experience 04

19jan13 — d+e — charlie moreland

This one turned out to be our most successful camping trip yet. Four tries in and we’re finally working from a camping checklist and managed to pack all the essentials … almost. Lesson 08 — when checking off your camping checklist, make sure each item actually IS amongst your gear. But more about that in a moment. :-)+)

Even though this campsite was the furthest from Brisbane we’d been on our camping jaunts, the only thing we needed to pick up on the way was firewood, so we had time to stop off at the beautiful Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny. This place is special for another reason — in May 2005, J and I planned to get married in this marvellous sub-tropical rainforest. But we got hit with torrential rain, so we had to content ourselves with standing in the doorway of the information centre instead. The rainforest is still behind us in the video — but, admittedly, it wasn’t quite the same.

I wanted to get married beside the twin rose gums that are a feature of the forest. These things are awesome — about 500-600 years old and totally out of place. They usually do not grow in rainforest and the theory is that they started growing when the climate (and, therefore, surrounding forest) were quite different, but were well enough established to keep on going when the climate changed to support a sub-tropical rainforest. Two trees growing strong, independently, but inseparably fused at the base — a perfect metaphor for a successful marriage.
(click for a larger slideshow)

Charlie Moreland is a big campsite on the banks of Little Yabba Creek in Imbil State Forest. It is easy to get to and it has a fabulous waterhole — this makes it super-popular … which has its downsides. Crowding wasn’t a huge issue but the RUBBISH was — it’s unfortunate that occasionally you’ll be stuck with a site previously visited by feral-bogan-idiot-wankers. We collected a full bag of junk before starting to set up our site. Particularly disturbing was the stuff in the fireplace — glasses and bottles (partially melted), lighter fluid tin (burnt out), aerosol can (exploded) and a hammer head. And, of course, the fireplace was surrounded by stuff that could have been tossed in if only the wankers had tried — ring pulls, bottle tops, cigarette butts, etc, etc, blah, blah. But, as discussed in the last post, the bush has an amazingly calming effect — usually this sort of thing would send me on a psychopathetic rampage (yes, that spelling is deliberate) — but, instead, we simply filled our bag and put it aside — ahhh, peace.

After setting up and having the first crucial cuppa it was time to hit the waterhole. On our way we met up with the first of many lace monitors — basically harmless critters unless you hassle them (ie. poke them with a stick). This waterhole is a beauty — big, beachy, shallow bits, deep bits — perfect. We also ran into some friends from Ipswich — P and O — such is the popularity of this place. We spent pretty much the rest of the afternoon here :

Someone had rigged up a rope swing close to our campsite (there’s often one of these) and E hung out there for a while before hooking up with another kid and going back to his campsite. This is another great thing about family camping — kids get a taste of the sort of freedom their parents used to have as kids — before parents learned to be so paranoid. I wandered down to check that it was OK with the hosts that E was hanging around and then left him to it.

So I got into finishing setting up the campsite and this is when I learned Lesson 08 (as mentioned above). Somehow we had managed to leave the tent poles behind. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘I’ because I was the one telling E what to mark off on the list.

O … K … what now? Well, luckily for us, it was looking like a pleasant enough night and there were no mozzies about, so I just dropped one side of our shelter tarp to the ground to form a lean-to. E wasn’t too impressed with this solution and opted to sleep in the car. But he managed to freak himself out in there by himself and soon joined me under the tarp. This is actually a great way to sleep — not stuffy like inside a tent, we had a cool breeze refreshing us through the night. Lesson 09 — things not going to plan is just part of the adventure. It did start to rain a bit, but this sounded much heavier than it actually was and only added to the experience. In the morning, while we were eating breakfast, a big lace monitor walked right across our beds :

E says : At Charlie Moreland we went swimming at the waterhole. I didn’t like the people stealing the log off me. I liked the fire twirlers. I made a new friend and played on his DS. A bush turkey tried to take our chocolate. There were a lot of lizards. We forgot the tent poles and dad and me made a new way to camp which was fun. I want to sleep like that again. There was a swing. The swing was fun. On the way there we saw an eagle and stopped where mum got married. There were interesting birds and nests and a giant wood moth where mum got married. And interesting statues.

After breakfast we went for a short wander along the Little Yabba and Piccabeen track, but didn’t do the full circuit. On the way we learned about the Giant Stinging Tree. It looks like just another rainforest tree, but the leaves have tiny hairs that give an excruciating sting — the sting can last for months and has been known to kill horses. Awesome — even the plants in Australia can get you. Note to self: add women’s waxing strips to first aid kit. When we were packing up we noticed a jumping jack nest — it was interesting to see all the empty egg cases lying around — these guys are good little cleaners, but also really aggressive. As I was pointing to the egg cases, these little buggers were jumping up to try and bite me (hence the name). Glad they didn’t get me, like all bull ants, they hurt like hell.

Charlie Moreland is easy to find — from Maleny we took the Maleny-Kenilworth Rd through Witta, Conondale and Booloumba. We picked up some firewood at the Cambroon Caravan Park. This stuff was so good we bought some more on the way back for next time. A few minutes further on is the turnoff to the other major camping ground — Booloumba Creek. Then a few minutes more to the Charlie Moreland turnoff — Sunday Creek Road. The majority of this is dirt — but quite wide, mostly flat and well maintained — easy going :
Charlie Moreland map
click to see Charlie Moreland camping area map
click to see full Imbil State Forest map

camping around brisbane billy icon


experience 03

05jan13 — d+k — coochin creek

Our previous camping experience taught us an important lesson — Lesson 05 — for sanity’s sake, make yourself a camping checklist. Although ‘taught’ is not entirely correct — in order to be ‘taught’ one must ‘learn’ — and some people are slow learners. Having successfully failed to make myself a camping list, it was pretty much inevitable that this trip would involve the absence of an important piece of equipment — the billy. Unfortunately, I remained unenlightened by this epiphany until half way to Coochin Creek. Then I was faced with a choice — find another billy, or suck dry teabags and crunch dry noodles — mmm…

It’s actually quite difficult to find a billy in a foreign town, and having traipsed around Beerwah for far too long I came to the crazy conclusion that Woodford would save me. So, I drove half an hour in the wrong direction — back to the good people at Home Hardware who furnished me with the hatchet during our first experience. And, thankfullly, they came through for me again — they’ve got everything. Then I fumed back down the mountain, almost apoplectic with rage at my own stupidity (always driving carefully of course) — plus one billy but minus the better part of two hours. But then calm descended as we entered the campsite.

This is one of the main attractions of camping — anger, angst and aggression melt away in the overwhelming peace of nature — even in a man-made campsite with a bunch of other humans around. The stress and tension and worry of everyday urban life becomes diffuse — everything becomes slower, less urgent, less catastrophic. Those of us who are uptight become down-loose.

Coochin Creek, is a neat little camping area with only 21 sites. Some sites allow you to camp right beside your car, others have separate car spaces. K found the toilets intriguing. They look just like a normal toilet block, but as you approach you get the unmistakable whiff of the long-drop. I was surprised to find my daughter take this in her stride — I was expecting her to be too grossed out.

You can fish in the creek, which is more the size of a river, so we came prepared with rods and whatnot. What we didn’t come prepared for was the mozzies. These things were in plague proportions and they were BIG. We’d never encountered such an onslaught before so we were caught short in the insect repellent department. This leads us the Lesson 06 — always take heaps of insect repellent — you never know when you will come under siege. The mozzies we get in Brisbane are tiny little buggers that itch like hell. But these big Coochin Creek mozzies didn’t seem to itch (and we MUST have been bitten). So, although they were annoying, they didn’t send us berko-itcho.

The fishing was a bit of a debacle. We spent a lot of time caught in the trees (even the ones on the other side of the river) and other snags. And I spent fully half the time re-rigging. There are definitely decent size fish in the creek — we saw them jumping right out in front of us. But they weren’t going to fall victim to our incompetent angling attempts — so, no fish for dinner.

Setting up camp was a little problematic this time. We bent a few tent pegs beyond recognition. I’m not sure if this was due to hard ground, or rock or roots — but it was too difficult for me, so I left it to K :

You may have come to the conclusion by now that the billy wasn’t the only thing we forgot this trip and you’d be right. Lesson 07 — always take your camera — there are bound to be memories you’ll want to capture. These dodgy shots were taken on a phone. Which again reminds me of Lesson 05 — for sanity’s sake, make yourself a camping checklist. And this is exactly what we did after this trip. There’s a lot of stuff you need for an overnighter, but you don’t need to expand it much for two or more nights. You’ll see the most important things are in all capitals :
(click to get the full list)

Again, we chose a tent site on the periphery and in the morning we were rewarded with a beautiful, uninterrupted dawn glow. There’s something very peaceful about long shadows :
(click for a larger slideshow)

K says : There were a lot of mozzies and they were huge. We could also fish but we did not catch anything except leaves and weeds, etc. There was not a lot of wildlife except mozzies. I did not like the long road to the campsite, but on the way we saw an eagle. On the way home we went to Bribie Island. We had chips and a crusty sausage for lunch — it was yummy. We also went to the beach for a swim and another go at fishing. There were lots of blue jellyfish.

Despite the mozzies, lack of camera, running out of insect repellent, and the whole billy thing, we had a pleasant enough stay at Coochin Creek. But it won’t be top of our list of campsites to revisit. If you’re into fishing (and mozzies) it’s a great little spot — and would be especially beautiful if you had some kind of boat or kayak or whatever to get out on the water and putter or paddle around the various nooks and crannies. There’s bound to be crustaceans in amongst all those mangroves too. There’s a boat ramp close by.

Coochin Creek is a bit over an hour north of Brisbane. Past the Bribie Island turnoff but before you get to Caloundra. The instructions on the government map say you can’t turn right off the Bruce Highway into Roys Rd, so you should continue to the Caloundra turnoff and then turn back south. But, if you haven’t got a super-high vehicle (eg. a bus), you can actually exit left at Roys Rd and there’s a little highway underpass. The site is well signed and easy to find. As with the other National Parks campsites we’ve been to so far — you book before you go through ParksQ :
Coochin Creek Map
click to view Coochin Creek campsite map
click to view Glasshouse Mtns map

camping around brisbane billy icon

experience 02

08dec12 — d+e — archer camp

So, we got lucky with the choice of campsite for K’s first camping trip. How would we go when it came to E’s turn? Thankfully, we got lucky again with Archer Camp in D’Aguilar National Park. Well, it’s not quite true that we ‘got lucky’ — extensive research was really the key to the success of our first two adventures — this made it easy to choose sites that the kids would love.

Unlike K, E doesn’t get car sick, so we decided to go the back way — through Samford, Dayboro and Mount Mee. This beautiful drive is so much nicer (and actually quicker from Brisbane’s western suburbs) than barrelling up the highway. The easiest way to get to Archer Camp is from the northern end, via Woodford — there are only a couple of kilometres of dirt track. Whereas coming up from the south along the Mount Mee Forest Drive is a bit hairy for 2WD’s. Certainly doable in dry weather, but not a particularly relaxing trek.

The thing that grabbed our attention the most as we descended the last km into Archer Camp was the noise of cicadas. Now, we all know cicadas are loud — the summer din can seem deafening until you get used to it, and then the sudden silence seems numbing — but this was something else — this was LOUD. Archer is exactly the type of campsite I love — cruisy, uncrowded, pristine — and no mozzies. There are only nine numbered campsites and we had chosen number one, so we only had neighbours on one side. This was fortuitous in another way too — most of the creek front had been fenced off for rejuvenation when we were there — so you could only access the creek from our end and the far end, where the swimming hole is.

The first two priorities were the same as last time — get the tarp up for shelter, this time from the sun, rather than from the rain — and get the billy boiling for a quick drink before a look around. You can’t drive onto the campsites at Archer, but the individual carparking spaces are close to the sites, which are quite big and well spaced :

There’s an excellent waterhole at Archer Camp — good size and easy access. But we’d forgotten to pack our togs and were disinclined to go skinny dipping with so many others around. This taught us our next two lessons : Lesson 04 — always remember to take your swimming kit — you never know when you’ll find an oasis. ; and Lesson 05 — for sanity’s sake, make yourself a camping checklist.

So we went off on another adventure instead. This is where you really find out how much your six year old son doesn’t trust your driving prowess. E was quite anxious on the drive south along Loveday’s Road, and fair enough too — ‘road’ is a bit of a stretch, but I guess ‘Loveday’s Bush Track’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. There were heaps of trail bike riders testing their skills along the way — yes, that type of track. A sensible driver in a 2WD with reasonable clearance will have no trouble with this road in dry conditions, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Exploring is almost always rewarding — just being in amongst the green and rock and smells and sounds is awesome enough, and you’ll almost always see, smell or hear something new if you’re paying attention to your basic senses. But sometimes your exploring will lead you to a real ‘wow’ location. After twenty minutes of driving through dust and gravel and dust and bumps and dust we arrived at the oasis known as Rocky Hole.
(click to get a larger slideshow)

On the way back we stopped off at the day use area just across the road from Archer camp — this is another beautiful place to explore. As with all the watercourses we saw this weekend, it would have benefitted from a heap of rain and a good flush through.

Next was the real ‘camping’ bits of the day — setting up the tent, lighting the fire, getting dinner and, of course, roasting marshmallows. I think the marshmallow attraction is probably more about playing with fire than about the sticky mess that results. I know it’s a cliché, but there really IS something magical about fire — this non-living thing with a life of its own — this pure destructive energy-animal that can so easily turn into a rampaging beast if it’s mishandled.

E says : We saw a bushfire when we were driving to Archer. We were in the first campsite and there were lots of gum leaves to throw on the fire. At Archer I liked seeing the platypus and turtles. I didn’t like going on the dirt track. The cicada shells were cool but they were annoying when we were sleeping. I went skinny dipping at Rocky Hole but dad was too scared to. We had noodles for dinner and for dessert I had marshmallows. I give Archer Camp 100 out of 100.
I made a funny video to show you guys.

Before heading off in the morning we went down to spend some time just watching the creek and saw kingfishers and other small bush birds, turtles and platypus. Then we headed back south to spend a couple of hours in the area around The Gantry — the site of an old sawmill that’s been transformed into an awesome day use area. Close by are a number of walks of varying lengths and difficulties. First we did the Piccabeen Palm Walk — an easy half hour circuit. We saw a few little bush critters and heard the eery catbird — being green, it’s hard to spot, but the sound is unmistakable and explains the name, but we thought it could just as easily be called the crying-baby bird. Next we did the Falls Lookout walk which is, again, an easy stroll. The walk itself is underwhelming but the destination pays big dividends.

Getting to Archer can be a bit confusing, and I wouldn’t want to try it in the dark on the first go. Coming in from the northern end is definitely easier than up from around The Gantry. I missed the Delaney Creek Road turnoff and ended up going through Woodford and back down Stanton Road — no big deal. Once you’re on Rasmussen Road you just follow it until it turns into Lovedays Road at the entrance to the National Park — then you’ve only got about another kilometre or so down to the campsite.

Close-up section of D'Aguilar National Park
click to view Archer Camp map
click to view full D’Aguilar National Park map

camping around brisbane billy icon

experience 01

10nov12 — d+k — peach trees
The idea was to ease the kids into camping. I didn’t want to freak them out with anything too extreme and we really couldn’t have got any luckier than with Peach Trees in Jimna State Forest for K’s first ever ‘real’ camping experience. Well, it might have been nice if it wasn’t raining most of the time but, hey, that’s just part of the adventure.The trip from Brisbane took far longer than necessary because we still didn’t have a full kit of gear — we needed to pick up a billy, fuel stove, hatchet and firewood. Lesson 01 — make sure you’ve got everything before you go — otherwise you and your child will go berko. Thankfully, K was very patient. We stopped off at Anaconda for the billy and fuel stove, but their hatchets were way too expensive for our humble requirements. After a few more stops we eventually picked up a cheap hatchet at Home Hardware in Woodford. This is a great little family business that I would come to call on again in the not too distant future.

Peach Trees is a couple of hours north of Brisbane, just the other side of Kilcoy. The last few kilometres of road are dirt, which K didn’t like too much. But her tension disappeared when we drove into the site and immediately saw a mob of kangaroos grazing and lounging around.
(click to get a larger slideshow)

Peach Trees is a beautiful, green, rolling site which was not at all crowded the weekend we went. There were quite a few people at the far end so we decided to camp nearer the entrance, where only two other campers were within sight. We quickly set up a tarp to give us shelter from the drizzle. Lesson 02 — make sure you know, before you leave home, how your equipment works and how to put things together. The plan was simple — attach one side of the tarp to the car and use poles and ropes on the other side — and the result was fine insofar as it achieved its main purpose — shelter. But it was loose and flappy — giving us a loose, flappy and noisy problem in the middle of the night when the rain and wind picked up. Oh well, another lesson learned.

This type of weekend is exactly why you should always make sure you have an alternative way of heating water or cooking — there’s just no way we could have got a fire going when we first arrived — and delaying a cup of tea and a hot milo was simply not an option. Our alternative is the hex stove – more commonly known these days as a solid fuel stove — cheap, light and compact.

We did two of the three walks. The Yabba Creek circuit starts at one end of the campsite and finishes at the other end. This is an easy twenty minute stroll along the far side of the creek. It would be a great walk to do early morning or at dusk – you’re just about guaranteed to get a good view of platypus from the high vantage point.

The Eugenia circuit is a little more challenging but still quite an easy one hour hike and well worth the effort – absolutely gorgeous. We started at the far end – out the entrance to Peach Trees and across the causeway. The first half of the walk is pretty much flat and meanders along the creek. K and I made up stories as we went along – this is where the fairies live, this bit is protected by a dragon, over there is called ‘gnomesville’, etc. – in other words, it’s quite enchanting. At the half-way mark you cross the creek and start the ascent to a spectacular lookout.

The walk would have been absolutely perfect … except … the leeches. K just freaked when she saw the first leech flilipping around on her leg. Fair enough too — they’re creepy little buggers, and this was a big one. Luckily, none of the leeches we got on that walk were attached, so we could flick them off pretty easily. Lesson 03 — if you go walking in wet conditions, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get leeches. Leeches aren’t really that big a deal. If you’re not too squeamish, you can just let the leech get a gutful (about 20 minutes) and it will drop off by itself. If you prefer to get rid of it straight away you can use salt, vinegar or a flame. The jury’s out on whether or not you can just pull them off once attached — some say there’s a danger of jaw parts being left behind, others say this is rubbish. I prefer to just scrape my finger nail along my skin and nudge the jaw end (that’s the thin end) sideways until it’s away from the wound and then just pull it off. Best to whack a bit of antiseptic on the wound too.

K says : It was exciting. I didn’t like it when I lost my thong – I only lost one of the thongs in the creek. You could also swim in the creek, but only in one place. There was also a swing. It went very high. There was a swinging bridge that led to a long path. There was another long path and altogether me and D had fun.

To get to Peach Trees we drove through Woodford and Kilcoy. After Kilcoy you head towards Murgon and you’ll hit dirt before the Peach Tree Road turnoff. It’s all clearly signed and very easy to find. Take it easy once you hit the dirt, because there’s quite a bit of wildlife about.
Close-up showing Peach Trees campsite
click to view full Jimna State Forest map

camping around brisbane billy icon