Mt Buffalo – Day 1

We arrived at Lake Catani Thursday afternoon, later than I would have liked. I never seem to be able to get away when I want, but this poor even by our standards. Brad and the girls were already there when we arrived.

Nevertheless we set up and were pretty happy with the place. Great campground, good facilities, nice spot by the lake. We had booked 3 of the 4 camp sites in a cluster together that shared a fireplace, only 2 for tonight as Nick and Baxter was getting there the next day. So the issue was that the entire park was nearly empty (sub-alpine country in November) and yet we had someone camping right next to us. We chatted to them and it turned out it was their last night. Then some lone hiker decided to camp in the fourth one, meaning there were six camp sites occupied out of around 50, and 4 of them in a small cluster around us!

But anyway, you make the most of it, especially if it is just for one night. We went for a walk, and as it got darker we went unsuccessfully wombat spotting. There were loads of burrows and droppings but we failed to find them all trip!

Maddie and Isla were loving it.

Very sunny, but absolutely freezing!

Some of the great scenery around the lake

We got the fire ready for the night and stayed up late with the neighbours. They were all a bit odd. The middle aged daughter screamed at her Dad all night “stop snoring” which woke everyone up. The hiker refused to say anything. We also decided to skip the hot water bottles. That was really silly… it was cold that night, colder than I have slept in before. With thermals and a -5 sleeping bad I wasn’t too bad but my nose was sore because it was so cold. Claire also struggled. When Brad woke up at 6am he looked at his car thermometer and it was 1 degree. Except that is as low as his gauge would go, plus it was 6am, so not really when the low point hits. My guess is it was around -5 as that was the predicted low for the night before. We didn’t make the mistake with the hot water bottles again, but it was never as cold as that again.


Quick Walk in Daylesford

Stayed at a hotel in Daylesford thanks to GroupOn and an enthusiastic wife. Pretty ordinary compared to camping. We got to take a nice walk on Sunday and try all their natural springs. The first was heavily salted. We went to the next, but it was closed for repair. We went to the lookout and it was also closed (no warning though). The third was around 5km away, we had already done 2.5km so a pregnant wife was none too keen!

It was a decent bushwalk, though I forgot my camera. Here is the sole photo, a selfie taken on my very old camera.

Paradise Valley 2016

Every Easter a group of us head down to Paradise Valley for a camping trip. It is so refined now that we take a kitchen sink. It really does make the dishes easier to do. Anyway this trip has been going on before I was born, I really look forward to it each year.

This might be the last year, though we have been saying that for a while. The people who own it are getting older and having trouble putting it on. And so it goes.

Got down there Thursday a bit later than we planned. Claire and I put there tent up and we were right on the river.

Friday & Saturday were gloriously sunny days, we made the most of it. I went for a swim each day except Thursday, which is really rare. Although when we were kids we used to swim for hours at a time, never getting colder.

Very happy after the Kangaroos had a win!

Otherwise it is a lot of food, beers and laughs. “What is like a sheep but black and white” Claire asked in a game of articulate. The answer is cow of course. These are always the longest and most fun trips, but the hardest to write about. The weather really made this trip, it was the first since I moved back to Melbourne. Definitely a lot of fun. Hope we get to do it again.

Mitchell Falls – Part 2 of the Kimberley

King Edward River Campsite

As we went along the Gibb River Road things were going well. I had always had a theory that some of the horror stories, especially from punctures is actually a result of poor planning. I had brand new Yokohama AT’s, and I had dropped to 25PSI, so I thought the odds of a puncture were very low. I also drove a lot slower than most, and had two spares. Not to mention the servicing, researching the most reliable parts for the car… this all led me to be a bit smug about what might go wrong. My lack of technical knowledge was a benefit, I had to be very very careful with my planning.

The Gibb River road had some sharp rocks, but was generally in an okay condition. That changed dramatically when we turned North to the Kalumburu road. It was the worst road I have ever driven on. I have never seen anything like it, the corrugations were deeper than my ankle for kilometres. It made things very slow going.

The track to Mitchell Falls was the same but at least this as a 4WD road, as opposed to an “unsealed road”. We made it to King Edwards river and the camp site was really nice. Even during peak season there was heaps of space, and the volunteer manager was very nice, and came over to see us. We set up and enjoyed the sunset before heading to Mitchell Falls the next day.

The next day we made it to Mitchell Falls. The first thing we noticed was that the number plate on the front of the car had fallen off. All of sudden I went from “smug Stuart” to “Stuart”. I realised that car issues can happen to anyone, all the preparation in the world wasn’t going to guarantee me anything. We got there and had a really good talk from an enthusiastic guide. We decided to walk up and get the helicopter back. It wasn’t long before another snake ‘tried to eat Claire’. This snake was massive, I am guessing a python from its thick body. Unlike the last one, it was terrified of us and fled as quickly as it could. We stopped at a few nice swimming spots. We were told there was some indigenous art, but we were only successful finding one site.

On the way to Mitchell Falls

Great view

We skipped past the waterholes, preferring to get to the famous Mitchell Falls. On the way we also went by Mertens Gorge. It was utterly amazing. I would say as good maybe better than Mitchell Falls. It was so enormous, to be right on the top of it was amazing, even a little scary.

Merten’s Gorge, is more massive of a drop than it looks

When we got to the top of Mitchell Falls we were hot and bothered and wanted a swim. But because we had an appointment booked with the helicopter we decided to press on to get ‘the money shot’ which is all of the waterfalls in a row. It took a while to find it, and Claire wasn’t overly happy with all of the walking. Eventually we got there, got the photos, and went back to the areas you could swim. The timing worked out great in the end as we had a bit over an hour there in the water and some lunch before we had to get the helicopter.

Came a long way for these photos!

I was told that the helicopter didn’t have back doors. I thought that meant it had only walls. As it turned out, no, it had nothing. Was a little scary, for me. Claire just thought I was being a giant wimp, she was probably right. Was a great way to see the falls and to get back to the car.

Merten’s and Emma side by side.

Once we were on the car we soon came across a fairly new Patrol. It had blown a fan belt and was stuck there. He had sent his mate in a black Hilux onwards, as they had problems with his suspension and would assume he would catch up. After seeing this I went from “Stuart” to “Petrified Stuart”. I just knew there was going to be an issue with the car. I didn’t know when, but I just knew. I decided to drive the road back to camp very slowly. The 89km took 2 hours 50 on the way there, I went even slower than that. With 25km to go we here a massive boom and suddenly the front right tyre feels wrong, assuming it is a blown tyre I pull over to discover the tyre is fine. Which means it is something else, and I am petrified.

We swapped the tyre over anyway, pull a dead bird from the undercarriage, but Suzi (the car) makes this awful groaning noise when you go over 10km an hour. So we stick to crawl speed for the entire trip back, getting back to camp around 3 hours after dark. It turned out the camp volunteer was really worried about us, and was about to go out looking. That is something that has stuck with me, despite us not being in any real trouble, it was something that I really appreciated, what a champ. At night with a torch I can clearly see oil all over the place, confirming it is a shock.

I have a very limited technical knowledge, sometimes it works to my advantageous as I am extremely safe. Sometimes it really sucks, I went to bed that night not knowing what a blown shock meant… was I going to have to get a tow? Could we get close to Kunanurra? Might we break down on the side of the road? It was really really daunting and the mood was very sombre.


Rivers Fiji Kayak Trip

This site is generally a site for all of my Australian adventures, but how can I resist writing about one of the best things I have ever done?

Claire and I went to Fiji in August of 2011 and it was fun, as most overseas trips are. The highlight was definitely the Kayak trip we took. They take you into a village, participate in the kava ceremony, it is fun. Then the kayaking down the rapids begins.

The difficulty was perfect, everyone stacked once or twice, very challenging but nothing dangerous. The scenery was amazing, we passed waterfall after waterfall, huge tropical forests on large hills, passing some villages where they lived with a blend of modernity yet still sustenance farming to a reasonable degree.

After the kayaking was done we took a motorized boat the rest of the way, it started pouring rain, but it was a warm rain, and I was loving every minute of it.


Claire in action

Me easily dealing with things

Waterfall we stopped at