4 – 10 Nov: Long Is, Macona, Hill Inlet, Whitehaven

Wednesday 4th November

With our newly repaired tender in tow and all provisioned up we headed for Palm Bay on Long Island. It was one of the best sails we’ve had having a good 10kn wind behind us and the tide with us we flew along at upwards of 5kn at times. Ray was on the tiller; we sat back and enjoyed the islands as they floated by.

Running with the wind on our way to Long Island. Magic sailing.

Running with the wind on our way to Long Island. Magic sailing.

The entrance to Palm Bay is via a narrow, dredged channel to a small ‘lagoon’ within the rocks and coral. Here there are 4 mooring buoys. It took us a while and a phone call to reception to finally see the small red and green buoys that delineate the channel. We picked up a mooring buoy then went ashore and brought back one of the stern lines they provide. This will prevent us from swinging as the tide and wind change, hitting the reef, and also keeps us bow to the swell, ensuring a calm night.

Steve rowing ashore. Note the stern line from Top Shelf to the shore.

Steve rowing ashore. Note the stern line from Top Shelf to the shore.

Times are changing on the islands. Our guide book said a mooring fee ($50/night) would cover the resort facilities including pool, showers, etc. Not so anymore – that’s an extra $25 each … bit much to pay for a swim and shower. Palm Bay resort is a pretty resort with small individual burés set in lush tropical gardens facing the beach. It’s all self-catering, with a nicely appointed kitchen and large open dining room for the guests to use.

Palm Bay bures.

Palm Bay bures.

Thursday

Today was a day of walking! We planned to walk the southern walks from Palm Bay first, then to Happy Bay, the resort just north of Palm Bay where we’d rest a while at the beachside cocktail bar we remembered from our last visit here, before continuing with the northern walks. It started so well as we walked along well-shaded tracks covered with a rich carpet of leaves to Sandy Bay, Fish Bay, Pandanus Bay and finally to the Happy Bay resort. This is where it all went wrong – it’s closed! Another ‘ghost resort’. We walked on, unsatiated, completing the island circuit, all up 15.5km. While there were no great peaks to assault with astounding views as we’ve experienced before, it was nevertheless an enjoyable walk around the island.

The islands are interlaced with these wonderful walks, and rarely do we ever meet anyone else out there doing it. They don't know what they're missing.

The islands are interlaced with these wonderful walks, and rarely do we ever meet anyone else out there doing it. They don’t know what they’re missing.

For more photos of our stay on Long Island CLICK HERE

Friday

Suitable anchorages for the persistent northerly winds are limited. We decided to cross the channel again and take our chances at some of the places we still want to see despite the winds. Today’s sail was quite long, but again very enjoyable for most of it. To quote the Skipper, ‘it got a little frisky there for a while’. We were close hauled all the way from Long Island up to Macona Inlet on Hook Island where we’ve anchored.

Saturday

Decided to stay today and explore Macona Inlet in the tender. I must say I think this is one of the best anchorages in the Whitsundays. It has several lovely sandy beaches to explore and swim from, is well protected from all winds except a direct southerly, and the surrounding hillside is beautiful, covered in trees of so many different colours. And it’s not generally as popular as the other protected anchorages.

The guide book said you could catch fish here without requiring much skill. We duly baited our hooks and tossed the lines out, then sat reading – undisturbed. Obviously a greater skill required then we possess.

We were hit by storms tonight – lots of rain and lightning and wind. The anchor held without giving an inch and we had no problems. It soon passed and we slept well.

Sunday

Off to Hill Inlet today on the eastern side of Whitsunday Island. But first we had to pass through Hook Passage. I remember many years ago visiting the Hook Island Underwater Observatory which was here in Hook Passage – but it’s now closed; apparently competition from the high speed catamarans which take tourists out to the reef for the real deal was too great. Pity, I really enjoyed it.

Another once thriving tourist attraction now closed: Hook Island Underway Observatory.

Another once thriving tourist attraction now closed: Hook Island Underway Observatory.

Hook Passage is another of the Whitsunday passages where you have to get wind and tide just so and our planning was good. The tidal flow tore us along at over 5 knots with not much wind to speak of. However the timing also coincided with the tourist boats passing through which added some drama, particularly coping with their wake.

Rapidly closing on us, in Hook Passage.

Rapidly closing on us, in Hook Passage.

To view a few photos of our trip to Hill Inlet CLICK HERE.

Due to lack of wind and a contrary tide as we headed south we motored all the way to Hill Inlet arriving about 2 and a half hours after full tide. This stunning inlet which is the northern boundary of Whitehaven Beach is very shallow – too shallow for keel yachts, but perfect for trailer sailers and catamarans. Sensibly you’d enter this narrow Inlet on the full tide, or at least a rising tide in case of running aground, but we didn’t have those options so in we went anyway. We wound up the keel and pulled the rudder up half way and I took up position standing at the bow trying to spot the deepest channel, waving the directions frantically to Steve. By good luck we didn’t run aground and anchored in a couple of meters of water on the southern side.

This is Hill Inlet. Not my photo - taken from a greater height than I could manage. Here you can see the size of the Inlet and the shifting sands we had to negotiate. Not complaining - top anchorage.

This is Hill Inlet. Not my photo – taken from a greater height than I could manage. Here you can see the size of the Inlet and the shifting sands we had to negotiate. Not complaining – top anchorage.

This was a fairly long trip today – about 15nm of motoring which isn’t relaxing.

Late afternoon we went for a walk along Whitehaven beach. Whitehaven is 7km of pure white sand and is officially rated as one of the top 5 beaches in the World. The sand is 98% silica and very fine and soft. This amazing beach is a bit of an enigma as locally there are no quartz rocks from which it could have been formed. Naturally it’s a major tourist attraction of the area drawing several hundred visitors a day, mostly to the southern section. Being part of a National Park it is entirely unspoilt by development, looking the same today as it did to the Ngaro aboriginal communities over the centuries. And credit to all concerned it recently was awarded the ‘Cleanest Beach in Australia’, well-deserved too from our observations.

By late afternoon the day trippers are all gone and the yachties today are elsewhere, Whitehaven being a poor anchorage in northerly conditions. We could hardly believe our good fortune – arguably the best beach in the entire world and Steve and I had it entirely to ourselves to walk. Surreal.

Aerial photo of Whitehaven looking north towards Hill Inlet. This is the stretch Steve and I walked. Again, not my photo.

Aerial photo of Whitehaven looking north towards Hill Inlet. This is the stretch Steve and I walked. Again, not my photo.

Monday

South easterlies are forecast to arrive today. Rather than stay in Hill Inlet where we only have one opportunity a day to leave and therefore risk having to leave at a time when winds don’t suit us, we decided to move on today. But first a little sightseeing and some housework.

On the headland between Hill Inlet and Tongue Bay, the next bay north, National Parks has built a walking path to a lookout with magnificent views over the Inlet and Whitehaven. We took to the tender before breakfast to beat the crowds, enjoyed the views and photo opportunities then got caught in quite a long, heavy downpour. We were drenched!

Selfie from lookout overlooking Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach.

Selfie from lookout overlooking Hill Inlet and Whitehaven Beach.

Back at Top Shelf and now pushed for time we motored into shallower water and hopped overboard with snorkels and masks and our hull-cleaning equipment to give her another clean. Growth on the hull happens so quickly in these tropical waters. Hill Inlet has the same beautiful white silica sand as Whitehaven. The water is crystal clear over this lovely soft sand – it was quite visually striking and made hull-cleaning a pleasant pastime.

By the time we’d finished it was once more a couple of hours after high tide and we had to leave – still no breakfast. I repeated my demented arm-waving act standing on the bow and led us safely out to choppy waters. Fortunately not far to go – just to the southern end of Whitehaven – with southerly winds expected it’s now a good anchorage.

We managed to slip ourselves into the perfect location with the best protection on this magnificent beach and ate our breakfast at midday. Then we sat back and watched the comings and goings! Boats of every size everywhere, seaplanes flying in and out and even 5 identical helicopters arrived together and landed in formation on the beach.

Panorama of a few of the tourists at Whitehaven. Bit wonky as Top Shelf wouldn't stay still for me. If you have very good eyesight you may be able to see 5 red helicopters on the beach.

Panorama of a few of the tourists at Whitehaven. Bit wonky as Top Shelf wouldn’t stay still for me. If you have very good eyesight you may be able to see 5 red helicopters on the beach.

By 4.30pm they’d all gone leaving us and 3 other yachts in peace for the night. We put out a stern anchor to the beach to prevent any rolling from the swell, cooked a delicious meal then sat in the cockpit for hours listening to beautiful music, staring at the sky, counting the shooting stars and sipping a chilled semillon. I hope this evening will remain in my memory for many years to come.

To see our photos from Hill Inlet and Whitehaven CLICK HERE.

Tuesday

I loved it so much here at Whitehaven that I momentarily considered suggesting to Steve that we stay here another night – then I remembered the tourists!! No, they didn’t fit into my idea of tranquility, and sure enough by 8.15am there were already 3 seaplanes landed, disgorging tourists onto my beach. Time to leave.

Our morning constitutional on Whitehaven Beach, before the tourists arrive.

Our morning constitutional on Whitehaven Beach, before the tourists arrive.

This time it’s Solway Pass, between Whitsunday and Hazelwood islands, to be traversed, but we’re getting pretty good at these narrow passes now. Even so with all conditions on our side, and motoring, the swirling waters swept us off course a few times. Once through up went the sails for a gentle, pleasant sail northwards through Fitzalan Pass to Henning Island where we picked up a buoy. Just short of Henning we had a near-catastrophe. We were running with the wind, which means the mainsail was nearly at right angles to the boat  Steve, on the tiller, looked down to start the motor in preparation for mooring when the wind suddenly flipped the sail right across the boat to the other side where I was in the process of sitting back up after leaning over the side to rinse a bucket. It hit the top of my head – if I’d been any higher up we both shudder to think of the consequences. Accidents happen in split seconds.

That set the tone for the next few hours. The wind got up and made the Henning Island mooring uncomfortable, not that my headache and I had any interest in exploring. We dropped the mooring buoy and headed to Beach 25 (yep, that’s its name)  just across the passage and a bit closer to Hamilton Island where we want to go tomorrow for reprovisioning. It was a hasty move as we were both still stressed from the ‘incident’ and it wasn’t until we were half way there that I took a good look at the chart – dangerous reef and very shallow water all around it. Sh*t! We carefully navigated in, anchored, then decided it was too swelly and potentially shallow here too, so moved again to Gulnare Inlet. Took the short-cut through a very narrow channel of ‘a bit deeper’ water between rocks and reefs before negotiating our way into this beautifully protected and calm, but very shallow at dead low tide (which it now was) inlet.

Once safely anchored the remaining alcoholhic beverages on board disappeared rapidly, but we did enjoy a beautiful evening.

27-28 Sept: Thomas Island to Lindeman Island

27th Sept

Had a lousy sleep last night – we may have been out of the current, but we were so shallow that the swell became waves under us. At low tide it was like being on a roller coaster – maybe not that bad, but for a couple of hours until the tide came in a bit we were miserable campers..
Decided to move on to Thomas Island. This is in the Lindeman Islands National Parks group.

To make the most of the ESE winds we came up the eastern side of Thomas. The seas were choppy, and while we made really good time, averaging 4.5kn, it wasn’t a pleasant sail. Just off the northern tip of Thomas Is there’s a small island, Dead Dog Island and just off that a huge rock called Fairlight Rock. Our route went between them. The book did say to watch out for ‘overfalls’ when the current is maximum, which it was … We went through the gap very fast! The swell was about 2 – 3 meters, breaking waves to the side of us, and we were being swept towards the rock. Fortunately just before we entered the pass Steve put the motor on and made sure we had control. We were relieved when that was behind us.

Our journey finished at ‘Naked Lady Beach’ ( true, that is its name). Around low tide we went ashore with oyster knife and bucket. Tonight for dinner I had four dozen black-lip oysters gently sautéed in coconut oil with a dash of tamari – heaven!

The very pretty Naked Lady Beach on Thomas Island.

The very pretty Naked Lady Beach on Thomas Island.

28th Sept

For an hour or so around low tide the boat rolled very uncomfortably – unfortunately this was just before dawn, so we both started the day less perky than usual. Fortunately it only got better from there on.
The book mentioned you could walk across the island from Naked Lady Beach. This little bay has to be the prettiest we’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot. We found the path and followed it through mangroves, melaleucas, grass trees and finally coming out to a tiny, rocky bay with a pumice-stone beach. It was so picturesque. Thoughtful previous visitors had constructed a driftwood lean-to giving great shade. They must have been builders – it was so well constructed using only driftwood and rocks. We sat in the shade under it for a while watching the crystal clear water lapping the rocks with the brilliant turquoise ocean beyond. It was pretty close to a spiritual experience.

Time to meditate, at our secret bay.

Time to meditate, at our secret bay.

This driftwood lean-to was fabulous to sit in the shade and look at the ocean.

This driftwood lean-to was fabulous to sit in the shade and look at the ocean.

To view more photos from our time at Thomas Island CLICK HERE.

Back to the boat we had some lunch and got ready to sail, catching the ebbing tide north again. Burning Point on Shaw Island was our destination. The sailing started very slowly with light winds, so light we motor-sailed for half an hour. Once we changed direction and cleared the island we made good time just sailing. A change of wind direction though meant our chosen anchorage wasn’t the best. A quick look at the book and we decided on Plantation Bay on Lindeman Island instead – good decision! It’s a very calm anchorage – no rocking and rolling. There’s just us and a catamaran here.

Full moon tonight – always spectacular when viewed from the cockpit of a yacht.

Full moon over Lindeman Island.

Full moon over Lindeman Island.

23-24 Sept: Brampton Island

23rd Sept
Quiet day today with only snorkelling just before low tide planned. The channel between Brampton and Carlisle has a central reef. I donned my stinger suit (a sight to behold!), Steve put on his wetsuit and off we went in the tender. The tide was so low we needed to go around Pelican Island to get to the channel. Steve’s snorkelling gear was a new purchase but took no time at all to get used to it. There was a lot of reedy sea grass growing, apparently smothering some of the coral bommies. We found a few not so badly affected and enjoyed seeing a few fish, some pretty corals, lots of sea slugs and quite a few sea urchins. A pleasant snorkel, but nothing to write home about.

24th Sept

Today we ‘do’ the walks.
Despite the circuit track apparently being closed indefinitely due to lack of maintenance we continued on. There were a couple of places where we had to scramble under or over fallen trees, but on the whole it was a well-constructed track that hadn’t suffered much from the neglect. We checked out Oyster and Dinghy Bays on the southern side for future reference, being anchorages in a northerly and climbed to Brampton Peak. All up a walk of around 14km.
We both voted it to be one of the best we’ve ever done. It had everything – thick rainforest, glades of lime-green strappy calves tongue, maidenhair ferns in the gullies, grass trees covering the slopes and beautiful big old hoop pines which are favoured by the screeching sulphur-crested cockatoos, standing sentinel over the southern bays.

Dinghy Bay, Brampton Island. Taken during our bushwalk on the Circuit Track.

Dinghy Bay, Brampton Island. Taken during our bushwalk on the Circuit Track.

But the real highlight of the walk was the butterflies – thousands of blue tiger butterflies all around us as we walked. We could have been walking through a butterfly enclosure there were so many of them.

Blue tiger butterflies. There were clouds of these pretty butterflies surrounding us on our walk.

Blue tiger butterflies. There were clouds of these pretty butterflies surrounding us on our walk.

The climb to the peak was tough – a few hundred meters up over 2 km with lots of switchbacks. The views from the two lookouts were worth the effort – and we got enough internet cover to speak with our children.

The passage between Brampton and Carlisle at low tide. Taken from Brampton Peak.

The passage between Brampton and Carlisle at low tide. Taken from Brampton Peak. Note the disused airport runway.

At sundowners Ken and Ingrid from the ‘trailer tri’ On the Wing came over and shared stories about anchorages and boats.

To see more photos from this beautiful island and our walk CLICK HERE.

21st Sept: Mackay to Newry Island

We motored out of Mackay Harbour this morning at 6.30am – we left early to get as much assistance from the ebbing tide as we could. The winds were so light to start with that we motor-sailed for the first hour – quite a change from yesterday’s winds. Our track took us parallel to the coast passing Slade Pt, Dolphin Heads, Cape Hillsborough, Smally’s Beach, Seaforth. These are all locations we know well from our years living in Mackay and camping with the children.

The wind eventually settled into a gentle 10kn southeasterly accompanied by a 1/2 to 1 metre swell. The sailing was quite comfortable despite the occasional annoying jibe caused by the following wind. We breakfasted and snacked as we sailed, finally dropping anchor in a nice protected bay on the western side of Outer Newry Island. The 26nm trip took us 7 hours averaging 3.6kn. Two dolphins met us at the entrance to the bay and followed us to our anchorage – a lovely welcome after a long day.

A peaceful anchorage. Top Shelf in the foreground.

A peaceful anchorage. Top Shelf in the foreground.

We went ashore in the tender to do the walk to the other side of the island. Outer Newry Island is one of 9 islands in this National Park. As with most of the National Parks we’ve visited the facilities, while basic, are very good. The walk was only 400m one way and led us first to a picnic area with a fisherman’s hut that has been there for 30-odd years, in good repair and still well used. From there it led through eucalypts and flowering grass trees to a stony-beach bay on the ocean side.

Denise after walking across Outer Newry Island.

Denise after walking across Outer Newry Island.

A nearly full water tank beside the fisherman’s hut was cause for celebration! Fresh water is very precious when sailing so Steve returned after our walk to fill the solar shower for a nice hot, fresh-water shower tomorrow.

Who says you don't get exercise when boating?

Who says you don’t get exercise when boating?

The forecast for tonight is calm – as I write this the boat is gently rocking. I’m anticipating an excellent night’s sleep.
To view the photos from today CLICK HERE.

Day 9: Noahs Beach to The Lions Den

15th June, 2015

It rained last night, at times quite heavily. We were snug and dry in the rooftop tent, but it meant we had a wet tent to pack up – and the ground was muddy! Anyway after brekkie we packed up, went for another walk along the beach, then drove back a couple of K to do the Marrja Botanical walk.

When you're up this way be sure you do this excellent walk.

When you’re up this way be sure you do this excellent walk.

Sheltered from above by the fan palm. Excellent boardwalk with lots of informational signage.

Sheltered from above by the fan palm. Excellent boardwalk with lots of informational signage.

This was truly fascinating as it took us from rainforest, across Oliver Creek and immediately we were in mangroves. I didn’t realise there were so many different types of mangrove. The explanatory signs along the boardwalk made it a very interesting walk. Well done National Parks!

On to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the sea – stunning scenery.
The Bloomfield Track begins just north of Cape Trib. The road follows an ancient aboriginal walking track and has quite a chequered history as environmentalists fought to have its construction stopped for fear of the effect it would have on the coral reef just off the coast. Nevertheless it went ahead and became infamous as a slippery dirt road with very steep ascents, descents and creek crossings – a challenge for 4WD enthusiasts. So it was with some trepidation that we began this section.

The beginning of the Bloomfield Track is the beginning of many kilometers of dirt roads over the next few weeks.

The beginning of the Bloomfield Track is the beginning of many kilometers of dirt roads over the next few weeks.

It wasn’t long before the tyre pressures were reduced and the car put into low lock. We’d timed the creek crossing for low tide when the creek would be lowest but with a firm rocky bottom it wasn’t too much of a challenge. No argument, the ascents and descents were very steep, but the worst ones had been concreted which helped. It took some expertise to drive it, but I reckon we’ve been on worse.

It wasn't long before we came to our first river crossing; the first of many.

It wasn’t long before we came to our first river crossing; the first of many.

The bitumen began at Wujal Wujal where we stopped to look in the community art gallery and to have some lunch. A diversion to the Bloomfield Falls was well worth it – thunderous falls into a big, wide river – very picturesque.

The Bloomfield Falls - breathtaking! I can't imagine what they'd be like in the wet season.

The Bloomfield Falls – breathtaking! I can’t imagine what they’d be like in the wet season.

Not much further on we arrived at our destination for the night – The Lions Den Hotel – an historic and quite quirky hotel that has camping behind it. Dinner of barramundi and chips in the pub tonight.

Enjoying a well-earnt drink at The Lions Den bar.

Enjoying a well-earnt drink at The Lions Den bar.

To see other photos from our lovely drive today CLICK HERE.

Day 2: Yamba to Iluka

Mother’s Day! If I can’t be with my beautiful children today (which I can’t) then here is the next best place to be. The weather is perfect and the river looks magic. High tide isn’t until about midday, so we had the morning to fill in. We went for a lovely walk, about 5K, to the end of the breakwater and back again. Nothing quite means sailing more than dolphins frolicking in the waves – and they were there aplenty, if not very photogenic!

Lovely views of the Yamba boat harbour on our walk out to the breakwater.

Lovely views of the Yamba boat harbour on our walk out to the breakwater.

Mid-morning we rigged – hmmm bit rusty – thankfully Steve thinks out every step carefully as we go and the mast went up without a hitch. The boat ramp was pretty average – no ramp pontoon, and no easy place to pull her ashore once in the water (so we can board) makes life difficult. However we managed and pulled her over to a nearby jetty where we tied her up before heading to the marina coffee shop for a well-deserved coffee.

Then off we set! Yay – on the water again! Not far to go today – 2.25 nm to be exact, which took us all of 50 minutes motoring. There’s an artificial ‘wall’ in the middle of the river which is only just above water level – you have to be on the ball following the navigation aids and charts to go between the two towns.

Iluka is another fishing village, as is Yamba. The fishing trawlers were all moored over in one section of the marina, with the yachts anchored randomly within the marina walls. However, for we lucky ones who can pull up our keel, there’s a nice new pontoon with mooring available for at least 6 vessels in about 1 meter of water. I love being able to just step off  the boat!

Moored securely for the night at Iluka

Moored securely for the night at Iluka

The biggest surprise was the pirate ship anchored in front of us as we came in! Turns out it is the Notorious, a replica of a 15th century caravel which has been handcrafted over 10 years by its owners. The builder was inspired by the legend (or history) of a sunken Portugese ship which had been visible until the mid 18th century off the coast in Victoria near where he lives.

The caravel, Notorious.

The caravel, Notorious.

As it was still early afternoon we went for another walk around the foreshore along the river. Lovely homes, lovely parks, great caravan park with river frontage and a fabulous walkway – a credit to the local council. There’s also a World Heritage Listed walk around the headland which takes about 3 hours return, but after our walk this morning we weren’t up for it – next time!
Back to Top Shelf, cook a BBQ for dinner on our Magma BBQ which is attached to the back of the boat and then off to bed for an early night.

BBQ at sunset. Iluka

BBQ at sunset. Iluka

 

This fabulous protected harbour at Iluka is just perfect for us. Top Shelf is on the pontoon. Notorious, the caravel, is anchored inside the walls.

This fabulous protected harbour at Iluka is just perfect for us. Top Shelf is on the pontoon. Notorious, the caravel, is anchored inside the walls.

For more photos from todays adventure click HERE

 

Pugsley is on guard protecting us from pirates at Iluka

Pugsley is on guard protecting us from pirates at Iluka

Days 5 & 6: Robinson Gorge

Saturday 25th

We decided to do the two other walks today, one this morning to Shepherds Peak and one this afternoon to the Lookout then spend tomorrow doing nothing all day. Sounds good.

The steep climb up Shepherds Peak was worth every one of the many calories expended getting there.

The steep climb up Shepherds Peak was worth every one of the many calories expended getting there.

Shepherds Peak is a sandstone plateau about 2K from camp. An easy walk to get there, but quite steep to climb to the plateau. Listed as a Class 4 walk it was tricky in places and demanded full attention. Steve stepped on a loose rock crossing one of the crevasses and took a tumble sustaining only hurt pride fortunately as a huge boulder blocked his descent down to the bottom! On top the views over the park and gorge is excellent – 360 degrees. Again with sheer cliff edges and lots of crevasses it’s not a place you’d take children.
We spent quite a while exploring the plateau and taking photos – every view was so rewarding. AND we got phone cover so checked emails and phoned family.

Shepherds Peak. Can you see us on the far cliff?

Shepherds Peak. Can you see us on the far cliff?

Back to camp for lunch.
Robinson Gorge Lookout late afternoon. We toyed with taking wine and having wine o’clock watching the sun set over the gorge, but with a 2K walk back to camp in the dusk we thought we might be cutting it too fine. And there was also the access to the gorge here which we thought we’d like to do. So off we set sans vino (mixing my languages there maybe).
Again wonderful views and well worth every step. The gorge floor looked so interesting and inviting to explore. We took a look at the access to the gorge and decided we’d really like to spend lots of unhurried time exploring down there so put it off until tomorrow.

The northern end of Robinson Gorge.

The northern end of Robinson Gorge.

Back to camp for the usual – campfire, wine, chat, dinner.
We’ve been very lucky with the weather – chilly mornings and evenings but glorious cloud-free days. The sky at night is just a million stars – even a shooting star!

One worker; one supervisor! Campsite BBQ at Robinson Gorge

One worker; one supervisor! Campsite BBQ at Robinson Gorge

To see more photos from this section of the trip click HERE.

Sunday 26th

After breakfast we all headed back to Robinson Gorge Lookout to explore the gorge floor. This is the only place you can get down the gorge cliffs. Needless to say it was very steep and we went down much of it backwards. However National Parks has cut foot-holes into the sheerest parts of the sandstone to make it do-able. There was also a steep sandy part too that we slid down – going up this bit was tough.

Conveniently carved stone steps. Photos always make it look less steep that it actually is!

Conveniently carved stone steps. Photos always make it look less steep that it actually is!

On the gorge floor it felt like we were in the Journey to the Centre of the Earth where the plants were unique and it felt so different from ‘up there’. We scrambled over rocks and logs and got to the water’s edge and followed it, with lots more scrambling and climbing for a while before heading back. The climb back up the cliff, while strenuous, didn’t seem as difficult as the climb down, apart from the loose sand section.

The gorge floor. Challenging to explore.

The gorge floor. Challenging to explore.

We were back in plenty of time to shower before lunch, then more relaxing. Played 500; chicks vs cockrels, with chicks winning convincingly, naturally.
The boys organised another fantastic campfire to cook our meal on and relax by until bedtime.

To see more photos from this section of the trip click HERE.

Days 2 & 3: Isla to Lake Murphy

Still in bed when we got the call from Trish and Bryan, who had setup their camper trailer at Lake Murphy yesterday, saying they were on their way over. When they arrived we took a good look at this lovely gorge and walked out to the lookout along a ridge that seemed to protrude into the gorge. This gave us amazing views of the gorge on both sides. I can highly recommend this spot to travellers as it’s only 1.3K off the highway.

Isla Gorge information board.

Isla Gorge information board.

Bryan wanted to refuel so we all set off for Theodore, then took a scenic drive around to the west of the highway, past Flagstaff Hill at the western end of Isla Gorge National Park, to end at Lake Murphy Conservation Area.

Delightful drive between Theodore and Lake Murphy.

Delightful drive between Theodore and Lake Murphy.

As I’d been the one who planned the trip, Trish and Bryan felt they’d been sold a pup when there was no water to be seen in the Lake, particularly as they were camped here for 3 nights. I knew that, must have neglected to tell them. They insisted that we should have the joy of walking to the ‘lakes’ edge. Yep, totally covered in waist-high reeds or something.

A lake of weeds.

A lake of weeds.

Back to the campsite for wine o’clock, a great campfire and a catch-up.
Total driven: 140K

Sunset - note sun on tops of trees.

Sunset – note sun on tops of trees.

April 23rd

Guess where we are?

Guess where we are?

After a lovely slow start to the day we set off on the 4K circuit walk mid-afternoon. The plant-life in the park area is quite different to the countryside we have travelled through with Dawson Palms and River Red Gums predominating. A pleasant walk.
The campsite here is excellent. Very large campsites each with a wood fire and picnic table cordoned off from the next by logs. Grassy and well maintained with clean drop toilets and tank water. No other campers here during our stay – they don’t know what they’re missing!
Another campfire tonight, campfire talk and off to bed.

Setting off on the circuit walk.

Setting off on the circuit walk.

To see more photos from this section of the trip click HERE.

Day 14: Wingello to Carrington Falls

wingello_sf

Campsite at Wingello SF

This campsite is quite large, in a clearing amongst the pine trees. The area is large, reasonably level and there’s a toilet but no other facilities. The State Forest has many trail bike rides through it. These are well signposted so we did the 6k circuit this morning – walking, not cycling! Not much in the way of views, being all pine trees, but the bird life on the edges was pretty good and we found a few wombat holes – first I’ve ever seen. They’re quite big, as you’d expect, and very well constructed.

bushwalking

Bushwalking the bike trails.

This wombat thinks you can't see his hole.

This wombat thinks you can’t see his hole.

See! Wombat hole!

See! Wombat hole!

Off to Bowral then, which is the home of Don Bradman, the greatest cricketer of all time (apparently). We went to the Bradman Museum which is particularly well presented and interesting enough to hold the attention of a  ‘minimally interested in cricket’ person (AKA me) for at least a couple of hours. Well done Bowral. Then we did one of the tourist drives recommended by the lady at the Tourist Information Centre. We’ve found these Information Centres to be excellent. Always lovely helpful staff with lots of brochures highlighting what’s best to see in the district, and so far they’ve been happy for us to fill our water tank from their taps. Which reminds me, this district is the first in Australia to ban the disposable water bottles.

bradman statue

Two greats! At Bradman Oval

The Tourist Drive was very good, taking us past a large dam and through pretty little villages. Carrington Falls is on the route and was very impressive, and only about 50 metres off the road (no having to walk many K’s to see a waterfall!) By the time we reached these falls it was getting late so we sought out the camping ground, which is only intended for tent camping – ie not strictly legal for us to stay. There’s a toilet and you are supposed to book and pay for camping. We settled down for another peaceful night with just us and a million stars. Bliss.

carrington falls

Beautiful Carrington Falls, part of Kangaroo River. Budderoo National Park

Day 5: Dangars Gorge

salisbury waters

Early breakfast followed by bushwalking. We began with the idea we might go as far as Salisbury Waters which was the full walk – an out and back. We stopped at all the lookouts on the way, did the side trips (McDirty’s, Sarum Hill, The Falls, Dangar Falls – the gorges certainly are spectacular, the walking tracks taking us along the cliff edges all the way. However they’ve not had much rain here lately and most waterfalls were either dry, or just a trickle. The last 2K to Salisbury Waters involved a 400m descent, which means a 400m ascent to return, and by that time we knew we wouldn’t see too much water in the river anyway, and the track was in quite poor condition – no one minded not doing it.
Generally the track was OK, much of it was very stoney and difficult to walk on and, in some sections through the bush, particularly to the side gorges, the track was quite faint and difficult to discern. Signage could be improved too.
In total we walked 16.3K – pretty good!

gorge view

Spectacular views the whole walk.

mihi_gorge

At the brink – of Mihi Gorge

The campsite is fair – pretty good actually considering it’s free! Each site is cleared and has its own fire pit, with wood provided, and our site had a picnic table. The sites aren’t level. There’s a tap with ‘boil before consuming’ noted and a long-drop toilet which was clean. No phone/internet.

We had a pleasant evening resting our weary legs around a lovely campfire where we barbecued our dinner. The kangaroos, with joeys in pouch, came quite close to our camps – as did possums that had a dark tail – haven’t seen them before.

dangars gorge campsite

Sunset at Dangar’s Gorge campsite