Southern Explorer 2024

We sold Priscilla, our 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter at the end of 2022 and ordered Harvey another 4×4, this time an Explorer motorhome built on a Toyota Hilux base, taking delivery in August 2023. This is to be our first ‘big’ trip since 2022 -we’ve missed that wonderful feeling of freedom that a long trip with not much planned gives us. 

Home to the Spirit

13th January – 1st February 2024

Weighing Harvey fully loaded as we leave for Tasmania.

Our first stop was the public weigh-bridge at Caboolture. Our total weight came in with a bit to spare – that was a big relief! Tasmania, here we come.

Night 1 was spent with our friends Bryan and Trish in Boonah. Next morning we all breakfasted at our ‘regular’ in Boonah before we farewelled Bryan and Trish, then dropped in on my aunt in Warwick. About 2.30pm we arrived at Girraween National Park.

On went the packs and the boots for the hike to Castle Rock. The huge granite rocks of this area are amazing. 

Trail to Castle Rock. Huge granite rocks everywhere.

Monday 15th Jan

We’re heading off today but not before doing another bush walk. We went the opposite direction to yesterday’s hike following Bald Rock Creek to its junction with Ramsay Creek where their waters will flow on to eventually join the Murray Darling system. 

Pretty waterfall cascading over the granite slabs.

It was easy, flat walking with lots of delightful little waterfalls and beautiful spots to stop for a dip in the crystal clear waters. Lazy goannas soaking up the sunshine, little lizards scurrying away on their back legs  with head raised, several red-necked wallabies and some Eastern Greys and countless birds and flowers made for an enjoyable hike. About 6km round trip. 

Eastern Grey Kangaroos

Leaving Queensland a productive morning was spent solving the world’s problems in Tenterfield with our friends and previous travel companions Pammy and Milton before continuing the journey to camp in the rain at Mother of Ducks Lagoon outside Guyra, with about 20 caravans! 

Tuesday 16th Jan

Still drizzling and cold this morning we were happy to get back on the road early heading straight to Tamworth to our favourite cafe, Rubys, for brunch. Once off the New England Tableland the temperatures once again rose to the low 30s despite the cloud cover and we had an easy drive to The Black Stump Rest Area for a peaceful night as its only residents. 

On Wednesday when we stopped at Molong for lunch the rain started and got heavier and heavier, particularly during the 15 minutes Steve had to stand outside filling the water tank. On the rain radar it showed a break coming up so we continued on to Bendick Murrell Rest Area south of Cowra for the night – another peaceful night on our own. 

Thursday 18th Jan

The rain cleared this morning to a beautiful day. The drive through Young for a coffee at the cafe, Tarcutta for brunch and Holbrook before arriving at Gadds Bend for the night is one of the prettiest drives we’ve done. The rolling hills, getting higher the further south we travelled were all a deep emerald green, while the black Angus cattle and the white sheep contrasted so beautifully against the background. 

Perfect reflections in the Murray River as seen from Mt Alfred.

Gadds Bend, on the Murray River just over the border into Victoria, must be one the the best free camps we’ve stayed in. We first stayed here in 2017 and it hasn’t changed at all. It’s a very big, grassed area along about 200 meters of the river which is lined with big River Red Gums reflecting perfectly in the swiftly flowing waters.
Another perfect, peaceful night.

At the picnic area, Mt Alfred. Note the object in the wedge-tailed eagle’s claw.

Friday 19th Jan

Today we head to Kosciuszko National Park for some walking. Wow that road up the mountain sure is steep and winding. As the passenger I had wonderful views of the mountains, gullies and trees. It was interesting watching as the flora changed from thick rain forest-type vegetation to alpine vegetation as we drove higher. The line markings on the road changed from white to yellow and tall guide posts with reflectors at the top signaled the beginning of the snow line – as well as pull-over bays for drivers to fit chains to their tyres. No snow today, but the temperature was dropping.

First stop the Information Centre at Jindabyne where we recall an excellent cafe from our previous visit. We also bought a 2-day Park Pass for $34 then headed out to Sawpit Creek to do the 6+km walk to the waterfall. A pleasant walk with a stunning waterfall. 

Sawpit Creek Waterfall

Then off to Island Bend campground – our favourite from our last visit 7 years ago. Surprise, surprise it’s changed! Back then we had a lovely camp on the grass right beside the river, and we were the only ones there. Now they have campsites starting from right up on the main road all the way down the hill, and they were nearly all full (OK it is Friday night during the school holidays). To get to our previous camp it’s noted to be 4-wheel-drive only. We walked it – very big holes and washouts! And the grass camping is only for tents. We did find a spot up the hill a bit and had a good night, but it was very disappointing. 

Saturday 20th Jan

Tell me again why we’re both smiling!

Today we walked the Main Range Circuit track to Mt Kosciuszko and the Summit Track to complete the circuit- 23km! It really is a stunning walk through alpine country. It starts at Charlotte Pass and immediately heads downhill fairly steeply for about a kilometre to the Snowy River which, due to recent rains, is flowing swiftly and is relatively wide. This has to be crossed on stones of various sizes and width and stability. With our big packs weighing about 10kg I found it a very daunting crossing, which I’m grateful to say I crossed without incident. From there the track just went up, and up and up.

Yes Steve that is our path. Keep going. Mt Kosciuszko in the too far distance to see just yet!
Steve on the Main Range hike to Mt Kosciuszko.
Lunch break overlooking Lake Alpina. Main Range hike to Mt Kosciuszko.

It took about 4.5 hours to finally reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest mountain. The Main Range section is stunningly beautiful. The surrounding ranges fade off into the distance as we walked along mountain-sides overlooking pristine crater lakes. 

The downside was the track construction. Some of the Main Range track was natural surface, excellent to walk on, large sections were granite paving stones of different sizes and surfaces which was not only very hard underfoot but dangerous to not be watching every footfall for fear of tripping. There was one section about 3km long of raised steel boardwalk – bliss. The Summit Track, to complete the circuit back to Charlotte Pass, was predominantly large stony gravel, very difficult to walk on. 

On the top of Australia

Finishing the walk about 6pm, both exhausted, we decided not to go back to Island Bend but stayed at a picnic area beside Sawpit Creek. An early night tonight.

Sunday 21st, Monday 22nd, Tuesday 23rd

After a slow start to Sunday the drive to Corryong where we camped at the recreation grounds alongside the golf course, was short.

Horrie the Wog Dog was befriended in the Middle East during WWII where he reputably had extraordinary hearing, alerting the troops to enemy aircraft. He was smuggled back into Australia and lived out his remaining years in Corryong. Note he’s wearing his Corporals uniform.

Monday, with a little more energy, we walked around town where the “tourist drawcard” is the local lad Jack Riley who is thought to be the drover referred to in the Banjo Paterson poem The Man From Snowy River. The 6km walk included summiting Playse Lookout. 

The Man from Snowy River

Next morning, on the way to Tallangatta, we popped in to see the 77m double storied ‘trestle bridge’ over Boggy Creek, a part of the old railway line which had carried supplies for the Snowy Mountain Scheme since 1887, closing down in 1978. Discovering this was part of the Victorian High Country Rail Trail we decided to walk 10km of it.  Sleep wasn’t a problem tonight – we’re both exhausted!

Steve on the trestle bridge.

Wednesday 24th, Thursday 25th

Before leaving Tallangatta, a drive to the lookout above gave us a magnificent view of this pretty little town nestled along the Hume Dam. It’s known as ‘the town that moved’ –  in 1956 all timber homes moved 8km west, while the brick homes, churches, etc were flooded when Lake Hume was dammed. 

A beautifully scenic drive through the Kinglake Valley to Tolmie was rewarded with cool temperatures at last, though rain was threatened. The Tolmie Recreation ground surrounded by tall eucalypts made a quiet, restful camp for two nights. It rained all day Thursday and into the night.

Friday 26th, Saturday 27th, Sunday 28th

Australia Day, we followed the unsealed Murrindindi Road through State Forest tall trees looking for a good hike to do that wasn’t busy with long-weekend campers. Myrtle Gully Trail was the chosen one though it turned out to be in disrepair with many fallen trees across the track. Still it was just the hike we needed – 11km through the most glorious tall tree forest (lots of Myrtles and Soft Fern Trees), and what better activity to do on Australia Day than being out enjoying the beautiful Aussie bush.

Walking amongst the majestic Tree Ferns
I’m pleased we weren’t on the track when this came down!

Onward to Toolangi Recreation Reserve for two nights. 

Leaving Toolangi and the beautiful tall tree forests behind we descended into bushland, then cattle country then vineyards as far as the eye could see. Lunch was at Lilydale – thought it was a village but it may as well be a suburb of Melbourne. We skirted around Melbourne to stay the night at the Lang Lang Showgrounds. Grassy, quiet, lots of birds – that’s about it.

Monday 29th, Tuesday 30th, Wednesday 31st

Long lunches, cocktails, a walk, and lots of chatter made for a very pleasant and relaxing time with Maree and Carl in Balnarring, Mornington Peninsula.

Thursday 1st February

The drive down the western side of Mornington Peninsula to Sorrento reminded us what a pretty area this is with so many things to do and places to explore. From Sorrento the car ferry took us to Queenscliff then it was a short drive on to Corio Bay in Geelong, the departure point for the Spirit of Tasmania. A drive down to see where we’d have to come first thing tomorrow morning to board the Spirit proved to be a good move! This evening’s Spirit was in dock getting ready to sail, so we stayed to watch it go, then spoke with some other RVers who told us they were staying (camping) in the queue overnight, all ready to go tomorrow morning. So, that’s what we did too! No stress for us tomorrow morning.

6.30am and ready to board the Spirit of Tasmania

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