On the south-east road again

You can’t beat butterflies. The ones that rumble around in your tummy as you pull out of the driveway, all packed and ready to go.

That sense of anticipation of what might lie ahead is addictive. It sets the tone for every trip and the hours of planning, preparing and packing disappear into the rearview mirror as you bolt out of suburbia.

This was going to be one epic adventure. We had the whole month, a few ideas of things we wanted to see and do, but no firm agenda and no fixed address. Bring it on.

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On the to-do-list were:

  • Off-the-grid camping
  • Saltwater showers
  • Israelite Bay and the Bilbunya Dunes
  • Isolation, no crowds
  • Big fish, beach fishing
  • Squid
  • Dolphins and sea lions
  • No limits
  • No sharks (unlike last summer)
  • Coastline
  • Tracks
  • Beach camping
  • Nullarbor crossing, unless we were having too much fun in the west…

Alby is our new tow rig. He’s one hell of a beast: a crystal pearl 2013 Toyota Landcruiser Altitude 200 series with twin turbo 4.5L diesel. Since bringing Alby home in late September, we have been kitting him out with everything we could ever have dreamed of in an ultimate off-road machine. We really are living the dream in this lucky country, something we just wont ever take for granted.

We had originally planned to set off on about the 30th of December, but after two wonderful weeks with family visiting from the east, we delayed our departure to make sure we had time to prepare and pack properly. This included our tinny (the QE3), outboard, boat fuel, fishing gear, snorkelling gear, kitesurfing gear, SUPs and paddles, food, water, clothes and drinks.

The Driver had taken primary responsibility for planning the route of this trip and so for me, it was quite the adventure not really knowing where we were heading. Little did I know we were both in the same boat.

So, on the first day of 2014, with The Dog sulking at my folks’ place, we left our coastal home behind and headed south-east to see some more of this magnificent sunburnt country.

Our usual route south-east includes passing through Dwellingup and Williams before cutting across the southern Wheatbelt to pop out at Ravensthorpe. A shorter day in the car was the order of the day so we meandered down through Katanning and then into the thriving metropolis of Tambellup, population 300 (we only saw two people).

The Tambellup Caravan park and campground is actually the grassed area next to the basketball courts and football oval. You need to pay a $50 cash bond and we didn’t have cash on hand – the one thing we try not to carry. And as there was nowhere in Tamby to get cash, we had to push on.

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Anderson Lake Nature Reserve – now that sounds nice doesn’t it? Let’s go there he said, it sounds good he said… We followed some increasingly narrow gravel tracks towards the lake. It was starting to get dark and we were running out of time to find somewhere to camp. One clearing near the lake had clearly had campers there, but no level ground and the swamp looked like mosquito-ville. Let’s keep moving he said….

Further down the road we turned into a little track that had no signs but according to Hema was the Three Swamps Nature Reserve. The map looked promising with lots of trees and we envisaged a little clearing amongst a hollow of trees. How peaceful she said.

Instead we found a creepy windy track that turned into a clearing with an old shack. Every wall had been shot out with bullets. Someone had attempted to board it up with bits of wood and tin. Did I mention it was creepy?

We had the distinct feeling that we were being watched. Alby’s doors were locked and we didn’t move from the safety of the big rig. We followed the track for another 500m or so, and again felt that someone was either following or watching. A snappy U-turn and we were out of there. Back past the shack, out of the track, and safely onto the gravel (with the banjoes fading into the dusty sunset).

Hema showed a tent somewhere on Salt River Road about 40km away, so we decided to head for that. By this stage it was nearly 8:30pm. So much for our nice relaxed first night around the campfire.

You can’t imagine our relief when the Hema tent turned out to be Mt Trio Campground. We had never heard of this place and it could not have been more welcoming. A rambling track led into the campground, where we found a clearing and set up the camper. A quick dinner standing at the cooker and we were in bed and crashed within 20 minutes of our arrival.

The night air down this way is freezing and it was getting colder. As per usual, we had underestimated how cold it can be. Our cotton blanket and polar fleece blanket weren’t going to cut the mustard. So we grabbed our beach towels and jackets and laid these across the bed as well. Soon, restful sleep.

We survived the night and awoke in the morning to a gorgeous bush setting. There were quite a few other tents and campers around; hopefully we hadn’t disturbed everyone too much with our late arrival the night before.

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We packed up in less than 15 minutes, had hot showers, paid our $10 and got set to go. A quick chat with the touring American caretaker revealed that this campground is actually part of a working station and the owner is diversifying his business to include tourism and this campground.

Mt Trio includes about 15 powered sites and then free-range camping amongst the trees for everyone else. There is a big toilet and shower block, a very well set up camp kitchen and a small open-air rec room. This was a great stopover and one that we will definitely use again.

With the Stirling Ranges in the background, it truly is a lovely place.

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