Thursday 30 January 2014

Back out in the sticks

Our little girl Maeryn was born on the 7th December and she came along very fast.
It was the first time I've had the mad rush to the hospital. Now I feel like I've been part of the millions of dads everywhere who panic.

Lil is a great and very confident mother so feeding routines are easy and settled prett quickly. We then hit the road on Boxing Day on our new adventures with our extra passenger.
We checked out a new website called youcamp and found a nice looking spot in the strezlecki ranges that would be quiet and scenic for our new year. organise camping on private property and have numerous spots all over the country, the one we went to didn't seem to have a. Huge history in camping themselves which led to a pretty uncomfortable few nights.
Our spot was on top of a hill with a stunning view ........but there was no flat area and we camped on the forest part possible, but it was on about a 10-15 degree slop and the kids kept sliding out their beds. The bracken had just been cut so it was like walking around on short spikes and it cut your ankles and feet up in no time.
We asked to move and got put on a better spot on an adjacent hill. This spot was next to the drop dunny ( poorly designed and erected) which also had the shower. The shower was a Coleman aqua cube and worked although there was no water to be had.
The owners eventually got some water up the hill in the form of a barrel on the back of a trailer. As much as it worked I had expected a lot more bang for my buck.
It cost us $24 per day which was the same as a caravan park on lake Hume with hot showers/ water/power.
Anyway the next week was terrible we consistent wind and storm warnings for the area. Being on top of the hill we copped t full force of the he wind and it got up to 120kmph at one stage and we had to evacuate the kids into the car whilst I stayed inside the tent holding the poles down.
We decided it was time to go and left looking for salvation in the king valley.

Lils aunt runs a winery in the king valley which is a real destination for wine and food lovers. Camping there is great with the king river nearby and plenty of things to do.
We arrived and got setup in the back garden and then the weather changed for us with temps in the he mid 30's. I spent a day helping john out erecting some fences in return for allowing us to stay there which took us a day to finish off.
We had a great time and spent some time down the river and exploring the winery and farm.

After our lovely week in the king valley we headed to Tallangatta lakeside caravan park , right on lake Hume. The camp is $25 per night for a powered site. Hot showers, water and washing machines are available along with lovely friendly and helpful residents and owners.
The weather was turning the complete opposite for us.
From windy, cold and rain it was now a week of over 40 degrees and that's hot for anyone. The camper trailer doesn't have aircon so you have to figure out other ways to keep cool. We soaked a muslin wrap for Maeryn and she lay on it which she loved and the kids got some water pistols and spray bottles today with. They loved them and it also wore them out playing all day. We also took them down to the lake for a swim but it was a bit murky with the boats and you couldn't see the big holes until you walked into one and then disappeared.

The swimming pool had just been completely refurbished and it was free during the hot days so we headed there for the day and the kids had the best time. Our good friends Ned and Den bought them some floaties for Christmas so they got kitted out and hit the water. I always worry about the water as I'm not fond of deep water but the kids are fearless and kept me on my toes.

One of the residents at the caravan park offered us his fan to use in the tent to help keep us all cool and it was great. We ran it non stop and got some good sleep with a bit of air coming through. There was one big storm came over just before Australia Day and we heard the rumble about 4am. I jumped up and went down to the foreshore to take a look and it was epic.......

The rain came belting down and before long we were digging trenches to keep the water away from the tent. The rain lasted till late afternoon and everything got a thorough soaking. It also helped put out most out the fires in the area that had been burning for a while.
We had decided, to stay at the park for another week as it was nice and very relaxing.
I think lil was glad of a washing machine and she hogged them like a mad woman......

Next stop was going to be Methoura on the Murray river. This park was expensive at $35/ powered site. We decided to give it a miss and head the other direction and found a great spot using wiki camps app.
This spot was also right on the Murray on a wildlife reserve outside Tintaldra.
This is a free camp so we had to be completely self sufficient carrying our own water and having power to run our fridge. Having a toilet has always been in the back of our mind, more so for the girls and especially the kids. Keeping the kids accustomed to using a toilet stops those embarrassing moments when they strip off and pee on the grass in public areas.
We invested in a portable toilet and the kids and the wife are very happy campers now.

More from our free camp adventures next time...........

Location:Welaregang Road,,Australia

Friday 20 December 2013

Time to go again

After a crazy hectic and expensive month in Melbourne it's time to head off again. Our new baby girl arrived on the 7th December at 8.28am after a very brief labour. Jay finally got his mad dash to the hospital and it was a quiet morning so traffic wasn't a problem otherwise the baby would have arrived en route.

After being so remote and travelling being back in the city feels new, not like anything we miss to be honest. The kids are cooped up most of the day in small spaces and don't have the freedom to run and play without worrying about other people, cars and various other dangers.
We bought some new storage boxes for the roof of the car and Jay fitted them so they cannot be removed easily. This means we can store the stuff we need but don't often use, like the chainsaw, Lils uni books and spare clothes for the kids.
We found a good website called which has various camp spots on private land. The owners offer up spaces on their property for small fees and allow you to get places you wouldn't normally see. We found a lovely spot called Wild valley in the heart of gippsland Victoria. Sits in the middle of the strezlecki ranges and on top of a hill overlooking the valley. We are there for over a week with the option to stop longer if we want.

Jay got himself a swag for when he heads of fishing on his own so he doesn't need to drag the trailer everywhere. He headed of camping for a couple of nights up near noojee and caught a massive freshwater crayfish from a secret location. He didn't like the idea of cooking up something that had survived for decades and put him back in his own spot. Getting soft in his old age.........maybe .

We are leaving the city on the 26th December and hopefully won't be back for a long time.
We are all itching to go have another adventure already.......I don't know how we will cope with normal city life again.........


Saturday 30 November 2013

Back in Melbourne

It's been a crazy year on the cattle station but it's been very rewarding. A lot of new things have happened so I will start with giving you some new additions to the family.
Lil found out she was pregnant after we fixed up our Jackaroo 4wd so we needed to buy a bigger car....the search was on!
After much deliberation and comparing, reading and researching I decided on a few models and then was over ruled on a Landcruiser 105 series petrol.
Lil took the kids to Melbourne in April to pick up the new car and visited her family at the same time whilst I worked up on Dunbar .

So now we have the new car it's time to get it setup for our travels.
We added an Ironman full steel cage roofrack which also solved the dilemma of where to remount the spare wheel to stop it getting flogged under the car. The new racks come with a spare wheel mount on the roof which is very handy and saves us spending money on a rear bar.
We then invested in a rear storage system by 4wd Outback Interiors in Cairns. We got the full Monty too, drawers, fridge slide and cargo barrier with a divider and top shelf and it's brilliant! Money well spent and a fantastic fit.

Suspension was the next thing so we had it kitted out with the same setup as the Jackaroo had...Ironman springs and foam cell shocks with a new steering damper. At first it seemed fine but that wasn't going to last.........typical with us there is always something that was likely to go pear shaped. More on that later.

The season came to an end for us in November so we packed up our gear and got ready to head off back to Melbourne so Lil can give birth with her family around. She has done another great job this year with food but it would likely be her last as the cook as she won't be cooking next year. I have been offered to return and go mustering in 2014 which will give me some more experience and another string to my bow so we leave knowing we can return in April 2014 if we want.
With some money saved we look forward to some well earned holidays and some more travelling.

We left the station and headed for Cairns which would be our first stop on the way down.
We pulled up at a nice spot so we could get a picture of the new setup overlooking the gulf and noticed we had a problem.

Seems like the new suspension is not coping with the trailer !
Driving the car was becoming hard and the steering wander was really bad but we thought it's the dirt road.......but it wasn't.
On pushing through to Charters Towers we looked around for a reason and thought maybe we had overloaded the front of the camper trailer. We shifted some gear around and used our 40ltrs fuel and emptied our front water tank but it made no difference.
The steering was wandering all over the road, like travelling on wet tram tracks, so something was not right.

We arrived in Clermont at Theresa Creek Dam for a few nights and then it all went to hell. We set up and Lil headed into town to grab some groceries and she noticed the car was still handling badly and the rear was still sagging. On her return the fridge then died leaving us with a fridge full of food about to be wasted. We had dinner and went to bed and thought about what to do.
Next morning I headed into Emerald ( a larger town) and found a shop that serviced fridges. Unfortunately they didn't do our brand, Evakool, so I asked around. Finally I find a guy willing to help and after explaining the fridge does work but isn't cooling he reckons it's the compressor from all the bumping around on the dirt road.......bugger. Seems the Evakools don't have a swing-away compressor (effectively the compressor sits on suspension so it isn't constantly jarred) which would make them unsuitable for lots of time on the road. So after a chat it starts to become clear we need a new compressor which he can get but it will take up to a week and be almost half the price of the fridge and then he can fit it for a few hundred more....this is becoming a worthless exercise. I decide it's now time to upgrade the fridge as fixing the old one ( just out of warranty) is not worth it. I settle on a 60ltr Engel fridge from a local store and pay the money which makes me cringe, but feel pretty confident this will be a long-term purchase. So, new fridge and one problem is fixed! So far we have been really pleased with the Engel...keeps temperature beautifully and feels really well made with quality parts. Lil's not complaining about the extra space either!
Next was the suspension and after a call to the fitters in Cairns, I take it to the local Ironman dealer. After a chat to Kevin it turns out they fitted the wrong springs and that's why the arse is sagging, so new springs are ordered but it's going to take a few days.
That night we got rain........and let me tell you it was crazy rain...... 142mm in 4 hours and we saw it coming too......

We installed the fridge back at camp and it sucked some juice getting down to temp using the battery alone. Our solar panels recovered the loss the next day with the good sunshine and everything was starting to get back to normal.
We headed in to get the new springs fitted and they assured us it would solve all the issues but after a few hours on the road the steering was still a problem. After some research it seems a castor kit should have been fitted due to the new height in the car. This wasn't done or picked up by either of the Ironman dealers so we just had to put up with till we got to Melbourne where a visit to a proper suspension place would be on the cards.
We stopped for an overnighter at Injune caravan park and had an uneventful evening in what was effectively a mining camp. On packing up the next morning, the zipper on the camper trailer PVC cover decided to now it seems we have had our three bits of bad luck and surely nothing else can go wrong. We had to tie the cover down as best we could and hope it would hold till we got to Melbourne and it did. A quick stopover in Moree at the Gwydir caravan park and had a great evening swimming in the artesian pools there!
We knew that once we hit NSW the lure of Victoria would be hard to miss as we know it's only a (long) day's drive. We decided as we were driving through Parkes that we would just push on. We felt we'd had a pretty rough run and just wanted to be able to sort out the issues quickly. We arrived in a very cold and drizzly Melbourne about 130am.
Jay took the car to Ironman HQ the next day and they soon fixed the issue but at more expense, which I was unhappy about but what can you do?

A pretty eventful trip but a costly one. It's just the way it goes sometimes!
Now we are waiting on baby #3 and once arrived we will be off somewhere camping, hopefully without problems.

Monday 17 December 2012

Season completed

Well the work on the station has been completed and maintenance is all that's left to do. Jay has spent time working on the trucks fixing pump problems, serviced all the water pumps and the firefighters for the utes. A few weeks have been spent yard building and putting up some new fence and that's hard work in over 40 degree heat. There are lots of yards all over the station as its so big which means you don't have to drove the cattle for too far to the house yards.
Jay has learned a lot about the yard building process and the welding side of things even getting the opportunity to drive the bobcat and the big heavy rigid trucks.
Most people learn at a training facility but out here you learn as you go. Driving the crash box through sandy creeks and dirt was certainly a task.
We have both been able to get a bit of time up in the helicopter and its just amazing to see the land from the air. Everything is so flat but the landscape is beautiful. Wild brumbies, pigs, dingo's and crocs can all be seen more easily from the air.

Flying over the Mitchell river was amazing and you can see how big this majestic river must swell to in the wet season. The view is stunning and not many people will get to see it from this angle, another perk of station life.

At the end of the season there is now nobody to cook for and it's time to go for a holiday, we have decided to head to Melbourne without the camper trailer and visit family and friends. We will take the big Suzuki bike with us and leave it in Melbourne as we have not really used it like we thought we might. Rather than carry the weight it's best to take this opportunity to redefine the load we are towing and give the old Jackaroo a break.

The Jackaroo has had new suspension fitted all round from ironman in cairns, new BF Goodrich A/T tyres too. The car feels like its floating on air and a lot better than we had expected !
Jay serviced the car before leaving and using the stations multi purpose 15w40 oil soon discovered its not working too well in the Jackaroo !
We will have to look into the best oil for the car as its a bit hit and miss with what you can get your hands on being so remote......but fresh oil is better than none I guess.

We a due back at Dunbar early in January to look after the place whilst the mangers go for a holiday. Jay will maintain the generators and keep the water pumps running
Whilst they are gone. It will be an amazing sight to see the new green growth and all that water. The wildlife will get a bit more in your face too we are told as they scramble for somewhere dry to stay. I guess jay will have to share the workshop with some roo's !

The weather in Melbourne is as you would expect and cold one minute, raining then sunny.....but we packed our clothes for this kind of change so its good to be wrapped up and feel cold

Location:Dunbar station

Thursday 2 August 2012

Our First Cattle Station Job

Dunbar Cattle station

The Jackaroo is fixed and running as well as it was and we where getting itchy for another location now we are mobile again.  Stookie has spent some time working for HONDA in Cairns but we where more looking for cattle station jobs to get the outback experience.
Stookie put an add on with a brief description of our abilities and enthusiasm for cattle station work. We also mentioned we are travelling as a family and where available to travel anywhere. We waited with anticipation on somebody contacting us. The website was full of backpackers looking to extend their work visa doing 3 month rural work to achieve it. We felt a bit disheartened that being a family would not work in our favour. Australian news was full of outback businesses complaining they could not find workers, yet here we are prepared to travel and even bring our own accommodation and still nothing after numerous applications. I thought that maybe the Rural Outback preferred immigrant workers due to the level of pay and the subsidising they got from the is an Aussie family meant to get on battling that ?
Within a week we did get a call from one of the largest family owned beef companies in Australia. Unfortunately for Stookie it was a cook they where after so Lil stepped up and within 4 days we had left Cairns and where on our way to Dunbar Station, 310 km North of Chillagoe.
We where invited as a family with all accommodation (3 bedroom house) food, electricity part of the salary package and a weekly wage would also be paid. 
We where ecstatic at the offer and keen to get out there and give it a shot.
We headed to Chillagoe and spent  2 nights in the caravan park in a cabin, I know a bit of spoiling was going unpacking the CT again.
We spent a day exploring around the area looking at "the arches" and some ancient aboriginal wall paintings. We also took a look at the old smelting plant but due to uman existence being wrapped up in cotton wool now you couldn't get within 1/2 km of it.
The arches

Cave Paintings

The road from Chillagoe to Dunbar is all dirt with some decent washouts and rutted areas, not to mention the bulldust holes. Since we had the Mighty DR650 bike Stookie rode ahead and let us know of Road trains and Bulldust holes before we hit them. We often saw a massive puff of dust as stookie ploughed through a bull dust hole and then waited for the call on the radio to let us know which way to go, left or right of the track. Some of the scenery is spectacular as you get to a raised hill and look out over the savannah, its very beautiful.
The beauty is then disturbed by Stookie screaming on the radio......."GET OFF THE ROAD NOW.................ROAD TRAIN "
Travelling at 80kmph with 1500kg of trailer is not the easiest thing to slow down so getting a headsup of the road train was very helpful........the dust storm left behind is out of control, its post apocalyptic and creepy as the sun gets dull   and your breathing in the outback. These trucks are 3 carriages long and would need a LONG TIME to slow down so you need to get off the road and wait as you cant drive through the dust storm that follows as visibility is NIL.
We felt happy we where in the car as Stookie up front on the Motorbike copped it big time.........
After the first one passed we had just started to move then we get another call to get off the road as there was another one coming........3 in totals which gave us the chance to get a pee break for the kids.

Road Train

Tha Jackaroo comparison !!!

 We soon came across our first causway crossing over the Walsh river. There was a little water on the causeway but nothing to be concerned about. the water is a welcome sight in the dry outback.
No stopping for a dip or a break as we have quite a distance to go.
Walsh River Crossing

 We got a call on the radio that Stookie had stopped on the bike as a Father and son out camping on the river had a flat battery. They had been playing the radio for days on end and running some 12v accessories and had no idea how they had flattened the battery. They didn't have jumper leads and had spent the morning walking to the main road in the hope a car would go past.
We unhitched the trailer and sat and had a picnic in the shade as Stookie took the Jack to help them get going again. The track to the river was rough, and there wasnt really a track for most of it.
The car got a good and proper workout and lots of new pinstripes. The Pajero was a diesel and the battery was buggered. It took Stookie 30 min to get enough charge into it to get the thing to crank. The father kept turning it over and draining what was being put in until Stookie ripped him a new one and told him to leave it alone until he fixed it. This father and son combo knew NOTHING about cars, batteries and would have been really in trouble had we not came along. A Scotsman helping 2 useless Aussies stuck in the bush out of sheer stupidity, generally its the other way around....... They got going again and where told to leave the car running and pack up and go home as they had been very lucky.

We hitched up the trailer and made tracks again arriving at Dunbar station in the later part of the afternoon. We where greeted by Peter and Debra Hagan and shown to our home for a few months.
We where happy to be here and with our own little part of paradise in the middle of the savannah country. We are the luckiest family to experience this station till the end of the season and we are sure to make many great memories here.

This is what its all about...........
Our new Home for a while
If you are looking for station work you can check out our facebook page for a comrehensive list of rural employment options.
click here for facebook page 

Monday 18 June 2012

Cape tribulation

We managed to get out in the car on the weekend as it was finally fixed.
3 weeks of not knowing what's going on and what it's going to cost. Our dream trip may have been ending early but the Jackaroo lives again.
The guys at Repco service in cairns done a great job and I was very happy to dish out more money as I knew the lengths these guys went to to get it perfect unlike HOLDEN.
I've discussed with Holden in Warragul about there monumental failure but they don't take customer service seriously and are offering a tiny amount in comparison as to what we have now shelled out.

We headed of up to cape tribulation to a little beach I found when out riding the dirt bike a few years back after the CREB track. It's on the Bloomfield and I'm guessing it's not widely know about ( unless your a local)

The beach is just past Donovan's range after about three creek crossings.
It's stunning and has the finest golden sands. The water pools up in shallow areas so it's perfect to let the kids go wild in as there is no danger of rocks or critters. Further out you can see coral reef and some bigger fish and even stingrays which I encountered when walking through some pools with the camera.

The water is warm and the kids all had a ball running around soaking each other and digging holes. There are smaller fish in the pools and if you sat still they would come nibble your fingers and toes. Matilda wasn't quite sure what to make of them nibbling her toes but lil looked at it as a free pedicure.

It was great to be out and about again as we had all really missed the old Jackaroo. The kids had a great day out and slept most of the way home as they where buggered from all the action on the beach.

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Location:Cape tribulation