Page 1

Travelled ROAD

LESS

UNCOVERING THE BEST OF REGIONAL AUSTRALIA

AUSTRALIA'S We travel up the middle of Northern Territory into the heart of the Aussie outback


Your adventure is just around the bend.

New South Wales

Queensland

Victoria

Victoria

Wallaby Motorhomes

Brisbane RVs

RV Sales Centre

Megamart RV Sales

KB Campers

35 Parramatta Road

284 Bruce Highway

9 Ashley Street

Commercial Dr

54 Rigali Way

Granville, NSW 2142

Burgenpary, QLD 4505

Braybrook, VIC 3019

Pakenham, VIC 3810

Wangara, WA 6065

Wallabymotorhomes.com.au

Brisbanervs.com.au

Rvsalescentre.com.au

megamartrvsales.com.au

Kbcamperswa.com.au

Western Australia


DONT MISS OUT LIMITED STOCK

R 6 BERTH

ELLE JAYCO TRAV

FROM

$119,990

*

BERTH EAM 4 OUR T R E L ROL W FOR

O CALLT N RICE P S E B

KEA DISC OVERY 4 BE

FROM

RTH $114,990 *

Get in quick to experience the more enjoyable way to adventure. Just climb in and go on these high quality, low kilometre motorhomes. www.keacampers.com

CALL 1300 720 020 FOR YOUR NEAREST DEALER *Conditions apply. Motorhomes are subject to availability. Kea Discovery Motorhome 2016 model price $114,990 based on drive away price, including on road costs. Jayco Traveller Motorhome 2016 price $119,990 based on drive away price, including on road costs. Prices based on Victorian models and delivery costs. Advertised Motorhomes are ex-rental 2015/2016/2017 models, estimated 35,000 kilometres. For full terms and conditions please refer to the advertiser RV Sales Centre - rvsalescentre.com.au | LMCT 11511.


Contents 32

42

29

6 Tracing Family

18 Top End Tucker

32 People Passion

Paula Campbell takes an emotional road trip to NT to trace her father’s footsteps

The top spots for authentic NT tucker

22 Delights of Darwin

We travel up the wild west coast of Western Australia to meet the people behind the preservation of the coast

Crocs and other critters for the kids in Darwin

36 Lifestyle Legend

10 Heartland of Australia A guide to the best places to visit when travelling up the middle of Australia

14 Making Memories Rob Gallagher explores the top places to travel with family in Katherine, in the heart of NT

4

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

26 Camp Spectacular We give you a guide to our favourite places to camp in the NT

29 Heard it on the Grapevine Victoria’s newest food and wine trail, in the Moorabool Valley

The KEA Discovery proves to be a lifestyle legend when travelling roads less travelled

42 Hitting the High Country New England High Country proves it can carve it up with the best of them as a motorcycle destination


Travelled ROA D

L ESS

EDITOR Kirstie Bedford kirstie@adventuresgroup.com.au DESIGN MANAGER Danielle Beadman DESIGNERS Andrew MCLagan Janina Roque EDITORIAL Adventures Group Holdings 125 Hawthorn Rd, Caulfield North, VIC 3161 HEAD OF PARTNERSHIPS Chris Jefferson chris@adventuresgroup.com.au GROUP PARTNERSHIP MANAGER Andrew Wilson andrew@adventuresgroup.com.au CEO – ADVENTURES GROUP HOLDINGS Robert Gallagher

POWERED BY

Ed's hello Welcome to the �irst edition of Road Less Travelled. This is our mini-mag championing regional tourism. We introduce you to the people and places which truly make regional Australia special, and more often than not, they’re off the well trodden tourist path. In this edition we take you to the heartland of Australia, the Northern Territory. The trip there is an unconventional one which takes you right up the middle of Australia, read our story about some great places to see on your road trip on page 10. We explain the best things to do when taking a family trip to NT on page 14 and provide some top camping spots on page 26. At the other end of the country, in regional Victoria, we explore a newly established taste trail in the greater Geelong region on page 29 and on page 32 meet the �irst woman to live in the tiny town of Green Head on the Mid West

coast of Western Australia, who was instrumental in the preservation of the coastline for campers to this remote region. We hope you enjoy this small slice of regional tourism, and look forward to bringing you more stories of the people and places of ‘real’ Australia in the near future.

Kirstie Editor

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

5


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING

Family TRACING

WORDS TRAVIS GODFREDSON PICS MATT FEHLBERG

6

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

Paula Campbell takes an emotional road trip to NT to trace her father’s footsteps


I

t’s a warm evening at the start of the Northern Territory dry season. There’s an orchestra of squeaking geckos and shrieking curlews performing for Paula Campbell and her partner Terry Robinson. They’re about to retire to their camp chairs parked outside their motorhome nestled under the tropical treetop canopy at their holiday park. Paula pours herself a glass of wine, while Terry slots a cold VB into a well-worn stubby holder, and they re�lect on their journey of the past nine months and 35,000km in their chariot, a gleaming white Avan Ovation motorhome. Paula calls it the ‘Hilton’ with a cheeky smile. They initially had plans for a caravan, but Terry surprised her when he pulled into the driveway in the $135,000 motorhome. Now she wouldn’t have it any other way. Terry often has to beg Paula to drive himself! She loves the motorhome lifestyle and reckons the best thing about it is climbing in the cabin and having a wonderful sense of freedom without a worry in the world. “I have tears in my eyes because I just love this country”, says Paula. “Just to get out there and feel this country. We’ve waited a long time to do this…” The pair left their home in Corrimal, north of Wollongong several months ago, moving all their furniture into storage and handing over the house keys to new tenants to travel around Australia with one thing in mind. Paula wanted to visit Darwin, ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

7


This photo: Paula and Terry covered 35,000kms in their Avan. Right: Leslie Leo Campbell who survived the Darwin Bombing in 1942.

where her father survived the Darwin Bombing. Twenty one year old Leslie Leo Campbell was working in the Royal Australian Navy onboard the boom defence vessel HMAS Platypus, protecting the harbour from submarines, when the Japanese Imperial Army bombed Darwin and surrounds on February 19, 1942. He survived the bombing, but sadly died 37 years later at the age of 58, and Paula says she knew very little about his experience, “he was so young, and it was so horri�ic that he never talked about it”. Paula wells up with tears as she recalls how she subsequently found out her father watched one of his best mate’s ship blow up before his eyes, “and another who he was working with died in his arms ..." Two hundred and thirty six people died, and 400 people were injured during the bombing, which was the start of more than 100 bombing raids in Australia through to 1943. During Paula’s visit to Darwin, she discovered an anchor, and chain links, from the submarine cable on the shores on East Point and placed a loving hand on the warm steel, 8

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

connecting with her father who probably touched the same steel 75 years ago. One of her highlights she says was visiting the Royal Flying Doctors Service. The story of the bombing of Darwin is thoughtfully told at the RFDS, �ive minutes from the

Australia Attacked The bombing of Darwin on the 19th of February 1942 was the largest attack en masse ever mounted on Australian soil, and cost 236 lives, with 400 people wounded, 200 of them seriously. Eleven vessels were sunk, 25 ships damaged and 30 aircraft destroyed. Most of the casualties were military personal on warships anchored closely together and ill prepared for a force comprising 242 aircraft including bombers, dive bombers and Zero fighters, supported by four aircraft carriers. The first bombing raid was led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who also led the Pearl Harbour bombing.

city centre on Stokes Hill Wharf. The vivid and dynamic display includes life-size holograms, fullsize Japanese Zero �ighter planes, interactive shows, storyboards and amazing virtual reality experiences. “Darwin is a very special place for me and to go to the Royal Flying Doctors Service and see the 3D Most essential services were badly damaged and fear of a mass invasion spread all over Darwin. In reality, Australia was too large to attack, particularly with its growing alliance with America who ultimately came to Australia’s aid. The real damage in the bombing of Darwin – and objective of the raiders – was the loss of shipping services to support Java and Philippines that were subsequently invaded by Japanese forces. They maintained their rapid advance all the way through the South Pacific until mid 1942 when they were eventually subdued at the Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway.


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING

HEADING TO THE

Heartland of Australia Looking to break free of the mundane? Here’s your exclusive guide to an epic adventure right up the guts of Australia WORDS MICHAEL BORG PICS MATT FEHLBERG, DOMINIQUE BORG & LAUREN GRIGG

10

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING

HEADING TO THE

Heartland of Australia Looking to break free of the mundane? Here’s your exclusive guide to an epic adventure right up the guts of Australia WORDS MICHAEL BORG PICS MATT FEHLBERG, DOMINIQUE BORG & LAUREN GRIGG

10

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


A

ustralia is truly the land of adventure, but most of us limit ourselves to overcrowded highways and grid-locked suburban streets for the same crowded camps. Now’s the time to ditch the mundane holiday routine and tackle a truly exciting journey, one that could seriously revolutionise the way you think of your own country, by heading straight up the centre of Australia, through the guts of the Northern Territory.

Arriving in Alice

The true heart of the outback beats around the desert of Alice Springs. One of the most iconic travelling destinations in the country, it’s got all the right ingredients for an epic

adventure. While in town, the BIG4 MacDonnell Range Holiday Park has plenty for the kids. When it’s time to explore, visit the majestic MacDonnell Ranges – the striking red desert rocks, picturesque gorges and lush watering holes will dead-set steal your heart. There’s much to do and see here, but activities can be a few hundred of kilometres apart, so allow plenty of time. Visit www.macrange.com.au for more.

Devils Marbles

South of Tennant Creek you’ll �ind the Karlu Karlu, aka Devils Marbles, backdrop to arguably one of the best free camps in Oz. The majestic round boulders of ancient granite seem to emerge out of nowhere having been carefully eroded over millions of years. Here you can weave through tracks to get up close and personal with

them too. If you’ve got the time, make sure you spend the night – the Devils Marbles look utterly spectacular at sunset.

Daly Waters Pub

This is a truly historic outback pub. It’s had a checkered history with cattle stampeding through town and the odd drunken brawl between ringers. A good chunk of it is literally written on the walls too, with a few decades worth of visitors leaving mementos behind! It’s an extremely popular and friendly spot to stop in and visit, though rumours of a ghost named Sarah still haunt staff after dark. But I reckon she’s just trying to get her mittens on the famous 'Crocodile Slider'. Yep, if you’ve ever wanted to taste a bit of croc, Daly Waters Pub is good place to start. Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve, one of the Northern Territory’s geological wonders

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

11


From left: Devils Marbles; Daly Waters Pub and Wangi Falls at Litchfield.

Mataranka Homestead and thermal pools Two hours up the road and you’ll �ind yourself in the quaint little town of Mataranka, one of the �inest natural thermal pools in the country. A quick stroll down a rustic wooden boardwalk from camp leads to the edge of a crystal clear, spring fed swimming hole. If the shimmer of �iltered light through palm tree canopy doesn’t paint the perfect picture, the water temperature sitting at a luxurious 34°C degrees should get the job done. Childfriendly with concrete edges, it has a shallower section down the bottom and a few man-made steps to make access a little easier too.

Bitter Springs

A few minutes north of Mataranka

and you better prepare to have your heart stolen all over again. It’s a hidden oasis of natural magni�icence within Elsey National Park that just begs to be adored by the weary traveller. It boasts the same inviting water temperatures as Mataranka Thermal Pools, but is a 100 per cent natural setting save a few wooden step. Mother Nature at her �inest! Oh, and remember the foam noodle, you’ll be �loating downstream for a few minutes of pure bliss. But heed the latest safety advice before you go!

Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge)

stories of the traditional owners of the land. Like the method they used to poison �ish, which made catching them easier when times were tough. Naturally, this place is a real haven for wildlife too. Freshwater crocs can be spotted during the dry season, and the area is closed for swimming in the wet, so always heed the latest advice.

Litchfield National Park Just south of Darwin, a must visit is Litch�ield National Park - an easy day trip, but preferably an

Nitmiluk Gorge, previously known as Katherine Gorge, is nothing short of mind blowing. Either paddle upstream with a kayak tour or grab an early morning river cruise and learn the

"Striking red rocks, picturesque gorges and lush watering holes will dead-set steal your heart” 12

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


Top Tips

overnight escape. It’s home of the iconic magnetic termite mound, and world-renowned for its towering waterfalls, cascades and serene swimming holes. Wangi Falls and Florence Falls are at the top of the list for a relaxing dip, and if you’ve got a 4WD it’s time to lock it in low-range and explore the weathered sandstone pillars of 'The Lost City'.

Longer distances

Staying safe

Carefully plan fuel stops. There are many fuel stations available, but there’s a lot of blacktop between them too. Consider your fuel range too if you’re towing a caravan or battling a headwind. Also, EFTPOS is generally available, but carry enough cash to cover the bill in case it’s out of action. An obvious one, but make sure you also carry plenty of water on board to keep the heat at bay. And last of all, respect the distance. Two dots on the map might not look far apart, but do the maths and work out the kilometres properly before you take off for the day, and always take maps as back-up in case of a GPS technical glitch.

As beautiful as the Northern Territory is it’s not without dangers. Salt water crocodile encounters are a risk so keep an eye out and only swim at designated swimming signs. Wear enclosed footwear, watch where you walk and check your shoes before you put them on in the morning for spiders.

When to go The best time to visit NT is during the dry, roughly between May and October. The Top End enjoys warm sunny days and fairly crisp winter nights. Accessibility is at its best during these months, and there are typically waterholes full of the mighty barramundi left from the floods.

Must see The famous Kakadu National ParkAt M is nothing short of gob-smacking and Gunlom Falls (pictured below) was the highlight for me. The dirt road in is rough, though, so expect a bumpy ride! You’re blessed, however, with a massive flat campsite, wildlife galore and my personal favourite – a gorgeous swimming hole fed by utterly spectacular waterfall. Take the walk up to the top and you’re treated to arguably the best infinity pools in the country, with mind-blowing views over the park. Back at camp, you’re likely to hear haunting howls of wild dingoes in the distance. It’s Australia at its finest.

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

13


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING

Making memories IN THE TOP END

Rob Gallagher found the perfect spot for quality family time in Katherine, in the heart of the Northern Territory WORDS: ROB GALLAGHER PICS MATT FEHLBERG

14

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

15


A

mazing rock formations rose sharply from the water’s edge as I paddled with my six-year-old daughter Harriet along the Northern Territory’s beautiful Nitmiluk Gorge. It's a memory I will never forget, and that’s what the Northern Territory is about, getting out amongst nature, pushing your comfort zone and leaving lasting experiences, for both you and the kids.

The journey

We started our journey exploring the sights and scenery around Katherine, a 317km drive from Darwin. The Nitmiluk Gorge was a 30-minute trip from Katherine. The scale of the rugged beauty of the gorge is awe-inspiring. Halfway along our guided cruise, we parked our canoes and jumped into the water. Splashing and laughing within this cavernous landscape will be something we can hold onto forever, not to mention we can claim we swam with crocodiles. Our family was travelling in a motorhome and when having a barbecue back at camp later and talking about our day in the gorge, we laughed at the stories of adults on the canoe adventure evacuating the gorge when we thought we felt a croc – only to leave the kids in as bait! Thankfully, Harriet found the whole thing pretty funny too.

Kakadu is calling

To say the NT is a pretty destination is a complete understatement. The vastness was quite different to anything I had witnessed. It was a terri�ic opportunity for our girls to see a completely different part of Australia, including wild animals, and learn a lot about Australia’s Indigenous history. Enroute to Katherine from Darwin we experienced one of the highlights of our trip – the Guluyambi Cultural Cruise on the East Alligator River in the 16

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

Above: Litchfield National Park waterholes. Below: one of the many crocs on East Alligator River

Kakadu National Park -touted as one of Australia’s last true wilderness areas. Our guide, Hilton, proudly shared his lineage with us and the connection to the elders who had graced this land for thousands of years. It was fascinating to learn, and begin to understand, the deeper connection he had with the land itself. As we made our way along the water ways, we tried to play spot the croc, but there were too many to count, as they nestled up against the man-made road which was the only land-based access across to Arnhem Land. Here you can see ancient Indigenous rock artworks painted in kangaroo blood on the walls. Kakadu’s vast and varying landscapes also includes some pretty incredible wetlands. We jumped onto another nearby cruise along the Yellow Water Billabong and, while we saw more crocs, the scale of this wetland area

was amazing. From rare birds to water buffalo to lily ponds, the cruise offered enough experiences to keep everyone entertained and engaged. For dinner we tested a bit of what we had seen during the day – crocodile and buffalo sausages. Let's just say, it’s an acquired taste!

Outback lifestyle

Travelling with kids can be a challenge when it comes to keeping their attention, but the drive to Katherine from Kakadu was relatively easy, and there were plenty of times when they were wowed by the scenery. The NT de�initely knows how to put on a show, and there’s no better way to get a feel for the true outback lifestyle than with the Katherine Outback Experience. We joined property owners Tom and Annabelle at their working farm, renowned for breaking in horses and


"As we made our way along the waterways, we tried to play spot the croc, but there were too many to count." training working dogs. An interactive demonstration, it provides an insight into the workings of the animals who are such an important part of everyday life at a cattle station. When Tom stood on the back of the horse with his guitar, he had our girls eating out the palm of his hand. Soon after, the girls had horses and sheep eating out of theirs. Combined with some good tunes and a dog race, which the kids were able to jump in and be a part of, it made for a beautiful evening with the gorgeous backdrop of an outback sunset.

A learning experience

The 'Katherine School of the Air' is something all parents should put on their to-do list. It was unlike anything I had been to. We were able to sit and watch what is the largest school, by size, in the Southern Hemisphere. The school delivers lessons via satellite and internet, servicing remote communities all across the NT and northern WA. Our children were enthralled at seeing kids interact via video conference with their teachers who are literally thousands of kilometres away. It’s thanks to this school so many children living in remote areas can get a quality education. Another Katherine highlight was the Top Didj Experience. Here we were told the story of our teacher, and the way he grew up on the land before making his way into western society later in life, which showed us how different life still is in the remote parts of Australia. His artistry was impressive and he taught us the skill of raark. This is not the traditional dot painting style so synonymous with indigenous art, rather a line-style crafted using the natural colours of the region. In my

of�ice proudly sits the output of our efforts – �ive raark paintings from three generations of the family which is a permanent reminder of our time in the NT. Top Didj had some other great experiences, too. The baby wallabies who greeted the kids were a hit, and the opportunity to throw a hunting spear started as a great kids’ activity and ended in a competitive process with the adults.

One last dip

It’s fair to say we did not want to leave Katherine and as we headed north to Darwin to �ly home, we commented that we would be unlikely to see anything similar the rest of the trip. How wrong we were. Litch�ield National Park was as green as Kakadu was red and as lush as Katherine was vast. Litch�ield National Park offered us all a last chance to immerse ourselves (literally) in the great scenic beauty of the NT. Wangi Falls was a waterhole surrounded by rock formations and a trickling waterfall (we were there at the end of the dry season) and it was a great place for the family to relax and beat the heat of the day. Buley Rockhole was a huge hit with the kids. Water rushed down the rockholes and they had a ball splashing in and sliding down into the lower waterholes. The NT had always been one of those places our family had seen as a ‘not right now’ destination. We thought we would see others �irst and add it to our seemingly neverending list of must-see places as the kids got older. But, after our recent visit, we are so glad we took the plunge and experienced all that the NT has to offer.

Come Flights to Darwin connect to each major city in Australia

Stay Kakadu Lodge in Jabiru www.auroraresorts.com.au/ aurora_Kakadu_Lodge/ Gagudju Lodge Cooinda in Kakadu www.kakadutourism.com/ accommodation/cooinda-lodge; Knotts Crossing Resort Caravan Park www.knottscrossing.com.au Litchfield Tourist Park www.litchfieldtouristpark. com.au

Play Visit www.nothernterritory. com/Drive for more information on the sites and attractions mentioned in this story

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

17


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING


Tucker TOP END

From fresh local barramundi to trendy sushi burgers and campfire croc-in-a-pot, the Northern Territory has more than a few surprises for the food-loving traveller WORDS ANNA PASTUKHOVA PICS MATT FEHLBERG

W

hen you think of Australia’s culinary hot spots, the Northern Territory is not usually front of mind. But it would be a mistake to discount the Top End from your list of must-visit foodie trails. Here are a few of our top picks.

Mindil Beach Markets, Darwin

Right on the beach, the markets serve fare as bizarre as sushi burgers (which are delicious, by the way) to the freshest oysters and twisty doughnuts. Once the bellies are full, there’s still plenty to do, including Indigenous music performances, watching local artists paint, and endless stalls of unique handmade articles to take home.

Gecko Restaurant at Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Annaburroo

Overlooking a panorama of the eco-tourism property of Mary River Wilderness Retreat, Gecko Restaurant is an oasis to enjoy a nice cool breeze on a hot summer’s day. Its modern Australian menu featuring local produce has a French twist and, while it’s catered to all tastes, it’s pretty hard to go past the mouthwatering local barra. You can easily spend a couple of hours relaxing on the balcony taking in the natural surroundings. ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

19


Above: the warming lights of Mary River Wilderness Retreat. Below: Bowali Visitor Centre. Centre: relaxing on the beach at the Mindil Beach Markets

Kakadu Lodge Bistro, Jabiru The convenience of having a restaurant and bar onsite at your caravan park cannot be overlooked, especially after a long day jam packed with activities. Strategically located next to the Kakadu Lodge’s swimming pool, allows parents to refresh with a cold beverage, while being able to keep an eye on the kids. The menu once again features locally caught barra, juicy steaks and salads, as well as a selection of cocktails and a good beer and wine list.

“At Marksie's, dinner represents everything you'd expect in the NT - crocodile, barramundi, camel, buffalo and kangaroo.” natural bush setting, the experience starts the second you take the leafy trees walk from the carpark. The onsite cafe is a great spot to grab a coffee and a quick bite to eat, before exploring wildlife displays and checking out the Aboriginal art mural at the end of the museum walk.

Bowali Visitor Centre, Kakadu

Finch Cafe, Katherine

The award-winning Bowali Information Centre offers much more than a place for travellers to get directions. Located in a

The modern and stylish Finch Cafe in Katherine has plenty of country quirk mixed with fresh local produce, immaculate presentation

20

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

and great coffee. There are several healthy options for those watching the waistline, and there’s also a selection of locally-made products if you want to take home a souvenir.

Marksie's Stockman's Camp Tucker Dinner, Katherine

This is an unmissable experience on your drive through the outback. Dining under the stars next to a camp�ire may sound romantic, but Marksie’s kitchen is not quite candlelight and serenading with


Right: Preparing for a Marksie's Stockman's Camp Tucker Dinner. Below: Rum Jungle Tavern pub fare and mango pops at Crazy Acres Mango Farm and cafe

experience without the billy spinning contest at the end of the night!

Black Russian Caravan Cafe, Katherine

violins. Be prepared for a night of laughter, great storytelling and the exotic �lavours of Marksie’s special Indigenous bush herbs. The threecourse dinner represents everything you would expect NT �lavours to be about – you are served crocodile, wild barramundi, camel, buffalo and kangaroo, presented as a hearty slow-cooked meal to die for. And it wouldn’t be a true outback

I am a Melbourne coffee snob, and can con�idently say the Black Russian Pop-Up Cafe in Katherine does a great brew. Running out of a 1950s caravan, it offers plenty of quirky style, along with a unique selection of toasties and sweets, all made in-house. Conveniently, it is also located right outside the Katherine Visitor Information Centre, making it a perfect spot to start your day’s adventure.

Rum Jungle Tavern, Batchelor

The Rum Jungle Tavern is everything

an Aussie pub should be. The green oasis beer garden provides a great shady area, and its spacious airconditioned interior means there’s plenty of space to spread out while watching a game on TV. There’s a generous selection of food, and this has to be the best pub meal we had throughout our entire trip.

Crazy Acres Mango Farm and Cafe, Berry Springs Crazy Acres is a family run, 25 acre mango farm in Berry Springs. Whether it’s a quick refreshing icecream stop, or a breakfast or lunch, it’s all about the healthy goodness here. Surrounded by mango trees in every direction, with almost every dish incorporating mango �lavours, you really do feel as though you’re in mango heaven. ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

21


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING

22

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


T

he Northern Territory has always been one of those iconic destinations that beckons every Aussie adventurer. There is so much history, culture, natural beauty and incredible wildlife – not to mention a very large rock – that it really is a rite of passage to spend some time there exploring. But the best part is that while it's a bit off the main trunk line, it’s accessible for travelling families. We have three young children, four-year-old Molly and six-yearold twins William and Abbey, and touring around Darwin we found a myriad of things to do to keep the kids entertained.

Croc hunting

The Top End is world famous for its proli�ic croc population, and there are multiple ways to safely get up close and personal with these magni�icent creatures. With all the build-up to the trip, the kids were restless to see a real-life croc, and they were not disappointed when we joined the ‘Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise’ on the Adelaide River. It’s just one hour’s drive from Darwin down the Arnhem Highway on the way to Kakadu National Park. Our guide Damien was a true blue Aussie in the mould of the late, great, Steve Irwin, and as he introduced us to his crocodile crew, the kids were intrigued as these three metre ancient beasts jumped out of the

Darwin DELIGHTS OF

PICS MATT FEHLBERG

From crocs to curious fish that eat out of your hand, Darwin proves a hit with the kids, as Travis Godfredson discovered

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

23


Above: Holding a juvenile croc at Crocodylus Park. Below: Travis and his daughter get up close with a Kookaburra. Right: Cooling off at Howard Springs Nature Park

water to claim their prize – a juicy piece of meat held over the side of the boat. There are predatory birds of all shapes and sizes here, too. Kites swoop to take small pieces of meat from Damien, who greets them by name. They are majestic birds of prey and it’s hard not to be impressed by them. Crocodylus Park, just on the 24

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

outskirts of Darwin, is another top place to see crocs – and even pat them. It is home to more than 1000 fresh and saltwater snappers ranging from baby hatchlings to full-grown adults up to 4.8 metres. Here the kids can hold a juvenile and learn more about one of the most ancient species on the planet, at more than 200 million years old.

The park also gives young ones the chance to hang out with a bunch of other cool animals including playful meerkats, tortoises, monkeys, dingoes, blue tongue lizards, and even lions and tigers. While at the Museum of Art Gallery they can meet one of the NT’s biggest crocs, a �ive metre giant called ‘Sweetheart’. This 780kg beast was the


dominant male crocodile in Sweets Lookout billabong, a waterway located 55km south-west of Darwin in the Finniss River system. In the 1970s, he gained notoriety for attacking dinghies, and on at least two occasions tipping the occupants into the water. Following the attacks, the Parks and Wildlife Commission decided to capture him and relocate him. Sadly, he passed away after getting entangled with a log while under anaesthetic. Nowadays, Sweetheart stands as a monument to crocodiles at the museum, and our kids were pretty impressed with him. This is far from ‘just another museum’. There is a rolling events calendar of fun stuff for the kids to do, including book reading, storytelling and activity stops both inside, and in the museum’s gardens.

Something’s a little fishy

One of the coolest ways for kids to get close to the marine world is at the Aquascene �ish feeding sanctuary on the water at Doctor’s Gully. At high tide hundreds of �ish swim up to the shallows to be hand-fed bread by eager locals and tourists. You can stand on the viewing platform’s concrete stairs to feed all manner of species – milk�ish, cat�ish, mullet, bream and rock cod – our kids were engrossed by this wonderfully close encounter. If you’re brave you can stand in the water so they frolic around your legs, as they gape for bites of doughy goodness.

New furry friends

Kids can never say no to a cuddle with a small furry creature, and the Territory Wildlife Park is the place to do it. Less than one hour from Darwin, the park consists of very deliberately zoned habitats to accommodate all manner of wildlife. There’s the monsoon forest walk, a wetlands, a walk-through aviary, rocky ridge and nocturnal house. The �light deck captured our kids’

Budding history buffs

Come Flights to Darwin connect to each major city in Australia.

Stay There are many and varied types of accommodation in Darwin, to suit all budgets. Our family hired a caravan and stayed in Discovery Parks Darwin www.discovery holidayparks. com.au/nt/darwin/darwin

Play Family-friendly activities abound in Darwin. Visit: www.northernterritory.com/ Drive for more information on the sites and activities mentioned in this story.

attention, with their favourites being a barn and a huge rescue wedge-tail eagle called Yarak. The park encourages interaction between visitors and its inhabitants, and at the reptile enclosure the kids pat bush rats, a baby wallaby and stare at iconic Aussie blue tongue lizards. There’s a wonderful conservation focus and an educational opportunity as well. William befriended a cute spotted quoll and begged us to let him take it home once he discovered quoll populations are declining due to habitat loss, frequent burning and cane toad poisoning. There are 24 individual exhibits in the park’s aquarium that follow a natural journey from escarpment country through waterholes and billabongs to the sea. The aquarium is home to turtles, crocodiles, rays, barramundi and a variety of sharks and coral reef �ish.

Of all the cities in Australia, Darwin has the strongest wartime history. RFDS Tourist Facility offers kids the chance to learn more about this incredible service, and there’s also the great displays about the bombing of Darwin by Japanese planes on 19 February 1942. These stimulating stopovers aren’t dowdy dad affairs that leave the kids lunging for the iPad either. They feature interactive displays that make learning fun. There’s even a hologram experience for the kids to learn about John Flynn, who started the RFDS. There’s also another hologram telling the story of Rear Admiral Etheridge Grant, Commanding Of�icer of the USS William B Preston, who narrates his own version of the Bombing of Darwin Harbour. The kids can also sit in the cockpit of a decommissioned RFDS Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. The Darwin Cenotaph, in the city’s Bicentennial Park, is another unmissable historical spot. The kids can learn a little more history and then check out the view over Darwin Harbour.

Just cool it

Another notable characteristic about the Top End is the heat – and sometimes you just need to beat it. Soothe tiny feet and �laring tempers with a refreshing dip at Berry Springs Nature Park, just a short drive along the Stuart Highway from Darwin. Here the kids can splash about in one of the many natural pools, go for a bushwalk or enjoy a picnic or snack from the kiosk on site. Howard Springs Nature Park is another top spot where the kids can cool off in its series of man-made rock pools and then say g’day to local wildlife including turtles, barramundi and a snake or two. It’s a great way to let them burn off some energy, especially if you are planning a longer drive that afternoon. ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

25


NORTHERN TERRITORY TOURING

Spectacular CAMP

Looking for the best place to camp in the NT? Check out these spectacular spots.

26

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


Lorella Springs Wilderness Park Lorella Springs is a family-owned station set on one million acres that boasts vast stretches of open savannah, mangroves and salt �lats, just ripe for exploration. Fishing, bushwalks, intriguing Indigenous art, and varied 4WD tracks will keep the crew entertained while a hot springs provides a reprieve after a day of intense adventures. Accommodation ranges from luxe homestead living in air-conditioned cabins to safari-style tents and idyllic remote camping by a river. www.lorellasprings.com.au

Butterfly Springs, Limmen National Park Birdwatchers and anglers alike will gravitate to Limmen National Park, a Northern Territory hotspot annexed as a national park less than 10 years ago, crammed with awe-inspiring destinations. Central to it all is the postcard-perfect Butter�ly Springs, providing the ideal place to cool off and relax. There’s also plenty to see and do, with bushwalks and 4WD access leading to the curious yet accessible Southern Lost City and Western Lost City formations. And if you’re happy to lose half a day, you can launch a tinnie and cast a line at Roper River. www.nt.gov.au

Keep River National Park

Kathleen Falls, Flora River Nature Park

Keep River National Park is a little gem next to the Western Australia border that’s accessible by 2WD. Although small in size, its unique scenery puts it high on the must-do list with intriguing Indigenous rock art that’s easy to �ind. RV camping is available at Jarnem and Gurrandalng, a short drive within the park, with both sites easy treks to fascinating rock formations. As you enter the park, you’ll �ind thousands of ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

27


Indigenous rock art drawings on the 28km of the main road. Be sure to pack the binoculars, too, as Cockatoo Lagoon near the information centre provides great viewing site for twitchers, with much of the park declared the Keep River Important Bird Area. www.nt.gov.au

Flora River Nature Park One hundred and thirty kilometres west of Katherine is a pint-size oasis �illed with emerald spas, gob-smacking falls and translucent plunge pools. An angler’s delight, Flora River Nature Park provides boat ramp access to bream-�illed waters, where river explorers can launch a tinnie or canoe. Djarrung and Kathleen falls are within reach of the Djarrung campground making this intimate park ideal for hikers and river enthusiasts keen to launch a canoe. Although unsealed, the tracks

28

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

suit conventional vehicles and rigs during the dry. www.visitkatherine.com.au

West MacDonnell Ranges The West MacDonnell Ranges – that ancient, ochre behemoth that closes in on Alice Springs from the west – offers overlanders a

stress-free touring destination thanks to quality tarmac roads. The breathtakingly rugged beauty needs to be experienced by every outback traveller. Spanning 250km west of Alice Springs, there are campsites at all the major gorges including two at Redbank Gorge. www.nt.gov.au

Above: Lorella Springs Wilderness Park. Below: Butterfly Springs , Limmen National Park


MOORABOOL VALLEY, VICTORIA

V

Ray Nadeson and Maree Collis, Lethbridge Wines

ictoria has a plethora of established food and wine trails which are well and truly on the savvy foodie traveller’s radar. There’s the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula with gourmet cheeses, chocolates and vineyards, and Rutherglen and King Valley wine regions. - to name but a few. But now there’s a new (and super cool) kid on the block: the Moorabool Valley Taste Trail, and it’s gaining traction for its diverse and passionate producers and wineries, who came to the region not because of an established food and wine scene, but instead a genuine love of the land.

Cool climate community

It was the quality of the soil which drew many producers and winemakers to these parts – and it's what sets the Moorabool Valley apart. The focus of the Taste Trail is to celebrate that authenticity, and to ensure the ongoing success of the region’s produce. It’s this undeniable sense of community and togetherness that makes the Moorabool Valley Taste Trail so appealing; with owners of the wineries, farms and restaurants more than happy to share their

grapevine HEARD IT ON THE

WORDS KIRSTIE BEDFORD PICS SUPPLIED

Victoria’s newest, and as yet mostly undiscovered, food and wine trail offers cool climate drops and tasty fare served up by warm and welcoming locals ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

29


“The idea of sustainability was obvious to us from the beginning and so we’ve always applied biodynamic principles” Maree Collis, Lethbridge

Above: Strawbale winery at Lethbridge; the opening of the food trail at Clyde Park; Austin wines. Main image: Scott Austin and son Spencer at his winery

30

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


knowledge of the region. It means when you visit the area you’ll be able to personally meet the owners of the wineries, who will talk to you through why this region is punching well above its weight, and producing wines which are winning accolades both here and internationally.

Meet the makers

Among those are former PHD scientists Ray Nadeson and Maree Collis from Lethbridge Wines, voted the best small cellar in the Geelong region in the Gourmet Traveller Wine Australia’s Best Cellar Door Awards and gold winners at the Sommelier Wine Awards in London. They produce pinot noir and chardonnay, and also a blueprint series of Italian varieties which you can taste in their purpose-built straw bale winery. Maree says the success of Lethbridge Wines has been due to a philosophy of maintaining the quality of the soil. “The idea of sustainability was obvious to us from the beginning and so we’ve always applied biodynamic principles.” Just down the road in Bannockburn is Clyde Park Vineyard and Bistro, which sits at the top of a hill with stunning views across the vines and rolling hills beyond. One of the earlier vineyards in the region, Clyde Park was planted in 1979 and now has 40 acres of

vines. Run by Terry Jongebloed and his wife Sue Dixon, they too are focused on sustainable practices. The couple has installed solar panels to help power the winery, they have free-range chickens whose eggs are used in the restaurant and thee couple have their own organic compost, which helps to nurture their vines. A stone’s throw away (in rural terms) Scott Austin and wife Belinda are the second generation of Austins & Co. And while the third generation are too young to do much more than stomp on grapes, the couple hope their young children will one day get involved. Here it’s not only a winery experience, with a 150-acre vineyard and a pop-up cellar door, but you’ll also feel as though you’re on the farm as the family’s sheep roam around freely. Scott also has plans to convert the wool shed to a cellar door to be able to continually introduce their wines directly to the public. He says while the new Moorabool Valley Taste Trail is a great way to educate people about their story and build brand awareness, it’s also much more than that. “People are out here because they love the lifestyle and what they produce, so it’s as much about giving back to the community as it is about building a sustainable business you can pass down to future generations.”

A volcanic experience

Further north in Anakie is the 45acre vineyard Del Rios, where vines are planted on the western slopes of ancient volcano Mt Anakie. Here you can take a sojourn to Europe for the afternoon and feast on tapas made by the Spanish owners. At Del Rios, everything is done in-house, from the estate-grown grapes which are handpicked and hand-pruned, to the bottling and labelling.

Heading back towards town, just out of the city of Geelong is Provenance Wines, on the banks of the Barwon River at the historic bluestone Barwon Paper Mill. Built in the 1870s, the mill is an emerging wine, food, arts precinct and Provenance is centre stage housed within the mill’s heritage bluestone buildings. While you can’t walk amongst the vines, it’s a chance to experience a brand new concept for Geelong, an urban winery, where you can see the end of the winemaking process. There is so much more to see and taste on the Moorabool Valley Taste Trail, and your itinerary could be as short as a day trip, or a luxurious week of exploration. Our advice? Take a wander through, before word spreads too far.

Come The Moorabool Tourist Trail stretches north-west of Geelong including the townships of Bannockburn, Inverleigh, Lethbridge and Mt Anakie

Stay Moorabool Valley or Geelong. https://www. visitgeelongbellarine.com.au/

Play www.lethbridgewines.com www.clydepark.com.au www.austinsandco.com.au www.delrios.com.au

www.provenancewines.com.au

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

31


MID WEST COAST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

32

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


People Passion PRESERVES COAST

Kirstie Bedford takes a road trip up the isolated Mid West coast of WA and discovers the passion of those behind a project to preserve the coast

I

t’s the colours which will be forever etched in your memory when travelling the Mid West coast of WA. Tarsealed roads meandering through a vast carpet of gold, where snow white sand dunes rise against a turquoise ocean. The beaches here, so isolated they are nesting havens for rare birds, have to be some of the best kept secrets in coastal camping in this country. The privileged few who have set up camp are mostly from Perth, and are quick to tell you they’d prefer the sites weren’t over-run with tourists - but in this part of the country, where the �ishing industry, much like mining, is no longer leaving an economic footprint, tourism is now its much needed mainstay. It’s the reason four of the local shires banded together to invest in preserving this pristine stretch of coast. Sourcing funding from grants, they built safe walkways linking

look-outs and protecting native plants, installed toilets and bbqs, and improved signage, and now they are more than ready for those seeking adventure to come. Behind the scenes were some passionate locals who helped the shires turn their vision into reality, in particular Deb O’Brien, who moved to the tiny town of Green Head on the Mid West Coast from Victoria with her husband in the mid 70s, the only woman to brave the population of �ishermen, and brave she was. She lived with no power or water for seven years in a �isherman’s shack in Little Anchorage Bay, and for the �irst year, it was the only shack for miles. Not helpful when her husband was off on a �ishing expedition and the car broke down leaving her stranded for four days. Fearing she’d lose her voice, she sang to the transistor radio and waited, hoping someone would come out to visit her, which they eventually did. A passionate coastal advocate, ten years ago Deb formed the Green Head ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

33


Coast Care group to create the ‘three bays walkway’. She says it’s humbling to now see the group’s plans come into fruition, including the �irst paths installed along the coast at Dynamite Bay, so people have safe path access and to protect the native bush. The �inal works are expected to be completed in the next few months, which will see the �irst walkways between Dynamite, South Bay and Anchorage Bay, and when that’s done she says, “there will be a huge celebration”. Then the rehabilitation and maintenance work begins, and the group will start work on its master plan to connect the townships of Green Head and Leeman. Currently the only way between the two communities, which are 14 kilometres apart, is by the main road. “We’ve worked out a route which is achievable to bring the two towns together, and I think that’d be a great way to connect the two communities.” While she’s reluctant to take all the credit for the work of the group she started, there’s no denying the drive of Deb O’Brien, who has her own plans with council to develop her art gallery, Green Head Gallery,

into a café and accommodation to drive tourists to town, and with a beach directly across the quiet road from her house, it’s not hard to see why it’d be an attractive option. This quietly spoken talented artist paints in her maiden name ‘Crookes’, “as a tribute to my father who loved art,” with her works depicting the stunning coast lines she’s worked so hard to protect. Deb’s gallery is �ittingly in a �isherman’s shack, and if you’re lucky she’ll serve you one of her trademark sponges and a cup of tea. Well no luck is needed really, Deb’s about as hospitable as they come.

cray�ishing, but these towns offer a lot more than just the perfect coastline. The region is also home to the Australia sea lion, listed as an endangered species. About 20 per cent of the Western Australian population of sea lions live and breed in this region, and from Dynamite Bay you can often see them popping their heads between the bays, or for a closer look get out and swim with them. For those more interested in �lora than fauna, the nearby Lesueur National Park is home to more than 900 species of wild�lowers, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Moving on to Milligan

Five minutes from Deb’s gallery is the Milligan Island Eco Camp, one of the camps which formed part of the regeneration initiative. Designed to re�lect an Aboriginal artwork, the large circular sites are tucked behind the sand dunes amongst natural vegetation. Much like its southern sister, Sandy Cape Recreation Park, near Jurien Bay, the open stretch of beach is isolated, and breath-taking. On the northern side of Milligan is the township of Leeman. Its small pier the perfect launch pad for a tinny to go

"The only visitors you may get, besides a few campers, are inquisitive dolphins, metres from the shore line"

34

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


Casting off to Cliff Head A one hour drive north of Leeman is the town of Dongara, where cafes sit under century old Moreton Bay and Port Jackson Fig trees. Here you can grab some retro hire bikes from the local backpackers and take a four kilometre leisurely ride to Port Denison via Granny’s Beach. This mini-beach sets a stunning backdrop to the Green Beanie, a 1964 converted BiTone vintage caravan serving contemporary-style coffees, tea and smoothies. A must-do is Fisherman’s Lookout and the obelisk, built in the late

1800s to commemorate the sailors’ lives lost at sea, where you’ll get a panoramic view of the harbour. When it’s time to retire, head out to Cliff Head, a free camp site which also part of the shires’ project. Just 30 minutes from town, the site is nothing short of spectacular. Lying in your RV you’ll hear nothing more than the waves lapping on shore, and the only visitors you may get, besides the few campers who have been lucky enough to �ind this location, are inquisitive dolphins metres from the shore line.

Come Green Head is 250 kilometres from Perth in Western Australia. Dongara is 350 kilometres from Perth.

Stay Sandy Cape Park $20 per night 17km from Jurien Bay Milligan Island $15 per night 12km from Leeman Cliff Head free camp 38km from Dongara Lucky Bay $15 per night 42km from Kalbarri

Play Left: Deb O'Brien with one of her landscapes in her art gallery in Green Head; aerial shot of the stunning coast. Below: some of the rejuvenation works. Right: Relaxing at Cliff Head free camp.

See: dongaraportdenison.com. au/places-to-stay/midwestcoastal-nodes-project/

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

35


REVIEW: KEA DISCOVERY

36

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


Clever design makes the KEA Discovery the perfect partner for extended road trips By Kirstie Bedford and Malcolm Street

Lifestyle LEGEND

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

37


P

icking up the KEA Discovery, I admit to being a bit nervous. It was the �irst time I was driving solo, and it wasn’t a short trip. I was going to cover some 700 + kilometres up the remote Mid West Coast of Western Australia. An adventure it was, but there was trepidation about the travel. But once inside this brand new beauty, I needn’t have worried. One of the key concerns I had was visibility, but the KEA Discovery has been designed with large windows at the back, great for sitting back and enjoying the vista on location, but also very practical for seeing what’s behind you, and when you’re in a 21 foot motorhome, it was the peace of mind I needed while on the road. My trip started in Perth, and the drive to my �irst stop at Jurien Bay, was 38

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

a seamless one. Do, however, make sure you locate petrol stations before you get too far, they are few and far between one you get further north.

The practicalities

Malcolm Street reviews dozens of motorhomes a year and he knows a thing or two about the practicalities. He says motorhomes built for the rental market, as THL does, are usually designed in a way to accommodate the requirements of both hirers and users. For that reason, the larger ones come in four and six berth con�igurations, with the beds being made up from dinettes and lounges, rather than being �ixed. A fact that does impact re-sale on the retail market. However, he says THL in New Zealand borrowed a developing feature from the retail market and adapted it nicely for both their retail and rental operation. That being a bed which is

normally stored in the ceiling by day, and can be lowered either by hand by night. “Apart from anything else, this gives a shorter motorhome when compared to more conventional four berth designs a bit more living space to play with inside. What KEA did with this motorhome design was to �it in the much loved club lounge in the rear with windows all round and a drop down bed above.” He says the results are that by day it’s possible to sit in comfort and watch the world go by, plus a night area that will comfortably sleep four people. “Okay the lower residents might have a slightly low ceiling height but it’s not a major gripe. For two people it’s a winner – no need to make up a bed every night or for those travelling with children, there’s plenty of bed space.” He says the rear area arrangement then leaves space further forward for a


“The windows are a deal-breaker .. besides it being the perfect place to relax with a wine and book, there’s the practical element of making it much easier to drive.” nearside kitchen and offside bathroom complete with shower and toilet. Up front, there’s a two person seat/lounge behind the driver’s seat and a small cabinet between the entry door and the passenger seat. Both cab seats swivel around adding a bit of seating, especially if both beds are made up. Although there isn’t one �itted, it might be possible to get a freestanding table to �it between the seats.

The stats Above: Relaxing by the beach in Cliff Head. Right: The light, airy interior of the KEA Discovery

Measuring at 6.6 m (21ft 8in) , the Discovery is built very much in the

THL style with �ibreglass composite walls and roof, along with �ibreglass mouldings for the curvy bits. As noted earlier, it’s built in New Zealand, the giveaway being the windows, especially the larger rear ones with the opening lower halves. A surprise on the Discovery, given its rental heritage, is the well sized external storage capacity. There’s a tunnel boot across the rear which will be adequate for all the essentials – camping chairs, table, hoses, power leads and tool box. There are of course the usual external doors for toilet cassette, suburban hot water heater and 9.0kg gas cylinder. Not found on many a rental motorhomes is an awning, in this case a Cvana, designed a little differently to most, but one designed for the rigours of rental use. Standard is a 100AH house battery and 140W solar panel capacity.

On the Road

At 2.34m (7’ 4”) wide, the Discovery

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

39


Above: Plugging in the GPS, right: the swivelling cab seats provide dual use. Below: The kitchen is functional and light

40

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


Specifications Vehicle Manufacturer THL KEA Model Discovery Base Vehicle Mercedes Benz Sprinter CDI 313CDI GVM 3550kg Licence Car Passengers 4

Mechanical Engine 2.2 litre turbo diesel Power 95kW@3800rpm 315CDI Torque 360Nm@ 1200-2400rpm Gearbox 7 speed auto Brakes ABS Disc

Dimensions

is slightly narrower than the average motorhome which does reduce the internal space, but makes it easier for driving along narrow roads and maneuvering around car parks. Fitted with a 95kW/360Nm engine, the turbo diesel moves the Discovery along well enough with the seven speed gearbox performing in the usual Benz smooth manner.

The bottom line

After spending a week in this motorhome, I found it very easy to drive, and park, in the varying low cost and freedom camp sites we visited, many which meant driving up sandy

banks by the beach. Equally pulling into a carpark in the township of Dongara posed no problems. The set up was easy, and as Malcolm mentioned earlier, there’s good storage options and the windows would be a deal-breaker for me when choosing to buy my own motorhome. Besides it being the perfect place to relax back with a wine and book, there’s the practical element of making it much easier to drive than other motorhomes of a similar, or bigger size. The bathroom is a good size with a swiveling toilet seat and good pressure in the shower. Besides the cabinetry proving a bit noisy at times, when driving off-road for short periods, the pros de�initely far outway that minor con. The kitchenette is small, but functional and provides enough space for cooking on the road, where you’d spend most time outdoors anyway. All in all, I was impressed by the use of space and design and am now itching to get back out in it! Road trip anyone?

Ext. length 6.6m (21ft 8in) Ext. width (incl awning) 2.34m (7ft 4in) Ext. height 3.4m (11ft 2in) Int. height 2.06m (6ft 9in) Upper bed size 2.0m x 1.4m (6ft 7in x 4ft 7in) Lower bed size 2.1m x 1.4m (6ft 11in x 4ft 7in)

Equipment Cooktop Dometic 4 burner & grill Fridge Isotherm 130litre 12V compressor Microwave Oven Optional Lighting 12V LED Batteries 1 x 100AH Solar panels 140W Air conditioner Air Command Sparrow Toilet Thetford cassette Shower Combo with toilet Hot water heater Suburban 23 litre gas/electric Water tank 92 litre Grey tank 92 litre Gas cylinders 1 x 9.0kg Price from $109,000 (2016)

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

41


NEW ENGLAND HIGH COUNTRY, NSW

HITTING THE

High Country Sam MacLachlan braves adventure riding in the New England High Country

42

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

43


“It’s one of those places that is magnificent to behold, but simultaneously instils mild fear.”

I

was sailing off a steeply angled erosion jump on a full-sized adventure bike, with another three jumps in view, and what turned out to be around 40 more further up the hill. I was �lanked by my riding mates and the hill was steep enough so that using second gear meant we could yell out to each other in jest, and occasionally panic. Just ahead was chief navigator Martyn Blake. He had never been on this piece of dirt, but it was rapidly engraving itself into his memory banks. His BMW F700GS was loaded to the hilt with luggage but, with knobbies on, it was tractoring uphill with purpose. On my right �lank was Josh Evans, his F800GS loving the tight turns and demands on line choice. Was it a race? Not quite, but it was getting there when Marty peeled off for some photos to log 44

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

this road into his records. The 1200’s sheer grunt made up for its weight disadvantage to Josh’s nimble 800 – as long as I got the thing straight before rolling the throttle on hard. Unfortunately, forgetting that technique led to me taking a soil sample. Rounding a left-hander in the lead, I heard Josh get on the throttle on the outside line. It was boding well for him to execute a ‘passed you on the outside’ manoeuvre, something I didn’t feel like hearing about for the next two days, so I got on the throttle too. I shouldn’t have. Next thing I knew, I was kissing the BMW’s headlight, as my ham-�isted control overwhelmed the available grip and the rear-end swung around to spank my butt. Josh stayed on the outside line to avoid me. I had picked the thing up and was sitting on it, acting all casual, by the time Marty had put his camera away and joined us. “Just having a break,” I

winked as Marty quizzically surveyed all of the scarred dirt around me. “Let’s get to the top!”

The journey

We were on our last day of a threeday adventure ride around the New England High Country of NSW. We were coming back into the area via Dalmorton and the Old Grafton Road, which meanders along the Boyd and Mann Rivers. With the river on the left, the cattle-infested road is bordered by a rock face – it was hard to know where to look. By the time we arrived at the ascent to Tommys Rock, and my ungracious parting from the GS, we reckoned this area was made for adventure bikes. Once we arrived at the lookout itself, with its views of the Great Dividing Range, we knew it. The lookout had one viewing area thoroughly fenced off – just below another excellent vantage point utterly free


of restraints. We eventually found our way to the very tip of Tommys Rock, and it was nothing short of spectacular. It’s one of those places that is magni�icent to behold, but simultaneously instils mild fear as you start to experience vertigo. Tommy McPherson, an Aboriginal man, was a skilled stockman not to mention a bushranger, escaped fugitive and gold digger. The ride suits all kinds of adventure bikes – the big and medium-sized BMWs loved getting ks under the wheels, but were also able to tackle the more challenging areas. We spent our �irst night in Armidale, arriving via the magni�icent Oxley Highway – one of the best bitumen roads in Australia – and

Above: One of the many long roads to meander in the New England High Country. Below: Taking in the sights

awoke a little surprised to have to wipe snow from our bikes. It turned out to be the coldest week in the region for 20 years, but that didn’t worry us – we had heated grips and ’screens, plus snow makes for a better adventure. We enjoyed some seriously good breakfast, then headed for the dirt roads around Wollomombi. Taking in the historic Walcha Road Hotel, we decided to pile back to Uralla – on the bitumen, and made it into the warm embrace of our Top Pub accommodation just on dark.

Mt Hyland Nature Reserve At 3am I got my �irst taste of what was to come – a glance out the window revealed serious sleet, and

four hours later, when I looked out again, it was a winter wonderland. With the roads in and out of Uralla closed, but an itinerary to follow, and time running out, Marty stepped up with his excellent local knowledge. We just rugged up, turned the heated handgrips to full and followed Marty. We aimed north to Armidale, before escaping the snow and black ice by heading to Ebor, then got back on the dirt to the remarkable Vista Point, in the Mt Hyland Nature Reserve. We could also make out the scars of dirt roads among those hills, and the itch to get to them was hard to resist. We owed Martyn and his knowledge a beer or two for getting us there – our entire trip would have been snowed in otherwise, and less memorable and enjoyable! For those afraid to leave the Big City, don’t despair; I had some of the best craft beer, coffee and food on this trip and the many pubs and accommodation options mean all budgets are catered for. As my riding mates and I separated the next day, back to our families and the rat race, we left with amazing memories to keep us going for many years to come.

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

45


Tenterfield

Inverell

Glen Innes

Guyra Armidale

Coffs Harbour

Uralla

Walcha

Port Macquarie

Best motorcycle rides in New England High Country To find out more visit: www.newenglandhighcountry.com.au

46

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED


Discover your favourite corner of New England High Country Find your favourite corner in one of the most motorcycle-friendly regions in New South Wales, if not Australia. To see tour videos, view itineraries, maps and book accommodation head to travelin.com.au

83

ROAD LESS TRAVELLED

47


Road Less Travelled  

Inaugural edition of Road Less Travelled mini mag, uncovering the best of regional Australia

Road Less Travelled  

Inaugural edition of Road Less Travelled mini mag, uncovering the best of regional Australia

Advertisement