easy walk back to camp if you want to relax.
From a spectators point of view, the excitement not only comes when a driver successfully navigates an obstacle, but when he/she doesn’t! When you hear the sound of metal crunching, drivetrain breaking or see a truck rolling, that’s what everyone loves!
One of the favourite events for spectators is the night mud run called ‘Mudrat’s Revenge’. After the mud stage on the Saturday night, there is a band and party. If you are camping there, as we did the first year we went, this is when you realise how hard some people party!
Camping areas are available on site and are split into two groups, general camping and family camping. We’ve only camped there once and I’d say if going with young kids, definitely opt for the ‘family camping’ area! Going by our first experience camping there, things can get a little full on and there certainly isn’t too much peace and quiet for sleeping! In saying that, we absolutely love the event and if you like 4WDing you’ll probably love it too!
Although alcohol limits are pretty strict and monitored, including vehicle and bag searches as you enter the event, you can imagine that by nightfall things can at times get a little feral, and if you aren’t used to this type of event it could be a real eye-opener! In saying that, there is security and police patrolling the whole event so you are always safe and secure and nothing can get out of hand, it really is a great atmosphere for all.
Welsh’s Road, Milbrodale NSW 2330
Day Tickets available, as well as 3 day event + camping.
Everyone knows we love travelling and have been lucky enough to see our fair share of Australia already. Generally we tend to travel by ourselves, but one of our friends, Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours, has teamed up with Charity Car Events to run an outback 4WD rally to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. We realise we are very fortunate to live the life we do and we therefore like to give a little back to others who may be struggling in life. When we heard about this event, we decided this was something we would love to be part of.
Did you knowthat 3,300 men die from prostate cancer each year in Australia, that’s 9 men each and every day. And 20,000 Australian men a year receive a new diagnosis.
Cancer is one of those horrible diseases that has affected nearly every one of us at one stage or another, even personally we have been affected so if we can do just a small bit to help raise money for any type of cancer research we are happy with that.
On Sunday 30 July 2017 a group of 4WD enthusiasts will start a 7 day convoy from Cobar in Far Western NSW and over the next week we will travel to Tibooburra, Innamincka, Birdsville, Maree, Flinders Ranges and finally finishing up in Broken Hill. The trip will also include a day trip in to the Simpson Desert to tackle the iconic ‘Big Red’. At 30 meters high, this is the biggest sand dune in the Simpson Desert. We tackled Big Red years ago in our old Prado, so will be great to take the new one out there as well.
We have been lucky enough to visit all of these places before, but always happy to head back again! The most exciting part is that this time we will be able to step foot inside the Birdsville Hotel! Our last visit to Birdsville was just prior to the Birdsville Races and we couldn’t even get near the pub, let alone get inside!
Big Red, Simpson Desert
It looks like a great trip and a great way to see a little of outback Australia, so if anyone is interested in joining the rally, click here to read all about it.
The Rover Trail 4WD track at Coffs Harbour really is one of the must do tracks for any 4WD enthusiast visiting the area. It’s a great track that gives you a little bit of everything, including very steep hill climbs and descents and lots of very deep ruts.
With these obstacles and its clay base, this isn’t the type of track you’d want to be stuck on during wet weather.
Coffs Harbour is known for its great 4WD tracks, and with names such as Morbid Trail, Commando Trail and Widow Maker, just to name a few, that tends to give you an idea of what some of the terrain might be like!
Not really sure what we were expecting with this track, but it was definitely challenging.
We both had more than capable vehicles and appropriate recovery equipment, including a winch on Mark’s 4WD, so we were prepared for whatever came our way.
It certainly wasn’t for the inexperienced 4WDer though and I wouldn’t head out there without at least one other vehicle with you.
We spent nearly the whole track with lockers on and it was slow going trying to manoeuvre around the obstacles and track building to help us through.
At times the hill climbs were near vertical and you could only see the sky – this is an interesting driving experience when you can’t see the track to know what’s coming up! This is where walking first and/or having a spotter outside the vehicle is required.
There were some serious leans due to the ruts and this was slightly concerning at times when you had a big drop off down one side and a rock wall on the other! The chance of some panel damage was definitely likely on this track, but luckily we both made it through unscathed.
The track itself isn’t very long, but due to the condition and needing to constantly stop to assess which line to take and having a spotter to guide the driver, it probably took us a few hours to complete it. We didn’t have any serious issues though, but we only had two vehicles, so do be prepared and leave plenty of time to complete this track, particularly if you have more vehicles in your group to make it through.
As we were the first ones through we realised after the fact that we don’t really have any photos of our 4WD on the track, as each time we stopped to help Mark with directions and guide him through, it was his vehicle that we were taking photos and videos of!
All up we’d describe this as a very fun, yet challenging track…highly recommended for experienced 4WD enthusiasts. A vehicle with high clearance, low range, lockers and a winch would be recommended.
Our recent trip took us up to the north coast of NSW to a place called Urunga. Urunga is a small, relaxed waterfront town where the Bellinger and Kalang rivers meet with the ocean. It’s about 25km south of Coffs Harbour so it’s a little quieter and without all the crowds, just how we like it! Leaving early on boxing day and arriving back after the new year, it was only fitting that our years ended and started with us camping. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come for the coming year as our intention is to get out and about more often, even if only for the odd weekend away.
We spent the week camped at the Urunga Waters Tourist Park with our mate Mark and his kids, MaryAnn and Anthony. This is an older style park, but the thing we loved about it is that it wasn’t too crowded. It’s right on the water and has its own swimming pool aswell so what more could you ask for.
We would definitely stay here again if we are in the area, maybe even take the dogs up there for a week as it’s pet friendly.
The amenities blocks are very small and they, as well as the camp kitchen could do with a little tlc and upgrade, but they did the job.
This park is perfect for the fishermen, with its own boat ramp and complete waterfront access you can be out there all day, every day.
Tuesdaywe played tourist and visited the Big Banana, Carobana and the Pet Porpoise Pool, and of course we fitted in time for a quick swim as well!
Carobana is every chocoholics dream destination! This place is full of carob based products from choc covered nuts and popcorn to rocky road, brittles and honeycomb and the best thing about this place is there are free samples!
This is a working factory and it’s in production most days and open for viewing.
The day we visited they were making honeycomb and we were invited in by the workers and they showed us how they make a batch of honeycomb from start to finish …. even including taste testing for us!
After we finished the viewing we moved on to see how they coat the honeycomb in chocolate.
The Pet Porpoise Pool is a great day out and has always been a favourite of ours over the years. If you are a fan of dolphins or have ever dreamt of kissing a sea lion or patting a dolphin, then this is the place for you! The show is what it’s all about, watching the sea lions and dolphins performing their tricks and showing off to the crowd. You can also have a photo taken kissing or feeding a sea lion, receiving a dolphin kiss or feeding a penguin.
Also, at a cost, they have more up close and personal experiences where you can actually get in the water with the animals, the kids were excited to have a dolphin experience where they were in the water patting and learning about dolphins.
The park itself isn’t all about fun and tourist visits, it does have a serious side to it and they do some amazing work rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured marine animals, before releasing them back to their natural homes. They also have a large focus on teaching people to change their behavior and views through education programs held at the park.
Wednesdaywe headed out for a day on the tracks. Coffs Harbour is known for its great 4WD tracks so we had to check them out. To start with we found a few trails that weren’t overly exciting, visually the scenery was nice, but not really anything more than a fire trail. We then headed off in search of the Rover Trail.
The GPS was set and it decided the best way to reach the track was via another track called The Morbid Trail. Now the name itself doesn’t really give you a warm fuzzy feeling does it, but we thought we’d check it out anyway. Got to the frist climb, went half way up, chickened out and reversed the whole way down! There are a few tracks up there with some interesting names ……. Morbid Trail, Commando Trail, Widow Maker ….. as we tend to like our cars and felt that we really needed them to get us home, we chose not to tackle any of these tracks!
Finally we found our way to the start of the Rover Trail. This was a great, fun track (‘fun’ isn’t exactly the word Mark would use to describe this track though!). It’s difficult in parts and you really do need a capable car and driver, but we had fun, we made it through unscathed and it’s another one we can mark off the bucket list! There will be another blog post with more photos and info on this track.
Thursdaytook us to Boambee beach. This is one of the beaches that you can 4WD on in the Coffs Harbour area. The great thing is that you don’t need a permit, although we believe there is talk of this changing in the future.
We spent a great day swimming and relaxing on the beach, as were many other people!
Fridaywas the day we took a drive along the scenic Waterfall Way, as you can imagine from the name, it takes you to waterfalls! The drive takes you through the small towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo and it’s worth a stop in these towns to have a bite to eat or a look around. The scenery on this drive is spectacular, the landscape changes from lush green countryside to rainforests and waterfalls.
First stop was Ebor Falls. Ebor Falls occur where the Guy Fawkes River plunges over two waterfalls, the upper and lower falls. This spot lends itself to some great photo opportunities. The Gumbaynggirr people traditionally called Ebor Falls ‘Martiam’, which means the great falls.
Not far from the town of Dorrigo you reach the Dangar Falls, which are just as spectacular as the Ebor Falls. The day we visited there were many people swimming below the falls which would have been great, but it was so unbelievably hot and the idea of walking up and down that hill was not appealing at all!
A quick visit to the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre on the way back gave us some more photo opportunities. There are quite a few walks you can do here, but again, with the heat it just wasn’t making for an enjoyable walking experience! Although the temperature did drop slightly once you started to head into the rainforest.
It’s worth a stop at this centre, even if only to see the suspended platform which affords views over the escarpment and into the distance.
Upon returning to Urunga we took a drive out to The Honey Place. This is quite an interesting place where you can see working beehives and taste the various honey varieties. The gift shop has numerous products for sale from t-shirts and souvenirs to honey-based body products (moisturisers and lip balms etc) and obviously the many honey varieties.
They also have an interesting documentary video running which is quite informative and the staff themselves are more than willing to teach you and answer any questions. We both learned a little about bees during our visit, yes useless information we probably didn’t need to know, but regardless, we learned something new!
Saturdaywas spent swimming at Valla Beach. This beach is great, it’s like natures own water park. There are rock pools to explore and mini swimming holes for you to sit and relax in. The tidal lagoon is great for adults and kids, the shallow waters at low tide allow little mini rapids to form and you can float down the creek to where it joins the ocean. Such a beautiful location, whether you are after a swim, a relax in the sun or a walk along the beach.
Saturday also happened to be New Years Eve and you can’t have a party without decorations! The kids and Shelly set about decorating the camp site, we had glow sticks and sparklers and lots of food and beer! We met a couple who were camping behind us and invited them over to spend NYE with us. We spent the night laughing and sharing travel stories with our new friends. They live in WA, but have been on the road travelling since March (jealous is the only word that comes to mind!).
Sunday morning Mark and the kids left early to head back to Sydney so we had the day to ourselves. With temperatures again in the mid 30’s there was no other option but to head back to the beach, so back to Valla Beach we went. And guess what ….. there were markets on, what a coincidence!
Mondaymorning started out a little overcast and drizzling with rain so we decided to head into Coffs Harbour for a look around and a bit of shopping.
After our day of wandering around we headed back to camp for a relax before deciding to go out to dinner for our last night away.
Now who says you can’t be comfortable while camping, this inflatable pink lounge was the best $20 we’ve spent! We actually had to fight to get to the lounge first it was so comfy! Nothing better after a day out than to come back to camp, grab a beer, lay down and take in the view!
For years we’ve driven through Urunga and seen the Anchors Wharf Café sitting down the side of the bridge, but we’d never visited. After seeing a photo of their seafood platters on their website, this is where George wanted to go!
Anchors Wharf Cafe & Restaurant sits right on the south bank of the Kalang River at Urunga. The views at sunset are beautiful, it really was such a nice place to spend our last night.
We couldn’t fault this restaurant, the food was delicious and the staff were friendly and attentive. They definitely didn’t skimp on food when it came to the seafood platter, it was packed with yummy fresh seafood and fruit. The prawns were huge and there were so many they didn’t even all get eaten …… anyone who knows George, knows that this would very rarely happen!
We had been on the camper trailer hunt for a few years, visiting shows and checking out all the campers, reading reviews, talking to owners and checking out EBay and Gumtree. It was something we had always wanted to upgrade to ‘some day’. Having looked at so many different campers we learned what we did and didn’t like and what we did and didn’t need. We wanted something that suited us and our style of travelling. Sure there are plenty of trailers on the market that are really inexpensive compared to what we paid, and they are great for a lot of families, but they just wouldn’t cut it with the type of travel we do. There are plenty more expensive than ours too and some of the features are amazing, BUT we needed to keep in mind that we were upgrading from a tent so anything was a little bit of luxury for us, we didn’t need to go over the top!
So what did we want? We both agreed that we definitely wanted a hard floor camper. It had to be quick and easy to set up and pack down. We were upgrading from a Black Wolf tent which took us 30 min to have our campsite fully set up (including unpacking the car, putting up the tent, bedding, gazebo, kitchen etc.), so didn’t want to be fussing around with set up and erecting poles and ropes. It needed to be lightweight to help with ease of towing and fuel economy and lastly and most importantly, it needed to be a proper full off-road trailer that could follow us anywhere we went, it needed to be able to handle our extreme outback conditions.
Camping on the Tanami Track, NT/WA
Cub Campers have been around since 1968 and, in our opinion that says something. There’s no denying that Cub Campers are one of the most trusted names in the camper trailer world, they’ve been doing it for a long time and they seem to be getting it right! The one thing we really liked about Cub, compared to some of the other trailers on the market, was that they are fully made in Australia from start to finish, and made with all Australian canvas and BlueScope steel. The fact that they are an Australian owned company, using Australian made products means that we had more of a guarantee that the end product would survive our harsh outback conditions.
So earlier this year after looking around for years, we decided to go and visit the Cub Campers showroom at North Rocks. We had always seemed to come back to the Cub and decided to go and check them out and have a serious chat with them. This showroom is impressive, all their campers are on display for you to check out and right behind the showroom is their factory where everything is built. We spent quite a while there that day comparing the two models we were interested in, the Daintree and Brumby, and talking to the sales rep. We left the showroom that day very impressed with what we had seen.
Camping on the Oodnadatta Track, SA
We then had some big decisions to make, 1) did we want to buy one now to take on our 2 month trip to Western Australia and 2) could we afford it! After a week or so of thinking about it and checking the finances, we decided to bite the bullet and go for it! We paid our deposit and ordered our new Cub Kamparoo Brumby to be built.
As the weeks and months went by we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new camper, and at times wondered if we would even have it in time for our holiday, but the day finally arrived and we booked in for our handover. When you pick up your new Cub you have a full run through on how everything works. You are shown how to set up and pack away your camper, you are shown every little nook and cranny and how everything opens, closes, clips or zips together, you are handed a bunch of keys and instruction manuals (which yes, we did refer back to this the first few times!) and you leave the showroom totally overwhelmed with all your new information!
So that weekend was spent playing with the new camper, seasoning the canvas, packing it full of everything we’d need for our 2 month adventure and taking it for a drive to practice our trailer reverse parking! There was no time for anything else, we’d cut it very fine with time and this meant that we picked it up on the Friday and the next Friday we left for our 2 month adventure from Sydney to Western Australia.
There was no easing into things for the trailer, it was thrown straight into our style of touring! Within 4 days we had hit the Tanami Track, a remote off-road short cut between Alice Springs in the NT and Halls Creek in WA. It’s unbelievably corrugated with lots of bull dust and rocks, which makes for a fun time when you encounter the road trains! This is unfortunately where we encountered our first problem, we lost the trailer brakes, which made for an interesting few hours’ drive into Halls Creek. As soon as we arrived in town and got some phone reception we called Cub back in Sydney to see what could be wrong. They instructed us to look under the camper and see if these particular wires were still intact …. well no they weren’t, they had been cut in half by stray rocks! Cub were great though, as it was obviously still under warranty, they rang us back within 5 minutes with approval to get this fixed wherever we could, send them the bill and they’d reimburse us within 5 days. Couldn’t ask for better service than that. We found a great auto electrician in Halls Creek who dropped everything to fix it for us on the spot, they soldered the wires back together and we were on our way. We did end up having the same issue again during our last week, this time on the Oodnadatta Track! Luckily George was able to fix it this time to enable us to get home .
So here are our comments on the Cub Brumby
Towing – As mentioned earlier, a very important issue for us was weight, we’ve already added weight to the 4WD with a bullbar, side steps, roof basket, drawers, Kaymar rear bar, plus the full roll cage inside, add to this all of our luggage and us and we’ve significantly increased the weight of the vehicle from factory standard. Of course, this all has a significant effect on fuel economy, so we wanted a relatively lightweight camper trailer as well. Weighing only 955kg this camper suited us and our needs.
It happily sat behind the Prado and just followed along, it just loved the dirt tracks, corrugations, water crossings, you barely even knew it was there! Being a full off-road model it was built for our outback tracks and we certainly tested it!
Setup – The hassle free set-up is exactly what we wanted. The Brumby comes standard with the ‘silent winch’ (ha, when this gets dusty, it’s far from silent, I’d hate to see what a non silent one sounds like!). But in saying that, the winch system is very easy to use. Cub even mark the point to which you should unwind the winch to when setting up, so you don’t even have to think about it. Once you reach this point you simply start to lift up the hard floor and the gas struts will kick in to help you. From there it’s a very quick and simple process to complete the set up.
Camping on the Great Central Road, NT
Now when it comes to the awning, we can’t really comment. When it was set up during our handover process it didn’t look too hard, but it would definitely add a bit of time onto the set up process. We decided that we didn’t need it and didn’t even take it away on our trip so can’t really comment. We will say though that it’s great that you can leave it zipped onto the camper and just throw it over the roof even if you aren’t using it. The camper still packs up fine with it on. Although we didn’t take it with us or use it, that seems like a great idea and so much easier than having to zip it on and off each time.
Inside – OK, so this is where we had some of those luxury items we’d never had before! Inside the camper is a deep-cycle battery which gives power to two internal 12V outlets (and also 3 external 12V outlets) and 2 x USB chargers (great for the phones and IPads etc). There are also 2 double power points inside the camper, which work when you are plugged into 240V mains power. Another thing we loved was the LED light that velcros onto the overhead bar.
The blinds that protect the fly screen windows are a great idea as they all zip open from the inside, meaning that it’s so easy to open and close as you feel fit and so much easier than running outside to close windows in the rain! As they all open via zipper it’s easy to open up fully or just a little as an air vent. Make sure you keep a window open a bit at night to avoid condensation.
The room on the floor is quite large considering it’s a fairly small trailer. It would certainly fit a stretcher bed or two for the kids or a small table and chairs if you need to get in out from the weather – or a dogs bed or two when we take the pups away!
Bedding – The double bed has a pocket spring mattress and the base lifts with the assistance of gas struts. We did buy a memory foam mattress from Clark Rubber to put over the top of the standard mattress to give a little more comfort. The camper still closes fine with this extra topper, plus the linen and doona and pillows.
Kitchen – Cooking for us while we are camping is no different to cooking at home, we certainly don’t live on baked beans and tin spaghetti! So room to cook and keep all our utensils was important. The kitchen is a full stainless steel slide-out unit with lots of storage compartments. Three pull out drawers to keep cutlery and utensils and plates/frypans/chopping boards etc. You then have two other areas where we keep pantry items, herbs and spices, cling wrap, matches, candles, washing up equipment etc. The bench space is adequate for us, but there is a handy little shelf you can clip on as well, which we haven’t needed to use yet. This comes standard and just slides in under the kitchen to store it out of the way when not in use.
Then there is the stainless steel sink, nice and big and with running cold (hot is an option) water which is plumbed into an electric pump that draws water directly from the 80 litre water tank, something we’ve never had before! There is also a two-burner gas cooktop with wind shield if needed. But one of my favourite things is the LED adjustable light that comes standard and just clips into the socket on the benchtop, how handy is that!
The kitchen is easily accessible at all times, so great for roadside stops if you just want some lunch or a coffee.
Storage – Of course storage is important, but to us it was another luxury as generally everything had to be squeezed into the car. Does this mean that this time we just took double the amount as normal? No, we were good and Shelly did cut down on what we took, even though it was exciting having all this spare room! More room for presents and souvenirs to bring home!
There is a storage pipe that comes standard to keep all the tent poles in – or fishing rods. Storage up front for two jerry cans and two gas bottles and behind that a big checker plate storage box with cupboards on both sides, one with a fridge slide.
The under bed storage is great, plenty of room under there for anything you don’t need to often or things you only require at night or when the camper is open. The only bad thing is that you can only access this storage area when the camper is fully open, so keep that in mind when you start storing things under there!
The Other Stuff – The BlueScope Steel galvanised chassis is tough and more than capable of carrying the trailer over rough terrain. Combine this with the independent suspension and you have a trailer that will happily follow you anywhere.
George’s favourite thing about the camper was the Redarc Battery Management System which charges and maintains our battery by taking in all the power received via AC, DC or Solar and working out the best way to charge the battery to its optimal level. It also allows us to monitor our power usage and see how much longer the battery will power us for and how much is being drawn in or out of the camper.
The roof rack comes standard and this is handy, we used it to carry our camping chairs and could even open the camper up with these still connected if we only had a brief stopover.
The Brumby comes standard with electric brakes. Our only complaint in relation to this would be that there should be some sort of bash plate or stone guard over the wires to stop the issues like what we had. It’s an off-road model so this extra precaution would help.
We provided our own wheels and tyres to Cub so that they matched our Prado, making it easier when carrying spares.
As for dust, we only had a little getting into one of the openings and Cub replaced the seal for us under warranty while it was in for it’s first service. Other than that we were happy with how everything sealed up. We did encouter some strong winds and rain and the camper was fine with no leaks. When we pack up we always cover the bed with a tarp just to make sure our bedding doesn’t get wet if we need to pack up without letting the tent fully dry – also stops any dust/dirt/sand from the floor ending up on your bed!
We took our 1 week old Brumby on the ultimate test, travelling 17,290 km from Sydney to Western Australia and back, travelling through some very remote areas. Over a total of 8 weeks we travelled the Tanami Track, Gibb River Road, Great Central Road, Oodnadatta Track, through national parks and down the coast of Western Australia. We dragged the little Brumby through water crossings, over thousands of corrugations, through sand and mud and up and down mountains and you know what, it just followed behind and barely moved! It absolutely loved it and was clearly made to do this. For our first time owning or towing a camper trailer we couldn’t have been happier, there was not a single place that it struggled. We love our new member of the family and can’t wait to get back out there and start exploring more.
It’s now two weeks until we leave on our Western Australia 2 month adventure! Again we will be driving and camping along the way ….. hopefully in our new Cub Camper if it ever arrives!
The map shows where we will be travelling during this time.
We will start with a quick 4 day drive up to Tilmouth Well (just out of Alice Springs) for our first night camping on the Tanami Track. We then follow this across to Halls Creek and into the Bungle Bungle National Park for a few days.
We then spend a few days around Kununurra and exploring the property of El Questro. Following this we spend a week or so travelling the Gibb River Road and the magical gorges in this area. Then we hit Broome for just under a week’s stay, but this is where we undertake one of the highlights of our trip – a visit to the Horizontal Falls, both very excited about this one! And of course, camel riding along Cable Beach at sunset (George not so excited about this one!).
After another week or two exploring, we reach Karijini National Park which looks out of this world in all the photos we’ve seen, so we can’t wait to start exploring that for a few days. Then it’s back out onto the coast to snorkel and explore the Ningaloo Reef and see the famous dolphins at Monkey Mia.
Finally we start our journey home as we head towards the Great Central Road, which will take us from Laverton to Uluru. We didn’t think we’d be heading back to Uluru so soon after our last visit, but there is an amazing art installation there at the moment by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro. This is called ‘Field of Light’ and is made up of more than 50,000 solar-powered lights which light up the darkness. Uluru is such a spiritual place and this looks amazing, it will just add to the beauty of this magical area. So of course, we had to waste some more money and book in 2 nights accommodation, a ‘Field of Light’ tour and dinner beneath the stars!
From Uluru it’s a few days drive back home via one of our favourite places, Coober Pedy. Will definitely be heading back to John’s Pizza Bar for some of their great food again!
So there it is, hope you’ll join us on our journey across Western Australia as i’m sure there will be plenty of photos and blog posts along the way!