We thought it was about time to reminisce with a series of blogs from our past travels along with some wisdom and little gems we have found along the way. Now the photos are a bit to be desired so you will have to excuse the quality. Thankfully we have gotten better at our photography over the years, and we are still learning. And what better way to start off than our first 4wd/camping adventure. Believe it or not our induction into the 4wding and camping lifestyle started not that long ago.
We had previously done lots of traveling staying in accommodation of varying styles. A highlight was a 3 week trip through South Australia staying in many National Park’s accommodation (SA seem to have one of the best National Park’s accommodation options in the country). We stayed in old homesteads, ex ranger’s lodgings, a cute cottage overlooking the bay and Port Lincoln and even Lighthouse Keepers Cottages on Kangaroo Island. If you are not a camper or just want a break from the canvas take a look at SA National Park’s accommodation options when you are down that way, you won’t be disappointed.
We had also previously done some “awd’ing in the past having owned a Ford Escape for a number of years and prior to that our little Suzuki Cino hatchback had gone to places no hatchback had been to before. She was a trooper. We were now armed with a “real” 4wd having recently purchased a Holden Rodeo Dual Cab 4×4 with canopy and even invested in a Shippshape rooftop tent (we wanted to at least go camping in style!).
Anyway back to our first 4wd/camping adventure. Residing in the wonderful Blue Mountains of NSW at the time and only having a 2 night/3 day break we wanted somewhere close to home to “break us in”. Armed with a copy of “4wd Treks Close to Sydney” from our friends at Boiling Billy we decided, funnily enough to head to the Central Tablelands, only an hour or so from home. Little did we know in years to come this is where we would be calling home. Opting for some easy treks we decided on one that would take us from Sunny Corner between Lithgow and Bathurst down to the beautiful Turon River, then via the historic villages of Sofala and Hill End, onto the fabled Bridle Track for the run south eventually ending up at Bathurst with an easy run home along the highway.
Starting off at Sunny Corner surrounded by State Forest our trek takes us along easy to negotiate forest tracks, nothing too challenging and plenty of scenery to take in. Our morning tea stop was at a vantage point within the Turon State Forest along Eskdale Road. A cuppa with a view, surrounded by nature and no one else in sight, now this is the life.
From the top of the range and the state forest we follow tracks that eventually lead down until you have the Turon River bubbling along beside you. Parts of the track now traverses private property and Sandra starts to get a workout opening and closing gates along this section. After a couple of shallow concrete causeway crossings of the Turon we are soon in the tiny hamlet of Sofala, established back in the gold rush days of the 1800s and a place that we will return to many times in the future, particularly for photo opportunities.
Leaving Sofala back then the run to Hill End, another quaint historic town founded on the gold rush was a rough, corrugated dirt road pretty much all the way to the village. Today albeit for a few kilometres along the narrowest, windiest section is all sealed. There are several bush campsites beside the Turon River between Sofala and Hill End and Coles Bridge along the Turondale Road is one such spot, and the place of our first bush camp.
Having found a nice littler clearing on a hill overlooking the river we set up camp for the first time. It was a lovely evening and being early April we were all set for a pleasant evening under the stars. Dinner was uneventful and we sat around our campfire quite chuffed at our first day and wondered why we hadn’t started this earlier, however as we climbed into the rooftop tent and slipped into our sleeping bags with all the windows in the tent open so we could stargaze through the night we were about to learn our very first and most valuable camping lesson. Waking in the wee hours both shivering uncontrollably with the ‘lovely’ damp night air coming in the open windows and a nice film of moisture over our sleeping bags we vowed from night forward that if the weather was a little on the cool side to close the tent windows and since that trip we have traveled with a second layer of bedding over our sleeping bags to ward off that night moisture. A lesson well learned. At least we awakened in the morning beside the beautiful bubbling Turon River, ready for another days exploring and another night under the stars,albeit with the tent windows zipped tight.
Our first stop on day two was the lovely village of Hill End. Also founded on the gold rush days of the 1800s you could easily spend a day wandering around town, soaking up the wonderful history of this fascinating place, and over the years we have been back here countless times, each time we seem to find something different.
There are several lookouts that surround Hill End and one of our favorites from our first visit here to today is Beaufoy Merlin Lookout with majestic views over the Turon River Valley. Another view well worth taking in is from Bald Hill Lookout with views over the village. It gives a great perspective of the town.
After spending some time checking out Hill End it was time to hit the Bridle Track, another trek we were following from our trusty Boiling Billy guide. This turned out to be a great easy drive with nothing too daunting and some amazing scenery along the way. There is an old battery stamper not far off the track and an old mine tunnel right beside the roadway.
The concrete causeway crossings of the Turon and Macquarie Rivers were little more than a splash and the highlight of the drive had to be the narrow winding section known as Monaghans Bluff (although this has now been closed due to half the road missing after storms swept through the area several years ago, fingers crossed they will one day be able to repair and reopen this section of the track). For our first 4wding/camping we think we picked pretty damn well.
There are numerous campsites located beside the Bridle Track right on the Bank of the Macquarie River and for our second night under the stars we opted for Amy Anderson Reserve just south of Monaghans Bluff. With it being a Saturday night there were quite a few people around and hence our second lesson of the trip came along, when possible camp midweek, particularly if you are close to Sydney. Anyway we managed to find a spot where there was only another couple at, so plenty of privacy and a fairly quiet night.
This was a top little spot to cap off our first ever 4wding and camping experience. The one that ‘started it all!.
Stay tuned for our next installment when we head to Broken Hill and beyond on our first multi week outback trip.