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!

cobbold gorge 066

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

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

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

02/1/15

Fishing Haven Holiday Park – Yamba, NSW – a review by the Tent

Fishing Haven Holiday Park – Yamba, Iluka and Maclean

Yamba, on the Beautiful Clarence Coast – famous for its fishing and popular to campers on the East Coast of Australia.

Our original plan for the Christmas holidays was to have a jaunt at Stradbroke Island. However, by the time the additional week of my holidays was approved, Stradie was booked out- so began the great South East Coastal hunt for a camping spot over new years.

Garry, our friend and camping companion on our holiday, with phone and laptop in hand, set about  the arduous task of finding  us a piece of paradise to call home for 7 days.  Five weeks out from Christmas and you would’ve thought this a relatively easy task, but that it was not. ( oh, my camping naivety)  After two days of research, myriad rejections and sarcastic giggles, Garry was lucky enough to nail us two sites at Fishing Haven Holiday Park on the mighty Clarence River at Yamba.  This was great news but did come with some conditions. The first night, Jason and I (the Tent) were to share Gail and Garry’s site and move to our own site the next day… New Years day… when our heads might be a little sore and sorry, the sun too bright and the heat of the day too much for our weary bodies to bare.  To our great surprise and overwhelming gratitude, we arrived at the park to find that Sarah – the wonderfully, wonderful park manager, had juggled some bookings around. We were able to set up on our own site from day one, more thrilling news would not pass my ears for the rest of 2014!

Fishing Haven Holiday Park, Yamba, NSW

Fishing Haven Holiday Park, Yamba, NSW

The management team at Fishing Haven are, by far, the best that I have experienced in my camping escapades to date.  The five or so original phone calls upon booking were met with nothing but Continue reading

06/18/14

Poverty Creek camp grounds, Bribie Island – reviewed by the tent

Dragon fishing Kayaks

Our bargain kayaks

Jason and I love to fish! We love catching fish too, though you wouldn’t  know it given our track record of  Zero fish.  Fishing off banks on the Coast is not a very fruitful experience.  We don’t have room at home for a boat but desperately wanted  to get out into deeper water and more isolated spots.  With this in mind we decided that the purchase of two kitted out fishing Kayaks was the answer to our fishing woes.

We hunted around for the best deal and found it via Dragon Kayaks in Brisbane. $900 bought us two brand new kayaks, each with oars; seat, swivel rod holder, four built in rod holders, cargo nets and a trolley. The bargain of the century!  Now, where was the best place to take these suckers camping?

I’d been interested in camping at Bribie Island for a little while now.  I thought I had been there as a child, but after a day trip down there to check the place out,  it became quite evident that I had not! I imagined Bribie to have one main road with some scattered houses lining both sides and be home to a Continue reading

06/3/14

Camping obsessions, we all have them, right? – Ramblings from the tent

In follow up to; I wasn’t much of a camper, Camping Phobia’s and Kitting up for camping.

Jason and I were invited along for Easter camping (2013) with Triff and Steve (the trailer) and their/our friends Ray and Phil.

With two camping trips under my belt (one over-nighter and a five dayer at Lake Eildon in Vitoria), I was reasonably confident that I could handle this camping thing. Jason jumped quickly on my new found love of the great outdoors.  So, we headed out and purchased a crap-tonne of camping equipment.  We have a one tonne ute, and it seems that this is the exact weight of camping paraphernalia required for rookies such as ourselves.

The last time we camped with the trailer, all we contributed was some financial aid.  We arrived with our booze, clothes and some bedding.  So imagine the surprise on the Trailer’s face when we rocked up with a ute load of glistening new equipment that rivalled their stash of belongs gathered over decades of trips with friends both past and present? Was it showy? Was it overkill?  No! It was enthusiasm, it was excitement, it was Jason and I, together, embracing the inevitably wonderful world of camping that it is.

camping stuff

All the creature comforts of a Caravan, only flat packed!

We all know that camping is awesome, but we all have slightly different ways in how we tackle it.  Something that seems important to one can seem ludicrous to the next.  Jason and  I, for instance, are rather fond of Continue reading

04/29/14

Felton Food Festival Review – (the tent)

“Build it and they will come” – Felton Food Festival

I love good food, I love good company and I love a good drive; with this in mind Kath (the Caravan), our good friend Gail and I (Rose -the Tent) headed off for the third annual Felton Food Festival.

We rendezvoused at Kath’s place 7:00 am, loaded ourselves  into the freshly fuelled car and headed off.  Gail and I made comment of the dust settled on and in the vehicle. It was explained that the dust is symbolism for the places the family have been and the wonderful memories that have transpired while travelling in their faithful friend.   By return of day old dusty stood proudly  in the driveway coated with more journey dust then whence we began. Felton Food Festival (FFF) is anonymously perched on farm land between green crops of Sorghum, Mung beans and the most beautiful rich black dirt you’ll ever see.   Dirt roads beckoned us to the entrance, not one who entered returned home without Darling Downs Dust veiled over their vehicle.

Making the most of our day and the spectacular weather, we decided the drive from the Sunshine Coast to Felton would  best be personified by hinterland travel.  Sun-swept rolling hills and pastoral  vistas greeted us between the towns of; Beerwah, Kilcoy, Esk, Crows Nest and on to Toowoomba.

A coffee stop and leg stretch at Esk lead us to the quaint and delightful “Lars Restaurant Cafe and Bar”.   Stumbling upon such a wonderful establishment was one thing, but more impressionable was the fact that this place was open and pumping with patrons on a Sunday morning at 8:30am… in Esk… in the middle of nowhere.   Most unfortunate for us, we were to save stomach space for the FFF, so a sit down breakfast at one the outside (dog friendly) tables in the morning sun was not to be. Next time though, next time.   Upon exiting Esk we drove past several other bustling cafes providing nourishment for weary travellers, day trippers and locals alike.   On the return trip at about 5:00pm, Lars restaurant was still open, so, if you’re looking for a remote place to have lunch and are keen for a scenic drive, head out to Esk and take a look around.

Toowoomba and Felton are  part of the beautifully picturesque Darling Downs.  The Darling Downs is a farming region on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range.   There are many ways to arrive at  Toowoomba but none more spectacular then the entrance via the New England Highway through Crows Nest and High Fields.  The view on the drive in was honestly breath taking, I’m so completely disappointed that we didn’t stop for a quick photo.   I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it and one day go and see for yourself.

Through Toowoomba and on to Felton the scenery never failed us.  We knew we were getting close, (cause the Nav-man told us) and because we came to a roaring holt in traffic caused by a “Field of Dreams” moment.  For those of you unfamiliar with Field of Dreams, it is a movie starring Kevin Costner. He builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop and famous dead baseball stars comeback and play games.   I know what you’re thinking and yeah it wasn’t the greatest movie, but… there is a line in the movie “Build it and he will come”.   At the end of the movie cars are lined up for miles and miles zigzagging between the corn fields to go and watch a game.  This was like that moment only our experience took place in daylight, not night time with head lights as in the movie.

Some people were discouraged by the traffic, others would’ve been cross or frustrated with the situation but we thought it was a sight to behold.   It was magical!   After travelling so far to get to there and not fully knowing what to expect, we found reassurance that there was going to be good things on the inside.  Witnessing this site made us feel proud for FFF and proud of ourselves for making  the effort to be there.

We’d unanimously decided that we should park at first opportunity and walk the long distance up to the festival when one of the many wonderful volunteers assured us there was plenty of parking up near the gate.  With pleasant surprise we parked in a freshly ploughed paddock of that richly beautiful black dirt, right in front of the FFF entrance.  To greet us was a rogue rooster. At first we thought he was part of the show, turns out he was just an escapee from a chicken run somewhere and was out to have some festival fun himself.  We saw him several times during the day visiting the store holders and picking at food droppings.  What a day that must have been for him?

Navigating through the sea of people, we headed off to do a lap before getting serious about tackling the festival full strength.  That is, until we found the stall serving the grilled Haloumi skewers with Fig jam and Syrup… yum, yum and more yum!  These guys had service down pat, luckily too, as I think every single festival participant succumbed to these heavenly morsels of Haloumi goodness from Olympus Cheese.  Conveniently situated in the tent next door was the Burleigh Brewing Company. We washed down our cheese with a tasting of their finest brew.  Particularly pleasing was their “28 Pale Ale“,  oddly, it had a slight pear taste to it that was beautifully palatable and aromatic.

Hungry after our long journey from the Coast we were faced with the daunting decision of what to eat next?  There was an Indian curry van (Chef Suda’s Indian Delights), with Butter Chicken and Tikka Masala smells permeating through the clear country air.  French Crepes were tempting. I nearly convinced myself that  a Lamb burger from Felton Beef and Lamb Burgers was the right choice but the line up was as long as the saliva dripping from the corner of my mouth when I sited a plate of Turkish Meze.  Yep, this was me and Kath was on board too.

Queues of people were everywhere.  It was extremely difficult to distinguish where one ended and another one started. I thought I was in the queue for the Turkish van only to find I was in the queue for the toilet!  This was ok though, it had been a long while since our stop at Esk and relief was welcomed.  Finally in the correct line for our Turkish Feast from Sofra Turkish Cuisine, I started wondering if I’d made the right decision?  The smell of the Lamb was trying to beckon me away with great persistence. But still,  the Lamb line zigzagged more than the traffic on the way in and in fear of finding myself in line for another toilet stop, I held fast with my decision for Turkish fare and I was not disappointed.   All the tastings on the plate were extremely delicious but the stand out was definitely the Smoked Eggplant Salad.

Fifty odd stall holders  participated in the event.  Olive producers, regional Wine makers, Chocolate artisans and Gourmet Salt manufacturers were but a few that made the event the outstanding success that it was.  We each purchased an amazing bottle of Caramelised Balsamic from Lira’H. With 6 flavours on offer, Fig, Strawberry, Ginger, Lemon Grass, Apple and Classic, Kath and I decided on the Apple and Gail the Fig.  The trip home was spent hoping that our respective partners had Pork Roasts in the oven to compliment our latest purchase. (This was not to be, for any of us)

Music is an integral part of any good festival and we weren’t let down here either.  Children could pet animals in the small nursery, play in the sand-pit under a tree or just chase the rogue rooster around the event.  But one of the festivals biggest draw cards is the cooking demonstrations under the main marquee.  Celebrity chef Alastair McLeod is a regular participant to the event and talks passionately about the local produce.  Alastair is most entertaining to watch and listen to with his cheeky Irish accent and wit.  But the highlight of the day was when he posed for a quick photo with Kath and Gail, what a great guy.

All in all, the FFF was a pretty darn good day out.  I guess my only criticism would be the balance of food vendors verses the crowd.   However, I think as this festival grows, so too will the number of vendors and perhaps the line ups for some tucker will be slightly less daunting.  Overall, Felton Food Festival should stand proudly at the success of an event in such a remote location.  The community spirit, organisation, marketing and thoughtfulness are all but small players in  the overall ambiance of the day out.  Congratulations to all the volunteers and staff driving the force that was, is and will continue to be the best regional food festival in the Darling Downs.

Stomachs full, gourmet purchases in hand, a visit with our divinely sweet  Auntie Christine who lives in the region and we were ready to head home.  Thanks Felton for a top day out, see you next year!

Rose (the tent)

Felton Food Festival website

 

 

 

04/3/14

Noosa River Holiday Park, Munna Point – Review (the tent)

I often talk to people living on the coast who whip down to one of the local caravan parks for a quick weekend getaway.  A lot of these people will take a quick trip home to feed the dogs or whatever animals need tending and hurriedly make their way back to their weekend haunt.

Growing up on the Coast and returning after a few many years has been great, but I often wish that I could experience this wonderful place with fresh eyes.  Well  last weekend I had a touch of that wish with our best friends Neisha and Damien. They have just relocated (after three years away) back to Noosa.  Rather than jumping straight back into “life” they decided the first few weeks would be best spent holidaying in a camper trailer at Noosa River Holiday Park at beautiful Munna Point.

One of the un-powered sites down on the river

One of the un-powered sites down on the river

Talk about location, location, location!  This place literally could not be any closer to the water, lest you be sleeping on a blow up mattress bouncing over gentle waves with a Pelican pecking at your toes as the sun rises.

Keen to make the most of our weekend, we arrived nice and early on Saturday morning and left just after dark  Sunday evening.  It was slightly odd upon arrival!  We’ve driven through Noosa myriad times before, but not with our camping clobber and so close to Hasting St, about to pitch a tent… odd indeed.   But, aforementioned, I really felt new to the area, like a tourist,  but in my own back yard.  Plentiful times I’ve walked, driven or worked near Noosa River, always envious of the water shenanigans, that seem, in some way, to tease those with less fortunate agendas.  How lucky I felt now! It was my time to enjoy the river, the sunshine, the fishing, the sand in my toes and the convenience of all this just metres from our pitched tent.

Noosa River Holiday Park is located on Russell St at Munna Point.  For those of you not familiar with the area, Munna Point is a mere five or so minute drive from Noosa’s famous Hasting St.  The park plays host to caravans, camper trailers and tents.  The sites are very close to each other and allocated upon booking.  Bring your boat, kayak, paddle board or jet ski as the park has its own boat ramp and Noosa river is a water sports haven.

The park has very large and well kept amenities. Upon check in you are given a security code to allow access to the amenities block. This made me feel pretty cool, kinda like a spy. Our 4 digit code was made up of the numbers one and two, rather appropriate I thought, given the nature of the business conducted inside, if you know what I mean!

We don’t usually cook in the communal kitchen when camping, but if you visit this place I think it’s a must, at least once. The area is spacious, with bbqs and a microwave and we found it to be quite the pleasant social outing.  It’s proximity lends itself beautifully to the reflection of Noosa in the  rippling waters of the river.  The mass of sand on one side is the perfect haven for kids to play while you’re preparing your dinner. In fact, I decided it would be a good idea to hold an impromptu Sand-Castle building Continue reading

03/6/14

Kitting up for camping – The Tent

Choosing our Tent

With a couple of trips under our belt and Jason thankful for my new found love of camping, we were now  faced with the task of kitting up for camping. Jason and I had been together  twelve years by the first time I went camping. Although Jason has camped his entire life and been in previous ownership of all things camping, over the years, his supply had dwindled. No tent, no mattress, no stove a camping trip does not make!

Choosing a tent is a daunting task, the variety on the market is inexhaustible. Finding your needs in the right price bracket, colour considerations and ease of erection are but some of the things on the tent buyer’s checklist.

Two Christmases ago we camped with some friends at Lake Eildon in Victoria. We flew in from Queensland so had nothing but financial aid (and wit and awesome company) to contribute to the trip. They had a gigantic tent, I’m sure on the packaging there would have been a pictorial of 30 black silhouettes lined up in every nook and cranny inside the seams.( Do tent manufacturers really think this is how people want to experience camping,  hop scotching over bodies?)  Anyway, huge tent, with four rooms but only one entrance, no fire exit! Although we didn’t sleep thirty that week, it Continue reading