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

06/21/15

Charlie Moreland Campground, Imbil State Forest , Kenilworth – A review by the Trailer

We are so blessed on the Sunshine Coast to have so many camping options available to us nearby. Charlie Moreland at Kenilworth is one such option that is fantastic for a weekend getaway. Situated on Sunday Creek Road, this camping ground is a popular spot on weekends. Currently undergoing some renovations, the weekend we chose to visit, two thirds of the camping area was closed off. It made the Park seem a lot busier than it was as we all had to camp in the same area rather than being spread out. As we drove in, Stephen looked for a sensible flat place to camp, while I looked for where I wanted to camp. Naturally, I won, and we ended up having to level the trailer across a hill. I always look for shade, grass and away from other campers. The shade we nailed! The grass not so much; probably cause so many people had been squished up on the one side of the park that they have wore the grass out. Away from other people? We didn’t do too badly, we backed onto the fence and forest, so at least no one could camp behind us.

Charlie Moreland Camp Grounds, Imbil State Forest, Kenilworth

Our camp in the early morning sunlight. Who needs grass?

There seemed to be ample fire rings for the number of people there, and we all managed to spread out. There are taps throughout the park (boiling the water is recommended) and new gardens going in but it will be interesting to see how long these last between the campers, and the bush turkeys. No work was carried out during the weekend , so in that regard it was nice and quiet.

Charlie Moreland Campgounds, Imbil

There is a great swimming hole at Charlie Moreland, but it is one of those lovely fresh water creeks that, even in the middle of summer, the water is freezing cold. There are several walking tracks if you are feeling energetic, and if you love 4WDing there are tracks through the forest. They must be good, as on Saturday morning, an entire squadron of Monster trucks roared through the campsite on their way to 4WDing. (Anyway, that’s what it sounded like to those of us trying to have a sleep in!) That does bring me to one of the negatives about Charlie Moreland. Sunday Creek Road goes right through the middle of the campground and seems to constantly bring traffic.

Charlie Moreland Campground, Imbil State Forest, Kenilworth

The swimming hole. Not even kids are brave enough to swim in winter.

The new work underway has resulted in new amenities blocks being built. They are beautiful new buildings but:

  1. The Park Ranger who put the spare loo paper balancing on the wall between toilets must have been about seven feet tall. I’m six foot, and had to jump and tap the roll so it would fall on to the floor. Glad I had a tissue in my pocket. On a plus side, it was the nicest and softest toilet paper I have ever experienced at any National Park, in fact pretty well any public toilet.
  2. You do need to get used to the Unisex toilet thing?
  3. While it may be a lovely new building, I didn’t like the gap at the bottom of the walls that will allow any creepy crawly thing to go where it likes, and also allows sounds to travel quite freely between stalls. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like the echoing of ………………. around the stalls. I’m sure you get my drift.
  4. Nice new building but still no showers or hot water.
Charlie Moreland Campground, Imbil State Forest, Kenilworth

A bit of excitement as the RACQ Care flight Helicopter lands on the causeway to rescue an injured motor bike rider. Impressive flying.

I do love Charlie Moreland but it is a funny place as there is so much of the site that is not level. A big problem when you have a trailer or caravan. The last time we were out there we had one side of the trailer jacked up about a foot in the air. We almost had to have an engineering plan drawn up just for the camping. We did fair much better this time, but am looking forward to popping out again once the work is completed to see what they have done. It almost seems like they have made it smaller, or are even leaning towards numbering the campsites which does have its pros and cons. All will be revealed in the next month or so. Charlie Moreland is one of those great campsites where you wake up to the sound of wood being chopped echoing through the campgrounds (once the monster trucks are gone). It’s very relaxing and great for a weekend getaway.

Would we go again? Absolutely. In fact, we are already booked in for a weekend in July for a friends 50th birthday. I look forward to seeing the work completed, oh, and if you happen to be there too, I apologise, in advance,  for any sounds at the toilets.

(These are some photos taken of our July trip after this original post was written.  This is the “New Charlie Moreland” and they’ve done a really, really top job)

To book camping at Charlie Moreland follow this link – http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/imbil/camping.html go to the bottom of the page and click Book On Line. The cost of camping at Charlie Moreland is $7.50/Adult/night and $4.50/child/night.

Access is really easy for caravans/ campers & tents and they will even let in 2 wheel drive!

Triff and Stephen

The Trailer

01/8/15

Camp Oven Sticky Date Pudding – a recipe from the Trailer

We are not experts at camp oven cooking, but we just like to give it a go and see what happens.

I think it’s almost impossible  not  to cook a good camp oven roast, but… we are still trying to master our pork crackling. One disastrous attempt saw us removing the rind from the pork in an attempt to crackle it separately. Mark and Kath (The Caravan), were on their second outing in the new Expanda Van. Mark was going to cook the rind in the Baby Q, when he went searching for the gas fittings that, ahh, he hadn’t packed?!  With everyone else checking their fittings, and nothing else coming close, it was on to plan B; that is – try crisp the rind on the BBQ plate over the fire.  Campfire in site, Mark balanced the rind on the end of two knives and made the hazardous journey from van to fire. Carefully dodged awning poles, tarpaulin ropes, myriad tables and chairs (re: previous post – Camping obsessions) and with just a few mere steps left to the fire, the rind begrudging  slid off the knives and onto the ashen dirt below.  The following result of retrieving, washing and pat-drying said rind did not, needless to say, turn into the beautiful crispy rind we had all been hoping for. We do NOT recommend this method of cooking.

Camp Oven Steamed Pudding

Camp Oven Steamed Pudding

Another important factor we have learnt, is to actually work out the sizes of the camp ovens you have and what you are going to use them for. One night we were doing steamed sticky date pudding for dessert. Being a showery night we decided to boil it in a stainless steel bucket on the gas, rather than over the fire.  We then had the problem of what to use to keep the steam pudding dish off the bottom of the bucket.  After several drinks and plans, the boys decided to crush beer cans and use them as a base. Brilliant. Pudding mix prepared,  beer cans in, water on to boil, we just had to wait.  As the water reached boiling point we picked up the steam pudding dish to submerse it in our boiling water and… the pudding basin Continue reading

10/19/14

Sommerville Valley Tourist Park – A review by the Trailer

Sommerville Valley Tourist Park is about twelve kilometers from Stanthorpe, in South East Queensland.  It is set on fifty two acres of bushland, with abundant wildlife.  Situated on Storm King Dam, the Park offers a variety of accommodation ranging from unpowered camping sites, powered camping sites, budget huts and luxury self contained apartments.  On a recent weekend visit, we (The Trailer), took advantage of the powered sites.  There are twenty five powered sites available for caravans, and they are very spaciously set out.  We were lucky enough to be on the sites closest to the dam.  All the sites have a concrete pad and are drive through if you have a caravan and are technically challenged when it comes to reversing.  Each site has a tap and a fire place, with most of the fire places being camp Continue reading

07/18/14

Up the Guts, Day 6 – Kings Canyon – The Caravan

Kings Canyon is another “must-see in the NT” and if you have made the effort all the way to Central Australia, you would be mad to miss it.

The highlight experience at the Canyon is the panoramic rim walk.  At any time of year, the walk is best tackled in the morning when it is cooler.  In fact, on days when the temperature is predicted to be above thirty-six degrees, the walk is closed at 9:00 am. The rim walk is six and a half kilometres long and the estimated walk time is about three and half hours. I guess that is all dependent on how many photos you take and the splendour of the canyon is such that you could go crazy with the snapping.  Ironically, even the best photos don’t do the place justice because you really need that third dimension.

The first 500 metres or so are fondly known as “Heart-attack Hill”, a steep climb up rocky steps to the rim of the canyon.  Just in case this isn’t enough of a challenge, you could attempt the hike wearing thongs like one clueless 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

05/26/14

“Alone Across Australia” a Book Review by The Trailer (Triff)

Jon Muir   One man’s trek across a continent

Jon Muir Alone Across AustraliaHave you been driving through a seemingly isolated dirt tract, say in outback Queensland, where it is kilometers to any nearest town, and you come across a cyclist riding along to……….

We have seen this on our journeys and wondered Why? Why would you want to carry all your gear on a bicycle, and take so long to get to where you are going? Why would you not want to sleep in a comfortable bed at night, snuggled under a quilt if it got cold? Why would you not want to be dry in a car if it started to rain? Why would you not want a nice juicy steak for dinner, washed down with a glass of red?

Jon Muir’s Alone Across Australia, is the incredible story of how one man and his dog, travelled 2500 kilometers across Australia, from Port Augusta at the top of Spencer Gulf in South Australia, to Burketown on the Gulf of Carpentaria, in Queensland. It was Jon’s fourth attempt at this trip, and his dog Seraphine’s second.

Jon’s only travel equipment was a handmade cart which he pulled behind, and a pair of poles to aid in movement. There were times when he had to drag or carry the cart as the wheels became bogged, or the ground too rutted for the wheels to move. The cart contained his camping gear, basic food for himself and Seraphine, a gun, maps and a compass, his camera and sound recording equipment. Jon managed to set up his camera and record most of his journey, which took him 128 days.

Jon was determined to live off the land in the manner of indigenous Australians. The journey was not easy, and over the course of the trip, he faced drought and scorching heat, torrential rain, wild dingoes, hunger, loneliness and heartache, and physical and mental exhaustion. In a testament to Jon’s strength, in spite of losing over one third of his body weight over the 128 days, four months after he returned home, he embarked on a journey to the North Pole.

Alone Across Australia is a fascinating read which makes you think about  human determination and resilience. It makes you appreciate the size and vastness of this incredible country in which we are so lucky to call home. It is a beautiful story between a man and his “best friend”.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Alone Across Australia from my local library.  Here is a link to a Jon Muir page where you can purchase your own signed copy of the book or DVD.  jonmuir.wikispaces.com/BOOKS+AND+FILMS

Triff (The Trailer)

03/20/14

Copeton Waters State Park – Camping Review (the trailer)

A powered site with a view!

A powered site with a view!

Copeton Waters State Park NSW covers an impressive 900 hectares on the western slopes of the New England Ranges. It is 550 kilometres northwest of Sydney, 440 kilometres southwest of Brisbane, and only 40 kilometres from the town of Inverell.

Copeton Dam holds three times the volume of water than Sydney Harbour, and is a fisherman’s paradise with the dam plentiful in Cod, Yellowbelly, Silver Perch, Catfish and Redfin.

Dam wall!!! It's very skinny and scary but we made it over safely

Dam wall!!! It’s very skinny and scary but we made it over safely

Entry fees do apply for the use of all the park facilities other than the Kiosk. For a car, it is $10 for a day pass, but if you are camping, you do not have to pay this as you are paying your camping fee instead. We stayed at a powered site at Copeton Bay, about three kilometers from the Park Office.  There are about fifty sites at Copeton Bay, with water taps plentiful, a playground, lots of rubbish bins provided, and a good clean amenities block.  We were a bit worried about how cold it might be to shower in winter.  There was heaps of hot water, but the design of the building certainly allowed for a lot of air movement, and I think in the dead of winter the lure of a hot shower might be marred by the cold air and wind blowing around you.  We paid $30 a night for our powered site, which was for two adults.  We were there mid week in the September school holidays, only decided to go there at 3pm in the afternoon, and managed to get a powered site directly overlooking the dam.  We were able to take advantage of Continue reading

02/16/14

A seasoned camper – The Trailer

My sister called me a seasoned camper.  Am I?  With my husband, we have been camping for about twenty-five years (not all the time, we do have a house). Growing up as children we never took holidays.  Living on a farm, there were never enough days that Mum and Dad could take off, and I suppose, never enough money. Holidays were something I never really considered. When I met my now husband, he was already a “camper”. I went along too, and have now become hooked.  We have only ever taken two holidays that haven’t involved camping and one of them was our honeymoon.

When we first started camping, we would go to Fraser Island for about ten days.  The boys would fish and I would take a heap of books and find a shady spot to read. We would sleep in a canvas tent that had wooden poles and no floor. We had a piece of carpet we would take to use as the floor. We used small nylon tents as food storage and did the whole ten days on Ice. They were Continue reading

02/11/14

Hello world!

Camp Oven Coals

It’s official, we’re bloggers! Thanks for visiting our blog. Stay tuned, we’ll be making our first official posts next week. Till then why don’t you slip over to our about page and find out who we are.