Kylie Van Der Ley lives and breathes 4WDing. She fills us in on one of her recent adventures.
We left Port Macquarie early on Boxing Day and headed up the Walcha Mountain and through to Tamworth for a bite to eat. It was very misty with light rain the entire time over the mountain, so it was a little slower than usual. We decided to set up camp for an overnight stay at Burran Junction and it was extremely hot; the wind started howling and continued all night and right through into the morning, and it wasn’t a cool breeze either.
Up bright and early the next day and off to Bourke for a quick look around the town for a couple of hours. We were excited to get going, as we were about to do the ‘Darling River Run’. We stopped as soon as we ran out of tar to drop our tyre pressure, ready to hit the dirt. It was still extremely hot, so we pulled up at the pub ‘Shindy’s Inn’ at Louth and of course, had a cold beer. We decided this would be a great place to camp, as the camping area next to the pub had ‘green grass’, which is something you don’t expect in the outback. We were given a tour of the cemetery, and this was spectacular. When the sun sets on a clear night, it reflects off one of the graves and “Wow” – let me just say, you need to see it to believe it and get the story behind it …
Day 3&4: Back on the dirt again, and we deviate a couple of times to drive up to have smoko along the river side. Next stop was Tilpa, but the pub wasn’t open, so we took some pictures, read the information on the ‘Darling River Run’ and headed off to Menindee, where we decided to camp for 2 nights so we could have a rest day and a day of driving around all the lakes and then taking a look at the old Woolshed. What a day; we had a picnic lunch alongside the river bed and so many camping spots on the river. The Burke & Wills campground is huge, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a spot. We did venture back to the pub for a beer, as this is always a must when we are travelling. We really enjoyed the old Woolshed too, so definitely recommend this; and as a lot of old shearing equipment is still there on display, it really makes you understand how hard they had to work ‘back in the day’. We do have it pretty easy these days.
Day 5: Leaving Menindee, the next place we stopped was Pooncarie, where we put our tyre pressure back up in the car and the camper trailer and had a quick smoko break at the lovely park they have there. Next town we visited was Wentworth, and then we stopped for the night in Murray Bridge (and yes, we had grass again – we are so lucky). We made good use of the camp kitchen that night and we discussed the next day as we were heading across to Kangaroo Island, but had all day, as we were on the late ferry.
Day 6: New Year’s Eve – we stopped at a few of the little towns along the way to the KI (Kangaroo Island) ferry and had a great lunch at Victor Harbor at a place called schnitzel encounters and of course, we got a chicken parma … it was yummy. After a quick look around Victor Harbour, we headed off on our way to the KI Ferry, had a coffee while we waited and before you knew it, we were on the ferry. We were very lucky, as it was nice and calm, so no getting sea sick that day, thank goodness. Darren had to back the camper on the ferry … so well done, Darren. We were the first ones on too. Once we travelled via ferry from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw, we set up camp at the caravan park in Penneshaw, had a quick walk along the beach, and then to the local pub for a beer or 2. Then we went back to camp for happy hour/s and hit the hay not long after midnight – yes: we are wild party animals. As we were in SA time, we actually celebrated NYE twice with the ½ hour time difference, so we phoned our girls back home on NSW time and then celebrated again in SA time … the things you have to do. The caravan park managers were very friendly, and we would definitely recommend staying there: ‘Kangaroo Island Shores’.
Day 7 & 8: Casually packed up and headed to Kingscote, where we decided to stay for a couple of nights and check out the town and surrounding areas, before heading over to the Western side of the island. The first day we went to Seal Bay, and the view was amazing … long winding ramp all the way down to the seals and if you do the tour like we did, you get to walk on the beach near the seals. Definitely recommend this, and the staff were very friendly. On the 2nd day we drove up to Emu Bay, where the water was full of black swans, Cape Cassini, Stokes Bay, King George Beach, Snelling Beach, Vivonne bay, eucalyptus distillery and back to Kingscote, which if you check the map is a healthy day’s driving.
Day 9,10 & 11: Travelling to the Western KI Caravan park to set up and spend the next 3 nights there. It is very different on this side of the island; I guess you could say a little more rugged than the eastern side, but still just as pretty and every one of the bays/beaches we visited was just breathtaking. My favourites would be the Western River Cove and Hanson Bay. We saw the Raptor Demain show, where I found myself with 2 kookaburras on my arm, then just the one. He was given some food, which he decided to kill on my arm as he had climbed up off the glove; he must have whacked my arm 20 times before swallowing it – everyone was cracking up in the audience, including me.
We visited the Ciffords Honey Farm and enjoyed some honey ice cream and of course, bought some honey. We went down to see Admirals Arch (fantastic), where there were so many New Zealand Fur Seals and yet another great long walking platform. Then we ducked over to see the Remarkable Rocks (loved it). We were hit with some very hot weather and very strong winds and in fact, we had a catastrophic weather warning on one particular day, but we were very well informed and told to be careful.Many were evacuated who were camped in the National Park, just in case. There was one small fire on the island, but it was contained very early on and was all good. We, as members of the Rural Fire Service for over 25 years, found they had great communication to all those on the island, with updated information – we thank you for that. That particular day, everyone was at the beach or shopping until they were able to return back to camp. The next day we did the platypus bush walk at the Flinders Chase NP; I didn’t check how long it would actually take and sort of told Darren (who loves to walk – not) it was a quick walk … well, a couple of hours wasn’t too bad lol. We noticed the bush was very dense and thick, so we totally understood why it was evacuated the day before.
Day 9, 10, 11 continued … we had a dusk Quad Bike tour at ‘Bush Getaway Adventures’, and it was really fantastic watching the sun setting in the sky, seeing all the Marron in the dam, all the wallabies and kangaroos in the fields and of course, the dust I was eating. But, to top it off we saw a male peacock just sitting in a tree; we hadn’t seen one in a tree before, so that was very worthwhile. As dirty as my face was when I took off my helmet, I really enjoyed myself and could have done it again, as they were really easy to ride. The owners couldn’t have made us feel more welcome and still did the day tours, even though the temperature was in the mid 30s – not the weather we were expecting to have here. We chose the dusk tour; we knew it would be cooler, and you need to wear long pants etc. for your own protection.
There is just so much to do and see on KI, so we recommend spending at least a week to see and do everything. I treated Darren to some oysters at American River, Marron at the Andermel Marron & Café Two Wheeler Creek Wines, and we enjoyed a little wine tasting at the Sunset Wines in Peneshaw. I found the best lip balm from the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery, with 100% natural ingredients and will be re-ordering when I run out. Definitely recommend the tour at the Distillery also, and we got to sit in an old carriage too. We saw all the lighthouses we could and caught up on a little history while we were there and again, it’s incredible how hard they worked to get supplies etc. up to these lighthouses back in the early 1900s. Make sure you visit the Kelly Hills Caves, as we thoroughly enjoyed the tour they gave and were lucky to have a guide with a good sense of humor too. There is just too much to put down in words, so you will have to check out this third largest island for yourself; I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Day 12: On the ferry again heading back to the mainland, but this time we weren’t so lucky with the weather; we were booked on the 7.30pm SA time one. They announced over the loudspeaker for those who might get seasick to keep cool, and to get fresh air if needed but it didn’t seem to help, as several people were sick. Darren couldn’t cope with seeing this, so he went out for fresh air. I just sat there keeping my mind occupied, as I normally get sick – but was lucky not to. We only drove for a short time that night and camped in Strathalbyn and when we arrived there, it was 11pm. Luckily, the manager heard us and said it was OK to stay the night. Had to rescue a koala off the road, as the poor thing was just so hot he didn’t want to move; he just sat there and looked at me for a while, poor thing. I don’t know how he sat on that road, as it was boiling.
Day 13: The weather was still hot and there were still catastrophic weather warnings, so we decided to enjoy the air conditioning in the Patrol for as long as we could. We ended up driving to Balranald – and what a lovely spot we had on the river’s edge. The bonus was, they had a pool. Everyone in the park was in the pool, as all you could see where all these heads bobbing around in there. We quickly set up, as overnight stays are just a quick flip, and then we joined everyone in the pool and all ended up chatting about our trips around Australia.
Day 14: We decided that we would really pull a big day today as the weather was the same if not worse, and this time we passed many a RFS fire truck responding to the many fires in NSW. Most of the day we had smoke in our revision mirror, so thought it safer not to camp in those areas. We kept on going and ended up in Port Stephens at 9pm. We were booked in there the next day for 3 nights anyway, so the owner kindly found us a temporary spot for the night, and we hit the hay early. I woke up at 1am hearing a noise in the bush like rustling/crackling and couldn’t believe my eyes, “It was a fire,” I said to Darren, and he said I was dreaming. After realising I wasn’t dreaming, we stood with all the other campers until the Lemon Tree Passage Rural Fire Brigade turned up (fortunately, very quickly) and put out the fire. A fair amount was burnt, and we were disappointed to find out this was deliberately lit, as so many van sites would have gone up in smoke if the RFS hadn’t arrived in time. We ended up moving to our designated spot the next day (not near the bush) and had a great time mingling and socialising with the very friendly neighbours for the rest of our holiday. Needless to say, a little de-toxing will be in order when we get home.
Yours in 4wdriving,
Darren and Kylie Van Der Ley.
‘Love this Country’.