The Big NSW Loop Part 2

Big loop around NSW continues…

Continuing on from part 1 here

Day 5

When we woke up, it was definitely winter. No t shirt weather this day, there was a large cold front coming in from the west that was apparently bringing snow to the Blue Mountains later in the week. A warm shower then putting on some warm clothes, we packed up and were ready to go. I was approached by a guy with WA plates on his car that had set up in the site next to us that wanted to know more about the van. He’d just gotten a very nice little teardrop trailer and he wanted to know what insulation we’d used for the van to stop condensation. We use Reflectix or a clone of it which traps in a bit of heat and stops some condensation on the windows, but really if the rear doors open we don’t get any water droplets on the windows.

A quick breakfast at Maccas (hotcake cravings?), and then on the road to Orange. It was blowing a cold wind the entire trip down. We stopped in Orange for that nights dinner supplies (lamb chops), then left town and headed for that nights campground. On the way we stopped at a Bunnings for firewood, tinder and another gas canister. The firewood ended up being the first items to get strapped to the new roof tray, which meant I also had to go up onto the roof in the Bunnings carpark in freezing weather to install some tiedown points on the roof.

We headed south towards Macquarie Woods Recreation Area just out of town. This is a free campground in a state forest and it was the middle of winter, so we weren’t expecting the signs up everywhere stating ‘No solid fuel fires permitted’. So the firewood got taken down just in case it was so cold we couldn’t bear it, but in the end we obeyed the signs and snuggled under our many new blankets.

Macquarie Woods is another very large campground and we found a great spot on top of a hill with a good view. I angled the van to stop the wind, set up the awning quite low (tied down very well!) and it was quite pleasant. There’s enough space in the campground that you could find a secluded spot if you tried, and I suspect it would be packed in summer. Ok facilities, one new drop toilet block and one old one. Rosie’s advice is don’t visit the old one.

We got to the campsite around lunchtime and heated up the rest of the casserole from the night before with some more crusty rolls. We made a lot of bird friends, including some very brave birds that came right up to us for some crumbs and leftovers.

Rosie retired to bed for a nap and I read my novel for a few hours while drinking a couple of ciders and seeing how close the birds would get to me if I ignored them. We had the solar panel up all day providing extra power to the fridge, allowing the battery to have a bit of a rest and maintain its charge a bit longer.

Dinner that night was lamb chops and salad, then a very early night for both of us as we closed up the van for the evening. We were prepared for a cold night. We strung some blankets across the front seat area, blocking off the windscreen some more, and we layered up and piled more blankets at the end of the bed over our feet. It worked too well; I think after a while both of us got too hot and ended up kicking off some blankets and clothes. We stayed up and watched ‘The Shape of Water’ on the laptop, or as Rosie calls it ‘that fish fucking movie’. I read for a bit while Rosie fell asleep. The wind picked up a bit overnight, but the awning was angled and anchored so there was no repeat of the Dubbo incident. Apparently it got down to 2 degrees in Orange that night, so it was probably 0 in the forest with the wind chill, but it stayed about 8 degrees in the van. Much better than camping in a tent.


Day 6

We slept in on day 6, neither of us wanted to get out of the cozy van. The morning was cold, but the wind had stopped and it was a nice morning. We packed up and hit the road for Bathurst at around 10am, but not before driving a loop on the dirt roads through the state forest. Not a difficult drive in the dry, there’s a few picnic sites and mountain bike trails, but no other campsites. Don’t trust Google maps though, there’s only one entrance and exit to the forest.

We got to Bathurst and had some time to kill, so we wandered around the shops a bit and had a poke around the main road. Rosie was feeling a bit tired and ill though, so I looked on the map for the nearest green patch and found a small reserve at the end of a cul-de-sac near the town centre. We backed onto the grass, opened up the rear and both had a lie down in the winter sun. I read, Rosie napped, standard process by now.

Roadside naps

After an hour and a half we were both hungry, so we started looking for a pub for lunch. There’s some great pub names in Bathurst, but the only one that appeared to be doing lunches was the Knickerbocker. Salt and pepper calamari and chicken parmigiana, both very good.

On the road again we headed north on a back road up to Sofala and Ilford on our way to Rylstone. We got caught behind another campervan that actually was slower than ours.

Slow campervan

Rosie has a couple of cousins that live there, so we’d organised to meet them at a pub for a catch up after they finished work. We got to the Globe Hotel around 4pm and went inside to sit by the fire and enjoy a few light beers, as we were expecting to head out to a campsite that night. Instead, after an hour in front of the fire, some interesting people watching in the pub, BOM warnings about the cold front and about three light beers, an executive decision was made to book a room at the pub instead. $80 later, I switched to full strength beers and Rosie was much happier knowing she wouldn’t have to set up camp in a strange location after dark.

Clare and Amy came round after work with a bunch of kids, Clare’s boyfriend Luke and a massive teenager (don’t ask) and we all had a good meal at the bistro. We hadn’t seen them for at least 6 months and it was good to catch up. After dinner and goodbyes (and showing off the van), we went back to the bar and I had a few more beers, followed by a few more bourbons, followed by a tab on the bar since it was a pain swiping every time I got another drink.

Cath/Kath(?) was behind the bar keeping me and a bunch of old blokes in line as we watched a rugby league game. I ended up having a chat with her and got some good stories from her about each of her tattoos. There were a few, but this one was my favourite. I ended up helping her pack up the bar, and paid out my enormous tab ($36.50, got to love country pub prices).

Upstairs, Rosie had settled in to the room. The Globe rooms are clean and tidy, and the (shared) bathrooms had all just been renovated. Rosie was the only girl up there though, so she got her own bathroom essentially. The heater was a loud as a 747 and I’m told I snored a lot that night, but we were pretty comfortable all up.

Day 7

We woke up pretty early on day 7 and went out to a very frosty van, which just confirmed our decision to avoid camping the night before.

Before we left Rylstone, we had brilliant gourmet jaffles at the cafe across the street, No 47 Rylstone. Very recommended cafe. We headed east to the Ganguddy National Park to visit Dunn’s Swamp, which is where we had planned on camping the night before. It’s a fairly simple drive on some badly maintained dirt roads to get there, but it looks like a very good campground. It was recommended by the locals. When we were there, they had firewood ready to use in a central bin, but not sure if that’s a standard thing. Prices looked like about $12 per adult, which is reasonable. We had a small walk around the rock formations in the area and looked at the centuries old Aboriginal hand art in some of the shallow caves. We would like to come back in summer as it looks like a great place for a camp and swim in warmer weather.

On the way out we got stuck behind the same campervan from the night before that had stayed at Dunn’s Swamp. They were even slower on dirt.

We hit the highway travelling towards Sydney, but pulled into Katoomba for lunch to check out the views and the Three Sisters. It was blowing a gale up on the lookout and we were rugged up as much as we had ever been on this trip.

A quick lunch at Subway and then back on the road to the western suburbs, where we immediately got stuck in roadwork traffic along the A9 Northern Road as people left work early on a Friday afternoon. There was yet more traffic on the road to Wollongong, but that seemed to be as far as the commuters were willing to travel, so it was quite quick to Kiama. The entire trip to the coast from the Blue Mountains we’d experienced high winds and cold weather. We were just ahead of the cold front and wild weather was forecast, so we stayed at the Kiama Shores Motel that night. Turned out we made the right choice. As we came back from a very good Indian meal (JJ’s Indian, highly recommended), a wind storm started up and you could hear cracking as branches fell in the park across the road. We stayed safe and warm that night with the heater turned up to 25.

Day 8

We slept in that morning and then packed up the van before walking down the street looking for breakfast. We got a very tasty meal at one of the cafes that line the main street, then went to visit the blowhole. There wasn’t a lot of spray at that time due to the tide being out, but the day was clear and sunny and much better than the night before. We saw a pod of whales swimming past as well, just to top off the morning.

We headed down south along the Princes Highway towards Pretty Beach Campground – Murramurang, chosen because we’d stayed in that area before and it was a cheaper option than a caravan park. There’s not a lot of free camping on the south coast, and those places that are free are almost always full, even in winter. The drive down was pretty uneventful, but we got to the campsite early on and decided to chill out and enjoy the sun for a few hours. Rosie napped, I finished my novel. Pretty Beach is a pretty good description of the location. The beach and campsite are quite nice and the facilities there are excellent. I’d recommend the site to anyone, though I imagine you’d need to book very early on for summer accommodation.

The beach had very clear water and wasn’t as cold as you’d expect, but there was a light wind that prevented Rosie from doing some serious paddling in the water.

We met some local kangaroos and wallabies that obviously did not care about people or cars. They were chilling in the sun in one of the campsites most of the afternoon.

The solar panels were out all afternoon and helping the battery keep its charge, so there was no issues with the fridge that day. Dinner was our favourite simple pasta dish that we do most camping trips, and we got to be entertained by the least stealthy possum ever as he tried to get into the washing up basket. That night we finally got to use the firewood we’d been dragging around for 4 days and spent a lovely evening in front of the fire using up all the wood.

After an uneventful night it was a quick drive down to Bateman’s Bay through the Murramarang forest roads (4WD definitely recommended for the roads we took) and then back through Braidwood to Canberra. The drive back was awful weather and I had it in 4WD most of the time just for some extra grip on some very slick roads. We got home without any issue and were greeted by a house that was cleaner than we’d left it (thanks Emerily) and a cat that had obviously missed us, but was trying very hard not to show it.

Final technical stuff

Thanks for reading this far guys, I know this is a monster post to get through. Some basic stuff about the trip:

  • One fillup of water (~40L) in Canberra lasted us the whole trip, though we did use taps in Dubbo. Their water was okay, but not a nice to drink as Canberra water. Over 8 days, that’s pretty good, though we were prepared to buy extra water if needed.
  • Our average fuel was awful at 14.9L per 100km on 95RON. In total we spent $432 on fuel. That’s about an extra 1L per 100km than we usually do, which I can easily attribute to the new roof rack. It’s handy, but will increase your fuel. It also didn’t help that there was a lot of wind and hills on this trip. She’s not cheap to run, but most fun things usually aren’t.
  • The lightbar whistles, but only after another car passes or there is very high wind coming from the side of the car. I’ll look into some rubber or bent sheet to fix that up soon.
  • The roof tray was a good investment and I’m glad I got the higher quality model (Rhino Pioneer Platform) with customised legs (150mm + 2 x 10mm spacers instead of the 180mm legs recommended) rather than the cheap heavy steel trays available from 4wd SupaCentre or similar. The awning makes a huge difference in our camp setup times and the ability to anchor items to the roof gives use much more storage space now. Just watch out if there’s any wind in the area.
  • This trip had the longest consecutive nights in the van, 5 nights in total. All up, we could have gone for much longer if the weather had held, though I think we both agree 2 days without a proper shower is enough, particularly if you’re passing through towns and visiting shops/attractions. Ensuite caravan sites are awesome – private shower and toilet right next to the van.
  • Bloody glad the problem with the battery and fridge turned out to be a dodgy cable. I’ll work on securing the new cable a bit more out of the way and wrapping it in a outer sleeve for protection this time. Much prefer a $25 fix to a $250 new battery or long-winded warranty claim.
  • I’m still trying to work out the best tyre pressure for the van. 40psi seems a bit high and is hard even on the highway, but 37-38psi seems a little low for highway pressures when fully loaded up. My cheap solar eBay tyre pressure monitoring system worked very well however – recommended, but just watch the anti-tamper nuts when trying to fill the tyres as they can be hard to get off without a tool or pliers (which is the point I guess).
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