We are just having a quick winter getaway and camped at Tailem Bend on the Murray River for a few nights. After a stunning sunset it was a bit chilly at night and we were pleased to have a campfire.
Ducks and cloud reflections on the Murray.
Last rays of light.
Sparklers after dark.
It is easy to make photos like this with a tripod, and around a 5 sec exposure at ISO200. I found I needed to focus manually on the spot where the sparkler-holding-person would stand.
Campfire on the banks of the Murray River at Tailem Bend, South Australia. A cosy way to end the day.
We finally made our way across to the east coast and to Maryborough which is a lovely town in which to spend a night. It has been quite a while since we stayed in a town! Being boaties, we opted to put our van next to the Marina on the Mary River for the night so that Peter could look at the boats; he has been missing his boat and the sea. Once we were set up, we went for a walk through the beautifully kept Queens Park, which is one of the oldest botanical parks in Australia. Nearby is the historic court house, and beside it …
…is the Sausage Tree (Kigelia Pinnata), a native of South Africa, which was propagated in about 1850 by botanist John Bidwill. It is a very rare specimen and is on the Heritage Register.
The band stand in Queens Park is quite lovely and ornate and it is easy to imagine a brass band playing in the rotunda to an appreciative audience.
The miniature railway line runs in and out between the hanging roots of the ancient Banyan Fig tree in Queens Park. The Banyan Fig is well over 100 years old and quite spectacular with its huge system of roots.
Maryborough has lots of nicely restored historic buildings, but also some modern art such as this water wall near the art gallery.
Egret taking flight on the Mary River. Kind of blurry, but I like it!
Looking up the Mary River, our caravan is the little white blob on the right, next to the marina jetty.
And the sun sets after another busy day.
The longer we have been on the road (over two months now) the more we have come to realise the benefits of finding a decent free camp to set up for a day or two. We use WikiCamps to help us discover what places are suitable then choose according to location and comments from other users.
This was the view from our ‘front door’ at one of the waterholes where we camped.
At a free-camp, you are also free to collect firewood for a campfire, and then cook yourself a meal in your camp oven. It doesn’t get much better than this!
While you are spending time relaxing at the free camp, you are also often surrounded by birds and other wildlife. These Brolgas were feeding at the waterhole mentioned above.
These honeyeaters often flocked around water sources, whether it was a waterhole or just a dish of water collected beneath a tap.
Black-winged Stilts in flight over the waterhole. I love their trailing pink legs.
This little Black Fronted Plover was feeding in the shallows.
I have learned to recognise quite a few new birds on this trip, but nothing in comparison to one of our travelling companions who has photographed and identified over 80 species he hadn’t previously seen. It definitely helps to have a bird identification book along on the trip.
Lawn Hill National Park is in the remote Gulf region of northwestern Queensland. It is over 1800 kilometres north west of Brisbane, close to the border with the Northern Territory.
The emerald waters and lush vegetation of Lawn Hill Gorge form a beautiful oasis in the outback, attracting abundant wildlife and offering exceptional views, walks, canoeing and cultural sites.
There are many walks around the park, some of them quite easy and some more difficult and adventurous.
The steep rock walls rise above you on either side as you approach the start of the lower gorge.
The best way by far to see the gorge is to hire a canoe and paddle upstream.
It is quite spectacular paddling beneath the rock walls. You can see the relative size of the canoe below the pandanus.
Waterfall at the top end of the lower gorge.
Just along from here you need to lift the canoe out of the water and drag it over the rocks to access the upper gorge.
I loved the roots of this tree exposed by the rushing water. This is a permanent waterway and runs all year round.
Emerald waters of the gorge.
Darter resting on a tree branch over the water.
Some parts of the gorge look quite tropical with palm trees and pandanus hanging over the emerald water.
Water lilies in the upper gorge.
Evening reflections as we make our way back to camp.
On our way to Lawn Hill National Park (Boodjamulla National Park) in the gulf region of north Queensland, we camped for the night on the banks of the Gregory River. This is a very remote area, but there were lots of people camping here. It is a beautiful river with crystal clear water which was flowing quite fast; it is spring fed and flows all year.
The old bridge is no longer in use but you can walk across to explore the other side of the river and visit the tiny town of Gregory which pretty much consists of a pub and a couple of houses.
Male Crimson Finch, only found in the most northerly parts of Australia.
Female Crimson Finch
Early morning reflections on the Gregory River.
It is very easy to understand why this is such a popular place to camp. The only downside is that you need to be totally self sufficient to stay here, but if you are organised it is an awesome place to stay especially if you can set up right on the river bank.
Tablelands Highway stretches on for hundreds of kilometres through the Mitchell grass plains which was all very dry in this time of drought. These are some of the birds we spotted along the way:
Bustard, which is quite a big bird. Bigger than I had imagined.
Bustard in flight.
Wedgetail Eagle perched on roadkill. (From a long way away!)
Which also took off on our approach.
Brolgas in front of termite mounds. The young one doesn’t yet have the red on it’s head.
Windmill at a roadside rest area, to provide water from the artesian basin for travellers.
The water at the rest areas attracts lots of little birds, such as these honey eaters, in this arid area.
Following are just some photos I took in a few different free camps that I thought I would share. When you think of free camping, you tend to think of dusty roadside stops, but if you choose carefully, there are some wonderful places you are able to camp absolutely free of charge.
Free camping spot off the Carpentaria Highway in the Northern Territory.
The beautiful sunset colours were also free of charge.
As was the trumpet serenade.
I don’t know if you have heard of Geocaching?
Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that’s happening right now, all around the world. Apparently there are 2,468,534 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide. We have found one cache….accidentally. It was tucked away in a hole in a rock beyond the edge of the camp area.
Following are a few photos of some of the birds we spotted fluttering around our camp.
It would be east to drive straight through Halls Creek and keep going. That would be a pity, because there are lots of things to do and see in the area. Plus a couple of delightful free camps tucked away just down the road.
China Wall is only 6km from Halls Creek. It is a naturally formed 6 metre high quartz ‘wall’ that is believed to be part of the longest formation of its type in the world.
Old Halls Creek (yes, the town was moved at some stage) has vestiges of some of the original buildings, and the original cemetery which has some sad stories to tell.
There are a couple of nice free camps down Duncan Road, such as Palm Spring and Sawpit Gorge.
We chose to camp at Palm Springs, which was like a little oasis in the desert and yes, it did have palm trees!
Unfortunately for us, it rained most of the day we were there which meant sitting around the fire under umbrellas. Although it was wet, it wasn’t really cold and luckily we had enough wood to keep the fire going.
This old truck at an abandoned house would have an interesting story to tell.
I think these are Black Kites. There were many of them circling above the street in Halls Creek.
This egret and cormorants were at Sawpit Gorge, which was another popular free camping spot down Duncan Road.
Grass at Sawpit Gorge
Kites over Halls Creek.
There is definitely more to Halls Creek than meets the eye!
We arrived at the Victroia River in Gregory National Park at dusk, just in time for this sensational sunset.
There were lots of people camping in the campground, so we set up camp under the trees near the boat ramp.
The evening colours were a a range of beautiful pinks and yellows.
I walked down to the river again in the morning. I didn’t see any crocs but…
I did see this oh-so-cute dog
Dog guarding the Victoria River boat ramp.
The birdlife was quite prolific. I think this was a Buzzard sitting in the gum tree. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Bird of prey, in the twisted branches of a boab.
These Little Corellas were noisy companions in the tree top.
Our last avian discovery was this Great Bowerbird in his bower. He had collected lots of white stones and green glass to decorate his love nest.
A friend suggested we visit Longreach Water Hole, just north of Elliott. It is a free camping area, suitable for bush camping, with no facilities provided. It is also an absolute heaven for birdwatchers. There were literally thousands of birds of many different varieties, both in the air and on the water.
Fishing at Longreach Water Hole.
Pelicans in their thousands were also fishing in the waters of Lake Woods. This is only a small portion of the enormous flock.
Rainbow Bee Eaters were prolific, flitting through the trees.
White egret fishing in the shallows.
Birds of prey filled the air, circling endlessly.
The young Spoonbill followed it’s mother, calling incessantly to be fed.
Another Rainbow Bee Eater. The long tail feather indicates an adult bird.
A less welcome find were the Cane Toads which seem to have taken over the shallows.
In the evenings, we enjoyed a cosy camp fire.
Wading ibis silhouetted by the sunset.
A perfect, stunning sunset over the peaceful waters. This was a truly beautiful place to stay.
We thought a four hour walk around the gorge and pound was energetic. These people had hiked over several days all the way through the ranges from Ellery Creek Big Hole to Ormiston Gorge. And they were still smiling!
The pound track was quite a climb, but very beautiful.
We climbed to the lookout at the top of this hill, which gave a magnificent of the pound below with the creek running through it.
The view from the bottom of the pound…
This dingo was hiding in the rocks beyond Ormiston creek that runs through the pound.
The sandy ‘beach’ on the creek. The dingo was in the rocks you can see on the left hand side.
The track certainly had it’s ups and downs.
Peter liked the sound of the trumpet echoing around the gorge.
This spinifex pigeon was pecking around at the side of the track.
If you look closely there are all sorts of bugs and insects camouflaged amongst the rocks and plants.
From Alice Springs, we turned left into Larapinta Drive to explore the West MacDonnell Ranges. The drive west of Alice is glorious with glowing red rocky mountain ranges lining both sides of the road.
Rock formation along the road.
Ellery Creek Big Hole is serene and beautiful, and way too cold for swimming at this time of the year.
The clear waters of Ellery Creek.
Ormiston Gorge waterhole is another superb and peaceful spot.
There were flocks of zebra finches and these were frolicking in the waterhole. This one is for you, Mel!
Rock wallabies sunning themselves on a rocky ledge.
The rugged ranges around Ormiston Gorge. The tiny blue-green speck on the left is the camp-ground.
We stayed in the free camp at the border of South Australia & The Northern Territory, where we walked in the bush behind the camp. We came across this tree with very rough cork-like bark and a wonderful twisted shape.
The wind makes patterns in the red sands from the grasses that grow in the desert.
The first emu for the trip.
These yellow throated miners were prolific at Kings Creek Station.
I love the colours of the desert, with a deep blue sky, rich red sand and the casuarina trees drooping in the midday sun.
Our last stop on this trip before we arrived home was to spend a few days on our boat down on the Gippsland Lakes. The first night we tied up to a friend’s jetty, and the following day we ventured towards Lakes Entrance and stayed for the night at a lovely little spot called Barrier Landing which is a narrow strip of sand dunes separating the lake from the wild seas of Bass Strait.
I can never resist a beautiful sunset, and this one turned the sea and sky a beautiful apricot colour.
The evening was fine and perfectly calm. We walked across the sand dunes for a walk along the ocean beach before dinner.
There were plenty of spots to tie up for the night along the jetty or along the beach. We shared the jetty with only two other boats, so we all had plenty of space.
In the morning the wind came up so we headed back across the lake and up the sheltered waters of the Tambo River to the area where the cliffs tower over the river.
We spotted this lizard on the river bank. I am not sure what he is, but when he saw us he didn’t know whether to freeze and hope we hadn’t seen him, or run for his life.
I liked this farm house perched up on a hill, with cattle grazing in the paddock below.
The next morning the river was peaceful and calm, it was a great anchorage protected from the winds blowing across the nearby lake.
This pelican took off gracefully when we disturbed the peace by motoring through the flock of pelicans and cormorants resting on the river water. Pelicans are definitely my favourite bird, it always amazes me that they can fly so gracefully.
Have you ever drifted serenely on perfectly calm waters, watching the sun sink slowly in the west while the colours change around you, reflecting off the sky and water? It is a surreal experience that makes me realise how lucky I am to live in this beautiful country.
Right on sunset, everything is bathed in a golden glow that turns the water to a sea of gold.
Then just after the sun has disappeared below the horizon, everything is golden and blue.
In the next few moments, the blues and yellows gradually change to oranges,pinks and purples.
The sea was so calm you could see the gentle ripples from the ducks paddling around the inflatable tender.
This yacht was anchored a little further up the bay and looked so peaceful in the evening light.
All that was missing from this perfect evening was a pod of dolphins frolicking in the calm waters!
We had heard a little about Lake Tinaroo, so decided to go and check it out for ourselves. Once we were there it was hard to tear ourselves away again. We set up right on the edge of the lake, took the canoes off the roof of the car, organised some firewood, and we were set for a relaxing break.
The water is so calm that paddling around in the kayak was a real pleasure, and everything was so beautiful, that I stayed out a little too long and ended up with blisters!
The birdlife at Lake Tinaroo is amazing. I was so sorry that my bird identification book is sitting on the bookshelf at home and not with me as it should have been. I know these guys, however, because we have them at home on Phillip Island. This is part of a family of Purple Swamphens that brought their babies over to us every day, looking for crumbs or scraps of food. They are amazing parents, and always fed the babies before themselves.
This is one bird that certainly gets better looking when it grows up! The babies were most peculiar looking with their stumpy little wings and huge feet. But they were still so cute in an ugly kind of way.
There are kookaburras all over the place up here, and this one was not my friend. He swooped down and stole my piece of chicken right off my fork while we were eating our meal! It was chicken curry, so I hope it burnt his greedy little mouth!
This is one I definitely needed the bird book for. I think he might be a Rufous Night Heron, but then again, I could have just made that up. If you know, please tell me and I will amend this!
There were lots of waterlilies growing in the tranquil waters at the edge of the lake.
These water lilies looked kind of serene with the clouds reflected in the water.
How inviting does this look? We ended up staying longer than we planned, but eventually we started to run out of food so it was time to move on.
And at the end of each perfect day was another perfect evening…You can see the smoke from our campfire drifting across the trees in the photo.
This gnarled old tree has nothing to do with Lake Tinaroo, but I like it so I am putting it in anyway. This was taken at Emerald Creek Falls, near Mareeba.
We visited Kuranda a second time to have a look around Birdworld and a picnic lunch at Barron Falls, which was interesting because there isn’t really a picnic area there so we were perched on a stone wall. There is a nice walk through the forest to the falls, which are involved with a hydro electric plant up there.
This fern had attached itself to the overhanging branch of a tree. It was quite big, probably about a metre across.
The new frond of a tree fern, about to uncurl into the world.
The bird park was quite interesting, but if I had to choose, I would definitely favour the butterfly sanctuary we visited a few days ago. We did get to meet a cassowary up close, although he was on the other side of a fence. Cassowaries can inflict quite a bit of damage with the claw on their foot.
Cassowaries have a bony skull cap, and are really not the prettiest of birds but are quite big and can be aggressive. They stand about as tall as an adult human. However this one was just lazing around, and spent most of the time sitting in the shade.
This cheeky parrot was leaning in for a closer look.
White faced herons at Kuranda Birdworld
Heron. It was a good chance to get up close and personal with the birds.
- There were lots of White Faced Herons around the pond area.
The rain has really set in, so when there was a small break in the weather we took the opportunity to go walking in Conway National Park, situated between Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. Considering the amount of water that has fallen from the sky, there was surprisingly little in the creeks we crosssed on our walk.
Creek crossing, Conway National Park
The bottle tree stores water in it’s fibrous trunk.
These stunning fungi were growing on a fallen tree trunk in the forest.
The vines were twisted and contorted around this tree in Conway National Park, almost looks like a python wrapped around the trunk.
When we got back to the caravan park, we found some birds out enjoying the damp weather…
A pair of curlews live in the little creek area at the camp ground. You can hear their eerie calls in the dark of night.
Kookaburra sitting on a post in the camp ground
Finally, a couple of photos of the beach area in Airlie Beach. The sun actually showed through for a few minutes!
As soon as the sun came out, people came out too to enjoy the pool area on the Airlie Beach foreshore.
Windy, but the sun came out for a little while
Sharing a tree in Mooloolaba. Another one for Anoushka.
THE IBIS & THE CROW
The white Ibis eyes the Crow…Is he friend or is he foe?
Who will end up with this tree? Is it him, or is it me?
Are we friends? Can we can share? It’s hard to say who will out-stare…
They both want this special tree, looking out towards the sea
White ibis and black crow; who will stay and who will go?
Finally it was time to move on, so we packed our things and headed north, up the road to Boreen Point. It was freezing! We weren’t allowed to light a campfire there so we huddled around the tiny butane heater at the water’s edge while the sun went down, then all crawled into bed at a very early hour to try and stay warm. Next camp we will be sure we can have a fire! Even so, Boreen Point was very pretty and serene and we will be back at some time in the future to take our kayaks up the river where we have been told there are lots of lovely peaceful camping spots.
Boreen Point on Lake Cootharaba looking cool and beautiful
Early morning flight at Lake Cootharaba
Rainbow Beach is such a romantic name. Tin Can Bay maybe not so much…Anyway, we headed up to the Great Sandy Straits to find our next camping spot. What we had forgotten from a previous visit here was the camping area at Inskip Point, where you can bush camp right on the beach.
Our camp at Inskip Point
The facilities are very basic (long drop toilets, and that’s all) but that is a small price to pay for the privilege of staying in such a great spot. We set up opposite the beach, organised some firewood, and were soon set for a few days of peace and relaxation.
This kookaburra was sitting in the tree behind the tent for ages
Our camp is near to where the car ferry goes over to Fraser Island, and across the water, you can see cars driving along the beach. Fraser Island is probably the largest sand island in the world and you wouldn’t get very far with a conventional vehicle, as there are no made roads on the island so you need a four-wheel drive to get around over there.
The hard packed sand is ideal for beach driving at Inskip Point too
Evening fishermen at Inskip Point. The car ferry to Fraser Island is in the distance
Pool at Rainbow Jungle, Kalbarri
Australian King Parrot
Two cheeky Purple Crowned Lorikeets sharing a slice of pear.
I would definitely recommend a visit to the Rainbow Jungle if you are in Kalbarri.