2020: Our Year in Review

2020 – well that’s a year none of us will forget in a hurry!  It was certainly a year of change and unknowns. 

After the fires and floods of late 2019/early 2020, it was just another kick in the teeth to then be greeted by COVID19.  It sure tested our strength and resilience didn’t it.  I’m sure you all know someone who was personally affected by COVID19, whether they contracted it, were tested for it, lost their job or unfortunately lost their life.  It changed our world in so many ways, but in many ways for the better.

Personally we were both very lucky and continued to work through out, actually busier than ever!  Shelly has been working from home since March and George was on and off working from home from March onwards.  Our daughter is a chef and was out of work for a while, we know of people who lost loved ones and we certainly know many friends who endured the test and subsequent ‘wait’!  

Gelly & Charli are absolutely loving having mum and dad working from home and I don’t know what they’ll do if things ever go back to normal and they have to live outside during the day like normal dogs! 

It’s definitely been a tough year for many people and hopefully we have all learned a little from this and one day we will look back on this year with memories of the things we achieved and changed, rather than the struggles and general shit year that it was.  One day we’ll sit back and go …. Yeah, we survived 2020!

Anyway, let’s move on and take a look back over the year that was 2020 ….

2020 Trips

January

Our year started on Fraser Island camping with friends.  We’d headed up just prior to Christmas and had a great couple of days with barely anyone on the island, just the way we like it!  Our friends started arriving from Boxing Day onwards …. as did the crowds!  But we still had a great time and if you know where to head on the island and stay away from the popular tourist spots it never feels that crowded anyway, it’s a huge island.  Anyway, after a great few weeks away we headed home to start the year and all our plans that went along with that …. little did we know at that point what lay ahead for the rest of the year!

Over the Australia Day long weekend we headed down to Currarong on the south coast to spend some time camping with our friends Leah & Brendan.  They’d been working in the Holiday Haven Currarong caravan park and this park had been affected by the bushfires and they had been forced to close, obviously losing a lot of their holiday tourist income, so once they reopened we were more than happy to head down and spend a little time and money in the park and surrounding area.  It’s a great area, one we’ve never spent too much time in, but we will go back again for sure.  We loved spending time with Leah & Brendan and exploring the area, even spending a morning out on the boat with Brendan … too cold for Shelly, but George & Brendan went snorkeling and loved it.  This trip was also Leia’s first time towing the camper and she did great!

January also saw us head back up to Queensland for our mate Stewy’s 40th birthday party.  We left a few days earlier and combined it with a work road trip for George to visit some customers along the way.  The party was a dress up ‘Bogan’ party, which was a bit of fun …. And let’s face it, we really didn’t need to try too hard dressing up for this one!!  George has always referred to Shelly as a bogan (and I think he’s been converted over the years as well!), but it was fun to dress up and enjoy a night with friends.

March

In March, Rob ‘The Duck’ (from The Camping and Off Road Radio Show on 2GB) decided to host a long weekend camping trip down at the Kings Point Retreat in Ulladulla. We’d met him a year or so ago and had a few beers together so we knew he’d put on a great weekend, and he did, and it was great to catch up again.

The idea was to get a group of people and head down to the south coast and spend some money in the area after the devastating bushfires and yep, we spent a bit! About $850 actually, including a new second battery for Leia, shopping and a few meals out.

The highlight of the weekend (for Shelly anyway!) was a concert on the Saturday night featuring the awesome country music singer, Adam Harvey. He is such a great entertainer and such a funny, friendly guy, even George ended up enjoying it! We ended up heading back to camp and continued drinking with The Duck and some of his friends and had a great night with some great people.

December

There were times throughout the year when we wondered if we’d even be able to go away at Christmas. And then with all the border closures the next step was deciding where to go …. we picked SA and all seemed great, until they got an outbreak and said they were locking down! Anyway, luckily it ended up ok, we got our border crossing passes approved and we made it ….. we actually crossed the border at 8.30am and they then closed it at midnight that night! 2 weeks exploring the Eyre Peninsula of the SA coastline and we loved it….. until the Prado died, but that’s another story!

Cancelled trips – So, as it turns out we didn’t have too many holidays during 2020, like everyone else, a lot of our plans were cancelled or postponed. Here’s what we missed out on:-

– Our Bushfire Support Camping Weekend which we were hosting at the Hidden Creek Campsite down in Jervis Bay – hopefully we can still hold this at some point.

– Easter camping trip out west with the dogs

– Big Red Bash in Birdsville – this has been postponed until 2021

– Also back in July or August when things were starting to look a little better we decided we’d plan a few weeks up at Karumba to get away …. Of course that got cancelled when the NSW/QLD borders were shut!

Weekend 4WD Adventures

As much of the year was spent in lockdown we didn’t do anywhere near as much as we normally would, but we did manage to get out a few times with friends for some fun 4WD day trips.

Back in March we took a quick day trip up to Stockton Beach, Leia’s first time on the beach so we were interested to see how she’d go and she was great!

In May we took a drive up to the Watagans, we hadn’t left the house for about 2 months at this point so it was great to get out for a day.

In June, we had our first trip out with friends after lockdown, a quick day run up to Morisset with Adam, Liam, Scott, Jack, Trent & Amber. We’d gone up here back when we first bought Leia and she had the full cage on the back and there was this one hill George just couldn’t get up. So it was time to go back and tackle it again and this time we won …. not sure if it was Shelly’s amazing driving skills or Leia’s less weight and lockers!

A trip up to Mt Sugarloaf with Liam and Trent ended up being quite a muddy day! All three 4WD’s were bogged at various times and the winch and snatch straps definitely got a work out!

In late August the snow started falling in Lithgow so we headed up there to meet Liam & Karen (who had camped up there in the snow the night before!) to have a play. Seeing an area that not that long ago had been destroyed by fire, now covered in snow was quite surreal. We ended up running into our mate, Adam, in the forest as well and the trip ended up getting a little more exciting after an incident with a tree … luckily we had our winch and all recovery gear with us.

September saw us head back up to Stockton Beach for a quick trip, followed by lunch with the kids. It also saw Shelly get bogged for a second time, but luckily we spotted our mate Ian from Great Divide Tours and he came to our rescue … talk about good timing!

We had another trip up to Lithgow in November after being invited out with Jason from APC – we had a great day exploring some great tracks, including the Spanish Steps which gave the Prado a great work out!

Day Trips

It was hard this year to get out and about, so we spent a lot of time exploring areas that either had limited people around or areas close to home. Everyone seems to travel far and wide to sight see but don’t realise the little gems that are in your own backyard. We love exploring our local area and have found some really interesting places, particularly this year. There is no much history surrounding us, you just need to look.

We decided to head out to Lithgow with the dogs for a day of sightseeing, exploring and 4WDing. We spend a lot of time out Lithgow way but on this day we found so many places we’d never visited before. We saw the devastation from the fires (will post more pics of that later), so very sad. The dogs loved being back in the bush and we had two very tired and exhausted puppies that night! We visited Blast Furnace Park, Bracey Lookout, Hassans Walls Lookout, Lake Lyell Recreation Park, Rydal, Lake Wallace, Wallerawang, Portland (including the Silos which were awesome) & Lidsdale State Forest.

During a day trip down to Bowral, not only did we find some great lookouts and hang out with Mary Poppins and the great Sir Don Bradman, we also found the old shale mining town of Joadja. This town now lays in ruins, but we did spend a good couple of hours exploring and taking photos, very interesting place. There is also a distillery onsite so we had a quick tour and taste testing whilst there, well why wouldn’t you! Unfortunately that was also the day someone ran into the back of Leia – luckily there was no damage to our car.

Scheville National Park – Located not far from home we found this place which was so interesting. The land seems to have had many lives over the years, from a cooperative farm to a migrant camp to a military training facility and an agricultural college, among others. Nowadays the public can wander around the Scheyville Camp precinct and see the ruined and restored buildings and learn all about its history.

Glen Davis was an oil-shale mining town and in its heyday it was home to around 2500 people, nowadays it’s basically a ghost town, but what a beautiful area it is. We’d never visited this area before and spent a day driving Glen Davis and the surrounding areas and the landscape is beautiful. We’d like to go back and camp out there and spend some more time exploring.

How many of you knew that the world’s second largest canyon is located right here in NSW? The Capertee Valley is actually 1 km wider than the Grand Canyon, but it’s not as deep. How cool is that! Worth stopping off to check this out if you are in the area.

Another day trip took us down to Robertson, which is where the Australian movie, Babe, was filmed. It’s also home to The Big Potato!, as well as some great waterfalls and walking trails.

We also spent the day at the new Sydney Zoo at Bungarribee with Shelly’s sister Kylie and nephew, Levi. This zoo only opened at the beginning of December 2019 and has a range of exhibits with animals from all over the world. It’s a great zoo, room for expansion, but what is there now is good and it’s really well set out, great size for the little ones.

The historic Putty Road is a rural road of approx 170km in length which runs from western Sydney (near Windsor) to the Hunter Region. It’s now sealed all the way, but it’s quite narrow and winding in sections, but also quite picturesque as you travel through the small country towns dotted along the way.

We ended up in Wollombi and grabbed some lunch before looking around at this quaint little town. This is home to the Wollombi Tavern, which sells the famous Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice. On the way home we stopped in at the Putty Road Truck Drivers Memorial. Unfortunately this road has taken many lives over the years and still does to this day. It’s a popular drive for motorcycles and car clubs (back in the day Shelly spent many a weekend cruising Putty Road with the boys from her old car club!)

Another quick day trip was a drive through the Royal National Park and along the Grand Pacific Drive, followed by barramundi lunch overlooking the beach.

We found another national park near us which had a great picnic and camping area. What makes Cattai National Park so significant is that it is actually made up of land originally granted to First Fleet assistant surgeon Thomas Arndell.

There is so much around us, whether it’s a day in the bush or a couple of hours exploring your surrounding suburbs, you’ll be surprised what you’ll find if you just start looking. We found so many interesting places this year, some with spectacular scenery, some with awesome 4WDing and some with really interesting history.

The best sunrise of the year

This is what makes getting up at 5.00am in the middle of winter totally worth it! Could you get a more amazing start to the day? These were taken on one of Shelly’s weekend trips up the coast with her mate Adam and it was by far one of the best sunrises ever seen. Driving to the lookout it was cloudy and overcast and didn’t look like there was going to be a sunrise at all, but then out of nowhere these colours started to appear. It really was something amazing to see and a great way to start the day.

…… The Day Shelly got bogged

Well, this is a day that turned very muddy, very quickly! A day that our mate Liam will never forget. You see, he’s the one that is always bogged and it’s a running joke with us that Shelly has recovered him in every 4WD we’ve owned ….. well I guess it had to happen one day and he got to return the favour!

The Bushfires

Everyone knows how bad the bushfires were at the beginning of last year/end of 2019. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, animals were killed or injured and so much of our bushland burned through, over such a huge area. The enormity of devastation caused was hard to take in.

In the middle of January we took a drive up to Bilpin in the Hawkesbury/Blue Mountains region of NSW, not far from where we live. This is one of the areas which was ravaged by the bushfires. It was so sad to see just how much of the land had been affected, but more surprisingly how the bush had already started its recovery, already new shoots were appearing on trees and out of the ground. To see just how lucky people were and how many of the properties had been saved was great, the fire brigades obviously worked very hard on property protection in this area, it was so evident as you drove along and everything is black and burnt and then you see a small patch of green grass and trees surrounding someone’s home. It’s definitely confronting to realise how close these people came to losing everything.

We did make a Facebook post at the time about this, but during this drive three things happened which made us feel so happy and thankful and proud to be an Aussie. With all the devastation from these fires and the general crap that goes on in our lives, it’s nice to know that people are there to help and are thankful for those who do.

1) Every place we visited was filled with people getting out there wanting to show their support. It was nice to see every place filled with people and cars.

2) The roadside was scattered with signs of thanks to the Rural Fire Service. So many signs on the side of the road, taped to telegraph poles or hung outside peoples houses. It’s heartwarming to know how grateful this little community is that the RFS was there to support them.

3) Finally, and probably best of all ….. we were in line in one of the shops to purchase our yummy homemade apple pie when an older guy was being served in front. He handed over his money to pay and the cashier handed it back to him. The customer said ‘oh you don’t need to give it all back to me’ and the cashier responded with ‘yes we do mate, thank you’. Yep, the customer was one of their local RFS volunteers.

Then in March we visited Lake Conjola, another small town which the fire ripped through. About 89 homes were lost in Lake Conjola alone. It’s scary driving in and seeing where the fire was and how much was destroyed. With only one way in and out of the town, you can see just how lucky these guys were to not lose more than just their houses.

Not long after the fires we took a drive up to Lithgow and were amazed at just how much destruction there had been. The photos below are of the Zig-Zag railway at Clarence where we always meet and start our days when 4WDing out there. The toilet block had gone, the sleepers were burnt, so much had been burnt out, you could only imagine what the bush further in looked like. The State Forest was still closed at the time (not that it stopped people going in there) so we didn’t head in on this visit.

The Zig Zag Railway itself had been closed since it was basically wiped out in the bushfires of late 2013, they were nearly ready to reopen, when once again fires came through. Luckily firefighters were able to protect the historic railway station building and they didn’t suffer anywhere near as much damage this time.

As we traveled through those areas affected by the fires you realise how lucky people were and how brave our fire fighters are. Nothing even came close to preparing us for what we were going to see, there was bush burnt for as far as you could see. Places we visit regularly were destroyed and looked totally different. The feeling of being there in the middle of nothing but burnt trees was really strange, in fact it was kind of eerie. There were no birds or animals around, no sound at all, except for the odd creaking or cracking of the trees. You could still smell a hint of smoke in the air and everything you touched covered you in ash, a very strange feeling indeed.

The photos above were taken at the Lost City in Lithgow. The top photo was taken on a visit there 2 years ago, the bottom photo was taken after the bushfires ravaged this whole area.


The 4WD’s & Camper Trailer

Leia

One of the most exciting things to happen in 2020 is that Leia finally got a working horn! She hasn’t had one since we purchased her and Shelly could not be happier to have a horn again!

She also got a new battery, new alternator, some rust on the roof fixed, new roof moulds and window belt moulding, new suspension, Provent Catch Can, pink grip handles, new black flares and a new exhaust (Shelly’s birthday present from George!).

150 Series Prado

Just before our Christmas trip we had new Dick Cepek Extreme Country tyres fitted on to the Prado. We previously had these and loved them so it was a no brainer to replace with new ones.

The Prado also got some new suspension ….. Bilstein shocks and raised King Springs, lower rear control arm replacements and diff drop kit, all designed to give us even more flex than the normal 2 inch lift.

Cub Camper

When we replaced the tyres on the Prado, the old tyres that came off still had a little life left in them so these were transferred to the camper.

A Year of Owing Leia

Back in May we posted a video about all the mods we’d done to Leia in the previous 12 months since we’d owned her. She’s certainly come a long way in since we purchased her and a lot of time and money has been spent on building her up to what she is today.

We are still loving our little Leia – yes even George has grown to love her! He affectionately calls her ‘the death trap’ and ‘the money pit’, but we know he loves her!

She towed the camper down south and on another trip she carried the swag and gazebo on her ‘useless short tray’ as George says!

This whole build process has been Shelly’s baby, every decision has been made by Shelly and implemented by George! At the end of the day we both own both 4WD’s, but when we purchased Leia, this was Shelly’s car to build the way she wanted.

Gelly giving mummy’s car her stamp of approval!

Off The Track 4×4 updates

Considering we were locked down for a good part of the year and didn’t really get out and about a much as we would have liked, we still had a busy year.

Giveaways

We had quite a few giveaways, including our ever popular Pegless Clothesline giveaway, who would have known that a clothesline would have been so popular! And we can’t forget our sticker giveaway when we said we were offering 10 and ended up giving in and sending out 40 or so! We love that you guys love us that much that you want stickers, and we love seeing the pics of them on your vehicles!

And lastly our mega Christmas Giveaway, where a major prize pack worth over $800 went to one lucky winner. We are truly grateful for all of our sponsors and supporters for taking part in that, we love sharing your products and businesses and are thankful that you were happy to contribute to the giveaway. After the year we’ve all had, particularly small businesses, we appreciate how hard it’s been, yet you all still jumped in to be part of the giveaway, you guys rock!

Hugh thanks to these guys who are always the first to jump in and get involved …. Cost Effective Maintenance, Auto Parts Co, Shower Ezy, Glass on the Grass, Get A Grip AU, Love your Travels.

New Camp Cooking group

Back in April we started up a Camp Cooking Ideas & Tips Facebook group and this has really taken off, with over 5000 members. We jointly run this group with our mates from Track 2 Surf 4×4 & Eastcoastexplorers4x4 and you’ll find recipes and inspiration for your camp cooking, as well as share your creations and ask questions.

YouTube

We did get a few videos up on YouTube throughout the year, including our new intro video to tell you what we are all about, we were quite happy with the end result of this video.

Track to Nature …. Essential Oils

This year we also started Track to Nature Essential Oils This is something that has become a big part of our lives and we are loving it. If you are interested to see how doTERRA Essential Oils can fit into your life (particularly your camping, travel & outdoor life), feel free to contact us to discuss – or join our Facebook group

For a few years now we’ve been using these oils very minimally in our lives (Shelly for her sinus, generally for pain and insect repellent), but we are now tending to turn to the oils in the first instance for everything … cooking, health and well-being, bug sprays and even on the dogs. It’s all about being open minded and accepting that there could be a more natural way. How essential oils can work for you or how you may wish to adapt them into your life will be different for every single person, it’s a very personal choice. The one thing we can tell you is, you won’t regret making that choice.

Our Sponsors and Supporters

Once again we can’t thank our Sponsors, Cost Effective Maintenance, enough for their support over the past year. They supply us with all their goodies to keep both Leia and the Prado running in tip top shape, and we can’t recommend their prodcuts highly enough.

During our trip up to Brisbane earlier in the year we made a quick detour to visit the boys at CEM. We’d been speaking over the phone, Facebook and email for years, but this was the first time we’d actually met in person! We had a few beers, a chat and a look around the workshop … it was so great to finally meet in person.

Don’t forget if you use code “4X4OTT” you get a 10% discount off all Cost Effective Maintenance items (excluding value packs).


Celebrations

Another year of 40th birthday parties …… We started the year off with our mate Jamie turning 40th and celebrating with drinks, and what turned into a mini pub crawl down at The Rocks in Sydney. George was away working that weekend so unfortunately missed it, but Shelly had fun!

Next up we had Stewy’s 40th ‘bogan party’ up in Queensland which was a lot of fun to get dressed up and catch up with everyone.

Lastly our friend Danny in Queensland turned 40, but due to Covid we haven’t been able to get up and see them all year.

Of course we can’t forget Shelly’s cousin giving birth to twin baby girls, so exciting to have more babies in the family! Congratulations to Mel & Matt and of course the new big sister, Chloé.

The not so good stuff ….

One of Shelly’s cousins (mum’s cousin) passed away in October. Although we didn’t see each other all that often, it was still a shock. Always sad to lose a family member.

Shelly sprained her ankle at the end of October and wasn’t very mobile for a few weeks – luckily she was working from home! Let’s just make it known that George did initially laugh when she fell over and only stopped once he realised she couldn’t get up off the ground! He did make up for it by playing Nurse George for the following days and weeks!

Our good friends, Emma, Jono & Aidan (and Milo the dog!) left us in December and moved to Queensland. We were so sad to see them go, but excited for their new adventure that lays ahead. They have purchased a beautiful property near the small country town of Childers and we can’t wait to head up there and visit them.

December also saw one of Shelly’s longtime work colleagues leave. After being close friends and working together for the past 13 or so years, it was sad to see him leave and work certainly won’t be the same without him.

How we spent Christmas

As we were heading to South Australia we held ‘family Christmas’ with Shelly’s family on 5th December with everyone heading to our house for Christmas lunch and presents, including Gucci and puppy Roxi …. yep, 4 dogs and a 4 year old child is very chaotic!!

The next day we headed to George’s sisters house to celebrate Christmas with George’s side of the family.

Christmas Day was a quiet one with just the two of us relaxing at camp and feasting on a fresh cooked seafood lunch and Nutella pizza for dessert. Who said you can’t eat well when camping! Throw in a few cocktails and beers and evening games with our camping neighbours and we had a pretty good day.

What’s planned for 2021?

With so many of our plans cancelled in 2020, we are making up for it in 2021!  But first up we need the Prado up and running and that and the camper back home with us, hopefully things will sort themselves out soon.

2021 is a big one for many reasons, first one being that George turns the big 5-0! He wanted to do something special to celebrate this so we have booked onto one of Great Divide Tours tag-a-long trips to Arnhem Land. This is a place we’ve both wanted to visit for a long time and always said that if we were to do another big tag-a-long trip it would be this one as Vic can gain access to so many areas that we couldn’t if we went by ourselves. So come August we will be heading off north to Arnhem Land for a month!

In July we have the 2020 rescheduled Big Red Bash to attend.  For those who don’t know, this is the world’s most remote music festival, held at the base of Big Red (the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert) in Birdsville, QLD.  This had been something we’d wanted to do for years and finally attended our first BRB in 2019 … they always say once you go you will be back for sure and they were right … we booked tickets for the following year!  Well, like everything else BRB2020 was cancelled, but all tickets carried over to 2021, with the same amazing line-up.

Artists for 2021 are Paul Kelly, Ian Moss, Tim Finn, John Williamson, Kate Ceberano, Shannon Noll, Dragon, The Radiators, Mi Sex, Wendy Matthews, Thirsty Merc, Marc Gable, Glenn Shorrock, Bjorn Again, Steve Balbi, Chocolate Starfish, Ross Wilson, Vika & Linda Bull, Caitlin Shadbolt.


Of course we would like to thank all of our family, friends and followers for their support over the past year.  We know it’s been a difficult year and we know we didn’t have too many exciting adventures to post about, but we hope you still enjoyed our content. Thanks to everyone for following our adventures and interacting with us, we love sharing and we love hearing your stories as well.

If anyone sees us out and about make sure you come over and say hi, we love meeting new people and sharing stories. Don’t forget, if you follow us on our socials, please LIKE, COMMENT & SHARE. We love what we do and we share our experiences with everyone in the hope to educate others and inspire them to also follow their dreams and get out there and explore.

As we reflect on this difficult year, we are grateful for our ability to travel, thankful for the love and friendship of our family and friends and very much appreciative of all of our followers who support us and seem to love what we do. It’s a privilege to be able to travel this amazing country of ours and whilst we know not everyone is lucky enough to do what we do, we are glad we can share it with others and give you a little taste of what is out there.

Wishing you all a very happy and safe New Year. Hope 2021 is a better year for many, let’s look forward to new adventures and making new memories.

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.

Longreach, Outback Queensland

Longreach is known as the ‘Heart of the Outback’ or ‘Gateway to the Outback’. This great little town is home to approximately 3000 people and is located in the central west region of Queensland – about 700 km inland from Rockhampton.

The first pastoral lease in Longreach was granted in 1863 and was called ‘Bowen Downs’. Some may recognize that name …. only a few years later it became the site of the most infamous cattle theft in Australia. It was from here that Harry Redford (Captain Starlight) decided to steal 1,000 head of cattle and muster them down towards South Australia. We did mention a little of Captain Starlight’s story in one of our recent blog posts

Longreach was very big in the wool industry and back in the 1950’s it was a very wealthy area due to this. Nowadays, although wool producers still exist, Longreach is now heavily involved in the beef cattle industry.

The Thomson River is found just outside the town and is a great spot for camping, fishing and boating and is home to many fish and birds. Not only is this river a popular spot for Longreach locals and tourists alike, it is a pretty special river in it’s own right. You see, the Thomson River eventually meets with the Barcoo River where they join to form Cooper Creek. This is the only place in the world where two rivers meet to form a creek!

Longreach was officially gazetted in 1887 and was actually named after the founder could not believe how long the reach of the Thomson River was!

There is plenty to do in and around Longreach and below we’ve detailed a few of the places we visited during our short stop over this time.


STARLIGHT’S CRUISE EXPERIENCE (by Outback Pioneers)

This appears to be a very popular cruise and we can see why, it was great!

Our night started when we were picked up from our van park at 4.30 pm and driven by coach down to the river, along the way we were given commentary and information about the town and it’s history. After arriving you are escorted to down to the river to board the Thomson Belle Paddlewheeler (we were actually on the Thomson Princess Riverboat, which was still great. They use both boats when the groups are large).

The cruise itself goes for about 1 hour and includes nibble platters, great commentary and lots of laughs (and it’s BYO so you can enjoy a few drinks too). After watching the sunset, we then headed ashore for some bush poetry which was great. The first poem in particular, about the light horses was quite emotional. This was followed by a traditional stockman’s camp-fire dinner of beef stew and mash, followed by apple pie and custard.

After dinner we all headed back down towards the river to watch the sound and light show which explained the story and adventures of the notorious cattle thief Harry Redford, also known as ‘Captain Starlight’.

We then finished the night with billy tea and damper around the fire, raising of the flag and singing the national anthem, before being dropped off back at camp about 8.30pm.

This is one of those real outback experiences, full of great hospitality, information and yarns. It’s run by the Kinnon family, who are a local family of graziers who have moved into the tourism business as well. The pride and the passion they have for their little town and the lives they live is well and truly alive throughout the night.

Highly recommended tour and next time we are in town we will definitely be booking into their Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience as well.

Contact
Telephone: 07 4658 1776
Email: reservations@outbackpioneers.com.au
Click Here for more information
The booking office is located next door to the Station Store in the historic ‘Welcome Home’ building at 128 Eagle Street, Longreach.

Cruise Details
Duration: 4 hours
Cost: $119 per adult (as at October 2019)
The price includes river cruise, nibbles, 2 course dinner around campfire, billy tea & damper, entertainment, Starlight’s Spectacular Sound and Light show, coach pick up and drop off from accommodation, BYO alcohol.


TROPIC OF CAPRICORN

The Tropic of Capricorn runs right through the centre of town in Longreach.

Location: Landsborough Highway, Longreach (outside the council chambers)


AUSTRALIAN STOCKMAN’S HALL OF FAME AND OUTBACK HERITAGE CENTRE

This centre was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II. If you want to learn about outback life, our explorers and land owners and everything in between, this is the place to visit. Not only is the museum a great insight into Australia’s and outback Australia’s history, the building itself is amazing!

The Outback Stockman’s Show & Dinner also looks amazing and something we will do when we visit next …. always something else to add to the list!

Now while the museum is a must-do, the Australian Stockman’s Experience show is awesome! It’s run by a Stockman and between him and his animals we were guided through life on the land from years gone by to now. You hear his stories of life on the land first hand. It’s a fun, entertaining and informative hour long show that you cannot miss! The Australian Stockman’s Experience show is held most days at 11am.

Address: Landsborough Highway, Longreach
Phone: 07 4658 2166
Email: museum@stockmanshalloffame.com.au
Website: www.outbackheritage.com.au


QANTAS FOUNDERS OUTBACK MUSEUM

We visited the Qantas Founders Museum and did the tours during our last visit to Longreach so this time we just popped over for lunch and took a few quick pics from the car park! But this is a DEFINITE must to visit if you are in Longreach.

QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Arial Service) is a name everyone knows, and even if you aren’t all that interested in planes, i’m sure you’ll find that you enjoy a visit to this place. It’s not hard to find, the big red tail of a decommissioned Boeing 747 jumbo jet can be seen from miles away and as you get up close you realise exactly how big these planes are, you are literally parking in the car park right next to a jumbo jet!

Of course entry fees apply to the museum and to undertake the different tours so make sure you arrive early or check online beforehand to work out what you want to see and do. You’ll not only learn all the history of this famous airline, but you’ll see plenty of old planes and displays, learn the secrets and obtain access to parts of the planes that you would never normally see.

Address: Sir Hudson Fysh Drive, Longreach
Phone:  (07) 4658 3737
Email: info@qfom.com.au
Website: www.qfom.com.au


Like we said, there are plenty of other things to do in the area, like a visit to the School of the Air, Powerhouse Museum, Cemetery tours, Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience, Harry Redford Old Time Tent Show, Captain Starlight’s Lookout, station tours.

Make sure you call into the information centre on Eagle Street to grab a tourist guide or ask them questions as they know where to get the deals and save on entry fees or buy combined passes for various attractions. This is generally our first stop in any new town. They are knowledgeable, they are locals and they know the area so go in and ask them questions, ask what there is to do in the time you have. At the end of the day, that’s what they are there for!

George hanging with the locals!

Yeah it was a short visit, but we had been there before so we don’t feel like we missed out on anything. We thoroughly enjoyed our 2 night stay at the Longreach Tourist Park (a much better experience than we had camping in Longreach last visit!). As it was a relatively last minute decision to visit Longreach we obviously didn’t pre-book and as it turns out, they were quite busy! We ended up camping in the overflow area of the park and to be honest, we thought it was better as we had more room!

As with many of these outback towns, Longreach know that how much the tourists bring to their town and they really do cater for that. You’ll even find dedicated caravan day parking areas where you can park your car with caravan attached while you go exploring.

Winton, Outback Queensland

After leaving Boulia we said goodbye to Stewy and the kids as they headed back to Queensland and we also started off on our journey home. We had no plan, but we had about 6 days before we needed to be back in Sydney so we had a quick check of the maps and decided to headed off towards Winton.

After a week of no showers (thank god for baby wipes!) we decided to check into a hotel for the night and make good use of their shower and bed! We also took a night off cooking and headed to one of the local pubs, The Winton Hotel, for dinner.

The next morning we were up early to get in some exploring before the relatively short drive to Longreach, where we planned to spend 2 nights. We’ve visited both Winton and Longreach before, but it was nice to be back and spend a bit more time looking around.

If you ever find yourself in Winton, here are a few of the highlights for you to check out.

The North Gregory Hotel

Established in 1879, The North Gregory Hotel was reportedly the site of the first public performance of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’, on 6th April 1895.

The original North Gregory Hotel was was pulled down in 1900 and rebuilt, only to burn down in 1916 and again in 1946. The building that stands now was built in 1955 and nowadays this hotel is not only a reminder of the past, but also a great place to eat, drink and sleep.

Located in the centre of town, this hotel provides hotel rooms and non-powered caravan sites.

Address: 67 Elderslie Street, Winton
Phone: 07 4657 0647


Qantas Airfield Commemorative Cairn

This location marks the site of the first landing ground of Qantas. When most people are asked where Qantas was born, they think Longreach, but it was in fact Winton. The local saying about Qantas is that it was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton and grew up in Longreach.

The Qantas story officially begins with it’s ‘birth’ in Winton on 16th November 1920, with the initial registration of the company. The Winton Shire Council was the first local authority in the world to support an airline, contributing financially to the purchase of the first landing field. The first Board Meeting was held at the Winton Club on 10th February 1921. There is a commemorative cairn in Elderslie St and also at the site of the landing field.

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


The Winton Club

On 10th February 1921 the first Qantas Board meeting was held here. We believe there is quite a range of Qantas memorabilia on display, but the club has never been open while we are there.

Location: 27 Oondooroo Street, Winton
Contact: wintonclub@hotmail.com


Jolly Swagman Statue

This statue is dedicated to Banjo Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. It’s also a tribute to the many swagmen who lie in unmarked graves across Australia.

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(outside the pool at Barry Wilson Memorial Park) 


Musical Fence

This is a strange, yet fun!, place where you can ‘play’ musical instruments made from various everyday items. This is the worlds first musical fence!

Price: Free!
Location: Located on Hughenden  Road, behind the Diamantina Heritage
Truck and Machinery Museum 


 Banjo Paterson statue

A statue of Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson, who wrote Waltzing Matilda. Note: A fire destroyed the Waltzing Matilda Centre in June 2015 but the statue of Banjo Paterson was undamaged. The new centre re-opened in 2018. 

Price: Free!
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton
(located outside the Waltzing Matilda Centre)


Waltzing Matilda Centre

This is the first museum in the world dedicated to a song! This centre tells the story of our unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda.

Unfortunately the original Waltzing Matilda Centre was completely destroyed by fire in June 2015 and very little was able to be saved from the ashes. We did visit the original centre and it was great.

Price: $30 per adult, $10 per child (age 5-11) as at September 2019
Location: Elderslie Street, Winton


The Age of Dinosaurs Museum  

If you like Dinosaurs (and lets face it, who doesn’t!) then this museum is somewhere you need to visit. This is home to the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world.

Years ago while out this way we visited Lark Quarry, the site of the world’s only known record of a dinosaur stampede, that was pretty cool! So this time we visited the The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum to learn a little more about these amazing prehistoric creatures.

We even got to touch a fossilised dinosaur bone, how awesome is that!

The tours are split into 3 sections, but we didn’t have time to see the Dinosaur Canyon, but we did join the guided tour of the Fossil Preparation Laboratory and the Collection Room. Great few hours and highly recommended to visit if in the area. If you are limited for time, just let them know when you arrive and they will happily work out which tours you can do.

The Fossil Preparation Laboratory shows you where palaeontologists expose the fossilised bones, you can actually see them working.

The Collection Room is where you’ll find the bones of ‘Banjo’ (Australovenator wintonensis). ‘Banjo’ is the most complete Australian carnivorous dinosaur ever discovered.

We didn’t visit the Dinosaur Canyon but this area is part of a dinosaur dig where bones are currently being found.

You can even book in to a ‘Dig-a-Dino’ experience where you take part in a real life dig for dinosaur bones. You live and work and learn onsite for 5 days. Definitely something we’d both be interested in taking part in at some point in the future.

Price: Prices vary depending on which tours you do. See website
Website: www.australianageofdinosaurs.com/
Location: Lot 1, Dinosaur Drive, Winton
Located about 25km from Winton. Turn off the Landsborough
Highway onto Dinosaur Drive (it’s well signposted). We were towing
the camper and there is plenty of room for parking.


There is plenty more to do around Winton, and there are some great pubs and eateries and bakeries. Another must visit (which we went to on our last visit and loved it) is the Diamantina Heritage Truck & Machinery Museum. This features many restored heritage trucks, tractors, machinery and memorabilia.

Boulia Camel Races

In all our years of travel we’ve never seen camel racing, we’ve seen camels running in the wild, we’ve ridden camels and we’ve visited camel farms, but never been to a racing meet. It’s something we’ve been trying to get to, but dates of events and other commitments just never seem to align. So when we found out the Boulia Camel Races were being held straight after the Big Red Bash we knew we had to visit.

Known as the Melbourne Cup of camel racing, the famous Boulia Camel Races is held annually on the third weekend in July and apparently attracts people from all over the world! Like Birdsville does at Big Red Bash and Birdsville Races time, the population of Boulia dramatically expands during the racing period. For a town of about 300 people, this can swell to 3000 during the 3 day racing carnival. Just think of the funds this puts back into the community and surrounding areas …… just take a look at the constant line up for fuel and you’ll see how much money is being put back in! Again, thank god for long range fuel tanks!

The party starts on the Friday night, with live entertainment until late into the evening. The racing starts on the Saturday morning and continues on all day, along with a bar, various stalls, food stands and entertainment. Saturday night is party night again with bands and fireworks. The racing starts again on Sunday morning and finishes with the main event, the “Boulia Camel Cup” in the early afternoon. The Boulia Camel Cup is the longest camel race in Australia, at 1500m long.

So what’s it like? …… well lets just say that camel racing is like horse racing in slow motion! But the camels are much more naughty and opinionated than horses! We saw a camel finish a race and try to break through into the crowd, one that wouldn’t let it’s jockey off, and one that turned around half way through the race and started heading in the wrong direction …. yep, it was pretty entertaining! And let me tell you, when you are standing there waiting for the camels and jockeys to walk the whole 1500m round to the starting line before the race even starts, this is a very long process! There is a lot of waiting for something to happen.

But you know what, once those camels start racing, you can’t help but get into it. Watching these huge creatures hurtling down the track, the commentator getting into it, the crowd yelling and cheering hoping to win some money, red dust flying everywhere, it’s actually pretty awesome …. Another thing ticked off the bucket list.

If you looked closely to the beginning of the video above, you may have noticed that the jockey was Nick ‘The Honey Badger‘ Cummins. We are not exactly sure why he was there, but he was racing in one of the races and competing in the camel tagging – and looking quite nice with his shirt off when Shelly saw him at camp in the morning!

I think we already knew what to expect as we’ve done so much travel and spent so much time in the outback, but for someone from the city this could be a bit of an eye opener, but also so much fun! There’s a lot of drinking and there’s a lot of Akubra hats (yep we fitted in well)!

Not only are there camel races, but plenty of other entertainment including yabby and novelty races, camel & sheep tagging competitions and nightly entertainment.

Camping is included at the racetrack as part of your ticket. There is plenty of land available to camp on. Many people camped right up towards the track and were quite crammed in, but we had plenty of space to ourselves, just meant a slightly longer walk to and from the track.

Like at Birdsville, the weather at night was still very cold, as were the mornings. It didn’t take too long to warm up in the mornings though and it was hot during the day, but once the sun went down the camp fire was a very welcome addition that’s for sure.

Another dinner cooked over the fire

One of the other things Boulia is famous for is the Min Min Lights. This is one of those stories where you really don’t know if its a myth or not. These unexplained balls of glowing light were first sighted in the Boulia area in the early 1890’s. The first reported sighting was over a grave at the rear of the Min Min Hotel (no longer standing).

Over the years there have been numerous sightings by travelers and local residents, stories of these balls of bobbing light that follow you along lonely roads at night or visit you while camping in the area. Whilst there are theories, there is no scientific explanation of what the Min Min Lights actually are.

The Min Min Encounter is a great attraction to visit to find out more about these strange lights …. they say ‘you don’t find them, they find you’! It’s a really interesting place and definitely one to visit if you are in the area.

We have visited Boulia before so didn’t visit the encounter again, so whilst Stewy and the kids went off to the Min Min Encounter, where do you think we headed …. the pub of course!

George indulged in a camel burger (they have a whole ‘camel menu’) and Shelly had to drink XXXX out of a maroon can – what’s up with that! Sorry to our Queenslander followers!

EVENT DETAILS

Price: $80 (for a 3 day pass), single day passes available as well.
Children under 18 are free.
When: Held annually on the third weekend in July
Location: Held at the Boulia Racecourse in Boulia, Outback Queensland.

Free camping onsite is included in the price of your ticket.
Get all the details at www.bouliacamelraces.com.au