We had been told that not only was the scenery spectacular, but there were some great 4X4 tracks to be found in the Flinders Ranges. One of the perks of knowing the owner of a 4WD tour company is that we always find out the best of the best places to visit on our travels! After getting the run down of where to visit we set off to explore a few of the tracks. The first was the Arkapena Track which is a track made up of two sections, an AWD section and a 4WD only section.
This self-guided four-wheel-drive track is on private property and it cost us $50 to drive it. Payment is made and key is picked up from Rawnsley Park Station. You are also provided with a map and information on the area you were driving, as well as directions to the starting point.
The first section, which takes about 3 or so hours to drive is an all wheel drive track which, although not challenging, we enjoyed it as it offered some great scenery. In saying that though, if you were in an AWD vehicle (not a big tough Prado 😂) or you weren’t experienced, you’d certainly find this first section very enjoyable!
The second part of this track is a 4WD only track and this section took us about an hour or so to complete.
⛺️Rawnsley Park Station offer onsite camping and park cabins. Contact details are:-
Telephone (08) 8648 0700 www.rawnsleypark.com.au
New Years Day saw us head off on another 4WD track, this time the SkyTrek which is located on Willow Springs Station.
This track is for vehicles with low range 4WD and experienced 4WDers only. As with the other track there is a charge which was $70. We were given a map, a key and information guide before we set off. There are 50 markers on the route and the information booklet takes you through what all of these points of interest are.
Note that this track takes around six hours to complete and you cannot start this track any later than 10:30 am. Willow Springs is a working sheep station and the Reynolds family have been managing and grazing on this land for over 85 years.
⛺️ Willow Springs offer onsite camping as well as various cottages. Contact details are:-
Many of the tracks in the area run through private property so always make sure you are actually allowed to be there! Not all people let you drive on their property. After you are sure you can actually be there ….
🔹stay to formed tracks
🔹leave gates as you find them
🔹take all rubbish with you
🔹watch for wildlife and/or stock
🔹call ahead if you would like to drive a track or call into the homestead and say hi if you are driving past, after all this is someone’s backyard you are driving through!
We left the tranquil stunning waters of Coffin Bay and the SA coastline and made our way inland to the rugged ancient rock formations that make up the hot and dry Flinders Ranges.
The Flinders Ranges in South Australia are amazing and best visited in the cooler months of the year, but we were prepared for the heat and decided to go anyway! Yes it was hot, but it wasn’t too bad at all, the heat is a dry heat, totally different to the humidity we get in Sydney.
We spent our time camping in the Wilpena Pound Resort, which is the only accommodation located within the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. This resort offers motel style rooms, luxury safari tent accommodation and powered and unpowered sites. We stayed on a powered site and it was huge, plenty of space to spread out and still be away from your neighbours!
The Flinders Ranges is known for its stunning scenery, ancient landscapes and great 4×4 tracks. The landscape is up to 800 million years old and has been home to Adnyamathanha people for tens of thousands of years.
Day 1 we decided to explore the popular tourist drives including Bunyeroo Valley and Brachina Gorge.
The Brachina Gorge and Bunyeroo Valley tracks are not a difficult drive by any means but they are by far one of the most scenic drives in the Flinders Ranges.
From a geological perspective, this whole area is something really special. To be honest, neither of us really get into the geology side too much, but when you realise you are driving through ranges and valleys with hundreds of millions of years worth of history you can’t help but feel something. We don’t understand it all, but just being there you get a feeling that you are somewhere special.
The Bunyeroo formation consists of soft shale and siltstone which eroded away to form low valleys. It was formed about 580 million years ago when a rapid rise in the sea level flooded the whole area and resulted in deposition of the clay and silt. To know you are driving through an area that was once the bottom of an ocean is quite something.
If time is something you don’t have much of during your visit to the Flinders Ranges then these are your must do tracks. It gives a great introduction into the history and landscape of the area and the scenery is truly amazing. At every turn and every crest you come to you will be amazed at the views.
Coffin Bay was a place we had definitely wanted to visit, all the photos you see are stunning. We managed to incorporate a 2 night stay here on this trip and so glad we did. Would have loved to have more time to explore a little more of the coastline, but there is always next time!
After a long drive from Mildura to Coffin Bay …. with the temperature slowly rising the further we travelled (48 degrees when we stopped in Port Augusta for fuel!) we were wondering what we were in for!
Luckily the temperature at Coffin Bay was much more bearable … in fact it was quite cool at times. We camped overlooking Yangie Bay which was great. The local kangaroos visited and grazed right in front of our camp. Driving around the park you’ll see plenty of kangaroos and emus.
We spent the day exploring the whole national park and it was absolutely beautiful. Such a stunning area, the colour of the water is something you need to see to believe. If you have been to Western Australia, it’s very similar to the waters around the Coral Bay area of WA.
Ok so this year started with us sitting in the Urunga Waters Caravan Park and guess what …. we ended it in exactly the same place! Yes we are back here again over the Christmas/New Year break. We started 2017 off with us at Urunga, near Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of NSW. We spent the Christmas/New Year period here with friends last year and celebrated New Year’s Eve with complete random strangers who had camped next to us. We invited them to our campsite to celebrate NYE and we had a great time, that’s what camping is all about.
Well now we are back here again and this time we celebrated with our friends, Lauren and Liam and their kids and niece, our mate Stewy and his daughter and other friends Michelle & Matt and their son. Couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the New Year than with our beautiful friends.
So again, this has been an incredibly busy year for us. It’s been a year of ups and downs in many ways, we’ve had the stress of renovating, a change of jobs, medical issues and operations and numerous other obstacles, but we’ve also had many great times as well.
Let’s look back on 2017 …..
World Record Attempt
Always ready to try something new, this year on Saturday 4th February, we took part in the world record attempt for the World’s Biggest Haka, which took place on Waitangi Day 2017.
The Haka that we learnt and performed was the famous ‘Kamate’ as performed by the NZ All Blacks and Kiwi Rugby League Teams.
Unfortunately the record was not broken, but we had a fun day and also tried our first Māori hangi … amazing!
Little Levi turned 1
On 6th March our little nephew turned 1! We are all in love with him and he is truly the cutest little boy around! It’s awesome watching his little personality grow and beginning to interact with us more. He’s one headstrong boy, needs to do everything himself and he has no fear! He loves dogs and will happily share his food with them! He loves feeding our two and they are so gentle with him (so much for big scary, dangerous staffys!)
Min returned from the UK
After 2 years working in the UK as a Sous Chef, George’s daughter returned back home in August. She’s settled back in to life in Australia (even having a job lined up before she even landed in the country!). Not sure how long she’ll hang around for though, we have a feeling she’ll be off exploring again very soon.
Spreading the word
This year we were nominated for the Travel Blog Awards with Mr Promocode. We didn’t win, but we were grateful just to be nominated. We’ve gained quite a following on social media over the past years and we love sharing our adventures with everyone. We’ve been approached by news readers and government bodies to use our photos over the past couple of years, as well as most recently by Cub Campers, so social media is certainly the way of the future for advertising and spreading the word.
We are also now in the Top 3% of TripAdviser Reviewers, making us a Level 6 Top Contributor and one of the most popular reviewers in Sydney, with over 45,000 readers.
This was the year to knock off a few of the home renovations we had been talking about for so long. We understand why people stress with renovations, we had lots of arguments and lots of tears, but we are both very happy with the results.
The kitchen started off as maybe just replacing cupboard doors and bench top and ended up turning into a complete rebuild. We have a huge kitchen and it’s one of the reasons Shelly wanted to buy the house, so this rebuild was important to get it right. We both love the end result, just a few little finishing touches still to go and it’s done! (yes George, the plantation shutters aren’t installed yet, apparently this is all Shelly’s fault!)
The front door has made a huge difference and we love it. It’s the first thing people see so we are getting lots of compliments about this one! Wasn’t hard to be better than the old entrance way!
Lastly we redid the powder room and it finally matches the bathroom (only took us about 9 years!).
We had two new babies born this year (well one late December last year, but we will include her too!). George’s cousin welcomed little baby Alexander and Shelly’s cousin welcome miss Chloé.
One of Shelly’s cousins turned 50 this year and all the family made the trip out to Lucknow, in the central west region of NSW, to surprise her. It was a great get-together and a good excuse for a weekend away! Shelly’s boss and his wife also both had their 50th birthday and we celebrated with them at their joint party,
Another cousin had their 21st birthday early in the year, and we partied away with another at his 40th. We also joined another friend to celebrate his 40th birthday with a weekend cruise.
George’s dad turned 70 this year and the family gathered to help celebrate with a beautiful lunch. Of course there was also Levi’s 1st birthday and a couple of weddings thrown in as well! We also attended a 1st birthday party and naming day, which turned into a marriage proposal too! It was certainly a day of memories and celebrations for that family!
Shelly’s sister, Kylie, and her husband, purchased their first family home this year in the Hawkesbury. It’s a beautiful area, with the house backing onto the national park. The whole family, including Levi and his little furry 4 legged sister, Gucci, are loving their new home.
We also attended a few family and friends children’s birthday parties, doesn’t George make a pretty fairy princess!
Scenic Flight over Fraser Island
Over the years we’ve been on quite a few scenic flights, we’ve been on little Cessna’s (George has even flown and landed one), we’ve been on seaplanes and a helicopter, but the one thing we had never done in all our visits to Fraser Island was to take a scenic flight over the island. This October, driving back to camp one afternoon we saw the Air Fraser Island pilots and planes on the beach and pulled over to discuss taking a joy flight. As it turned out, they had a bit of time right then, so we handed over some money and jumped in the plane for a scenic flight over the island. Wow, it was a great flight and amazing to see the island from above. For years we’ve been exploring Fraser Island on foot and by 4WD, but to see it from above was a totally different experience. Highly recommend this for your next visit to Fraser Island.
The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer
Not too many mods this year, but we did get a second battery installed in the camper trailer to give us a little extra battery life when we are free camping. We also painted the rims black (properly this time!) and they look great.
As for the old Prado, she got a full new set of shocks and springs.
The old Prado looks tough by itself, but next to the new one it looks like a baby!
The 150 series Prado got a new ARB Winch Bar, Brush Bars and Side steps AND a new Winch! This is turning into one expensive little Prado!
Everyone always says to us ‘you two are always on holidays’! It doesn’t feel like that to us, but to be honest we did have a few this year, some were just a weekend away and others a bit longer!
January was our week in Urunga
February we spent a weekend at Forster with George’s parents
March we packed up the camper and headed down to Kiama for the weekend for the Red Hot Summer Tour …… John Farnham was the headline act!
April it was time for our annual visit to Fraser Island and this time we even fitted in a few days on Moreton Island aswell, our first ever visit.
May (also known as the month of Shelly!) we spent the weekend away for Shelly’s birthday. We actually stayed in a hotel about 15min drive from home (it had been a gift) and spent the weekend drinking cocktails, going to the drive-in, checking out the markets etc. Considering we were so close to home, we actually had a great weekend.
July saw us spend a weekend away with friends 4WDing on Stockton Beach and the Watagans. We also spent a weekend at Lucknow with family celebrating Shelly’s cousin’s surprise 50th birthday party.
October we headed back up to Fraser Island again with friends, never get sick of that place! October also saw us board a cruise ship for a 3 night cruise with friends to celebrate a 40th birthday.
And of course, December we are back here at Urunga.
So yes ok, when you put it like that I guess maybe we do have a lot of holidays!
We also had quite a few weekend 4WD trips by ourselves, with friends and with 4WD clubs. We spent a few weekends at Stockton Beach and had a few days playing out at Lithgow.
Our regular followers will remember our night stranded in the Watagans! The Watagan State Forest is an unpredictable area and unfortunately this time it got us too and we spent hours trying to get the 3 4WD’s out, spent a lot of time backtracking and snatching that afternoon/night!
Jobs and future planning
This year also saw us in the early planning stages of us getting sorted for our trip around Australia and ultimate move to Queensland. Still a few years off yet, but we’ve started decluttering at home and planning for our life on the road. We both undertook a barista course to give us another skill to use if we need to pick up work on the road.
We started a new business selling Scentsy which is still very new but so far we are doing ok. Hopefully we can build up a customer base and spread the word while we are travelling and bring in a little extra income. Check out our website, Awaken The Scent if you are interested.
After 11 years working for Bridgestone, it was time for a change and George starts a new job in January as a Business Development Manager for Monster Lubricants. After spending majority of his working career in the tyre industry, George is excited about this new challenge. Oh and in case you were wondering, it’s lubricants as in engine oils, coolants etc ….. not the other type of lubricants as many people have thought!
How we spent Christmas
We put on lunch at our house on Christmas Eve for Shelly’s side of the family. Christmas has always been a big thing and Shelly’s mum always put on the full hot Christmas Lunch every year. After Noeline passed away, Shelly continued this tradition and always put on the big Christmas lunch …. not as traditional as far as food is concerned, but we all still gather and open presents and then have the big sit down lunch.
This year was a lot of fun as Levi was interested in opening his presents and playing with all his toys …. who knew a 20 month old would get so excited over a pair of shoes! His face when he opened the box and smiled and said ‘shoes’ was hilarious! He sure was one spoilt little kid …. and I’m sure that continued on Christmas Day with his presents from his other grandparents and aunty as well!
Christmas Day we both headed to George’s parents house to spend the day with George’s side of the family. Another day with plenty of food and lots of present giving. Our niece and nephew scored pretty good on Christmas Day as well! Christmas really is all about the kids and we love buying them lots of presents.
Finally Boxing Day we went to see the kids and exchange presents. We spent a lovely morning with Min and Tre and their adorable funny little dogs before continuing on our journey to Urunga for our week long camping trip.
Merry Christmas from Gelly & Charli!
What’s planned for 2018?
Australia Day this year will be spent camping locally with a group of friends. In fact it’s a whole 29km from home! At least we’ll be able to pop home if we forget anything! Should be a fun weekend though.
In February we head down to Tasmania for a few days for our wedding anniversary. Neither of us have been to Tasmania before, so this will give us an idea of what it’s like. We would really love to go back with the 4WD at some stage and spend our time exploring.
2018 also sees us make the trek back up to Cape Yorkagain. This time we will be joined by a few other families and 4WD’s ….. apparently as we’ve been once we are the ones to go with, so we’ll be leading our ‘George & Shelly Cape York Adventure Tour’!! haha We are both excited to head back up there again and share the natural beauty with our friends. This trip we are hoping to fit in an overnight stay at Roko Island which looks absolutely divine.
We’ve got more renovations planned, repainting the whole house and renovating and landscaping the backyard, plus a few other things on the list, we will get there!
Lastly, we’ve been approached by Cub Campers to see if we’d like to be part of their ‘Cub Stories’ web series. So we will be meeting with them in the new year and filming our story, we’ll be sure to let you all know when it’s finalised!
Goodbye 2017 …. hello 2018!
What a great night we shared to bring in the new year. We all decorated the camper trailers, we set up our nibbles for the night, had fridges full of beer 🍺 and cocktails 🍹 too! There were plenty of glow sticks and sparklers too! Although we were probably the loudest group in the campsite we all struggled to make it to midnight, I think we were all in bed by 12.15am! Regardless it was such a relaxed night, just the perfect way to end a busy year.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year. We absolutely love being able to share our adventures with you all, so if you know anyone who may be interested in seeing our photos and/or reading about our adventures, please tell them about us and ask them to follow our blog or follow us on Facebook or Instagram. Wishing you all a very happy, safe and adventure filled 2018 ….. and as we always say, never ever take life for granted, live your life to the fullest and live a life of no regrets. Bring on 2018!
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.
When you head off road, there are many things you need to think about and prepare for, but the most important thing is tyre pressures. Whether you are out for a day on the beach, a play in the bush or dealing with mud holes or corrugated roads, ensuring you have the correct tyre pressure for your situation can mean a happier, safer and easier drive for you.
So many times we have seen others in situations that could have been avoided had they let their tyre pressures down. It is very important to have a little know-how in this area, but do remember that you need to know what works for your vehicle. Vehicle type, weight, tyre size and terrain will all have an effect on what tyre pressure to run. You want to give your vehicle every chance to perform the best it can and correct tyre pressures can certainly help with this.
Factors to keep in mind when dealing with tyre pressures?
Heat – Remember that as you drive, your tyres heat up and this in turn will increase the tyre pressure, so always keep this in mind. You may start your day at 40psi on the road, but after a while the pressure can increase to say 43psi. In the same respect, you may have been driving and then reduced your pressures to drive on the sand to 18psi. When you get up the next morning, your tyres are cold and you may find that the pressures are now actually a lot lower.
How long have you been driving for – remember that tyres heat up as you are driving, and therefore, the pressure inside will go up, so always take this into account when adjusting tyre pressures.
Speed – Generally, the quicker you drive, the hotter the air in your tyres will get, and thus the higher the pressure will go.
Terrain – If you are driving on rocky or corrugated roads your tyres will be flexing more than normal and this will also have an impact on them heating up quicker.
Weight – How heavy is your vehicle and how much extra weight have you added for this trip? Adding more weight should be a factor in adjusting tyre pressures, but also remember that more weight will mean higher temperatures and therefore higher pressures occurring as you drive.
Why do you need to adjust tyre pressures when off road?
Traction is very important when driving! Losing traction (or grip) when off-road can result in sliding and losing control of your vehicle, which can be very dangerous.
Punctures are not something you want to encounter when you are driving off road. We always carry spares with us, but obviously hope we will never need to use them! By running the correct tyre pressures for the circumstances you can lower the risk of punctures and also prolong the life of your tyres.
Floatation is important, particularly for sand driving. When driving on sand, your 4WD will want to sink and dig in to the sand, so you need to lower your tyre pressures significantly to ensure that you can ‘float’ along the top of the sand, rather than digging in and trying to push through it. You will definitely notice the difference and it’s so much easier on your vehicle as well. This is also noticeable in mud as well and helps to preserve tracks.
Track damage is never a good thing. We all want to keep our tracks open for everyone to use and enjoy and one way to do this is by using correct tyre pressures. If your wheels are constantly spinning because you don’t have traction, this in turn can damage the track.
Comfort for yourself and your passengers can be greatly improved by having correct tyre pressures. Driving on a gravel or corrugated road with road tyre pressures will result in you feeling every bump and rattle, but by reducing the pressures slightly you’ll be surprised at how much more comfortable the ride is.
How does it actually work?
When you reduce the pressures in your tyres you effectively increase the ‘foot print’ of your 4WD. Remember that your vehicle is connected to the road purely by the four tyres, so it makes sense when you think that if you decrease the pressure, the tyre balloons out and you now have a larger area in contact with the ground …. A larger ‘foot print’. This helps to spread the weight of your vehicle over a larger area and in turn, helps to stop it digging or sinking into the ground. The more tyre in contact with the ground surface, the more traction you should have.
If you think of your tyres as a balloon, you blow it up completely and put a pin to it, it will pop immediately. If though, you only blow it up half way and do the same, it will probably take more to pop it. This is what happens off road, if you are driving on rocky/gravel surfaces and you let a little air out of your tyres the tyre itself tends to mould or shape itself over the rock and takes a lot more to ‘pop’.
What is the right tyre pressure to run?
Well, that’s a hard one as all 4WD’s are different and many factors come into play. It depends on your vehicle, how much weight you have on board, what size tyres you have, where you are going and what you are doing! Personally we believe the following is a good guideline to follow. Works for us, but may not necessarily work for everyone!
Road: We run our tyres at 38 psi, but you should use the tyre placard in your car as a guide for you. Keep in mind that this will change when you have different sized tyres to standard, extra weight or load etc.
Beach (sand): 18 psi (you can go lower if the sand is very soft, we generally won’t go lower than 12 psi)
Mud: 18 psi
Rocks: 18 psi
Gravel: 28 psi (again, depends on how rough the road is)
The above are an average of what we find works for us. Depending on the surface we may need to go a little lower from time to time. You will learn to read your vehicle and what works best for you. As an example, while driving on roads up around Cape York, we found that they were much more corrugated than a normal gravel road, so we found that we had the smoothest ride by running 22 psi on the front and 24 psi on the back.
When your pressures are low, never brake, accelerate or turn sharply.
Always remember this saying, “low equals slow” ….. Meaning that the lower your tyres go down, the slower you need to drive.
Once you leave the track or beach always re-inflate your tyres to ‘road’ pressures as soon as you can. Driving on the road for prolonged periods, or at high speeds, on underinflated tyres can be damaging for your tyres and can be very dangerous as well.
Therefore, when lowering your tyre pressures, always keep in mind that they need to be inflated again. Is there a service station close by once you leave the track? Do you have a compressor onboard?
So next time you are driving off-road, keep all of this in mind. Knowing and having the correct tyre pressures for the terrain you are driving in is probably better than any other mod you can get, it will always get you further when driving off road, and it’s free! Not only will your passengers be more comfortable and happy, you will be safer, you will be helping to prolong the life of your vehicle and tyres and most importantly you will be protecting the tracks as well.