When Josh and I camped at Belbrooke Farm with our sons in July we hatched a plan to bring our wives back for a weekend, and introducing Suzzanne to the looxooray of the X3 was a perfect excuse. So, only a week after the rig was on Teerwah Beach she was back on the road taking the Travelling Two up the Brisbane Valley Highway for a taste of country air.
Our plan was to meet Josh (who ended up solo) in his GU Patrol at Fernvale, who was accompanied by his kids Callum and Jade in Callum’s GQ Patrol ute. Josh got tied up with last minute work issues so Suzzanne and I went a little further up the road to Wivenhoe Dam for a snoop around. Wivenhoe is the largest of the man made dams in South East Queensland that provides Brisbane’s water supply and also acts as flood mitigation to protect downstream communities. The dam was at less than 50% at this time so no water was being released. The day use areas around the dam looked worthy of checking out on another day, so we scouted around quickly and then headed back to the highway as the message came through that our camping mates were getting close.
Although we were mid way through spring it was getting cool when we eventually reached the campsite and started setting up in the golden light of a setting sun. There was no need to rush, a good thing given this was first time we had set up the X3 together and there was need to step through the process, and sometimes back track if we got out of sequence.
Belbrooke Farm is a Hipcamp listed property and a working cattle station. They even have their own beef brand with meat from cattle reared on the farm that you can buy at the farmhouse. The six camp sites are well spaced and vary from clearings surrounded by gum forest to a ridgeline camp with open views across the stretch of river linking Somerset and Wivenhoe lakes. On this trip we were back at Old Cattle Camp, a site with plenty of trees through which you can see the snaking river and distant hills forming its valley.
Considering this was our first time ‘in the wild’ as Travelling Two with the new camper we got set up pretty quickly and had everything laid out in under an hour. Experienced campers will know that the tent or trailer itself is only half the fun, its the chairs, table, toilet, lighting and other paraphernalia that takes just as much time. Back of the Landcruiser is also set up for off grid camping and overlanding so anything we had forgotten could be sourced from there if needed.
We spent two nights at Belbrooke, with the day between spent exploring the Esk area including wandering through galleries and checking out the old town’s main street. Our timing was spot on because we stumbled into the Saturday morning markets in the pretty town park. Suzzanne picked up a few things to start softening edges of the very masculine Patriot Camper design, including crochet topped hand towels haha. One market stall had a great array of fruit conserves and chillies, a few of which we grabbed. The chilli was fantastic and since getting home we have lamented not getting an extra jar or two, something tells me we’ll be back there in Esk soon!
We arrived back at camp to find that Josh, Jade and Callum had done their own exploring having taken a hike down and along the river bank. They had also collected a big pile of firewood that we soon started turning into ash and smoke as the sun once again abandoned us to the cool night air.
The next morning was a lazy one, with a hot breakfast and coffee in a quiet setting backed by the calls of magpies and crows. We had to be back in town the following day for my treatment so we started packing up, once again learning on the fly how to best origami the X3 back into its neat metal box. The trailer packing process isn’t too bad and I reckon we can get it down to 20 minutes or so with practice and each of us having our known tasks. The awning is still the worst part and I suggest we won’t use it on quick overnight stays with good weather, or perhaps at all in cool dry weather. Similarly, the trailer sits at near perfect height on the Landcruiser so we’ll stay hitched when quick getaways mean we won’t be working around front of the camper very much.
Hipcamp provides some really cheap and interesting camping locations away from the crowds. Belbrooke is interesting enough for a couple of days and there are the (extra cost) options of farm tours and animal feeding if you want to access it. However Belbrooke Farms is not particularly cheap at $50 per site per night, at least not for a couple or solo traveller. The $50 becomes reasonable value if you are a group of five or more to spread out the cost. It is however private, feels secure, there is plenty of wood for the fire and the sites offer a great outlook with stunning sun sets.
One part of camping that is rarely talked about is the toilet, particularly at sites without amenities (which is our preference). On all of my solo adventures I practiced the dig-drop-burn-bury method for #2s, while #1s were the simple “checking the tyres” approach that blokes can get away with. But I needed a solution that would work for the Travelling Two, especially when we were travelling with company or at a location without a hiding place.
Our first attempt at a uni-sex ablutions solution was a cheap pop-up shower tent from BCF with a collapsible toilet known as a Pop-Up Pooper into which you place a plastic bag, some odour eating crystals and then your body waste. The set up didn’t quite work as planned and needs more refinement. The tent is hot inside during the day, creating that ‘old out house’ feel which is at least authentically Australian. At night the unlined tent provides an entertaining shadow puppet show effect to amuse neighbouring campers. The pop-up pooper itself seems sturdy enough but it is very low for aging knees, is very small and the magic crystals don’t do much of a job at eating the odour and solidifying the waste.
To make things worse, we hadn’t yet solved the rubbish removal problem because the rear Kaymar wheel carriers for the Cruiser onto which I plan to mount bin bags aren’t yet installed. This meant that we had to pack the waste out of the camp riding in the car with us, triple bagged of course!! I drove very gingerly over the track’s bumps on the way out until we found a disposal bin…
The Camper Trailer
The Patriot Campers X3 is shaping up as a good choice for us. The kitchen and meal preparation options work really well, though the kitchen storage is cumbersome because there isn’t much bench space with the stove pulled out, and there always seems to be something sitting on top of the dish storage place when you want to get into it. One solution to this problem is an aftermarket bench extension sold through Facebook by a guy called Duncan Biscuits (got to love that name!). A shame they didn’t select a stove with piezo igniter or windbreaks. We’re not keen on the sink sullage water being dropped on the ground where it could run underfoot when on a hard surface so we’re planning to carry 5 litre water containers to collect it in future, either for tree watering or to extinguish the camp fire.
The main complaint is reserved for the camper’s bed. Suzzanne found it too hard and she is already on the hunt for a mattress topper. The bed also ends up cocked in the air because the ladder is too long when the ground is rising toward that side of the camper, and its not always practical to reorientate the camper in a confined site like this one, or if you want the kitchen facing a certain direction. So I ended up digging a hole under the ladder’s base to level things out. Finally, its a bit of an obstacle course climbing in/out of bed at night due to the side-fold configuration, especially for the person on far side. Most of these issues we had thought about but its when using the camper that degree of their inconvenience becomes apparent – or maybe they jump out because rest of the camper is so good…?
Our next trip is planned to be to Burrum Point campground in the Woodgate National Park, where Suzzanne’s mum will be joining the Travelling Two for a couple of nights by the beach…