Welcome to Time Away
Welcome to Time Away - a journal of my trips into the Australian wilderness.
Hill End, NSW - definitely and positively, the last camp for 2023
I was successfully tempted to throw in one last getaway for this year and managed to slip out of town on Friday, 29th December for yet another night at Hill End. I even managed to book the same campsite as the last time and got there just before dark so I could collect some firewood from the usual site near Green Valley Creek. My main motivation for this exercise was that the Coronavirus was circling my household - time to get out whilst the going was good! I licked a negative RAT and hit the road.
Again, only the basics came along with me, as this camp was just one night. Tea was a quick affair and decided at the last minute - two serves of Oriental two minute noodles with a can of sweet corn thrown in for a bit of texture. I didn't even bother with washing up and put the saucepan in a shopping bag for cleaning in the dishwasher at home, whilst a plastic fork and paper plate allowed consumption of the meal, with those thrown in the fire once they were no longer useful.
There was rain on this camp but more of a drizzle than a storm. I always worry when the clouds are dark at Hill End because this area does know how to turn on some serious bad weather when it wants to. Many years ago, I was on a camp here with Dave from Shintara and recall the mini tornado which screamed through and all but destroyed my half of the camp, which we pitched on 'the hill' on that occasion. My shelter was wrecked and the tent fly torn off. The fly was reattached to the tent after I ran after it for a hundred metres or so but the shelter was a tip job.
On this occasion the wind didn't pick up and following a peaceful evening by the fire, bed time was also quiet and event-free.
Morning broke and I got up at about 06:15, hung a leak and then broke camp and headed to Mudgee for a man's Christmas breakfast, followed by the trip back home.
Happy New Year everyone. Let's hope there's lots of camps in 2024!
Written at 17:03 on 31 December 2023 by Lord Watchdog.
Posted in the Camps section. Comments: 0 ·
Hill End, NSW - almost the last camp for 2023
A couple of weeks ago I was thinking of one last camp for 2023 and decided in haste to book two nights at the Village Ground at Hill End for last weekend. Things changed and it looked like there'd be no more camps for this year but at the last minute I decided that I would do one quick night there, just to be able to say there was one last camp for 2023.
Being a one-nighter and being on my own for this one, it was always going to be a super light camp. Swag, gazebo, the little 8 litre fridge, table, chair and a pillow and blanket, along with one change of clothes was all that came with me on this one. I do not normally camp that light but this one had to be quick.
After leaving work for the day on Friday, I headed home, packed the car and headed west, via the Bridge, Western Distributor, M4 (including the new Rozelle Interchange) and then from there I headed along the Great Western Highway. There was a quick stop at Blackheath for a hamburger and chips - the takeaway there is always good and those familiar with Blackheath will know the shop I am talking about.
That was tea out of the road and from there I drove to Bathurst and stopped in at Bunnings to buy some firewood and kerosene. Normally on a longer camp I will take the chainsaw and just collect firewood but again, this was a quick, light camp and buying wood was just better on this occasion.
I got to Hill End by about 21:00 but not before confronting more kangaroos than I have ever seen on a trip out that way. Big, medium and small - they were all there. There was also a wild pig and this is the first time I've had one dart across the road on me in more than 40 years of camping. A photo of the little turd is below.
The wildlife appears to be taking full advantage of the thick growth out that way. El Nino is yet to hit hard and the vegetation is almost out of control. The Government needs to do something about it before it dries out and becomes another bushfire hazard. There was a serious bushfire out that way only about a year ago and all the vegetation has regrown already.
Upon arrival, camp was set up. Gazebo first, then the swag. I normally only use the swag in the hotter weather and couple it with the gazebo just to keep the rain off, allowing me to sleep all night with one of the storm flaps left open.
I then lit a fire and sat by that whilst starting my preparations for this article and watching the wrestling for an hour or so. I am a big fan of wrestling's golden age - the mid-1980s.
Following this, it was bed time and a good, cool and peaceful night was had.
Saturday morning broke and it was time to get up and break down the camp and head to the pie shop in Mudgee for breakfast.
I must say that at no time should anyone start their day without a complete breakfast, consisting of protein, iron, fresh fruit, cereals and dairy for energy and vitality. A good example of this is in the photo below.
After brekky, it was time to hit the road back to Sydney. The car is going well and a recent change of ignition leads is giving me fuel economy I haven't had for a long time. The old girl is 21 years old in March and now has 478,000km on the clock.
Sadly, unless a miracle happens, this is the last camp for 2023. Merry Christmas to everyone and I will be back in 2024 with plenty of camps happening across the state and also interstate.
Written at 20:42 on 17 December 2023 by Lord Watchdog.
Posted in the Camps section. Comments: 0 ·
The Outback Camp - the largest camp for 2023
I have returned from one of the most relaxing and rewarding camps that I have been on in a long time. A journey totalling 3,096km on a round trip of the state's west was undertaken over eight days and involved two motel stops along the way before meeting up with another camp veteran, Dave, to continue with the rest of the trip using tents and swags at each stop.
Friday, 10th November:-
My boss politely suggested that leaving work at midday would be a good idea and I couldn't help but agree. The car was packed the night before, ready to shoot for Sydney's mighty WestConnex underground road network and the M4 Motorway for the first leg of the journey. The first stop was the fish and chips shop in the Blue Mountains hamlet of Blackheath for an early tea. Then I drove to Mudgee for an overnight stop at the Federal Hotel. The hotel dates from the late 1800s and facilities are basic but there is a pub downstairs where meals and drinks can be purchased and the rooms are clean and equipped with air conditioning and a big telly.
Saturday, 11th November:-
Just after sunrise on Saturday morning, I packed and left the hotel and headed to the car waiting out the front. I headed to the Mudgee Bakery for brekky and soon found myself eating well for the long journey that awaited.
Curry pies, sausage rolls and appropriate desserts would be a theme for this holiday. Off I went and this would become the longest leg of the journey, some 1,031km along the Mitchell and Barrier Highways.
Lunch was at Cobar, the last town before the long and isolated stretches of the Barrier Highway. I arrived at Broken Hill at around 14:30 and checked in to the Hilltop Motel - as the name suggests this motel is on the top of one of the highest parts of Broken Hill, with views out to the North West from the room I had booked. The room was clean and tidy and equipped with air conditioning and a spa bath, plus the usual shower and toilet. There is also a restaurant on site called Bettina's, with a wide range of food on the menu. On this night I wanted something a bit more basic so I headed for the local milk bar for a hamburger and chips on the advice of the bloke at the Ampol roadhouse.
Later that afternoon I met up with Dave and organised the drive south for the following morning before getting a well deserved eight hours of sleep.
Sunday, 12th November:-
On Sunday morning, we packed and left the motel and then made our way to Menindee, a journey of about 155km. There was a bit of a lack of planning for this one, as there are so many camping options, we decided to set up the first camp on the banks of Australia's third-longest river, the Darling River. We spent two very peaceful nights on Crown land near the town of Menindee and managed to take some drone footage of the surrounding area before some eagles decided to take a bit more notice of the invasion of what they perceived as their airspace. We managed to co-exist with the birds without either the birds or drones getting too close to each other for comfort. Wild birds generally do not tolerate man-made objects - something we kept in mind whilst airborne.
The camping area is free and is well maintained by the local council. The only annoyance - and in this region there will be many places where they are encountered - was some electric pumps at riverside which are used for irrigation. The pump closest to us operated at random times, suggesting that it fed a storage tank, which in turn fed the farm's sprinklers. Whilst the latest El Nino has appeared to have arrived, there is no suggestion of a pending drought - yet. The river is flowing freely and the giant Menindee lakes are full of water.
Monday, 13th November:-
Whilst on the Menindee leg of the camp, we visited the Kinchega Woolshed which is maintained by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. Much of the original woolshed and neighbouring shearers quarters remain on the site along with a slaughterhouse, general store and water tanks. Some of the equipment used back in the day when this was a working facility also remain and all relics are on display. How the pioneers managed to get all this equipment from Great Britain to an area more than 1,000km from Sydney is anyone's guess but due to the isolation, and the heat, it would have been back-breaking work for all involved. It would have also been dangerous work - considering this place is right inside the home range of some of the world's deadliest snakes, the Inland Taipan, Eastern Brown and King Brown and back in the mid-1800s there were no medical treatments for bites.
On a very fortunate note, at no time on this camp did either of us confront any snake. We are in to snake season and all snakes will be out of their burrows at times in search of food so it is amazing that we missed all of them. We didn't even see any roadside which makes me wonder if the eagles have been feasting on them - there were lots of eagles for the whole trip.
Tuesday, 14th November:-
On Tuesday we broke camp and headed for Mungo National Park for a night. The road, was mostly red sand, as can be seen in the photo below.
Along the way we stopped at the small village of Pooncarie for a quick home-made lunch. Unlike some of the other breakfasts and lunches shown here, this one was healthy - sandwiches with nutritional fillings. The photo below shows the vehicles on the bank of the Darling River at the local camping area. It seemed quite peaceful but we hadn't planned on staying there and if we did we may have changed our minds as there was a fairly strong smell of blood-n-bone in the air, a commonly used fertiliser in rural areas.
Fortunately the corrugations weren't too bad and both vehicles survived the trip. The humidity was almost zero and thus the heat was tolerable. When we stopped close to the location in the photo below, we were paid a visit by one of the local farmers. My drone (just outside the NP limits) must have made her and her three border collies curious.
Due to a seemingly un-necessary park fire ban we had to resort to other measures to keep the mozzies away. I guess that the park fire bans in this region have come about due to some people being irresponsible with their fires. It is a shame that the actions of a few spoil things for the majority who do the right thing. As there is long grass in the Mungo campground, there is a danger that a large fire could ignite, but again, only if people aren't doing the right thing. The ground is well maintained with good distances between the fireplaces provided and the longer grass.
The ground also has bins, toilets and walking paths. There is a water tank and sheltered picnic seating at each camp site and all facilities are well maintained. The overnight stay here was suggested by Dave, as it is apparently a good place for photography - which we both indulged in. In fact, the new title image for this website is the sunset at Mungo National Park.
On the subject of sunsets, here's another shot. Along with another photo showing a close-up of the terrain at China Wall.
Wednesday, 15th November:-
We break camp from Mungo and head to Hay in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area for a couple of nights. The camping ground was okay from a few standpoints but was a bit too open and there were no showers, just flushing toilets, which was fine as both Dave and I have camp showers, complete with gas hot water on tap. As a side note, both of us are well set up and our camps are usually two self-contained camp facilities in one, as there are times when we are camping alone or with others. So there is a lot of duplication rather than there being a case of "you bring this and I'll bring that". A lot of people camp this way these days, so if something breaks, it is then easy to share resources. It also ensures that things do not get forgotten.
On the first night in Hay's free camping area, just on the bank of the Murrumbidgee River, we couldn't help notice through the night that a fair few truck drivers fail to read signs and respect the rights of people who are trying to sleep by running their exhaust brakes whilst cruising through town. Hay's main street is a part of Highway 20 - the Sturt Highway - which allows road trains so hearing an exhaust brake from one of these monsters for several minutes as it moves through town can be quite annoying and what's more, if the correct gear is chosen, there is no need for the exhaust brake under those circumstances.
Apart from that, I didn't mind the campground, though Dave had some reservations about it and declared it a oncer. We didn't have trouble finding some firewood and as fires were allowed, a campfire was part of our arsenal to keep flies and mozzies away as much as possible.
Thursday, 16th November:-
On Thursday, we did a day trip to Griffith. We ate lunch at one of the pubs on the main street - the Hotel Victoria. This pub has a good restaurant and Dave had a giant hamburger (think twice the size of a Hungry Jacks whopper) and getting tired of red meat, I had the fish and chips.
We could not help but notice the Italian connection to the town with many businesses having Italian names. After a few hours spent in Griffith we headed back to Hay for the second night.
A redundant windmill appearing through the heatwaves shows what life here was like back when this area was first settled - hard, dry and at times lonely.
Friday, 17th November:-
On Friday, we ate breakfast and spent a few minutes planning where to spend the last night. As I had picked the Hay camping ground it was Dave's turn and we ended up heading back to an old haunt, Tumut, which is in the Snowy Mountains. The spot we stay at is quite good and situated on Crown land about five km out of town. When I say "good" I mean it is an idyllic spot just on the bank of the Tumut River, downstream from the Blowering Dam - one of the hydro-electric dams in the iconic Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. The water was flowing quite strongly down the Tumut River, indicating that the power station was in full swing. The closure of the coal-fired Liddell Power Station earlier this year is putting a lot of pressure on remaining baseload facilities and on the way home from the camp, heading up the Hume Highway I couldn't help notice three wind farms sitting idle because there was no wind blowing to move the windmills. Without getting too political on this issue, it is clear that we seem to be heading in the wrong direction on the subject of electricity generation.
Back to the camp at Tumut, last time we stayed there, a neighbouring camp consisted of roughly ten tents, all linked with tarp shelters and pop-up gazebos and the family patriarch decided that it was necessary to run a generator until 23:00hrs - clearly a quite anti-social activity. We did not experience that this time and all campers were well behaved and there was a lot of tranquillity there for the night.
The unfortunate side to camping here is that only caravans and motorhomes are permitted. Tents and swags are generally not a part of the deal and we have been spoken to by the local ranger for breaking that rule but as it was a one-night camp and we had plans on breaking camp early we felt that we could get away with another stay. This camp ground has no toilets, showers or water but as mentioned before, we have these things with us.
Saturday, 18th November:-
On Saturday morning I ate a small breakfast and then we broke camp and headed for the pie shop in Tumut for a more formal breakfast before ending the camp with the trip back to Sydney.
377km up the Hume Highway and Hume Motorway made a safe trip home which included avoiding the Highway Patrolman who was set up on the median near the split level bridges near the Nattai River. We both arrived home safely after completing a trip of more than 3,000km, trying our best to avoid everything from rabbits to emus.
In conclusion, a photo of my odometer - showing just over 476,000km, proving that old Holdens never die. Whilst the factories, like many regional woolsheds are long gone, the Holden Lion will live forever.
Some photos have been added to this article today and over the next day or two there will be more to come.
Written at 20:58 on 19 November 2023 by Lord Watchdog.
Posted in the Camps section. Comments: 0 ·
Ponto Falls, NSW
On a recent trip to Ponto Falls in the Central West of New South Wales, two nights were spent by the Macquarie River, relaxing and taking in the peace and quiet of the area.
A drone shot (below) shows the sunset on the last night in camp, with our camp directly below the disappearing sun. Following this, tea was served and consumed, with the rest of the evening spent stoking the fire and doing anything but thinking about work.
The next camp will be a two-stage affair - in the state's outback. Menindee Lakes and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area will most likely be on the cards.
Written at 20:02 on 4 November 2023 by Lord Watchdog.
Posted in the Camps section. Comments: 0 ·
The story about Camp A will go here.
Written at 03:09 on 28 January 2006 by Lord Watchdog.
Posted in the Sport section. Comments: 0 ·