02/5/17

Belyando Crossing Roadhouse Campground, north of Clermont, Queensland – A Review by The Caravan

Belyando Crossing is the only fuel stop between Charters Towers and Clermont.  It also has a small caravan and campground, so for we mad travellers who had left Cobbold Gorge and were en-route to Mount Morgan, it was a sensible choice for an overnighter.

For that purpose, Belyando Crossing is great.  Having read some of the reviews on WikiCamps and Trip Advisor I was expecting a something akin to a refugee camp run by someone with the people skills of Basil Fawlty.  Please ignore the naysayers. I couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights on in the shower block, but everything else was perfectly acceptable.

For most people, Belyando Crossing is only going to be an overnight stop on the way to someone else.  There’s not much around to keep you there for longer.  There are powered caravan sites, but we opted for the fifteen-dollar unpowered option.  There was heaps of space and trees for shade.  The grass was a bit sparse, but that’s the climate for you, and we could even have a camp fire.  There is deposit for the key to the ablutions block, but you get that back on check out so no problems there.

belyando crossing

belyando crossing roadhouse

Many reviewers have also begrudged the policy of charging two dollars to use the toilets unless you make a purchase.  Sometimes it is so easy to forget to walk in other people’s shoes.  Belyando Roadhouse is in the middle of nowhere.  Here someone is trying to eke out a living. The toilets still have to be cleaned and wages need to be paid.  I get it.  If everybody who went through Belyando filled up on petrol and did nothing else, then this establishment would probably close.  No-one ever got rich from owning a petrol station in the middle of nowhere.

If you don’t want to pay for camping there are a couple of free camps along the road, including one on water a bit further north of the crossing where there were about 300 campers in in full view of the road and what seemed to be one tiny dunny block.

Give me a quiet spot behind a road house any day.

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan

01/17/17

Cobbold Gorge, North Queensland – A review by The Tent

cobbold gorge QLDCobbold Gorge, South of North but completely  North of South, Central Queensland.  Beautiful in itself but for us an Oasis, here’s why…

 

 

Dear Diary – We’ve been on the road now for four days and four nights. I have grave concerns for our survival. We started losing power day one due to an unreachable fault in a cable located inconveniently under all the crap that a tent dweller must pack for a two week road trip. Our water supply is nearly gone. These overnighters leave no time to fix the issue.

Day Five – We arrived at Adells Grove excited by the prospect of digging out the solar power to recharge the;  fridge, battery-pack, torches, laptop, you know, everything! It became apparent at this point that during  all our pre-trip planning  parties not one of the six odd people that had been there before, mentioned that Adells Grove (which is in the middle of no-where, in north west Qld) is in the middle of a rain forest? No sun. No clean drinking water and we’re here for three days… oh no!

By our last day at Adells Grove we had lost all power and were completely reliant on ice, how primitive. All fresh water gone, we’ve now resorted to boiling murky Adells Grove creek water. Not to worry, we’re certain to find a clean water tap in Normanton.

Normanton– There is a purple pub and several other pubs, actually there is a rather large ratio of pubs to visible houses?  There is  a replica of what must be one of  the world’s largest crocodiles. Indigenous people a plenty- some selling painted rocks, and taps. But every tap in town has had its handle removed, go figure?  Never mind, perhaps our next stop at Leichardt Lagoon will be our saviour.

Leichhardt Lagoon at SunsetLeichardt Lagoon – No fresh water, be careful of crocs and snakes and do NOT stand too close to the water, got it! Due to a faulty fuse back at Normanton we arrived at this beautiful destination a little late to catch the much needed rays to recharge our rather desperate power issue. What else to do but head to the lagoon for the stunningly superb sunset , eat cheese and mingle with fellow campers.  The word was that the showers were top notch and top notch they were. To enhance my showering pleasure my nephew Connor coaxed frogs from the neighbouring cubicle onto my head, ahh kids. Dang, I left the shampoo with Jason again. (Leichardt Lagoon full review)

It’s 5:30 am, day eight. As I drink my re-boiled murky water coffee I ponder which article of dirty clothing I should sport for today’s drive?  My hair is rather rancid and moments away from dreadlocks, I hope none of last night’s frogs have decided to take up residence there.  I examine the fridge (now an esky), we’ve miraculously managed to keep some of our meat frozen but the vegetables are now pig fodder. The Caravan will inevitably need to restock on fuel, I think they get about three metres  to the gallon. We don’t need petrol but I’ll use this time to stock up on some fresh food.

Fresh food –   It does seem Ironic that near every bit of traffic on the road is a road train of some description yet few of them must carry fresh fruit and vegies.  I nabbed the last piece of broccoli from the produce cabinet at Croydon, leaving only a single withering lettuce leaf to occupy the space. Frozen vegies to the rescue. We stocked up on milk and sugar, low on both as we needed much more of it  to drown out the murky water taste from our coffee. Bread is an issue! We have two petrified squashed and mangled pieces left. The Trailer is in about the same situation. On to Cobbold Gorge via one last desperado supply stop at Forsayth.

Forsayth – The “Fresh” produce department at Forsayth was rather well stocked compared to Croydon.  I picked up a lettuce, I won’t lie, it’ needed a bit of work,  a capsicum and something that at one point in its life was probably a cucumber, or a zucchini, not completely sure? The real golden ticket here was the frozen bread department. With a loaf for ourselves and one for the Trailer I smiled with delight as I really had no idea how I was going to toast and butter those pitiful pieces of bread we’d been carting around.

Cobbold Gorge

By now we’d been on the road for eight days and eight nights. The drive from Croydon into Cobbold Gorge is rough, dirt, winding and long. We’d spent so much time on straight roads that the road into here actually made me feel queasy. But knowing we were  there for three nights with a much anticipated powered site was enough to ease my mind.

You are welcomed into Cobbold Gorge Jurassic Park style with an immense signed post, infinity pool, restaurant, helicopter and tour shuttles waiting to beckon you aboard. The greeting at reception is so professional, courteous , clean and so Jurassic Park touristy that you need to pinch yourself. Imagine our relief when we’re told you can drink the water, sing hallelujah!!! The powered sites here are terraced and gravelled- great for fossicking through if your into pretty stones and even greater for keeping your feet clean.  Our group took up a whole terrace of four sites. We unpacked, immediately hooked up to power and gleefully topped up our water supply, YAH!! Next stop, toilet.

Wow!  Although the toilets and showers are unisex with separate basins outdoors they were truly fab!! Completely private, floor to ceiling enclosed and the showers were ensuite style with their own toilets and mirror.  Life was good!  My grooming routine was not, thanks for the reminder mirror and to think I was excited to see you.

The first night was met with welcome relief and relaxation.  Mornings first light was the prime opportunity to do some much needed washing.  Enjoying a fresh water cup of coffee and chill out was all we had to do till our tour embarked.  After so many days driving long hours it was refreshing to embark for our tour by means of a small stroll to reception before boarding one of  the air conditioned tour buses.

cobbold gorge 029 cobbold gorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a short drive listening to our guide relay the  fascinating history of the Robin Hood property we reached the walking part of our tour.  A meandering stroll through the bush learning about native plants and how they were used for medicinal, hunting and even macabre applications leads us to a grave.  I won’t give the story away, but one of the parts that fascinated me the most was the placement of the grave.  What looked to us nothing more than a bushy walking path was once the main transport/travel route to the coast hundreds of kilometres away.  It made sense then that the grave should be placed near this path.  One day another weary traveller may recognize the name on the tombstone at long last making word to relatives of the whereabouts of the departed.

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We turn around and reach the gorge by foot,  first viewing the Gorge from overhead before making our way to the water. One does need to be somewhat agile to reach the top of the gorge. I can’t help but wonder how many other tourists made reference to that old Aussie movie “Picnic at Hanging Rocks” on the ascent?  The view is well worth the effort and the guide has an eagle on eye everyone. One false move towards the edge and you’re a goner!

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cobbold gorge QLD cobbold gorge 057

 

The Gorge is not real big in comparison to others in this country.  It really is no wonder that this sacredly beautiful place was left undiscovered for so long. Sure, the aborigines and the odd weary traveller probably  stumbled across this remarkable place,  but in a time when  mere survival and water was more trying and important than a pretty view. Hence its existence was left unravelled and pure,  frozen in time.  That is until 1992 when visitors of Simon (the sons’ present owners)  brought with them a tinnie to investigate the waters of the property.

cobbold gorge QLD cobbold gorge 092We enter the water at the same location and travel slowly up the narrow sandstone corridors forming the walls of this majestic, natural marvel.  The Gorge is eerily quiet and calm.  So narrow are some parts that you must lean forward to avoid the bulging sandstones complexity. The water is still and glass like, century year old concaveness walls reflect back at us through the watery mirror.  Fish swim deep beneath us interrupted momentarily as the boat slowly impinges its surrounds.  Spiders web privately, moss grows graciously and birds glide though the Gorge before soaring upwards into the blue, blue sky.  Narrow ledges lend themselves perfectly to fresh water crocodiles and gently swaying trees stand guard, as if protectors of the phenomenon that beholds them.

cobbold gorge QLD cobbold gorge QLD cobbold gorge QLD

 

The tour of the Gorge isn’t exactly cheap, but I honestly think it well worth the money. It’s evident the money raised goes straight back into maintaining the park and adding new additions like the infinity pool.  It wasn’t super hot during our stay, but it was warmer enough to be enticed by the charm of the country style pool overlooking the lake (infinity style) and conveniently located near the bar/restaurant.  I’m one of those weirdo annoying people that take a good twenty minutes to submerse  themselves into cold water.  It was warm though, so I psyched myself up, changed into my bikini and started marching  to the pool with distinct purpose and bravado.  My confidence wavered halfway as Jason and Connor warned with quivering blue lips of the freezing horror of the water ahead.  No!  I was not to be deterred.  Before I knew it was on the edge of the pool ready to take the plunge. This did of course take about fifteen minutes of coaxing and lying by the rest of the crew, but I did it and it was freezing…. really, really,  freezing!!  But refreshing, as they say?

The only Cobbold negative (and this is being completely picky) is the bar “In” the infinity pool was not operational while we were there.  This really didn’t matter but it would’ve been fun and some whisky would’ve helped to warm us too.  Of course the bar/restaurant is right beside the pool but once you get out of that icy water there’s no getting back in.

cobbold gorge QLD

Our last dinner at Cobbold was at the restaurant. It certainly wasn’t gourmet but it was pretty bloody good.  In fact the fish I had, be it that it was frozen and all, was possibly the best battered fish I’ve ever had.  After dinner Mark, Jason and myself gathered out the front to take star photos under the entrance sign and then the infinity pool on the way back to camp.  The stars in the sky in the outback are mind-blowing and here was no exception.  If you travel to the outback for no other reason, then it is definitely reason enough.

cobbold gorge QLD cobbold gorge QLD

Cobbold Gorge is fantastic! In addition to the Gorge tour, helicopter flight and the ice cold infinity pool, you can also hire kayaks and paddle around the lake, play aqua golf or take some of the alternate bush walks and the Agate Creek Gemfields are a gemstones throw away, should that be your thing.

There is wifi access,  although restricted to a small area outside reception.  Cabins are available- recycled from the Olympics as were the amenities, so I’m told. The unpowered sites are flat and shady.  Personal fires are permitted and a few large communal fire areas are dotted throughout  the property.  The amenities are second to none, the staff were wonderful and knowledgeable and the tour fantastic.

From the moment we arrived  we had a wonderful time. The reality is we probably won’t make it back with hundreds of other places and gorges  to see,  but we do take with us some fantastic memories and photos.  Revisiting these photos  and writing this review has been a lovely, heart warming flash back. And, all these months later I still find myself talking about this incredibly wonderful place to anyone who will listen. The BIGGEST thumbs up and five stars from me. Cobbold Gorge I Love You!!

All powered up,  freshly laundered clothes, a replenished supply of crystal clear spring water we hit the road again. Reluctantly we bid  farewell to the encompassing beauty of Cobbold Gorge and the abiding vast and glorious Savannah that surrounds it.

Thanks, Rose and Jason – The Tent

10/24/16

Leichhardt Lagoon, Normanton-Croydon Road, Queensland – A Review by the Caravan

This place is the reason I have now downloaded the WikiCamps App.Purple Pub in Normanton

One of the stages on our recent trip to north-west Queensland saw us travelling from Lawn Hill Gorge to Cobbold Gorge.  It’s too big a trip to do in one day, so we needed to do an overnighter.  We had been to Karumba on a previous trip, so had decided that we would probably just stay overnight in Normanton and take in a drink or two at the iconic purple pub.  On our last night at Adels Grove, one of our travelling companions pulled out his WikiCamps and had a look.

“What about this place?” he said.

Why the heck not?

Leichhardt Lagoon is located twenty-four kilometres east of Normanton on the road to Croydon. It is what I would describe as a gem in the dust.  For $8 per person (children under 10 free and kids 10-14 half price) you get an unpowered site and access to a clean amenities block and hot showers.  Ours was a drive through site which mean that we didn’t have to unhook the van, and for us that’s a bonus on these long trips where you have driven for hours and face another day of the same in the morning.  Generators are allowed and it’s dog friendly.  Apparently you can get Telstra mobile coverage if you have some sort of a cable, but you don’t come to places like this expecting to have it and I can’t attest to its reliability.

The camp has a really quirky feel about it, from its colourful murals on the ablutions block to its hand painted, poorly punctuated signage, right down to the disclaimer you sign as you check in.  The paperwork is basically saying that if you are dumb enough to go swimming in the lagoon and get eaten by a croc, you have been warned and it’s not their fault.  It’s not like there aren’t enough reminders:

But this place is all about relaxing and this is a great place to do it, offering one of the best champagne and cheese sunset viewing spots anywhere, over a picturesque lagoon chock full of birdlife…and crocodiles.  Truly gorgeous.

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Leichhardt Lagoon at SunsetThe lagoon is even more spectacular in the mornings, when the magpie geese take ownership of the water and the sun brings out the colours of an outback waterhole.

Leichhardt LagoonLeichhardt LagoonLeichhhardt Lagoon in the morning

The adjoining homestead offers a five-dollar dinner on a Saturday night.  Numbers are limited, however, so you need to book. Unfortunately for us we arrived too late in the day and missed out, but from our vantage point near the lake, we could hear the festivities and guests who were lucky enough to dine reported having a wonderful time filling their bellies with casserole and curried sausages and bread and butter pudding.

If your holiday plans involve fishing in the Gulf, Leichhardt Lagoon would be a wonderful base.  It’s only a fifteen-minute drive into Normanton and the Karumba fishing charters are only another fifty minutes or so beyond that.  Talking to our fellow sunset viewers, there were plenty of people who came to the lagoon planning to stay only a night or two and who ended up staying for a week!

Some of the reviewers on Wikicamps and Trip Advisor have complained about the dust. I imagine that the campsites can get a bit dusty in the dry, but if you’re worried about dust, you really shouldn’t consider travelling anywhere west of the Great Dividing Range.  Precious water is not going to be used to manicure lawns for fusspots. Dust is just part of the package.  There are also some that complain that eight dollars is a bit steep.  According to the App there is the Normanton Free Camp, so maybe that it a better option for those people. I can say I have stayed at plenty of campgrounds where I have paid way more than eight dollars and have been offered far less for my money.

Soap dish at  Leichhardt Lagoon

Toast to Leichhardt Lagoon

Having now discovered this little gem, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there again. It’s the type of place where people pin damper recipes to the notice boards and strangers become friends beside a waterhole under a setting sun, sharing their travel stories and comparing itineraries.

Yes, I will go back there some day. The next time I will make sure I’m there early enough to book in for the Saturday dinner. And take in that drink at the Purple Pub.

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan

09/18/16

Blue Heeler Hotel, Kynuna Qld – A review by The Caravan

Blue Heeler Hotel - Kynuna QLDIf you were to look up “middle of nowhere” in the dictionary, it is likely you would find a picture of the Blue Heeler Hotel.  This pub, with its trademark neon sign is the most prominent landmark in the dot of a township that is Kynuna.  If you pass by without stopping and blinked as you did so, you would most likely miss the rest of the town:  the caravan park, the police station (really?) and a very worn out old house (that’s for sale if you are looking for an investment property).

You could power on to Cloncurry or Mount Isa and not stop here, but for this leg of The Tent, The Trailer, The Caravan odyssey, we decided to stay overnight.  The cold beer was welcomed after the trek from Blackall and did something to dampen the disappointment of the closed bakery in Barcaldine, the closed general store in Ilfracombe and the patch of asphalt in Winton which was once the Banjo Paterson Centre.  Powered sites behind the pub are only $15 per night, a definite appeal, and the money you save there can definitely be reinvested into cold ale and good company.

James Blundell said in his song that the Blue Heeler has been sitting for “a hundred years on the Diamantina”.  I can’t begin to verify that statistic, but the pub is old and a little ramshackle, and therein lies its charm. This is the type of place where people with names like Norm and Thel can bring their Waylon Jennings Tribute Show and attract something of an audience (assuming twenty constitutes an audience). Don’t be coming here expecting any of your fancy schmancy boutique beers, and although you might be able to snag a glass of sav blanc, anything as exotic as a pino grigio and you will be in trouble. But cold beer it does have, and a welcoming verandah where you can sit in tranquillity until the next road train thunders through town, or go out the back and sit under the incongruously placed Coolum Surf Life Saving Club boat suspended from the ceiling.

The Blue Heeler Hotel, Kynuna QLD

You might also be treated by a visit from a family of brolgas.  These birds are large and majestic, and I wouldn’t say that they are aggressive, but they are certainly assertive. Last time we visited they swooped in on the pillow Connor dropped on the ground while we were setting up and attempted to make off with it.  This time we were visited by one who was not going to give up until Connor was relieved of his toast.  Now I am not advocating feeding the native animals, but when a bird stands taller than you, sometimes it’s you or them.  Regardless, the Blue Heeler provides a great opportunity to get up close to these creatures, whether you ask for it or not.

But if for no other reason, stay at the Blue Heeler for the sunrise.  Poke your camera over the back fence, or stand out on the road and take a pic of the sun spectacularly rising over…nothing.  It is awesome, and if the clouds and the road trains play friendly, you will be able to capture a fantastic shot of the vastness emptiness that is outback Australia.

If anyone from the Blue Heeler ends up reading this review, I do offer these two pieces of advice.  Firstly, get ALL of the neon bulbs on the sign in working order. When you are an icon of outback Australia, be 100% iconic, a bit more like the picture in the signs on the way into town.  Secondly, get your stock of merchandise replenished.  My original Blue Heeler polo shirt gave up the ghost a few years back after twenty plus years of proud wear.  When I tried to buy a new one on my last visit, you were out of t-shirts altogether and had limited sizes in the polo shirts.  Fast forward five years and your t-shirts are still out of stock and you can’t buy a polo above a medium.  Lost opportunity.

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Trailer

03/28/16

Ballina Central Holiday Park – A Review by The Tent

Ballina is located in the Northern Rivers region of Northern NSW. Close to Lennox Head, Pottsville and Byron Bay: boasting the most easterly point in Australia. Ballina is home to the world’s largest prawn and some of the best fishing we’ve seen in a long while. With a population of around 25 000 people Ballina is well equipped to cater to your holiday needs, particularly if that need is camping and fishing. Several caravan parks are scattered though the area to accommodate the growing population of campers and caravaners that flock to the region annually.

The headland at East Ballina

The headland at East Ballina

As you are probably already aware, we (the Tent) like to partake in kayak fishing on our break over Christmas. An unsuccessful fishing excursion to Yamba the Christmas before led us to closer waters and our stay in the Northern Rivers Region. As luck would have it, we left booking our holidays way too late (again) and the only available caravan park left that suited our needs was Ballina Central Holiday Park. Located conveniently on River st across the road from the Richmond River and the local Ballina waterslide, Ballina Central Holiday Park became our home away from home for seven days.

A couple of stops on the way-

Word has it that one of the best parks on the northern coast is Pottsville South Holiday Park. With this in mind we thought best to check it out on route and possibly book it for our holiday 2016/17. We walked through the park with oohs and ahhs as we looked on at the folk cooling off in the crystal waters of Mooball creek, literally metres from your tent, trailer or caravan door.

With bustling excitement and enthusiasm we hastily scampered off to reception merely to be laughed at and sarcasimed to. (yep I made that word up) You see, apparently a long term holidayer must die or you must inherit the privilege in a will, before a newby has any chance at booking a place over any peak period… ever! Though give it a shot if you’ve no fear of rejection and you’re feeling lucky. If you live on the other side of the border I’d head down there for a long weekend but for us QLD southern coasters, it’s just too far away. We did have a really nice lunch at the Corner Stop Espresso Bar that made the detour worth the while.

After a drive through; over rated, way to busy, people everywhere, drive two kms an hour Byron Bay we checked out another park recommended to us, Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park. This place was shady, as close to the beach as one can be without being on the beach and just far enough out of Bryon to make it more appealing. With no access to fishing waters with our kayaks there was nothing else for us to see here. If you’re into surfing, chilling on the beach and still want to be close to Byron, then this place is worth a look.

After a scenic drive along the Coast Road (that’s actually it’s name) from Byron, past Lenox Head and East Ballina you come up over the headland and cast your eyes over the beautiful waterways of Ballina… ahhhh, so, so gorgeous.

We were greeted at Ballina Central with open arms and introduced to Lee Bolger the most amazing caravan wrangler I’ve ever seen! Jason and I watched on in awe as Lee directed Garry through the otherwise painstaking and somewhat nerve wracking task of fitting a 16 foot caravan into a fully occupied, narrow streeted, closely neighboured slabbed site. Piece of piss!! During our stay we were able to marvel at this wonder over and over again. “Look at me, look at me”, “Full turn to the left, half turn right, straighten, full left”  Lee would chant. The driver listening intently clenches down, white knuckled on the steering wheel, his wife dares draw a breath till the engine is silent, all is still and the van is in place. Mesmerizing to say the least!

The park itself is pretty simple, clean amenities with a code to enter, a camp kitchen, everything you’d expect. It’s proximity to town was most convenient, the RSL, Woolworths and, thank god, BCF all within walking distance. BCF was frequented due to the loss of an anchor, a dodgy fishing rod and extra tarpaulins for the torrential rain that aggressed its way through on our second last day.

Near every day we kitted up the yaks, marched them across the road and headed straight out across the river to catch yabbies, dodge stingrays (all but one that barbed Garry in his foot) and fished our little hearts out. Each day we returned with Bream, Whiting and Flathead. We ate Fish Taco’s, Fish with sweet potato fritters, grilled fish with salad, fish and prawn risotto, (sounding like a scene from Forest Gump) but fish, fish, fish.

Ballina is not open to commercial fishing and the results of its absence are profound. Without doubt it was the most joyfully prolific fishing we’ve had camping to date. With much of the water uncovered it was unanimous by the end of our stay that we should return for another round next year.

There is much to do in the area; be photographed at the Big Prawn-just don’t eat at the pub across the road, it was poo! Visit the Maritime Museum, good value at only $5 bucks. Stop in at the Crawford House Museum or Ballina Manor. Enjoy the scenic walks in the area, laze on the beach, eat, drink, catch some good bands at the Ballina RSL or sit back and enjoy a good book in the sea scented Ballina Air.

Aforementioned it was agreed to return to this brilliant neck of the woods and until a walking excursion south one afternoon we would have subsequently re-booked at Ballina Central. Garry was off fishing while Gail, Jason and I walked off some of the fish meals we’d devoured over the past few days. No camping trip is without research and with this in mind we killed two birds with one stone and checked out the closest competition in the area. Enter Shaws Bay Holiday Park, with its picturesque lake on one side divided by a rock wall stretching out to the lighthouse and the beach on the other side. This was all enticing but then we discovered the Shaws Bay Hotel with its shore side volley ball court and the Shaw’s bay take away serving the worlds, that’s right the world’s best burger- according to their sign anyway, we fell in love. When we enquired about availability in peak times the reception staff did not throw sarcasm in our face, how utterly bizarre? Having said this, they don’t open Christmas bookings until February (lock it into the phone) and they do offer returning visitors first dibs . We waited patiently till the first of Feb, rang at 6:00 am, rang back at 9:00 am when the office opened and booked in for two weeks this coming new year. Genius what happens when you’re actually organised?

We couldn’t get around to all of the parks in the area, there’s just too many. We did make it over to Ballina Lakeside Holiday Park. It too sits on the man made lake and looks back over the water to the Shaws Bay park and Shaw’s bay Hotel, in fact you can paddle across the lake, grab a beer and paddle back home.  It’s a huge park, with generous amenities, mini golf, a water park and the huge jumping pillow. A perfect place for those of you with young families, but for us it was a little too far from town and did not lend itself to our kayak fishing needs.

We also checked out the Ballina Headlands Holiday park, part of the Big4 group. No water access at all here and it was even further out of town. We met a couple that usually stay here but ended up at Ballina Central for the first two nights of their holiday due to booking mix up. They’d been going there for you years but now favour Ballina Central for its handy location to town and the waterways.

To summarise, Ballina Central was perfect for us, we enjoyed every minute of our stay. We met a divine group/family of people that have been coming to this park since they were children, so about 35 years for some of them. They would never consider staying anywhere else and if you’re reading this and end up staying here one Christmas, you will inevitably meet some of them too. Loyalist to their clientele, Ballina Central sent us a lovely email in February inviting us to re-book the same sites for this coming Christmas.

I hope I’ve inspired you to visit this beautiful part of the Australian Coast. Definitely, take a fishing rod and definitely take a good book. There are just so many perfect spots of shady grass to throw a towel on and enjoy a good read. Thanks Ballina, we can’t wait to go back and thanks Gail and Garry Chapman for once again being the easiest going, always entertaining, perfect camping companions that you are. I shall miss you both desperately while you’re foraying around the top end for the next six months.

Rose and Jason – The Tent.

03/6/16

Zucchini Fritters with Bacon and Yoghurt Sauce – A Recipe by The Tent

Zucchini fritters with bacon and yoghurt sauceI’m always on the hunt for recipes that adapt well to camping, particularly breakfasts.

I love a good bacon and egg fry up, but my preference is start the day with something a little more fresh and lite.

What a great start to a camping day. Packed full of vegie and protein with a natural yoghurt based sauce, these are not only delicious but nutritious as well. A good recipe for those mornings when your head might be a little bit “How’s your father” from a few too many drinks the night before. These simple little morsels are delicious and really easy to make at home or in a camping environment.

Smoked salmon would be an awesome accompaniment instead of the bacon in which case I would probably swap out the mint leaves for some dill instead. In fact, smaller sized versions of these would be an impressive afternoon nibbley.

Zucchini fritters with bacon and yoghurt sauce

Makes 4 large fritters

Fritter ingredients-

1 lge Zucchini

3 lge Eggs

2 tbs finely grated Parmesan

1 clove garlic

zest of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

4 rashes of bacon

12 cherry tomatoes

Salt and Pepper

Yoghurt Sauce ingredients –

3 tbs natural yoghurt

squeeze of lemon juice

1 clove garlic crushed

10 mint leaves finely chopped

1 tsp Cumin

1tbs tomato sauce

Method-

Coarsely grate the zucchini onto a clean chux.

Fold up the ends, twist the top and squeeze out as much juice as you possibly can. see notes

Squeeze juice from zucchini

Squeeze juice from zucchini

In a bowl combine the zucchini, garlic, eggs, lemon zest, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Preheat a non stick pan or your bbq plate, spray with olive oil. Cook mixture in batches (1/3 cup for each fritter) about two minutes each side or until slightly browned.

For the Sauce –

Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl add a tiny dash of water to thin the mixture and make it more sauce like. Mix well and pour over your fritters. Top with fried bacon,  fried cherry tomatoes and add a handful of fresh green leaves to the side.

Notes: It is necessary to squeeze the juice form the zucchini. Failure to do so will result in sloppy fritters that wont’ fry properly.

If you do not have a chux simply use a tea towel instead

Rose and Jason – The Tent

02/27/16

Haloumi wrapped in Prosciutto – A recipe by The Tent

 

Haloumi wrapped in Prosciutto

Ok, so most folks like to keep things pretty simple when they go camping. Now there is nothing wrong with scoffing down handfuls of CC’s straight from the packet, but camp cooking doesn’t need to be quite that basic.

Some people seem to forget how to cook when they’re camping. On one trip, we camped with a family who ate unheated spaghetti straight from the tins. The teenage son then went on to eat a still frozen Sarah Lee apple pie for desert?  I looked on in mortal shock and pity while our casserole (the simplest of simple camp oven dishes) simmered away over the coals of the camp fire.

It is agreed that camping is a sanctuary away from the mundane chores of normal life but come on people let’s throw in a little more effort! Kath, Triff and Myself ( The Caravan, The Trailer and the Tent) love taking every opportunity to whip up something new and interesting. We too, like to keep things simple while still  showing off some amazing camp-culinary skills.

One of our favorite and most versatile ingredients is Haloumi.  I have aptly called this recipe “Haloumi wrapped in Prosciutto” and at its most basic level that is precisely what it is.

Ingredients

Haloumi cheese

8 slices of Prosciutto – thinly sliced

1 Lemon

Quince or pear paste (optional) Maggie Beers version is the best

a sprinkle of fresh herbs, oregano, parsley or thyme (optional)

Method

Slice the Haloumi (long ways) into 8 pieces

Lay a piece of Prosciutto out place a slice of haloumi on top of it.

(optional ) – Smear a thin spread of Quince paste on the Haloumi (one side only)

Fold the prosciutto back over the haloumi

Heat your pan or bbq plate, spray with a small amount of oil and fry the haloumi for a couple of minutes on each side until the prosciutto is nicely browned.

Remove from heat, squeeze on the lemon juice and sprinkle with some fresh herbs.

Bon appetite. Now sit back and let the accolades roll in.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, Quince Paste is to cheese what basil is to tomato. Maggie Beer is the creator of this gorgeous, addictive pot of food heaven and it is usually located with the gourmet cheeses in the deli at the supermarket. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed and no cheese plate will be without it again; unless of course everyone else assumes everyone else is bringing it and no-one does. Which happened to us on one tragic occasion.

Haloumi is a goats milk cheese originating from Greece. Dense in character it holds together when fried and is best eaten soon after removal from its heat source. Be warned, Haloumi is delicious but it’s one strange trait is it’s squeakiness, you’ll find out what I mean when you try it.

Rose and Jason – The Tent

10/5/15

Uluru Sounds of Silence 2: The Camel Cometh – By The Caravan

I was just re-reading the review I wrote last year on the Sounds of Silence dinner. I ended it by saying that WHEN I returned to Uluru, I would be sure to take up the arriving by camel option. It is funny reading that now, because while I was obviously quite certain that I would return to Uluru one day, I had no idea that it would be so soon and under the strangest of circumstances, all of which stem from that dinner last year.

You see, my husband Mark is a physics teacher with a passion for astronomy. It’s quite an expensive hobby when you get into it, but unfortunately not one which provides lots of opportunity to recoup those expenses. So I felt quite safe at the Sounds of Silence dinner last year when I flippantly said during the star talk, “That’s your dream job, isn’t it, Mark?” Ha. Ha. Ha. So funny. Have another wine.

Fast forward to April of this year, and Mark is engrossed in one of his nerdy little stargazing forums, when he pushes his laptop across to me and shows me the job ad – Astronomy Supervisor, Voyages Resort, Yulara NT. No need to bore you with the conversations that were had about the pay being half of what he earns as a teacher, that the job is three and a half thousand kilometres away (and not Fly In-Fly Out) and it would mean living apart. We decided as a family that these opportunities don’t come up very often and that he would be mad if he didn’t at least fill out an application to see what might happen.

Well, he’s been here for four and a half months having taken leave from teaching for a year, and now Connor and I are up here on holidays for eight days. No camping for us this time, though. We’re in five star luxury at Sails in the Desert. That’s one of the few perks of Mark’s job – special rates for family coming to visit (because at $478 per night, I wouldn’t be staying here otherwise!)

And just like that, I’m dining in the desert under the stars again, but this time I’ve arrived by camel. The dining experience I have reviewed before (you can read that here), so this time I’m just going to focus on the camel bit.

Camels are one of those animals that are hard to love, but just so easy to adore. They’re funny looking, they’re stubborn and cantankerous. They vomit up their food so they can enjoy it all over again and they are quite partial to spitting their regurgitation over you. The sound that comes out of them is like it comes from the bowels of hell. Aren’t they just wonderful?

Camels at Sounds of Silence, UluruThe Sounds of Silence Camel Tour is operated by Uluru Camel Tours. We were picked up from Sails in the mini-bus and chauffeured out to the Uluru Camel farm where we were greeted by our guide, Saskia. Like all good outback tour guides, Saskia is Swiss. But she’s been in Yulara for two years, and in Yulara employee years, that’s about a decade. There were nine of us on this tour: we three Batemans, an American couple and four Japanese travellers. We begin with a quick tour of the saddle making room. Each camel’s saddle is custom made for the animal. This is about the camel’s comfort, more so than the rider. Fair enough too. Camels can easily carry at least half their body weight on their backs, but three hundred kilos of well-fed tourist is till three hundred kilos. Afterwards, Saskia takes you out to meet the camels that form our train. There’s Violet and Buddy and Randy and several others, but thankfully Spinifex wasn’t in our line-up. “He’s named after the Spinifex grass,” explains Saskia. “He’s a prick to sit on.”

Camels at Sounds of Silence, Uluru

Camels at Sounds of Silence, Uluru

Connor and I got to ride on Buddy. Mark scored Randy, who seemed determined to voice his guttural disgust at having anybody on his back and his extreme displeasure of having to do anything other than sit in the dirt chewing his cud. You get that I am talking about the camel, right?

If you have never ridden a camel before, then getting on the thing is the worst part. Actually, no. Getting on is easy, but when the camel stands up, it feels like you are going to be flung into orbit. And these are very tall camels. Connor went for a camel ride at Kings Canyon last year, but that old girl was nowhere near as tall as these ones. The first couple of steps, while you are getting accustomed to the wobbly gait is also a bit unnerving, but after only a couple of minutes, you’ve developed the confidence of Lawrence of Arabia, and you can enjoy the amble through the desert with Saskia providing her Swiss accent tinged commentary about why we love living in Australia…

“Three of the most deadly snakes in the world live in these bushes…”

“That plant over there will kill you if you eat it…”

“If you see a tail sticking out of a hole, it’s best not to touch it. It might be a lizard, or it could kill you…”

“When the lightning strikes the bush, it could start a fire and you may not be able to out run it…”

God girl! Get yourself back to Scandinavia before your job devours you!

Camels at Sounds of Silence, UluruAnyhow, most of those things can’t reach you when you are atop a camel, so you can sit back and enjoy the ride. And the timid Japanese girls were riding at the back of the camel train and probably couldn’t hear the commentary about imminent death.

Camels at Sounds of Silence, Uluru

Camels at Sounds of Silence, UluruAbout half-way through the journey there is a chance to stop for a photo opportunity with Uluru in the background, and that makes for a pretty cool holiday snap.

Camels at Sounds of Silence, UluruWhen you get to the Sounds of Silence dining area, one of the wait staff comes down with a tray of champagne and the people up at the viewing area watch you disembark with the same sort of awe we plebs reserve for those who travel business class. They too are probably thinking, “WHEN I come back to Uluru, I’m going to come to this dinner by camel.”

Maybe for them too, it will be sooner than they think.

Camels at Sounds of Silence, UluruCamels at Sounds of Silence, UluruKath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan

08/30/15

Cobb and Co Nine Mile – A Review by the Caravan

If you build it, they will come…

Ok. So I have borrowed from the Kevin Costner film where his character put all his money into building a baseball diamond in his cornfield so that his long dead father could come and play. If you remember, at the end of the film there is a long shot of miles of headlights headed for the field to watch the games.

I’m starting to think this catchphrase definitely applies to campgrounds. These days, with social media amplifying the tried and true method of word-of-mouth, it truly seems that if you build one, they will come.

Cobb and Co Nine Mile Camping, Gympie

Such is undoubtedly the case with Cobb and Co Nine Mile, just south of Gympie and less than one hour from the beautiful Sunshine Coast. We spent our first weekend at Cobb and Co a couple of years ago. Back then, you could pretty much have the run of the place. These days, even the quieter weekends seem to be a bit busier, but there is so much space, that it never gets claustrophobic. Back then, we were the ones spreading the word about this wonderful place, but these days I am hard up finding a camping friend who has never been there. Its popularity will no doubt continue to grow. Not long ago it was featured on Channel 7’s “The Great South-East”. That means those city slickers from Brisvegas now know about this great camping spot within two hours of the state capital.

If you have kids and dogs, they will love it here. The kids will find plenty of space to kick a ball, ride their bikes (including on the track that has been built for that very purpose), zipping along on the flying fox, patting the baby farm animals or swimming or paddling on the lagoon. You could always try chucking a yabby pot in as well, but I reckon our boy caught the only breeding male two years ago. Give it a crack just don’t count on a feed!

Cobb and Co Nine Mile Camping, Gympie

Cobb and Co Nine Mile is great for groups. If you have friends that don’t camp (apparently there are still people out there like that), they can even join you and “glamp” in one of the permanent tents scattered around the campgrounds. It really doesn’t get much better than that. There is a modern ablutions block servicing the whole of the camp, and numerous drop toilets around the grounds, so it’s never too far to walk. Now the very words “drop toilet” are enough to strike fear into the hearts of even some seasoned campers (believe me, I’ve used some incredibly dodgy ones….Welford National Park……shudder….springs to mind!) but if it’s possible to love a drop toilet, I love the ones here. It’s amazing how solar powered lighting, deodoriser and a heart-shaped vanity mirror can bring a touch of luxury to the most basic of amenities.

brooloo-cobb and co-charlie moreland 101

The Mothar Mountain Rock Pools are a five minute drive away, and it’s a fifteen minute drive (if that) into Gympie if you need to stock up (or you discover that your gas cooker hose needs replacing after you nearly singe your eyebrows off!). The Sunshine Coast beaches are within easy reach if you want to head off on a day trip, or head north and Rainbow Beach is pretty close as well.

I think what really makes Cobb and Co Nine Mile is that it is family run. That means the owners know what appeals to families and they have built a place that welcomes and caters to them. Well done to Sean and Katherine. They built it, and now they come. They have truly created a field of dreams.

To book Cobb and Co go to  –www.cobb-and-co-nine-mile-camping-grounds.com

Kath, Mark and Connor – The Caravan

08/16/15

Brooloo Park Camping Ground, Imbil – A review by the Tent

A working property, a campground, a hidden oasis; Brooloo Park Camping Ground, Imbil is all of this and so much more.

Our fantastic friends Megan and Michael recently invited us out to Brooloo park for a couple of nights. Feelers went out to others who might also like to seek refuse from the rat-race and join us for our stay, as is common in the camping community. It was about here that things started getting a little sketchy, every lead on the internet lead to frustration and paranoia as to whether this place even existed at all anymore; broken web pages, bad reviews, questions, questions, questions. Although my tag-alongers tried hard to convince me that camping here was a bad idea, I comforted them with the reassurance that management had recently changed, some hiccups had occurred and that we would indeed be in good hands and looked after upon arrival.

So here’s what I know. Brooloo Park as aforementioned has recently changed ownership. The new owners Body, Ros and their combined families have been the proud, enthusiastic and dedicated new owners for eight weeks now. With big visions and grand passion for their newly acquired 270 acres of Land, Body and Rose are committed to maintaining and improving what can only be referred to as a Continue reading