We’re in the final stages of getting organised for our Cape York adventure, which will mainly involve camping out of the car, so we thought that a shake down trip would be a good way to check things would work as intended – it would also get Suzzanne acquainted with her new Crashpad swag. Goomburra section of the Main Range National Park seemed like a good place to head, only a couple of hours from home and with some great little hikes, but when picking the dates to go I didn’t think it would get down to -2.5oC!!
As regular car campers will know, the hardest part about trip planning is deciding what NOT to take, and ensuring good storage and a work flow for things you need often. The Landcruiser is already well set up for my solo adventures so it was a matter of seeing whether it would work with gear for two, and in a way that suited both of us.
To fit enough gear and supplies for two of us during the planned three week trip to Cape York would need a bit of rationalising on my part because I can normally spread myself around the whole car. To help I added the large space case to the roof rack that I’ve had for twenty years or so, and which solved the problem of family camping in the old Nissan Patrol GU… however climbing up onto the roof of a 4WD was a little easier to do twenty years ago, a reason we decided not to use a roof top tent. Testing this and a few other mods was high on the trip agenda.
So, with a coffee in each of our cup holders and the fur babies dropped to their pet resort we headed onto the highway southwest to Goomburra on top of the Main Range 30km from Warwick. The climb up Cunningham’s Gap has been cause for excitement since we used to confront it in the early 70s on our family road trips, it has a reputation for danger that it no longer deserves thanks to road deviations and widening, but it still brings a buzz to climb this section of the Great Dividing Range onto the Darling Downs.
The final section of road into Goomburra is termed the Cedar Route, testimony to nearly 150 years of timber getting in the area, mostly targeting the red cedar that grew here. There are few fully grown red cedars to be found now, other than in the most difficult to access sections beyond reach of the timberman’s axe and saw.
After our easy start to the trip we decided to head straight to the campgrounds to stake our claim before others arrived, then spend the afternoon setting up camp and taking a hike. I had a spot in mind that is tucked into a corner of the camping area, giving us privacy and shelter from any weather that might blow through.
The camp site was littered with fresh leaves looking like they’d been torn from the trees, so it seems the area had received quite a blow recently. It was still breezy but nothing damaging, so after checking the trees overhead for dangerous branches we picked a spot.
We soon had the Cruiser unloaded and camp set up. Suzzanne easily mastered assembly of her new orange blaze coloured swag and stretcher and we had everything laid out with enough daylight for a look around the campground then a short hike through the 1.2km Dalrymple Circuit. It was an easy walk with very little rise and fall, although it crosses Dalrymple Creek several times so some rock hopping is required.
Night was closing in quickly by the time we returned to camp, and so was the chill. Getting the fire started took on some priority, soon followed by an extra layer of clothes in readiness for a cold night.
Cold weather calls for hot food and tonight we had barbequed steak and vegies cooked on the fire. We always prefer to use our Darche 450 portable BBQ if no fire pit exists, so that we don’t leave another patch of charred earth for somebody else to work around. We also bought firewood from home given that collection is not allowed in the park. I got to try out a bit of new gear when brewing our hot chocolate, a Breville milk heater/frother that does a great job and runs off the lithium auxiliary battery in the Landcruiser, though it pulls about 45A when doing its job.
The campground contained only a handful of other campers, but when walking through in the afternoon we noted one larger set up with a couple of gazeboes and tents set up – it must have been for a younger group because as darkness fell the vehicles rolled in and so did volume of the music and voices echoing along the valley. Its a sure sign of getting older that you’re no longer the ones making the noise, but become the ones bemoaning it, and by 9 o’clock we were starting to wonder how long it would would last. A closer neighbour must have done us a favour because they toned it down just as it was getting close to time to slide into the swags.
Suzzanne and I were soon cosy in our respective swags, hers having been pre-warmed with a 12V electric blanket to make it extra snug. Once we were zipped up under the canvas even the near full moon shouldn’t spoil a good nights sleep, but it still turned into a restless night for no real reason (other than an aging bladder forcing me out into the cold too frequently). Even after dawn it took quite a while for the sun to find its way into our camp at what is most often coldest part of the day, making it even harder to emerge from our canvas cocoons. The weather report said minus 2.5 degrees C and it felt every bit of it…
Scrambled eggs and hot coffee got us moving, but not moving far from the fire until the sun started to throw some warmth into our quiet corner of the world. Eventually we packed and rolled and loaded everything in readiness for a bit of exploring.
Car camping in swags – what did we learn?
So, what did we learn on this little trip to get ready for Cape York?
- the space case will come back off the roof, it makes storage of the swags too difficult on the roof rack and accessing into it is more trouble than its worth. We’ll leave some of its contents behind and rationalise what’s left to reduce volume required in the car
- we’ll go without the firepit and chain saw – most of the tracks we’ll be on will be well travelled so we shouldn’t need to clear fallen trees, and we’ll just have to scrounge firewood that doesn’t need cutting
- I’ll also leave the fireplace cooking gear behind (camp oven, jaffle iron, cast pan, etc) and we’ll get by with gas cooking and purchased food
- the Crashpad kitchen tidy worked well
- I need to rationalise my camera equipment and take less, in a smaller bag
- I’ll look at other options to store the two pillows so they don’t get in the way (or get dirty)
Overall it was a great little trip in its own right and we had a great time despite the cold weather and only being away from home for just over a day.