The Stock’s 2018 Outback Adventure

It all began on Valentine’s Day this year when we took ourselves into Adelaide to the Caravan and Camping Show.  It was a pleasant day, not too crowded, and we strolled at leisure, first taking in the latest innovations in big caravans.  Having confirmed that we are perfectly happy with our lovely big van, our attention was taken by a small, super quick to erect, camper trailer. The Salesman, quickly noting our interest, gave us the run-down on the vehicle, the price was amazing, and we were genuinely impressed with the whole concept.  We went on our way having enjoyed a pleasant day out.

During the course of that evening, our fertile minds gave birth to an idea.  Having a free winter season to travel, and having had an amazing 2017 travelling in Europe. Having fulfilled several of my (Jan’s) bucket list items, namely Tuscany, Spain and Venice, as well as wonderful time spent with daughter & son-in-law in London, I really felt that winter 2018 should be Trevor’s turn to fulfil his longtime desire to travel some of the outback off-road tracks of this vast country.

The idea of preserving the big van (which is after all our only Australian home), and buying a fully off-road camper trailer to take wherever the road should lead us, seemed like an extremely sensible plan.  So with excitement stirring at the thought of a new adventure, we took ourselves back to the Caravan/Camping show, and did some serious research into all the available camper trailers.  Our main criteria was that it should be super easy for us old people to erect, whilst giving us a comfortable bed and as much storage as possible.

Long story short we decided on an MDC Explorer Rear-Fold camper trailer, which fitted the bill, so we returned to the show the next day and signed on the dotted line.  We took delivery a few weeks later but had to wait until we returned from a 3-week trip to NZ to do the initial set-up.

So the story begins – Going from this:

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To this :

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I won’t bore you with the saga of how we came to the decision to leave most of the poles, the awning roof & huge annexe behind, but suffice to say when bagged up, I could not lift the poles off the ground, and Trev had a struggle to do so, and that was without the ton of canvas for the awning & annexe in another bag.  Incidentally where the poles were meant to live at the front of the vehicle is now a fully stocked & very neat and tidy “pantry”.  All kudos to my amazing husband for that brilliant idea.

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Eventually, after various holdups, we finally hit the road last Monday, 25th June, accompanied by cousin Kevin & Helen, in their recently acquired camper trailer.  We all thought it would be nice to have company for our “maiden voyage”, so we enjoyed a couple of nights together at the beautiful Lake Lascelles, Hopetoun, Vic.  We left them to go our separate ways and spent the next couple of nights by the river in Mildura, and in a quiet roadside spot just out of Broken Hill.

We were well aware that although daytime forecasts for pleasant temperatures would be more and more evident as we travelled north, the nights were going to be extremely cold.  Armed with winter pjs, two duvets, knee rugs and various other articles of clothing to combat the cold, we were pretty confident that cold nights would not be a problem.  Well the first two nights convinced us that in order to enjoy a good nights sleep the donning of at least three or four layers of clothing, including a beanie would be our means of achieving the said peaceful slumber.  Well I should admit that my husband has toughed it out without the extra jacket, & just his winter pjs, but having left the hot water bottles behind, I am determined to keep warm at any cost.  Having abandoned all hope of looking anything like becoming in my bed wear, I am forever grateful Trevor resisted the temptation to take a photo of my nose poking out from under beanie & bedclothes this morning,  We have both been sleeping well and like the veritable bugs in rugs.  Also having forsaken any heroic thought of rising before there’s at least a “9” in the hour, because the temperature in the bush doesn’t rise above an acceptable 3 or 4 degrees before then, we are coping extremely well. But again I have to admit that my  wonderful husband has stoked the fire and got the billy on the boil before I poke my head out of the the trailer.

Our first experience with the new camper on dirt road has brought us to the shores of Lake Pamamaroo, in the Menindee Lake system.  Just down the road from our camp spot is the Main Weir, and the Burke & Wills camping area, on the Darling River, which was apparently the first base camp for the Burke & Wills expedition, and from where said explorers left their support team behind to embark on their ill-fated journey. For those who aren’t aware of the Burke & Wills story it’s well worth Googling.  It’s a reminder to us of how fortunate we are to live in an era of high tech communication ability, as the lack of communication caused the “search & rescue” team to miss connecting with the explorers by a mere 9 hours. We are blessed indeed. Anyway this is an excellent camping spot with access to non-pottable water, and the added luxury of very clean flushing loos. Bliss !!!

So we’ve been camped here on the shores of the lake, overlooking a vast landscape of water whose surface is only broken by the silhouettes of many hundreds of dead trees, and an abundance of birdlife.  A 1km walk to the weir affords us the joy of watching hundreds of pelicans lazily cruising, sometimes in formation, before suddenly piercing the surface of the water with those enormous beaks, and invariably surfacing with a satisfied look & a fish in the gullet.  There must be fish aplenty, because the pelicans and other water birds appear well fed and certainly not frenzied about their feeding activity.

I counted seventeen emus this morning wandering across the sand in front of our camp. They seem to mosey up to the left during the morning, pecking the ground as they go, and then mosey back in the afternoon.  Occasionally they wander up to the road and cross over into the scrub behind us, but they’re in no particular hurry either and eventually return to the lakeside and continue their “moseying”.

The sunsets are beyond belief.  God certainly has His brush and palette out each evening, painting the sky with every imaginable hue of yellow, red, orange and pink, and I’m sure yet undiscovered colours in between.  My favourite time is when the ghostly grey remains of once luxuriant trees, become black and mysterious silhouettes against the burnt orange expanse beyond, and when the molten golden orb which is the sun, melts into the horizon, burnishing the expanse of water as it goes.  Yes indeed, God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.

We have a very friendly & interesting neighbour just a few metres away from our camp, and we’ve had many a stimulating conversation with Byron, who’s travelling on his own while wife is overseas, and who’s a fountain of useful outback/camping information and tips. All this has certainly enhanced our few days of chillin’ before moving on to our next destination, which at this stage is to be White Cliffs opal town a days drive from here.

So Trev’s lighting his camp fires, boiling the billy & starting to live his outback dream. I’m along for the ride, but do you know what?  I’m actually loving it too.  Enough for this time – will check in again soon.

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