for me A$970 paid for all of a three week, 4922km, camping/hiking/sightseeing/road-trip south along the great dividing range.
2/3 of that went for 420l of diesel (my car is reasonably economical even with the brake parachu^W^Wroof top tent in place), and the remainder covered (national park and other) camping fees, some grocery shopping and a few coffee and cake breaks. i mostly camped in cheap or free places and somehow i can't bring myself to eat out even when i'm on the road (at least when travelling solo), which should explain the low cost.
i've long wanted to see more of australia. being off work right now makes this the perfect opportunity to travel, except that the season is not ideal for visiting central oz (late summer/early fall is both hot and normally the rainy season); furthermore the current drought makes the inland regions a bit less appealing than usual (ie. many creeks and rivers are bone-dry, fire bans in many national parks and so on).
so i decided that i'd tag along the great dividing range towards the south, visiting most of the higher areas on the way - for the views, the hiking and a bit of cooler weather. the tentative plan also included visiting the victorian alps and possibly the great ocean road as well, but that part of the plan went up in smoke - lots of nasty bushfires in victoria, pretty much exactly where i wanted to go - so the eventual southernmost goal shifted to mt. kosciuszko, the highest hill in oz.
here is the whole trip as a single track; read on for photos and more details.
border ranges national park, richmond range national park
on the first day, a thursday, i left the gold coast tracking west and checked out the lions road area with a short sightseeing stop at the border loop railway. that part was dry but then the rain started - just when i had reached the scenic parts of the border ranges... the forests still showed quite some damage from the cyclone scare of a weekend earlier, lots of branches down everywhere.
in a brief break between showers i walked up to the pinnacle lookout, and the view was pretty good despite the clouds.
then onwards to kyogle, then back up north along the cambridge ridge road (which is really scenic and beautiful - lazy me didn't take any photos there though...) and i got to the peacock creek camping area in the richmond range national park. nobody there but me and lots of birds and roos.
that was the first night in my roof top tent, and it rained quite a lot during the night. my tent is second-hand and about five years old but held out very well. but packing up wet, inbetween showers is not something i like much; this being the very first time and in a rush i also skinned my knuckles quite a bit.
yuraygir national park
the second day saw a short drive
to minnie water where i spent two days on the beach, just relaxing and
not doing much beyond a bit of beach walking. the weather improved
somewhat and there were just a few short drizzly showers, but it was
fairly windy. very relaxing, except that the large monitors in that area can
be a bit startling. yay for sleeping off the ground
cathedral rock national park
on the fourth day i packed up mostly in the dry, drove back to grafton for a quick coffee and then on to higher country along the waterfall way. it was raining most of the day. of the various camping (and hiking) opportunities in that area the cathedral rock national park looked most inviting, and so i picked the barokee camping area, nice and high at 1380m or so. again not a single soul around but even more birds than before. because i was restless i walked the quick 3km loop around cathedral rock despite the rain, and the smell of the wet eucalypt and other trees was really nice.
next day the weather was good and i hiked up to cathedral rock, which offers really great views (altitude 1560m or so).
but somehow or other i did manage to catch a cold and the next two nights and one day were really lousy. being feverish is not fun and even less so when you're camping. i tried to sleep it off but didn't succeed completely, so on day seven i packed up and headed straight home.
fast forward a few days of rest at home, then on a tuesday, overall the eight day of the trip i left home again, this time tracking straight west. i stayed overnight at the lake coolmunda campground, and even though the dammed lake/reservoir was at only 15% capacity the views were great and there were lots of birds to see. a frogmouth even visited the tent a bit after sunset.
as it was nice and warm i had all four sides of the tent open; the bird noise started around sunrise and i woke up just long enough to take a nice photo.
mt. kaputar national park
on day nine i reached mt. kaputar national park which had been one of the main goals for the trip. i stayed at dawson spring campground for three nights, two of them without anybody in the area. the dawson spring campground is a bit small but has great facilities especially given it's in a national park.
the weather was good (if cool) and as i had arrived early enough in the day i quickly walked up to mt. caputar summit to enjoy the marvellous views.
the next two days i spent hiking on the various tracks in the mt. kaputar/mt. dove area, doing 15km and 20km, respectively. the weather remained good and i enjoyed these days very much (even though i didn't see more than four other people in total).
the roos at mt. kaputar were really cheeky and even slightly annoying; they must have seen me as the only potential source of goodies (until the last night) and begged accordingly, investigated everything repeatedly, overturned a cookpot with coffee water (thankfully not hot at the time) and ate half of my dishwashing sponge. they were also really noisy until late at night. a currawong stole some of my breakfast bread.
warrumbungle national park
the next (twelfth) day the weather started worsening and i moved on to warrumbungle national park. this was a fairly short drive with a brief detour to the siding spring astronomical observatory; the 3.9m telescope there has an interesting visitor/viewer gallery that was definitely worth the visit.
just after i arrived at camp blackman a storm arrived with lots of rain and driving wind that made the late afternoon pretty miserable. it also rained some more during the night.
the next day i walked just a few kms around the belougery flats, then there was more rain around noon; later on in the afternoon i felt like cooking - and this time it wasn't cheeky roos that bothered me, but very very insistent noisy miners. they just wouldn't take 'no' as an answer...
in the end i stayed three nights at camp blackman, and on the second day the weather was good - good enough for a decent hike: 19km to the breadknife, the grand high tops and back via spirey creek. the views were awesome and you could see to the plains beyond the warrumbungles in pretty much all directions. a sweaty exercise but very satisfying.
on day fifteen i drove to sydney via the blue mountains, to spend two nights and a day with barbara and her new family. after weeks of countryside i hated the traffic coming into sydney from the west.
morton national park
the weather in sydney was very wet but started to clear once i reached wollongoong on day seventeen. after passing nowra i drove through the morton national park (quite beautiful countryside) and camped at charleyong crossing right next to the shoalhaven river.
because of the bushfires in victoria i had revised my original plans to visit the snowy river and alpine national parks and picked a quick dash to mt. kosciuszko as a compromise. day eighteen saw me drive mostly in the rain to jindabyne, which is the kind of horribly touristy town that i don't like much and won't revisit if i can help it. that day i really didn't feel like camping and got a motel room. in the evening the weather cleared for a while and i could at least enjoy the view of the lake.
mt. kosciuszko, alpine way, wagga wagga
in the morning i left jindabyne early to beat the weather and get to the mt. kosciuszko summit before any further rain (which did arrive just after noon).
the hike from charlotte pass to mt. kosciuszko summit at 2228m was disappointing in a variety of ways; the weather was windy and on the verge of rain all the time, and on that very day a long-distance running event was held on the kosciuszko plateau, so there were hundreds of runners everywhere.
furthermore the plateau walk is pretty boring, the view from the summit was just soso thanks to the weather, and the running event made the day anything but serene. in the end i more or less quickmarched the 18.6km there and back in 3h 15min.
if i ever decide to hike near mt. kosciuszko again it'll have to be the hummel spur, the only approach that looks in any way interesting.
i found jindabyne, thredbo and the mt. kosciuszko national park hopelessly commercial and while the alpine way is an interesting road to drive (once) i don't think i'll visit again.
after a few km through northeast victoria i camped at oura beach reserve, just outside of wagga wagga. that evening was nice if noisy (sulphur-crested cockatoos, but the morning saw more rain and i packed up wet once more.
goulburn river national park
day twenty saw me well and truly on the way home. the morning was rainy, but it cleared sufficiently that i did get to enjoy the views of the rolling hills and undulating countryside around young, bathurst and mudgee.
i picked the big river campground in the goulburn river national park for my last overnight stay, and was lucky to get enough of a dry period in the afternoon for both drying out the tent as well as for leisurely cooking dinner.
the scenery was magnificent and i liked the place quite a lot. once again i was by myself; both campgrounds in that area were completely empty.
home wet home
the last day of this trip, day twentyone, started with rain and yet another very wet and unpleasant pack-up.
after leaving the national park i made the mistake of letting the gps misdirect me onto the 'bylong valley way' which is one continuous pothole and likely worse than the dirt track alternative that i had rejected (gravel/dirt roads are not that much fun in the rain).
it stopped raining once i passed tamworth, and i puttered along the new england hightway northwards. i picked the inland route on purpose as the coastal motorway is faster but just too boring.
i had marked a few options for camping another night in case i ran out of energy or daylight (e.g. turn east in armidale and stay at ebor, or turn east in glen innes for the mann river reserve, or pick one of the small overnight rest spots east of tenterfield).
in the end, however, i didn't stop but drove the full 876km in one day
and arrived home at 2015. the next day saw me dry out the tent, after
which we had four days of rain...lucky timing!