Days 22, 23: Canberra to Trakka

yaralumla bay

Breakfast at Yaralumla Bay.

Wednesday: Unfortunately that leak from the main hatch didn’t go away, so we organised to come back to Trakka for them to take another look at it. From Canberra to Sydney was just a transfer. Both of us are fighting a cold today and not feeling flash. We drove a few hours, rested a few hours, drove some more, rested some more and arrived at Trakka about 7pm where we spent the night.
There was another Jabiru here when we arrived, with a couple staying the night in it. Allan and Keiran are from the Sunshine Coast and have brought their Jabiru down for its annual service. We had a chat with them and look forward to meeting up with them to do some trips together in the future.

Thursday: Well it’s nighttime now and we’re still here. The leak is complicated, but looks like it’s fixed now – just need to stay here overnight to make sure it cures.

Day 21: Great Divide 4WD training

We met Tony last night when we arrived. He showed us the facilities and left us to it. Great Divide 4WD is owned by Vic Widdstrum. He runs 4WD training weekends, tag along tours and does the occasional one-on-one for people such as ourselves who have 4WD experience but need refreshing, or have a different vehicle. The facility is a 240 acre property of mostly natural bush where he has made tracks and ‘challenges’. The building provides for bunk-style accommodation, a kitchen and a very good teaching facility, as well as being able to camp outside. There’s no one else for goodness only knows how far. Last night we went for a walk along some of the tracks, viewed them with trepidation thinking of how we’ll be driving them today, and then spent a lovely evening in total serenity listening to the birds and watching the kangaroos grazing.

Well today was scary, exciting, thrilling and most of all, lots of fun. Priscilla acquitted herself admirably, impressing our instructor whose experience was primarily with the usual 4WD’s. Vic had spent a day with the Trakka team previously so left Tony a bunch of notes. We finished up about 4pm filled with confidence and admiration for what Priscilla could achieve, and with great plans for where we could take her next.

Click on this sentence to take you to a video of the day. Do watch it – it’s great!

creek crossing

Priscilla felt like a bit of a dip!

Back to Canberra where we were booked to have dinner with James, Rachael, Kimberley and Matt at the Szechuan Red Chilli Restaurant. Had a lovely evening enjoying their company, and drank a little too much white wine trying to stop my mouth from burning.
Back to Yarralumla free camp tonight.

Day 20: Canberra to Braidwood

James and Rachael are back at work today, so we decided to go to the National Museum. We left the free camp early and had breakfast near the museum. We both really loved the Museum. I did the guided tour – well worthwhile for the overview and understanding the concepts they are wanting to portray. It’s way too interesting for me to be able to explain it well to you here. I highly recommend spending a day there. To quote the museum’s blurb, “The National Museum of Australia is a social history museum. We explore the land, nation and people of Australia. We focus on Indigenous histories and cultures, histories of European settlement and our interaction with the environment.” I think you’ll see by the pictures below how true this is.
We had lunch in their cafe (not as good as the Library’s lunch).

museum entrance

This is the main entrance to the architecturally quirky National Museum of Australia.

saw doctors wagon

The Saw Doctor’s wagon.

This afternoon we’re at Braidwood. We’ve booked in to do a 4WD course tomorrow and they have very kindly allowed us to stay at the property. More about that tomorrow.

Days 17, 18, 19: Canberra

Friday: At last – the whole reason for the trip -> to welcome Rachael to Australia and introduce Priscilla to Rachael and James. Once more we caught the bus into the city from Epic and met Rachael at the National Library for lunch (delicious!). The Library had a display about Australia during WWI. It was very good. Some of the recruiting posters were very powerful – I nearly signed up there and then! Must have been hard the men who didn’t enlist. Interesting that compulsory conscription went to a referendum twice, and lost both times. We left Rachael to keep on working and did a bit of shopping.

That evening when James got home from work we went out for dinner at The Loading Dock and had a lovely evening together.


Dinner with two very special people.

Saturday: The farmers markets are on in the Epic showgrounds every Saturday morning. We had a lovely wander through them, bought some organic meat and fruit and veges, and some black garlic (interesting) and had breakfast there, before driving in to the city because we planned to do a bike ride with James and Rachael around Lake Burley Griffin on our Bromptons – their first real trial. Unfortunately I can’t say they were a howling success this time – both Steve and I having problems with the gearing. Anyway that is fix-able and we’re still very optimistic about future rides while travelling. The bike path around the Lake is excellent – great views, well maintained – iconic really!
After a shower we wandered in to the city to see the Multicultural Festival. Wow – it’s certainly big, with lots of stalls from just about everywhere. Crowded!!! So much so it wasn’t pleasant. We saw a few dances on the main stage, bought some ethnic food and headed back to James’s for dinner, drinks, chatting and back to Epic for us, rather late.

multicultural festival

Multicultural Festival

Sunday: We left Epic this morning, found a great park right outside James’s unit. Today we’re all lunching with Nicola and her husband, good friends of J and R’s, at Poachers Pantry. Love this place – they have their own smokehouse and delicious smoked meats and fish. Nicola’s mother Pauline was also there – she’d been the principal of an international school in Burma for the last 8 years. Fascinating stories.

Tonight we stayed in a carpark at Yarralumla Bay which is a popular free camp. What can I say – it’s a carpark beside the lake, lots of vanpackers. We spent a quiet night, can’t complain.

Days 15, 16: to Bungendore and Canberra

These two days were mostly ‘transfers’. We took our time driving to Bungendore, stopping for coffee, lunch, etc. Stayed at the Showgrounds in Bungendore – fair enough, old but clean facilities, plenty of level areas, other campers, but not crowded. $20 per night.

Thursday we headed to Canberra and booked into Epic. There’s a very good bus service from Epic into the city so we spent the afternoon wandering around the city, checked out the Craft and Design Centre then back home to get ready for dinner with our friends Brenda, Owen and their daughter Diana and hubby Chris. Over a meal at a Vietnamese restaurant we caught up on a lot of news, not having seen them for many years. Drove back to Epic and settled in for the night.

The camping area is very large, and pretty full – really it’s just a caravan park. The amenities block is clean and costs around $35 a night.

tea cosies2

Aren’t these the coolest tea cosies? at Craft and Design Centre

tea cosie1

If you are feeling generous I’d love it if you made me the yellow chook tea cosy. Seen at Craft and Design Centre.

Day 14: Wingello to Carrington Falls


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 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 13: Umina to Wingello SF

We arrived at Trakka showrooms soon after opening time where they took Priscilla straight in for her repairs. The leaking window and mirror were fixed (mirror replaced with tinted perspex – more practical for our purposes) but the leak in the main hatch couldn’t be replicated. We left after lunch, after buying two Duvalays from them. A Duvalay is a fancy sleeping bag. It has two sheet ‘pockets’ once of which fits a memory foam base, and the top fits a doona, joined together at the base and along one side. We’ve read very good reviews of them and they are convenient and easy to make up.

From the Trakka Showrooms we took the motorway to bypass Sydney, heading towards Bowral. Around Bowral and Mossvale is very pretty, lush, rolling hills with lovely old homes on big properties with massive, manicured gardens – old money!

That evening we spent in the Wingello State Forest, a mature pine forest. We shared a massive area with 2 or 3 others – a quiet night, not disturbed by the many wombats here.

Days 10, 11, 12: Coopernook to Umina Beach

Friday: Stayed put for a day at Coopernook. It’s such a pleasant camping spot on thick grass, with an outlook to grazing cows and the back of a quiet country pub. Steve spent the day playing around the outside of Priscilla working out how to change the tyres and deflate and inflate the tyre pressures. I fiddled with cupboards and drawers and reorganised them. In the afternoon we brought out the fold-up bikes and rode into town for a look around. It was great to do – a nice leisurely way to view a town. We’re getting used to riding them more now too – working out the gears, etc.
The pub was noisy until quite late this evening – must make a point of not staying here on weekends in future.

Distance: 287K
Weather: sunny and hot

Saturday: The Newcastle Caravan and Camping Show is on and we have a list of a few things we want to buy so took the opportunity to go to it.
Left Coopernook at our usual leaving time of around 10am (oh how quickly we’ve fallen into these leisurely ways) arriving in Newcastle around midday. Funny thing on the way – we’d put the venue address into Priscilla’s navigator – straight down the highway until you reach Newcastle. As it so happened my favourite place for oysters, Karuah, is just off the highway. Steve doesn’t eat oysters so wasn’t keen on making the detour but reluctantly agreed, and without touching the navigation Priscilla took us off the highway and into Karuah anyway – already she knows me well!

The show was disappointing – so much smaller than Brisbane’s. We’d looked at places around Newcastle to stay anticipating they’d be shooing us out at 6pm closing time, but we’d seen all there was to see by 2pm, and not found half of what we wanted. The decision was make to keep going to Umina Beach where we’d planned to be tomorrow night anyway, ready for a short drive to Trakka’s factory on Monday.
One great find though was the Great Divide 4WD driver training which is the group that tested the Jabiru at their property outside Braidwood. We’ve decided we’ll spend a day there learning what this little baby can do.

A noisy evening at this magnet for families of pre-teen children – hopefully they’ll all leave tomorrow and Sunday afternoon will be peaceful. Oh dear, I’m beginning to sound like an old grump.

Sunday was much more peaceful. We did some grocery shopping – so convenient to drive your pantry and fridge to the shops! In the afternoon we walked the beach and generally had a relaxing day and evening.

Ocean Beach Holiday Park, Umina Beach. Saturday afternoon.

Ocean Beach Holiday Park, Umina Beach. Saturday afternoon.

Day 9: Laurieton to Coopernook

Distance: 68K
Weather: warm

Mozzies weren’t the only problem yesterday – the 3/4G was very poor too, so we decided to go into Laurieton and sit in a park for a while and get our internet fix, and maybe an occasional coffee and something gooey at the cafe.

Before going in though we checked out the camping areas in Crowdy Bay NP with view to going there tonight. The first was just like a caravan park, even had kerb and channeling and, of course, lots of caravans. The other one was also not appealing as you couldn’t see the beach and the scrub looked like great mozzie breeding grounds – once bitten, twice shy (though it was more than once!)


Breakfast with a view – North Haven

We got a very pleasant surprise in Laurieton when another Trakka Jabiru 4×4 pulled in beside us. Jean-Claude and Veronique purchased theirs about 6 months ago and are building a ‘home base’ in the local area. As soon as that’s built their plans for travelling Australia are similar to ours. We’ve exchanged contacts and hope we’ll share some adventures with them in the future.

jc and steve

Boys and their toys.

We decided to head to Coopernook where we’d stayed on our previous trip – a good, mostly quiet, free camp behind the Coopernook pub where we arrived just on dark.

Day 8: Wollomombi to Laurieton

Distance: 309K
Weather: low 20s
Refuelled: Wauchope – 130.9c/L

After farewelling Bryan and Trish who were heading home we continued southward via Armidale, the pretty and historic Uralla where we stopped for morning tea, Walcha and on to Tia Falls where we stopped for lunch and did the short walk to the falls. These falls are quite impressive with a good flow of water – must be outstanding when the district has had good rainfalls.

tia gorge

All these gorges are quite outstanding.


Tia Falls – not quite so far to walk to see this one.

From here we drove down, and down, and down the range (wish I’d thought to count the number of hairpin bends!), around a 1000 meter drop to Wauchope. This is a drive we both enjoyed, though as the driver at the time I was pretty exhausted by the time we got to sea level.

We decided to stay at the beach tonight so booked into the Diamond Waters Caravan Park, just south of Laurieton and north of Crowdy Bay National Park. This caravan park is at the waters edge and we were allotted a shady site on lush grass just a stone’s throw from the water. Lovely spot – only one problem … MOSQUITOES!! We went for a walk down to the jetty and around the caravan park, which has a lot of permanents in cabins and vans, followed by a quick drink outside before the mozzies chased us in. Spent an unhappy night swatting mozzies that had managed to get into the van.