This time there is a difference to our journey … we aren’t taking the camper.
Yes, you heard it right.
No camper trailer.
Why? Well, it’s going to be a hard slog for Glenn’s Ute. The auto overheats at the sight of hill and with the camper on … we know it’s going to hurt something. And this time it isn't just any hill. We’ll be 800 metres above sea level on a track that’s 4WD only and steep sections that just go up and up and up. Poor Ute.
We sadly leave the camper behind. The tent is getting an airing after quite a few years. It’s last trip being up to Eurimbulah in 2007. It’s been put up and checked to be in working order. There has been much organisation prior to this trip as well. We ditch the 12 volt fridge freezer for an esky, the solar panels get left behind, the OzPig has a weekend off, the air bed gets a dust off … I’m not sure how we will go without our conveniences, but it’ll be fun.
As usual, we start our trip around 0800. We are heading south to Rathdowney and then chucking a right and heading for Waterfall Creek. This is where we will head up the hill to Cleared Ridge and start the new adventure at Mount Barney Wilderness Retreat. The owner, Ben, has given us the code for the lock and will join us later in the day.
Scenic Rim 4Real Milk's prize cows ...
Waterfall Creek ...
The road up..
The sign at the top ...
And we do all that, noting that the auto overheats on our way up. Once at the top, I take the opportunity for a photo or three thousand of the gorgeous view and then we are on our way into Ben’s property.
Cleared Ridge view.
The driveway is a 4WD one of course, and as we learn later, has changed over the years. In its current state we skirt the southern side of Mount Watson, heading west and after a short time, come to a cleared, well grassed area – the main campsite.
Kitchen and firepit.
Here there are a few cabins, a working kitchen, a great under cover fire pit area, shower and toilets. We investigate on foot checking in windows of the kitchen, opening door on the ablutions, and visiting the dam.
I've got the mud map that Ben provided showing all the various campsites scattered over his 300 acres of mountainous country. Glenn decides that we should investigate another of the campsites, so we head to the aptly named Sunset campsite as it’s on the western side of a hill. As the whole place is a 4WD’ers haven I’m not 100% that we should be wandering around on our own, but we make it to the next campsite without incident.
We get out of the ute and have a wander around. The view from this site is a deal clincher and we decide we are home. Time to set up and get comfortable. The site itself is merely a turnaround for vehicles, but we have a grassy spot for the tent, even if it is long native grasses. A few large boulders provide a flattish surface prior to a drop off where the stunning view presents itself. There is a previously used fire pit here which has been covered in rocks. I believe this was a popular spot at the last Christmas in July party Ben held.
Looking north to Mount French.
Looking north west towards Cunninghams Gap.
I'm sure you agree ... that view is stunning!
So we put up the tent with the view in mind and position the car so that we can utilise the vehicles fold out awning for shade should the sun get too warm in the afternoon. Once the tent has been erected, we pump up the bed and make it. Not too much more comes out of the car as we’d only have to put it away. Of course chairs are important, as is filling up the dog’s water bowl.
We are so used to having a 130 litre water tank on board, that we’ve wondered how to transport enough water and what the easiest way would be. Plastic soft drink bottles fit well into a milk crate giving us about 20L, we also have a 2.5L drink bottle and another 10L pre filled container bought from a shop. All are filled with filtered water as Glenn has a water filter at home since they started putting extra “stuff” in our drinking water and it’s been making him feel a bit crook. Surprisingly, mosquitoes aren’t attracted to filtered water as we found out by filling the dog’s water bucket at home and finding no wrigglers after a week when usually the tap water would have to be tipped out every few days.
Downsized somewhat from our usual luxury.
Once camp is established, we sit and check out the view before having lunch. This weekend we’ve gone for a cold cooked chook and salad. It saves having to light a fire in the hot summer to cook something as well as not having all our usual gear with us making things a bit harder. Recently the temperatures have been rather extreme and we've been cooking roasts and the likes … but no more, as the summer promises to be long, hot and dry. Not ideal fire weather and it also ensure we don’t start anything we can’t handle. Especially this weekend with our limited water supply.
There isn't too much to do here but walk or 4wd around and of course admire the fantastic view in front of us. We decide to take a walk and see what’s back up the track. We noticed a downward section (well they all are here), but thinking this may have some water we head off. Once at the top we see that it becomes really steep and we have to take the dogs into account and head slowly back to camp to again admire that view.
This trip we have the UHF’s with us again. I think they’ll be a constant companion to our trips from now on as they are great way to communicate if either of us wanders off. We give a scan of the airwaves and hear some guys chatting about being at 4,000 metres and viewing certain things. Realising they must be in gliders or the likes, we listen for a bit as they chat. The view must be amazing up where they are, but it’s getting less and less clear as the day wears on.
Glenn and I have both been to 4,000 metres and the view was something else. We can both recommend a balloon flight if you ever have the chance. Ours left Ipswich and headed west, where we crash landed in a tilled field north of Marburg. I would definitely do it again in a heartbeat!
Sitting near the drop off on the rocks enjoying the view, I wonder how we’ll get some warm water for a bath. I do enjoy a warm bath and Glenn suggests that we light a very small fire - just enough to heat some water and then it goes out. I agree. We could drive back to the amenities onsite, but where is the fun in that? The breeze dies down as the day heads towards it’s end, making this possible.
But right now we are discussing whether our host has arrived or not. Looks like we’ll take a drive to find out. Packing away a few things, and ensuring the tent is secured, the pups go into the dog box and we head back to the main campground to find out.
On arrival, we see another 4wd, so Ben must be home. Glenn parks the ute under a tree and we introduce ourselves before letting the dogs out. Ben has bought his lovely wife with him as well as some grandkids. They will be staying in the first cabin I noticed on our way in. It’s somewhat downhill from the amenities and we can’t actually see it from here.
We are taken on a tour of the kitchen facilities and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t snap off a few photos and get to know the area a bit better. Ben tells us that if we were wanting electricity, there is a generator on hand to provide lighting and refrigeration should we need it. It’s well thought out and can cater for many. From what I understand each of the cabins can house up to 10 persons in bunk style accommodation, but you’ll need to bring everything with you. We aren't sure if they have showers and toilets, but there does appear to be a small “outhouse” type structure behind one of them. Perhaps you share it with your neighbours.
Ben’s grandkids want a fire so he throws on a few logs (large and log being the thing here) and gets a large fire going. It won’t be a problem here as the grass is greener than most yards in my suburb – back at camp though we are in the “bush” so need to be careful.
The boys are keen to befriend the dogs so out comes the ball and thrower and that keeps a few of them entertained for a short time, before Telashi discovers the dam. As we all head that way and Ben and family keep Telashi entertained, we realise that the dam is quite full. It has clay sides. Glenn discovers that it has slippery sides and nearly goes in. I’m too busy laughing to snap a photo of the event.
Ben then takes us on a 4WD tour to some other of the campsites. Both are west of the Main area and each has a lovely view. There is another to the east of our camp, but we'll leave that one for another visit.
This one has a great view of Mount Barney and faces south.
It’s getting on in the afternoon, so time we headed back and thought about dinner and a shower – not necessarily in that order. Ben invites us back later for a drink, so promise to return for a few drinks and some fire side stories.
Dinner is once again chicken with salad. Glenn starts a small fire and heats enough water for both of us to have a shower atop the rocks. It’s wonderful to wash and see the view before us..
Once the sun goes down, we head back to the main campsite for fire side stories for a few hours before returning to camp for a good sleep.
Having not slept on the blow up bed for a few years this should be rather interesting! Given that it’s rather cool up here, we also throw over the tents fly to assist in keeping us warm. The dog beds are set up within the tent as well and we all try to get a good night sleep.
The next day dawns bright and clear. It got a bit cold last night, which brought back memories of a very cold night out at Girraween National Park where the cold was coming up through the mattress. Glenn tells me I was shivering in my sleep.
We awake and start the fire for coffee, ensuring it is well out before it gets too breezy. Glenn asks what’s for breakfast. The answer is chicken and salad. He opts for the chicken on bread. He asks what’s for lunch. The answer is chicken and salad. He opts for chicken and salad on bread. By this time we’ll have the chicken fairly well eaten.
We've spent most of the morning sitting around enjoying the scenery, the peace and quiet, our own company … which is blissful to say the least.
We dismantle the tent, let the air out of the bed, pack away all the gear, and finally do a check of the site to ensure we don’t look like we've been there. This takes just as long as the camper … if not longer.
Ensuring that we always do a last check, means that we get all those bits and bobs that may have been left behind and we can also find any rubbish that may have escaped the bin. It’s always good practise to do a final walk around the areas you have been prior to getting in the car. There have been a few times when we've had to pack up fast that we've not noticed the odd thing here and there … the hammer, a rope, a tent peg … these things are important and it would be detrimental to the next adventure to be without any of them. As always, the next camping trip is the one where you go “Where’s the hammer?” … when it should always be in the bag with the ropes and pegs. Having to answer “Back at *insert last campsite name here*” which is about an 8 hour drive away is not an acceptable answer when you need it now.
We head back to the main campground and find our wonderful host Ben and his family starting on lunch themselves. They've added more timber to the fire. Ben tells us that he has a fellow coming up quite soon, so we remain at the main camp until he’s arrived. Chatting about life, camping, dogs, how this place came to be. It’s great to be able to natter our time away.
All too soon the chap and his wife arrive. We make acquaintances and then head off on our way home.
Heading home is never nice. But do it we must.
The trip home is rather uneventful.
Trip Kilometres: 172k
Trip Duration: 48 Hours