Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Bilyuin Pool on the Murchison River

Bilyuin Pool on the Murchison River

We had seen Bilyuin Pool in the Camps Australia Wide map book & thought it looked like a good free campsite. After leaving Lake Mason Conservation Park in the morning, then a quick fuel up at Meekatharra we headed north along the Great Northern Highway again towards Newman. 75 km north of Meekatharra we turned up the Ashburtown Downs road for 14 km until we crossed the Murchison River, we the went directly left & found a nice little waterhole with camping along the edge. There was one other camp set up, but plenty of room. We pulled into the firs spot to have a look, it was lovely, but I said to Mat something's dead! He couldn't smell it but I kept getting whiffs of something. As we looked around we soon found smell, the remains of roo guts, someone had killed a roo & gutted it in the campsite. We went up the other end of the waterhole & found a spot there. As we drove up we went past a car with a trailer full of dead roos. It seems the indigenous people still hunt roos out here. I think that is great, but was far from impressed about them gutting the animals in campsites right on the waters edge, I think it is pretty disrespectful. 

Anyway, our campsite on the other end was really good, only about 10 meters from the water, we set up & had some lunch. Just after lunch the wind really started to blow & hasn't stopped since nit even overnight, the tent flapped all night on both nights. It also got pretty cold overnight. We had seen the weather forecast so knew it was going to happen, but it doesn't make it any nicer!! We stoked up the fire & I got out my scarf. 

After a cold night it was still blowy in the morning, but there wasn't much we could do about it, so decided to take advantage off it by doing our clothes washing! We had a pretty lazy morning, with fruit damper & tea for smoko & a bit of book reading. In the afternoon we got out our maps again & decided we would go to Newman the next day, I had to sort out my photo storage so needed to find somewhere with a computer & the internet. We also had to resupply before heading to Karrijini National park. So in the afternoon we packed up what we could, I got some photos including some more bird photos (the bird life was amazing, Ringnecks, Galahs, Budgies, Ducks, Swamphens, hawks, plovers & even a rainbow beeeater). The wind did finally die down about 8pm that night & was okay the next morning, but soon started to pick up again as we packed up camp. 

Bilyuin Pool is a great free campsite, we stayed 2 nights but could of easily stayed longer if the weather had of been a bit nicer & Karijini wasn't beckoning!! There are no facilities, plenty of room for campsites, a good track in, water in the river, plenty of firewood, lots of birds & very quiet. There are cattle around, but they didn't bother us, just keep an eye out if you are going into the bush, I don't think they see humans to often. The only thing that concerned us about this campsite was the locals shooting roos (we didn't see or hear any shooting, just the roo guts & them driving out with a trailer full) & also we wouldn't feel comfortable leaving our campsite for to long, it just had that feel that everything might be gone by the time you got back. Definitely a great campsite though, just keep an eye out.     


After we packed up we started to head north again to Newman. The country was still arid but it started to get a bit more grass, large hills & ranges. We passed over the Gascoyne River another camp spot we had considered & it was lovely, a big waterhole with lots of caravans already enjoying the camping, so we continued on. We stopped on the way at Kumarina roadhouse, it was in the middle of nowhere so we just had to stop. What a stop it was! A talking Corella greeted us with a "hello" & "wanna scratch", there were wild Galahs hanging around the aviaries of budgies & parrots. A baby donkey, goat & calf, we thought rounded out the experience, but no there was more! Two girls then were walking their ferrets on leads!! What a place, it was awesome!!

We continued onto Newman a large mining town with apparently the largest open cut coal mine in the world. The mine was right along the town like Kalgoorlie. We stopped at the Kaglan Rest caravan park & at $28 a night for powered sites we thought it was pretty good. The park also has a large miners camp attached, but it was really well run. They also had free washing machines & dryers much to our delight, we don't think we have ever seen that before, so the bed sheets were quickly stripped & every scrap of clothing that was sort of dirty got a wash!! Newman also has a Woolworth's, so we got a few groceries & some beer as well. We also used the local library to back up our 1000 photos we already have taken. We considered another night in Newman, but the call of Karijini National Park was too strong, so we set off the next day (Thursday the 1st of May already!!). We can't wait to bring you that post. 

Lake Mason Conservation Park

Lake Mason Conservation Park

After leaving Malcolm Dam near Leonora, we continued north to Leinster & then turned west towards Sandstone. Sandstone was a quiet little town, with a great pub that has an awesome aviary with Major Mitchell's, corella's, rosella's and various other birds.  We had some lunch which was a great feed for a remote little town & got back on the road and headed north again towards Lake Mason Conservation Park. It was about 50 km in and the dirt road was really good which surprised us.  It was only 3 km from the turn off to the homestead. Lake Mason used to be a large cattle then sheep station that was turned into a conservation park by Department of Environment & Conservation (DEC) in 2000, it is almost 150 000 ha in size. The remains of the homestead, shearing shed, quarters, machinery sheds, workshops, toilets & showers still all exist and you can camp at these or further out on the park. 

When we were in Kalgoorlie we went into DEC, to get some information on the place, but they had very little, other to tell us that the wood chip heater for the hot showers had been stolen and that they are trying to get caretakers to look after the place.  The chip heater was in fact gone & they definitely could do with some caretakers.  The homestead is starting to really decline, it was quite a flash house at one time with pressed tin ceilings & walls & wooden floor boards.  It is a pity as the whole station set up was once pretty big, with a 12 bay shearing shed, large sheds & excellent quarters.  Now you can explore it & also use the facilities to camp in or near.  There is room to roll a swag in the quarters, a kitchen with rainwater tanks, fire pits, flushing toilets and cold showers.

There is no information or maps in regards to the roads or tracks in the park, but there were other campers camped at the Lake Mason itself, a salt lake. We decided to set the trailer up near the quarters & have a shower. In the end we decided to only stay for one night so we didn't unhook the trailer from the car & only got out the basics for an overnight camp.

Lake Mason homestead

Shower block

Collection of old bottles, tobacco tins, skulls & farming history collected from the station. 

It was very arid country and we commented that it would of been a very hard life as farmers out here.  As the afternoon progressed another car pulled into camp to have a shower, we got talking & they were gold prospectors, prospecting about 8 km up the road. They had been there for 3 weeks & used the station for a shower and to get water.  They have been filed into our "interesting characters" memory bank. An older couple who were just really strange!!! Apparently they had some luck that afternoon & found a couple of pieces of gold, he was very vague about exactly where they were camped though, I think they thought we might muscle in on their territory ha ha!

Camping area at Lake Mason

After they finally left for the afternoon, we then had a great fire, an easy dinner of sausage sandwiches, watched the sunset & then the amazing stars, had a few beers & just soaked up the quietness as we were then only ones at that camp.

The next mornings pack up was interesting as the wind had started to blow pretty strongly & it was  a nightmare to get the tent down, but we finally managed to get it packed away.  As we drove out, we wondered if it was worth driving all the way in, not that it was that far out of the way as we had decided to do the dirt road between Sandstone & Meekatharra anyway.  We decide it was worth the trip, but we aren't sure how much more there was to see as we only went to the homestead.

The dirt road to Meekatharra was better than we expected, except for a couple of rough patches.  We stopped a few times along the way for photos.  The country was still very arid, with not many trees & not much grass either.  We came across some cattle and had to get some pictures, we are always interested in how different cattle farming is across the country. We also stopped at hill on the side of the road which was a site where a meteoroid had hit the earth many years ago. We also crossed over the rabbit proof fence. We arrived in Meekatharra and were again surprised at how neat & tidy it was and how many facilities it had.  After getting some fuel, a coffee & a couple of things at foodworks, it was time to find our next a campsite further north on the Murchison River (what we found in our next post). 

Road to Meekatharra 

Meteorite hill

Rabbit proof fence

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Malcolm Dam Leonora

So we left the big smoke of Kalgoorlie on Anzac Day morning & started to head North. There were a few places we could of stopped at but we wanted to get a few kilometres under our belt. So we went north through Menzies & onto Leonora where we had heard of a place called Malcolm Dam about 12km out of town towards Laverton. When we arrived we were very impressed it was in fact an oasis. The dam was built to service the steam trains, but was soon not required anymore so it turned into a haven for bird life with its fresh water. It only fills naturally so can get quite low, but it had plenty of water on our visit. The camping was pretty great. Our site was only about 50 meters from the waters edge & we couldn't see our nearest neighbours, there were 4 other campers on our first night & 1 on our second. 

The bird life was awesome. Lots of water birds, native hens & zebra finches. The weather wasn't great on our first afternoon with a few showers, but it was still lovely. The next morning we woke to clear skies & after a yummy breakfast of scrambled eggs we walked the whole way around the dam. We only saw one other person in the afternoon & a couple of cars so we had a very quiet day. There were lots of cool plants (see photos at the bottom of the post). 

There are no facilities only two skip bins & two picnic tables. It is a free campsite with plenty of camping spots, we were suprised how quiet it was for a long weekend. We loved it & it was just what we needed after 4 nights in Kalgoorlie. You can also have a campfire, we haven't had one since the night we crossed the border so that has been awesome. Mat got to get out his chainsaw so he was happy. We went about 5 minutes up the road on a dirt track & cut enough firewood for a couple of days, so there is plenty around if you go just up from the campsite. It did rain during the night on our second day & we awoke to the pretty dismal morning in the photo below, another wet pack up! Luckily it finally stopped enough for us to get packed up. 

A great free campsite for overnight or a couple of days. Definitely one to put on the list. So we are now heading west towards Sandstone into Lake Mason conservation park. We will let you know how that goes in our next post. 

The camper trailers upgraded power system

After a couple of months on the road we have had few queries and a fair bit of interest in the 12v power system that the camper runs, so we though it would be a good idea to give an overview of what we have installed and our impression so far. So Mat is back on the keyboard today. 

When we purchased the trailer the 12v system was pretty much non existent, there was an old 100a/h deep cycle battery and 2 Merritt plugs on the side of the camper, there was no way to get charge into the battery except by using a stand alone charger and crocodile clamps. 

Knowing that we prefer to camp away from caravan parks as often as we can and that we would be running 2 Engel Fridges; one of which would be a dedicated freezer, we decided that the system would need a major upgrade and some thinking on how to make it work best for us. 

The first thing we did was work out our worst case total power draw (using the maximum a/h draw figures for all of the electrical stuff we have (the two fridges, some LED lights, and all of the gadgets and gizmos we have that need charging) and then worked backwards from there. However the more we looked into it, it became obvious that we were going to need someone with more 12v knowledge than we had, to design a system that would both meet our needs and be robust enough to handle life in the bush.

When looking for someone to help us design the system we got in contact with Jamie and Shane from JTS on the Sunshine Coast, these guys have been building 12v systems for years and specialise in the type of fit out that we wanted to do.  

Many phone calls and emails later (Sorry Shane!!) we landed on a system that we felt would cover all of our bases.

The system. It is located in the box on the drawbar at the front of the trailer. 

 The back bone of the system is 2x 120a/h AGM batteries from FullRiver these came very well recommended as reliable durable power storage options that would stand up to life as a full time power supply, they cost a little more than some other brands but, so far they have proved to be worth every cent. These were installed in Parallel configuration, basically meaning they operate as one big 240a/h storage.

Next we installed a Radarc BCDC 1225 battery manager, this system is capable of managing charge from both the vehicle (from the alternator) and from solar panels (more on this shortly). Having had Redarc products in our last two utes, and a Redarc dual battery isolator in Ruby currently we were happy to use this Australian made product.  Having taken care of 12v charging, we also wanted to add a 240v charging alternative to the system for times when we were in town.  

The Redarc is the black box beside the battery. 

Shane and Jamie recommended a ProCharge Ultra Charger, this is a 30A charger that can be used for bulk charging as well as maintenance charging of batteries in storage.  This system has proven to be perfect for topping up the batteries in town when we have been at a Caravan Park for a few days. 

240v power charger. 

Having taken care of charging we installed a BM1 compact battery monitor to keep an eye on both battery voltages and charge/discharge rates, this has proven to be the most handy piece of the entire set up, allowing us to get a firm understanding of both our power usage, but also to better understand how the charging a system works in various scenarios so we can adjust our use accordingly. 

Battery monitor & inverter

With a number of gadgets and gizmos to charge we knew we needed an inverter, in the end we settled for a Cotek 300w inverter, this is a pure sine wave inverter allowing us to safely charge delicate equipment such as tablet computers and mobile phones, the 300w inverter isn't big enough to run appliances such as kettles and toasters, but so far this isn't proving to be much of a problem for us. 
As the camper was a few years old the plugs and sockets used throughout the trailer were also in need of replacing. We chose to replace all of the existing Merritt Sockets with standard 12v cigar sockets, and also added an additional outlet inside the camper body for use inside the tent.  All of the charging and external connector plugs were changed over to Anderson Plugs, and the cabling    used was upgraded to accommodate for the size of the current to and from each plug. 

Lastly we needed a power source for the batteries when the car wasn't hooked up and we were away from mains power for more than a couple of days. We considered and quickly discarded the idea of using a generator, as that would mean carrying unleaded fuel.  Also we camp in National Parks a lot and some of these have strict rules about generator use. As a result we started looking at Solar panels.  The efficiently and affordability of portable solar panels has improved dramatically over the last few years, with a lot of cheap panels now available on the market.  Talking to the team from JTS it was clear that up to a point with solar you get what you pay for, with the budget end of the market often coming with inflated power figures and poor quality fittings.  However the same was clear from the top end of the market, with the most expensive panels, while they might be more efficient and durable over an extended (years and decades) period, that they didn't seem to offer value for money for us. 

In the end we ended up with  2x 120w panels from the Chinese manufacturer Blue Sun.  These were a mid range panel, to improve the durability of these panels the team from JTS has upgraded all of the clips, plugs and cabling on them to meet our needs, this included bypassing the solar regulators that came with the panels (our Redarc does this job in our system) and replacing the crocodile clamps with Anderson Plugs to match the permanently fitted inlet sockets on the trailer.  

Anderson plugs on the trailer that connect to the car. 

Anderson plugs that the solar panels connect directly to. This then charges the batteries. 

After several trial runs on shorter trips and after 6 weeks on the road it is fair to say that we are more than happy with how the system has worked.  On a sunny day our solar system makes around 15 amps of charge, meaning our system is usually fully charged by lunchtime.  On an overcast day the system is still making enough charge to keep up with our fridge draw (4-5 amps) meaning that even under poor conditions we can last several days without needing to look for an alternative power source. 

The longest period we have been away from mains power continuously now is 16 days, and the system was fully charged the evening before we packed up when we put the solar panels away. This self sufficiency is allowing us to plan longer periods away from mains power, and is also saving us money as we can bush camp more and don't need to pay for powered sites if we choose not to when we do have to use a caravan park. 

The long term durability of  the Anderson Plugs used in most of the systems connection will be interesting, so far they are going ok, but the most used of them are occasionally stiff and hard to use. We have plenty of spares in the event of one failing.

We can't thank the team at JTS enough for their help in designing and building the system, these guys were a pleasure to deal with and their workmanship was first class. See link to their website

The long term durability of the system will be interesting, but given the quality of the workmanship and components used, were confident that we will be fine.

Friday, 25 April 2014


So it was time to get back to civilisation for a bit, we had been without mains power for 16 nights & Ruby needed a service. As we drove into Kalgoorlie she ticked over 49991km, so perfect for her scheduled service. As we had to get her serviced & resupply we decided to check into a caravan park for a few nights, we had heaps of washing to do as well! After reading a few reviews online we ended up at the Kalgoorlie Discovery caravan park. It was not cheap at $39 a night but at least it had some form of security (a boom gate & fence). We had been warned about the dangers of Kalgoorlie & to always be very careful with your belongings.  The park was okay, it's away from the main part of town, the sites are a decent size but are gravel & it has good amenities & a laundry. So after setting up camp we indulged in a long hot shower! We got lucky with our neighbours again & had a great chat to Debbie & Steve (thanks for the note guys we hope you are following the blog) about our travels & plans. The next day we did some laundry & then headed into town for a look around. Kalgoorlie has all of the shops /franchises you could want, set into a very old mining town facade. It is an interesting place, we can't really think of to many other towns that it is similar to. It is the first place we have ever had to pay to use a public toilet (35 cents) & one of the main attractions in town is what they call Skimpies (lovely ladies dressed in not much that try to entice you into the pub they are representing). It is also the first town we have felt really ripped off on two occasions. One was when we went to the pub for lunch & they wanted $37 for a steak (we declined & went elsewhere) and the other when we went to the butcher for our meat shop. We placed our order, got them to vaccum pack & freeze it for us & we picked it up the next day. As we were packing the meat into our engel I read the docket. They had charged us $42 kg for lamb cutlets. So it was in two packs, so 2 meals worth but it was $44 total, so $22 a meal (not good for the budget, it might have to be a no lunch day on the nights we have our Kalgoorlie gold plated cutlets!!). 

Day 1 at Kalgoorlie also involved giving a Ruby a much needed bath & clean up before her service. $20 at the car wash & she came up beautifully. We also took the  2 Engels out of the back of the car to give them a clean out & also switch them over to alternate them between being a fridge or freezer.

Day 2 involved getting up a bit earlier to get Ruby to Toyota by 7.30am. We then had breakfast in town & wandered down to the museum but unfortunately it didn't open until 10am so we went back up the street & I got myself a hair appointment to get spruced up as well. 2 hours later I finally emerged, much to Mats impatience. We got the call to say Ruby was done so we walked back to Toyota. We don't have a great history with Toyota  servicing & it reared it's ugly head again. We have installed a secondary after market fuel filter on Ruby, we asked them to replace it (we supplied a new one for them) & to also change the primary toyota filter as well, irrelevant of if it needed it or not (we would rather be safe than sorry with the remote travel we have planned). When we turned up Mat asked had they both been done & they thought they had but it wasn't on the docket so they went to check with the mechanic & yes it had been done, but the other service guy said no it hadn't. In the end we finally found out the Toyota one hadn't been changed, so another half an hour wait while they rectified the problem. There is always something..... Other than that Ruby was given a clean bill of health & even got her tyres shined & windex on her windows. 

Ruby all clean again (for 5 minutes anyway)

After-market fuel filter. 

After that it was a trip to the pub for lunch, picking up our meat order & then back to camp to look at the maps to plan our journey north. 

Day 3 at Kalgoorlie involved getting our shopping done, resupplying beer, more washing, fuel & starting to pack up camp to leave the next day. We went to the pub again for lunch, it was becoming a habit !! We didn't cook the whole time we were in Kalgoorlie, it was awesome! All days were lunch at the pub & not much for dinner. 
Pub lunch!!

It started to rain at about 9pm & was light all night & as we packed up in the morning, another wet pack up!! We left Kalgoorlie at 8am this morning & have come to a place called Malcolm dam, it's gorgeous (more on that on our next post). Kalgoorlie was a great place to resupply & we didn't mind the town, but 4 nights in a caravan park was definitely long enough!!! I didn't take many photos but we did visit the super pit, the big gold mine on the edge of town, it was huge.

So we have finally started to head North & we are very excited to see what we find. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Stokes National Park - Stokes Inlet

We decided to chance our luck & move from Cape Arid on the Wednesday before Easter to another camp spot. We knew there was a risk we would have trouble finding anything during school holidays. We went back to Esperance to resupply & of course pick up some hot cross buns for Easter. It was chaos in town, so we got what we needed & headed out to the west of Esperance. There were about 6-7 marked campsites along a 100km stretch to the west of Esperance so we hoped we would find something. Our first spot to try was Quagi beach. It was packed there was one site left as we drove in but we were behind a campervan & they quickly pulled into it, giving us a "sucks to be you" grin as we drove past, making Mat really happy..... It was a nice spot, but it wasn't to be. The next easy to get to site along the road was at Stokes National Park on the inlet. It was only a few kms off the highway so we decided to have a look. There were 3 sites left. One of them was pretty good, nice & big & overlooking the water, & a fair distance between each site. We decided to take it & not chance our luck again as it was after lunch by this time. We set up & had a bit of a look around. The campground had 2 sets of toilets, 2 camp kitchens & 15 campsites with 3 or 4 of those group sites. It was $10 per adult per night, so the same as Cape Le Grande without all the facilities.... We set up our shower tent for the first time, with not even an argument, as we were staying 5 nights we needed it.  

Stokes Inlet near the day use area

Stokes inlet

The next day was a very lazy day, not sure why but we were both buggered, so it was a day of not much, which was nice. The next day was Good Friday & we decided to go for a drive up the coast a bit towards Munglinup, there was also a campsite there that we wanted to check out as it was one of our options if we didn't get in at Stokes. Again it was packed, with lots of families, relatively small sites & not that many of them. We wandered down to the beach & it was high tide. Wow there were some of the biggest waves we had ever seen, it was pretty awe inspiring & we just stood & watched for ages. We thought this isn't a very kid friendly beach, but the campers told us it wasn't normally like this, but the full moon & big swell were making it so rough. Normally the reef that was making the big waves actually protects the beach. 

Munglinup beach

We were going to have a fish but it was just too rough, so we checked out the HEMA & there was a small side track in towards the Munglinup inlet itself. So we decide to have a look.
Munglinup inlet & beach

Waves coming into the inlet from the ocean

 The track soon turned into soft sand, so in went the hubs & we managed to get through. We could see we were close to the end so thought we shouldn't need to take air out of the tyres. BIG mistake. Around the next corner we found a car park area & a sandy hill. Of course we tried the sandy hill & were soon bogged. Again we thought no we don't need any air out we will just use the Maxx trax. They worked & we backed back down the hill, but then got stuck again in the soft sand at the bottom. The Maxx trax wouldn't pull us free so we let our tyres down. We dug some sand out, put the Maxx trax under again, but we were pretty badly stuck on the back wheel drivers side. Luckily there were trees near by so just as Mat grabbed out the winch controller, some other people came around the corner in a chopped 100 series Toyota. He kindly offered to snatch us out. While he took air out of his tyres & we got the snatch strap ready his 3 young boys were very enthusiastic to understand why Mat got bogged & wanted to know who was driving..... All while showing Mat their soft toys including a toy wombat with band aids on his feet. Mat was very diplomatic in the tense situation, I could barely hold back laughter, it was hilarious!!

Well & truly bogged

We got pulled out & had a lovely chat with our saviours, they had spent 5 years travelling around Australia. Once we were out we just parked in the car park and walked the short distance into the inlet. It was lovely, it was cut off from the ocean by a sandbar, but the waves were so big that day, some water was coming over & getting into the inlet. It was pretty spectacular. We stayed for a while to explore & then headed back to camp for a very late lunch, a shower & then cooked up fish & chips for dinner. 

Getting snatched out. 

The following day we decided to go for a fish at the inlet at Stokes & drove down to the day use area where you can then drive along the edge of the inlet. We didn't go too far along as you then had to drive through plenty of saltwater, but it didn't seem to deter some others. We found what looked like a good fishing spot, rigged up, chucked the lines in & had a bite in the first minute. What followed was a great few hours of fishing for Black Bream with lots of bites & we were catching lots of little ones. The minimum size is 25cm & by the end had 4 keepers in the bucket. Of course we then went back the next day & walked a little further up the inlet & ended up with another 7 keepers, one a 36cm beauty. 

Mat & his 36cm Black Bream

Day two's fish 

It was then back to camp to fillet 10 of the fish, we kept the big one whole for dinner that night, and to start packing up camp as we were leaving the next day. In the end Stokes turned into a good campsite to avoid the Easter long weekend. The camping was ok as we were a fair way from our neighbours & the fishing turned out to be awesome. Next it was off to Kalgoorlie to get the car serviced & resupply before heading north. So it was goodbye to the coast for a while & we are very excited to see what we find up through the middle of WA.