Travelling Oz…Gin Gin Rest Area and Glass House Mountains photos

Without the photo of the 18th century glass making towers the name doesn’t make much sense. Lt James Cook was looking through a telescope from his ship.

Gin Gin in Queensland should not be confused with Gingin, WA. I find I am elaborately saying Gin Gin as two separate words. In the town some signs wrote it Gingin, so maybe even they are undecided.

We had a slow day of travel yesterday due to extensive roadworks. And we were worried about the busy highway! At one point we had been stopped or travelling very slowly for so long that everyone needed the toilet and the first service station was very busy as it was the first time anyone had been able to pull off the road. We took advantage too.

The Adria appeared briefly on our dealer’s website, no photos but priced at $99,000. I just checked this morning and it has sold already. Karen, the manager, said she turns over the yard full of campers in a month, but that was very quick indeed. A new owner will now have to cope with all of her quirks, sticky window blinds and insect screens, a heater that puts most of it’s heat into the storage area under the bed, a button on the hot water system that stops working and has to be removed and reset, the list goes on. Still, I imagine it looked really nice with the professional cleaning. We watched him working whilst we were in the yard and he even knows how to clean the insect screens, though he said they are very delicate and you have to be careful.

Travelling Oz…Good morning from the Hideaway Hotel, Tiaro, Qld

We enjoyed our day of exploring the Glass Mountains area, but I’ve not yet processed the photos. I don’t think they will be great, but will give a sense of what it is like. Steve Irwin’s Australian Zoo is also in that area but after viewing the website we didn’t feel it was something we needed to do.

In the morning we went to one of the lookout areas and started to climb up to it. I gave up when the steps stopped and it was a matter of scrambling over stones. I just seemed to be losing my balance a bit. Stephen also found the climbing hard going. We had brought lunch with us to enjoy at a viewing point, so we humbly went back to the camper to enjoy it there.

Our next stop was the Visitor Information Centre. We felt self concious putting on masks for this, but were pleasantly surprised to find the volunteers working there were wearing masks.

By then we realised that there was a viewpoint we could drive to, so that is what we did for the rest of the afternoon before returning to the campsite.

Yesterday we decided to make some more progress north. We arrived at a possible overnight camping spot, had lunch, then decided to go further. There was a lot of road noise from the highway, plus we still had energy to tackle driving further on the A1. The M1 has morphed into a two lane road, fortunately it has frequent overtaking lanes and a lot of the time passing is not allowed. I gather it’s a pretty dangerous road and they are trying to tame the wild Queenslanders to follow rules, quite hard I think. There are a lot of road works happening and although we had no stops it allowed us to travel at 80kms, which feels safer. We are hoping the road West from Rockhampton will be a bit less frenetic!

Wikicamps found us a number of places to be overnight, but this little country pub seemed a nice option. They even have pensioneer style meals (smaller and cheaper) as though they’ve seen our sort before. There are fewer people staying here than we’ve seen at other places, so that is nice as well. We are on a bit of a slope, but decided to live with it as the bed is in the correct orientation (higher at the head than the foot) and having the evening meal out meant I didn’t have to try to cook on the angle. We could have levelled up, but it would be our first time in this camper (see how I’ve adjusted to the NSW/QLD language) and I felt a bit nervous.

We are still having mostly cool nights snuggled under the doona, but it was still comfortable to sit outside for our evening meal. We were able to keep an eye on the camper as I had left the windows open and even in this quiet place I was a bit worried.

Travelling Oz…Settling into our new home

Almost ready to travel. We have folding washing baskets of stuff that go on the bed during the day and on our bench seats at night. I got this idea from watching a vanlife video. We are now putting my basket on the bench to travel to cut down the weight on the overhead peak.

Yesterday we didn’t plan to drive all the way to the Glass House Mountains, but our stop on the way (a showgrounds) wasn’t available due to an upcoming event and as I had had a coffee at lunchtime I felt able to continue for another 50 kms even though it was late in the day. We arrived at our new camping area (a sportsground In Beewah) at about 4.15 p.m. This is $20 per night with power, water and nearby flushing toilets. There is a swimming pool that offers cheap showers as well. We had a bit of a battle with Google Maps to find the correct entry (wrong street name, correct instructions), but with help from a local we made it.

Cooking on my lovely three burner cooktop.This cooktop becomes our dressing table at night. With the lid down over the stovetop we have a lot of space.

The drive here was partly on the M1 and partly on the M3 and we may have incurred some road tolls. The licence is still in the dealer’s name until we get back to WA, so I’m sure she will forward the bill to us. I didn’t plan it exactly, but we ended up driving through Brisbane along the river and got to see the places we had been from the perspective of the motorway. It was a nice farewell.

The sink is on the other side of the room and is a really good size. This can also become a bench top with the lid down. The glass covers for the stovetop and sink are stronger glass than we’ve had before and seem to be very good quality.
The bed with some of our stuff on it.
The stove top bench which becomes a dressing table overnight. We also use the cab area for storage of backpacks, etc. overnight. The opening is a pass through, we can’t really use it for getting from the house to the car. I could probably get through in an emergency, but I wouldn’t do it just for fun. In that sense, it’s more like a caravan.

We’ve found that whichever way we go, leaving here and heading west, or going up to Rockhampton, then west, is about the same distance to Mt Isa. Rockhampton offers free camping in the town, which makes it seem traveller friendly, and at the moment that is our preferred option.

For today we want to do some sightseeing. The Glass House Mountains were given that name by Captain Cook as he found it reminded him of his home. The mountains look interesting in photos as they have high points due to volcanic activity thousands of years ago and stand out from the rest of the landscape. I haven’t used my real camera for a while and looking forward to having landscapes to photograph.

Driving at speed can feel a bit ‘floaty’. The camper is much more affected by wind and passing trucks than the Adria. The suspension upgrade also contributes to the ‘float’ as we have a far more comfortable ride. The house box is well protected against jarring shocks, a side effect, the upgrade is necessary for this vehicle to be able to handle the load. We went to a weighbridge first thing yesterday and found we were just within the weight limit. It was reassuring that we still have so much onboard without going over.

I’m looking forward to going on our first gravel road. The Adria couldn’t handle it at all really, we had to creep along and there was no chance of going fast and smoothing out the corrugations. I am hoping for the same experience as the Subaru, that is, we can travel comfortably up to about 60-70kms ph on most gravel roads.

We don’t expect it will have the same beautiful ride experience of Marie and Geoff’s Ford Territory. That has exceptional suspension and we have travelled on a gravel road in the Adria and then been driven on the same road in their car, and it was like being on a completely different road.

We don’t have the upgraded wheels and tires that were on the other Sherwood in the sales yard. Ours look like normal car wheels and tires. Another pointer to not being a fully off road vehicle. So, we won’t be driving on beaches or through deep water crossings or really rough roads that need a very high wheelbase.

Travelling Oz…Moving house

It’s been an incredibly stressful three days of trading in the Adria for a 4WD Suncamper Sherwood. The Adria is a 2018 model and this is a 2017 Toyota Hilux, but we gain about 25,000kms as it’s only done half the 51,000kms of the Adria. I reported that we missed out because someone else signed a contract, but that person pulled out after the weekend and we were next on the list of about five.

Aparently theft here is a problem, so we left these bins outside overnight. Unfortunately, they were still there in the morning.

The differences between a van and a motorhome are large and only our famility with the Winnie has made us at all confident of managing it. The overal build quality of cabinets, stove and sink are much better. On the other hand, the Adria had some lovely features, such as a variety of lighting for different occasions and so many nooks and crannies for storage.

We gain a rangehood and may be able to use our toaster without disabling the smoke alarm as we did in the Adria. That sounds risky, but the flow of air from the kitchen up to the skylight meant even light cooking would set it off.

The cabinets are quite deep, but with a larger sink and a very large stovetop we only gain a little bench space, unless using electrical appliances. Mind you, I’m looking forward to being able to have more than one pot on the stove.

Our first night in the Sherwood was in the dealer’s yard as it took ages to change over the batteries and related electrical components. The advert for this vehicle said it had a UHF radio, but it didn’t, so the dealer had a new one installed at their expense. We had to pay for the rest of the handover and for a new sirocco fan.

After driving out late from the dealer on Friday afternoon we went less than three kilometres to a caravan park and have spent most of the time trying to sort out our stuff. Oddly, this has far less storage than our van and at one point yesterday I was almost in tears at the enormity of the task of find places for everything. Stephen took charge and helped sort through things. A great deal of stuff went in the bin, even the poor wouldn’t have wanted it. We have a storage box on the rear, plus some room in a tunnel boot. He has performed a miracle of storage there and now wants to change everything that I put away inside. I’m happy with that.

Regardless of the sorting yesterday it’s still ‘hot mess’ inside at the moment, but we will gradually work things out, as we have in the past. However, it has really brought home to me that moving house is difficult, so much more if it is a real house and I’m glad that where we are living should suit us until we are really old. It would have been easier if we had been able to unpack one van at home, then bring the new one home and arrange the storage. Doing it whilst we are living in it has added so much to the stress.

We drove to a local shopping centre today as we had pretty much run out of fresh food. We had a list of items that we thought we might take back to the dealer tomorrow, but have been able to resolve them. I had our batteries and other electrical components moved into the Sherwood and find that I am getting some very odd readings at times. We are ‘dry camping’ to test everything out and find that if something doesn’t work it is user error. The Sherwood has it’s quirks, but then so did our Adria van, it was just that we were used to it’s quirks and now have to dig deep to work our way through things.

The bed is east/west, which means I sleep on the inside and have to ask Stephen to let me through if I want to get up in the night as we did with the Adria. The first night, which was spent in the dealer’s yard, I must have got up about 15 times. The ceiling is lower on my side but it appears higher than it is due to being glossy and reflective. We have the windows at each end and that is, of course, better than having two windows at the back because it allows air to flow across us.

Just the little I’ve driven it is so nice to be back in a car again. Driving here to the caravan park I didn’t notice much sway from the overhead cab, but when we went shopping it was very obvious. We realised that we had loaded up the bed with heavy things, as we did with the Adria, and those items must go on the floor for travel from now on. I remember this from driving the Winnie. We are hoping that the suspension will be a lot better. So many of the roads over here were damaged by the constant heavy rain and we were feeling every single bump in the Adria.

The backsplash of the stove makes a good projector screen.

Travelling Oz…Brisbane

After our visit to the laundromat in Beenleigh we went back to our overnight spot because it was a pleasant place to be whilst having our lunch. Stephen booked us a campsite at Brisbane Holiday Village and we once again braved the M1 to get there. It was easy enough to get an unpowered site and it’s really nice, next to a park, with surrounding palms and other foliage. The only downside is that we are not getting much solar.

Day 1, which was Monday, we spent time getting our bus passes (we had to walk to a shopping centre to find a newsagent, which took time). Then we took the first bus leaving. The destination was the city, but by a roundabout route through suburbs. It wasn’t very interesting and took twice as long as the straight through bus, as we found subsequently.

Today is Day 3 and we have mastered the transport system to and from the caravan park. Stephen has a couple of museums to visit on this, our last day in Brisbane. I thought it was time to catch up with the blog.

On Monday we wanted to have lunch when we arrived and spent time trying to find a cafe with open air tables. One was close by, but this city is full of construction sites and it was hidden behind a boarded off area. We went over to the art gallery afterwards, then home just after sunset. It felt like we actually achieved very little, but orienting in a strange city does require a day of confusion.

Yesterday, we built on that. Our aim was to catch a ferry. The Brisbane River is very winding and they have an excellent ferry service, even for the longer trip that we took. They run every 15 minutes and in some places is a good way to commute to the other side of the river. Unfortunately, we kept finding that ferry stops had closed. We had coffee and a snack at a university, had a look at the park and a gallery, then walked over a footbridge and although the first ferry stop was closed we eventually found one where we were able to catch a ferry and do the long trip to the last stop before the sea. We got off, found there was nowhere we could get lunch, hopped back on, and took advice on a suitable ferry stop, and eventually had lunch at a kebab place at about 2.30 p.m.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Brisbane Botanic Gardens

We followed that up with an icecream, then caught the ferry back to the Southbank ferry stop where we started. Getting to the bus station was fairly easy from there. Distanced walked was over eight kilometres for the day, a little more than the first day.

On our walk back to the bus station from the ferry
Left over from the expo last century. Stephen’s parents came over here for the expo.
See the traditional architecture struggling against the highrise

Below are some photos and video taken on our ferry ride yesterday afternoon.

With Perth and Adelaide you can feel that the inner city needs more people, but it isn’t a problem here in Brisbane. It is busy, with lots of construction and older buildings that sort of struggle to be seen in the modern, highrise city. There are a lot of new buildings going up, which doesn’t contribute anything positive to the beauty of the city. Really, only the parks are beautiful. The river is dominated by freeways and the motorway in this inner city area.

The bus transport system is interesting. Buses going our way have their own two way road and tunnels, not just buslanes on main roads as we have in Perth. This makes for a good experience for commuting, but adds to the ‘function over form’ feel of the city. Along with the excellent ferry system actually getting around by public transport seems to work well. Not getting around walking, of course, as you may struggle to get to the point you are wanting. The museum Stephen went to this morning has moved and Google maps and his city map were both wrong about the location. Fortunately it was fairly close by.

The building behind houses the Museum of Brisbane on the 3rd floor
Sunset over our caravan park pool. It doesn’t see to be used, but perhaps a bit chilly.

Travelling Oz…Brisbane

We have to stay in a caravan park in order to explore Brisbane. It’s about a 40 minute commute from here to the centre of town. We have an unpowered site in the back lot, but this is the pool area and some of the on-site cottages look luxurious.I haven’t seen anyone using the pool, even though it’s pretty warm here during the day. The nights are cool, good for getting a good night’s sleep.

Travelling Oz…Last few days, phew!

Photos and a video from the Skypoint Viewing platform

As the weather was bad, not just rain, but windy and wild on the coast, we took an extra day at New Italy. It was a good rest up except that there were limited placed to walk and it was so wet that we didn’t get much chance to get out. We had soup at the cafe at lunchtime and enjoyed having space to spread out our map for planning.

Surf at Gold Coast, there were still major waves from the gale and no swimming was allowed.

We hoped that by leaving on Friday we could escape the bad weather, but in fact we encountered heavy rain whilst travelling on the M1, fortunately it wasn’t as mad as it is closer to Gold Coast and Brisbane. Stephen wanted to drop in on Byron Bay, it was of course the worst possible time as although we had heard Splendour in the Grass mentioned on the news we hadn’t connect it with this weekend and the town we wanted to visit.

It was very busy indeed, but we managed to secure hot drinks in the town and visited the lighthouse before moving on. We explored a nearby campsite, thinking the campers would be confined to Byron Bay, but found it was very busy (and wet and muddy), so took a drive up the coast and finally took a caravan park site in a resort – at Hastings Point. We had to choose a place and why not this one. $71.40 per night, the most expensive we have ever paid, but our site was just right for our van, with some concrete and artificial lawn. It was also pretty sheltered as the gale roared on overnight.

Yesterday was the first better day weatherwise, but still very high traffic. We went to look at a 4WD Sherwood motorhome at a dealership on the way up the coast. We were second on the list and missed out as the first people took a contract. It was a rare find, and this dealer actually had two of them, one person flew in from Perth to buy one., that’s how desireable this type of van is. It’s on a Toyota Hilux, and even the cab was lovely. Not that we really need 4WD, but it would be good to have a more capable vehicle for exploring places off bitumen. We would have had to have had our electrical system swapped out, but they had someone on staff who could do it.

Having given up on that, Stephen wanted to go to Gold Coast to find out why it is a favoured holiday destination. Again, hopelessly busy and the M1 became even more of a monster as we got closer. Strangely, it was easy to find parking near to the beach and the Skypoint viewing platform. We wandered along and found a busy, crowded area of food outlets. Fortunately there was a Sushi bar that had very few customers and there was lots of seating in the mall. We kept our masks on except when eating even though we were outside. We can’t understand why it is such a favoured holiday spot. Of course, the beaches were closed because of the very high swell, but we could still look at them. It’s just the amount of high rise and crowds that makes it unappealing.

Stephen went up the Skypoint and I had a bit of a rest. Then we drove about 45kms north to a free camping spot at Beenleigh. We are just south of Brisbane at this stage. Stephen wants to visit the museum and art gallery and get a feel for the city. That’s a bit tricky as there is only one caravan park that is fairly close and is on a bus service. It will depend on whether we can get a spot. Our present camping spot is within about a kilometre of a train station, so this could be used as a base. Or, we could drive in and hope to find parking as we did at Gold Coast.

Our plan is to drive far enough north in Queensland to hit the overland route to the Northern Territory through Mt Isa, then decide whether to go up and round, or down and across the Nullabour again. We don’t like the heat of going north, but on the other hand the wildflowers would be starting as we come down the coast in WA, so that could make it worth it. Plus, it’s new to us, whereas going south is familiar enough, though we would still enjoy it.

Today we will hit up a laundromat to do some washing. We discussed how long it has been since we last did some washing and were convinced it was about 10 days ago. Then I looked up our bank account as I paid on card, and it was only five days ago. Still, we seem to have enough dirty laundry on hand to justify going to the laundromat, plus we are both getting low on undies.

There should be fine weather for the next few days and it is much warmer, about 10 overnight and 22 during the day.

Travelling Oz…Up the M1 to New Italy

We chose this spot because it is a free Rest Area on the road to Byron Bay and Gold Coast. The weather for the next two days is wet and windy, very bad for being on the coast and so we are having a rest day by staying here two nights. There is a cafe, museum and glass blowing gallery/workshop. It was set up by Italian migrants and is fully run by volunteers. They leave the toilets open overnight and there is also a dishwashing area with some hand basins. No showers.

On arrival here yesterday afternoon we were hungry and went to the cafe for lunch. There is a nice outdoor seating area and as the temperature is somewhat warmer here, about 17 degrees maximum, it was comfortable to be outdoors.

I took some iphone photos of a bird that is probably a kingfisher, but we couldn’t find it in the bird book.

Some of the volunteers live onsite in the two story building. In addition, there would have been about 14 vans (caravans, campervans and motorhomes) last night. It’s the first time on our trip that caravans have been heavily outnumbered. There is still a lot of traffic noise from the M1, plus someone ran a generator just behind us, but we are fairly insulated from noise (and wet and wind) once we have our windows on the least open settings. We call it ‘breathing’, but it won’t mean much unless you have the same type of windows that partially lock with a slight opening). Even in heavy rain it doesn’t let the water in.

Some other vans are hanging on here, at least for a few hours, or maybe doing another overnight like us. There is no time limit on staying here. It’s basically just a large carpark and all of the sites have slopes. We’ve used our levellers to correct it and are very comfortable.

There is forrest surrounding us, but the land appears to be private and we may have to walk down a road if we get a chance to go out for a walk.

Travelling Oz…On the the Gwydir Highway, NSW

Swanbrook Rest Area

We stayed at Gurley Recreation Centre (10amp, toilets and showers for $10 donation and internet) on Sunday evening. It was peaceful, windy when we arrived, but it settled down in the late afternoon. I didn’t take any photos, but it was just in a rural location, very flat and warmer than we’ve experienced in a while.

As our 10amp to 15amp adapter doesn’t have a cord we found it impossible to use with a downward facing power point. So, we used our extension cord, then the adapter, then the normal 15amp cord. We didn’t leave it out overnight as it wasn’t safe, and just as well, as when we were talking with Matt it started to rain slightly and we had at least one heavy shower. It was fine again in the morning and I plugged in again. Someone had to get out of the van to either switch on the gas or plug in, and it wasn’t too much bother. With using the heating we are finding that our little gas bottles only last about a week to 10 days, so anytime we can use electricity, either our own or from the hook up we feel it is worth it as it extends the time.

A 10amp to 15amp adapter doesn’t alter the power, it just means the plug, which has a large earth pin, is adapted to fit a normal household plug.

We filled up with water in Inverell, including drinking water, after confirming with a local that it was safe to drink. We also filled up with fuel.

Last night we stayed at Swanbrook Rest Area, with no internet, but it was pretty, with a beautiful little stream and lots of birdlife. I cooked a mince curry in the Instant Pot with potato, sweet potato and onion, adding coconet milk, green beans and rice after the pressure released.

Swanbrook Rest Area

It was a very frosty morning this morning, with ice on the windows at the rear and ice on puddles.

Frost on the rear window of our van. This is our view from bed.
Icy puddle

Our gas bottle ran out when we stayed overnight at the golf club. We were able to get a refill today in Inverall, then visited a Coles for shopping. Afterwards we had a coffee, takeaway. They refused to use our keep cups, saying it was a new Government rule. I checked the website, but NSW seems more focussed on removing restrictions than adding them. However, there are recommendations coming from the Federal government and we didn’t feel upset, we were wearing our masks and had takeaway coffee rather than sit in the nice, warm cafe.

Today is the day we drove down off the plateau we’ve been on for the past few days. It was very steep in parts, but we took advantage of one of the lookouts to stop for photos and lunch.

Stephen at Rasberry Lookout
Rasberry Lookout

Tonight we are staying at Lollback Rest Area, with internet, thank goodness. There have been views of a beautiful river coming down and our rest area is beside it, though we don’t have access, or even great views of it, from our parking spot. The toilet has a walkway with a little porch at the end and I used this as a viewing spot for the river and surrounding hills.

Actually, we made a short stop at another viewpoint on the way down
our parkup here at Lollback