After tweaking and modifying the TVAN with some custom touches it was time to get it out for a trip to get acquainted with it’s many features and to test its capabilities before heading out on remote trips. Choosing a destination to test the TVAN was restricted by the latest wave of COVID19 lockdowns and need to stay reasonably close to home…
Sundown National Park offers a remote 4WD and camping experience that is relatively close to Brisbane, and the higher altitude of the Granite Belt area offers cooler temperatures than the Brisbane coastal strip which makes for more comfortable camping during warmer parts of the year. I’d explored Sundown before and knew that it’s track would allow for the trailer to be towed through, though it was narrow in parts and was very rough in places including some steep climbs and descents that would test the Landcruiser and trailer combination.
After ascending Cunningham’s Gap I started a drive that I always enjoy, through farmlands of the Darling Downs and the many beautiful views you glimpse of the Main Range peaks. Most of the way down is on the New England Highway, though I did take a detour to check out a potential future camp site suggested by YouTuber Jaffa Adventures at Rocklands Reserve, south west of Warwick. It looked to be a great spot on overflow of Leslie Dam but unfortunately it was now sign posted as a no camping area! I think its a bit short sighted of the local council to close this type of area off to recreational travellers but I guess they may have their reasons if people haven’t been doing the right thing…
Further down the road is the pretty little town of Stanthorpe, Queensland’s apple capital. I grabbed a coffee and a fabulous local pie from Brinx Deli Cafe, and was enticed to buy a jar of their red capsicum relish too which proved to be delish!
After a four hour drive from Brisbane you arrive at the national park entrance at north east corner of the park, and time to air down the tyres. From here its another 90 minutes to traverse the 25km rough and rocky track into the campground – a great test for the TVAN’s off road suspension.
My destination on first night was Burrow’s Waterhole, almost at furthest end of the track into Sundown before it crosses the Severn River. There is some spectacular scenery on the way through the park, varying from sclerophyll eucalypt forests in the valleys, dense cypress pine stands on the lower hills and almost alpine plains on the taller peaks.
My late start from Brisbane and detours along the way meant that it was getting close to sunset by the time I reached Burrow’s Waterhole. The TVAN has two main configurations, a quick setup and a more complete set up with tent deployed. Given the late hour I went with the quick setup, which is literally as simple as opening the trailer body like a hatchback car and putting a mesh screen over the opening. I also opted for a quick dinner of pan fried tortillas cooked on the TVAN’s gas cooker.
Sundown is a long way from light pollution and offers astronomers and other night sky observers a terrific exhibition of the stars and planets. A chill descended quickly once the sun disappeared so I got the fire underway , a hot chocolate on the brew and the camera set up for some astrophotography while the sky was so beautifully clear.
Overnight temperature dropped to a nipply 3 degrees, and the open TVAN set up meant that I could feel it nipping at anything that was not under the doona. I let the sun get well above the horizon before climbing out to greet the day and was soon awake, making breakfast and planning my day.
I intended to spend the next night at Reedy’s Waterhole and take a scenic route to get there, including exploring the Rat’s Castle track on the way. This was a real test for the TVAN’s long travel MC2 military spec suspension, and an even greater test for the Landcruiser’s ability to gain traction on the rutted, steep and rocky tracks. The rig did however perform extremely well, with the two diff lockers getting their share of use on the worst sections.
Sundown has a rich history of mining and grazing before becoming a National Park and legacies of this period are found throughout the park. Abandoned mine shafts and leaching areas are passed on the track in and the elevated plains still contain many old sheep yards and fences. I found the fences particularly interesting, with rough hewn posts and hand woven mesh fences a testimony to the skills and hard work of the pioneer shepherds who worked flocks in this hard rocky terrain.
I parked up at a section of Reedy’s Waterhole camping area to once again find I had the place to myself, eventually settling on a spot tucked away amongst some cypress trees near to the river. On the drive in I had some chicken wings cooking in the Road Chef oven and finished those off before setting up camp.
Given the cool night just passed, and outlook for another ahead I went for the full TVAN set up, with tent and awning deployed. This took a little longer but was still camp ready in around ten minutes.
There wasn’t an existing fire pit in the place I wanted one, so rather than create another unsightly scar on the ground I used the Darche folding fire pit to generate and some warmth, and to grill my steak and vegies for dinner – yummo. I barely had dinner coming together when darkness snuck up on me, with a wonderful mauve sunset over the river bed behind my camp…
To fuel the fire I had collected some fallen cypress pine branches on way into the park and scent of the smoke, almost like sandalwood, made for a bug free and pleasant camp. A bit of cloud was passing overhead so I didn’t bother with the camera, instead spending the evening indulging my anthropological roots by staring into the flickering flames, cave man style, then settling for an early night.
I didn’t come prepared for cold nights approaching zero given that Brisbane only a few hundred kilometres away was in the mid teens at night at this time of year so it was lucky that I was in the TVAN and not my swag, however it was chilly just the same. In the morning I gave the Webasto heater a run for a while before getting up and it made quite a difference, raising the temperature in the tent from 2 degrees to 11, still cool but without the nip.
After breakfast I had a last scout along the river in vain hope I might spot a platypus, but alas no. It was however a nice spot to catch some warming sun before packing up the camper and heading back over the rough and stony track, then to home.
Sundown National Park has once again shown why it is one of my favourite bush camping locations. The raw and rocky terrain is something I really connect with, perhaps its my Scottish heritage, but I’ll definitely be back again.
The TVAN passed it maiden voyage test with flying colours and showed why its the favourite of remote area and outback Australian travellers. I’ve got a few more tweaks to make after this trip, you can find out more about them at this TVAN tweaks post I’m regularly updating with upgrades to the trailer.
Until our next post – keep safe and travel happy