Category Archives: 4WD fun

Julimar Conservation Park 4WD jaunt

We are members of the 4WD Club of Western Australia and have been on many great trips with them. This one was a ‘Julimar Jaunt’ through the Julimar Conservation Park to have a look at the wildflowers there.

We met at the amazing Bindoon Bakehaus (great coffee, pies and cakes!) and then headed south for a bit before turning left onto Flat Rocks Road, where we proceeded to the Western Boundary Road. There we aired down our tyres before getting into the park in earnest. We meandered through most of the tracks on the map and a lot that don’t crack a mention.

A Julimar map

Lots of wildlife in evidence – ‘roos and emus, some with chicks. And of course wildflowers…

A 4wd 5

A 4wd 6

A 4wd 4 A 4wd 3 A 4wd 2 A 4wd 1

The park is mainly laterite gravel and that determines what grows there. Some species of trees and plants are pretty well confined to this type of terrain. It sometimes beggars belief what will grow on some of the poor soils here in W.A.

There are huge areas of ‘grass trees’ or Zanthorrea and the contrast between those trees that have been subject to a controlled burn and the untouched ones is interesting to see…

A grasstree 4 A grasstree 3 A grasstree 2 A grasstree 1 A flower 6 A flower 5 A flower 4 A flower 3 A flower 2 A flower 1

A orchid 1

A bullant 1

We were led on our ‘Jaunt’ by club member Barry Callen who is very familiar with the area and had Jim Cheeseman bringing up the rear as ‘tail end charlie’.  John Harman managed to stir up this bullant nest and this firmed up our decision to move on… There were seven vehicles on the trip. There was a little moderate terrain encountered, but in the main was a very easy and enjoyable day out.

This club is one of the largest 4WD clubs in Western Australia, catering for all makes of vehicles and age groups and run all sorts of one day, weekend and extended 4WD trips, social, recreational and educational events.  Visitors and new members are always welcome – if you’d like to find out more, click here!

Tyre Choice..

Back in 2011, we were in Singapore when Mr Joyce, that marvellous Qantas gentleman, decided to ground all of the airline’s aircraft… not that an extra few days in that great city was any hardship! So our arrival back in Perth was delayed somewhat and we had to ring the Toyota dealer to advise that we would not make our arranged delivery date… As a result after arrival home, we got a taxi from the airport to City Toyota and took delivery of our new Toyota FJ Cruiser on the 1st of November 2011. Very cool! Several important changes were made to the vehicle before delivery including an extra spare wheel and we wanted all 6 fitted with our tyre choice, Cooper S/T Maxx tyres which we had spent some time researching on the net and by word of mouth.

We have covered 102,176 km on these tyres.

Most of the ‘mileage’ has been on sealed roads, but a good proportion was off-road, mainly on gravel roads of varying conditions, sand and quite a lot of rough, rocky tracks. Not to mention towing a small caravan for a total of about 20,000km over eight and a half months (on one trip).

On the road 1 Ginny & I 2

A Fraser Island 5 Grunty Southern Shores 2

We are members of the fantastic 4WD Club of WA and have been on quite a few day trips with them, including sand and bush work-outs that they run to give drivers some experience and fun in handling the different conditions each location entails.

_Grunty in the Wandoo Woodland 4 _Grunty in the Wandoo Woodland Wandoo Woodland 5

As a result we have become pretty well acquainted with our tyres – definitely on a first name basis now – and have learnt a lot. Three key things include:

  1. Correct tyre pressures are vital to successfully handling the prevailing conditions. The mantra is “ Tyre pressure, tyre pressure and tyre pressure!” It can’t be emphasised enough.
  2. Do get a good 12 volt air compressor to bring your pressures back up for sealed road operations.
  3. A good quality, quick tyre deflator and pressure gauge are essentials.

So over the 102,176km our tyres have been down as far as 10PSI for some interesting sand work (in old money – but easier to remember!), at 27PSI on the rocky roads, around 32PSI on the gravel and at 40PSI towing our caravan on the black top. In that time we had 3 slow leaks which we had fixed while on the road. No problem.

We tackled the Skytrek track on Willow Springs station in the Flinders Ranges and had a real off-road, all day experience that was hard to beat… The track had just about every off-road challenge except for mud – and I think at the right time of year they could throw that in as well…

WA 4wd mag WA 4wd mag 1 WA 4wd mag 2 WA 4wd mag 3 WA 4wd mag 5 WA 4wd mag 6

So to say we were impressed with our tyres’ performance would be an understatement.

As you can see from the ‘before & after’ photos, there still remained a legal amount of tread and we had decided to run them over summer before fitting new ones when winter arrived.

Before 1 Before 2

But Cooper were offering a ‘special’ so our decision to fit new tyres was brought forward – pretty flash, ay?

After 1 After 2

Morley Tyrepower are club supporters so it was easy to pick a dealer for the purchase.  Steve Vella looked after us and it was all done with no fuss including a wheel alignment. Can’t thank them enough.

So if you’re looking for hard wearing tyres capable of handling the conditions you’ll find in your travels, we definitely recommend Cooper Tyres.

Hervey Bay, Fraser Island and the magnificent humpback whales!

No wonder that Hervey Bay is such a popular tourist destination with the magnificent Fraser Island beckoning, and whale tours galore! We were quite amazed by the size of the city – for some reason we had been expecting a small coastal town. Our stay at the Fraser Coast caravan park in in the seaside suburb of Scarness, one street back from the esplanade was lined with lovely shops, cafes and hotels – a great base for exploring.

Fraser Island is simply amazing, an island completely made of sand but it grows beautiful variety of trees and plants! Apparently this happens because of mycorrhizal fungi that naturally occur in the sand and these release nutrients in a way that plants can absorb. We feel really privileged to have seen such a variety of landscapes and ecosystems in one place.

A Fraser Island 1 A Fraser Island 3 A Fraser Island 4 A Fraser Island 5 Aircraft Fraser Island 1 Lake McKensie 1

Only 4WD vehicles are allowed on the island and we enjoyed exploring the inland regions while most people seemed to descend on the beach in droves. One interesting site was the Maheno wreck, a steamer which operated on the trans-Tasman route in the early 1900s. Once decommissioned in 1935, it was sold for scrap to a Japanese company. En route, a freak cyclone in July separated it from the tow ship and it was grounded on the eastern coast of Fraser Island. It became a training base for Z force and an artillery target. Such a sad story but she still captures the imagination of more than 250 000 visitors each year!
Maheno 2 Maheno 3 Maheno 4Seeing a pod of the mighty humpback whales swim and frolic around us rated way up there on our Richter scale of amazing experiences. Freedom Whale Watch guaranteed that we would see whales in Platypus Bay and it was a brilliant showtime as they seemed to be just as interested in us as we were in them. We also now have a greater appreciation of the female humpback’s lot in life… a mere 15 days after giving birth to a gynormous calf, she is ready to conceive the next one so the males are pretty much courting her ALL THE TIME. This causes lots of angst and jostling ‘whale-style’ while mum and her calf just ‘keep on swimming’…

All in all a great day out with a fun crew including our return transfers to the marina and yummy home catering.

Whale 1

Whale 2 Whale 3 Whale 5 Whale 6

Tracking South – leaving the tropical wet rainforest

We are finally moving south – but slowly so that the cooler temperatures don’t shock us too much!
First top was Cardwell. Our memories of lunching on beautiful fresh mud crab sandwiches in a local cafe were dashed as they had closed down. We did try the new outfit (complete with a large crab on their roof) but they were just not up to scratch – watery with free pieces of shell! Fortunately the Cardwell Beachcomber caravan park where we stayed saved the day with yummy mud crab spring rolls at their restaurant.

Cardwell beach 1 Coral Sea mem 4 Coral Sea mem 5 Coral Sea mem 6 Hinchinbrook Island 1 Ibis 1

The lovely boardwalk along the beach made for a pleasant walk into town. Walking in the other direction took us to the Battle of the Coral Sea memorial, commemorating the huge loss of lives in the air and sea battle between the allied Australian/US forces and the Japanese forces in May 1942. It’s easy to forget how close WW2 came to Northern Australia after Singapore and New Guinea were invaded. One special quote about this tragedy was “This was the first naval battle, in history, in which the opposing ships never came within sight of one another. The entire action was fought by carrier borne aircraft.”

Rollingstone Beach Caravan Resort was our next stop 30 minutes north of Townsville.

Dawn Rollingstone 3 Dawn Rollingstone 2 Beach Rollingstone 3 Beach Rollingstone 2

Our beachfront site was delightful (although the wind was so strong that at times we wished we had a more sheltered site) Local farmers bring in pineapples and pawpaws each day – hog heaven. Speaking of which, 3 little pigs (just spit size!) literally strolled out of the bush in front of us one day to forage in the garden round the park office! The people were aware of them and had caught one, but the remainder have learned to be a little more cautious… They are working on other strategies to get them. There were several birds attracted to the Grevillea planted round the park.

Helmeted Friarbird 1 Mangrove Robin 1 Rainbow Lorikeet 1 Rainbow Lorikeet 2 Rainbow Lorikeet 3

The track from Bluewater up into the Paluma National Park was a fab half day drive – the first time we’ve had our FJ Cruiser in 4WD for months and we needed it in a few spots! This is the southern most area of tropical forest, very lovely and would give you outstanding photos out to the coast on a sunnier day.

Trail bike Bluewaters track View from Bluewaters track 1

Our stay in Airlie Beach was also wet and windy. We found this tourist spot similar to Port Douglas – in fact you can stand anywhere and turn 360 degrees and see every type of accommodation from highrise apartments, resorts, hotels, backpackers etc…. but how much of it is full is the interesting question. The marinas full of yachts plus all the boats plying their trade to the Whitsundays are amazing as well. The neighbouring suburb of Cannonvale doesn’t seem to feature on tourist brochures but is where many locals live, and has lovely beaches and cafes.

Airlie Beach 1 Airlie Beach 2 Beach dragon

Our research into long lost Italian relatives in this region also took us to the lovely country town of Proserpine. Key industries here are sugar and cattle, and the locals at the museum, library and nursing home were outstandingly friendly and helpful. That’s a topic for another day.

The Rollingstone caravan park had a resident Bower Bird that was stealing anything silver to impress his girlfriends – including tow hitch clips! A sign warning of his cleptomania was prominent in the office. We didn’t spot him in action whilst we were there, but it would have meant a trip into Townsville to replace this very necessary item if it had been knocked off… Have you ever seen a bower bird nest, or had something bright and shiny stolen?!

Terrific Tamworth

“It pays to know the locals” rang true for us in Tamworth as we are lucky enough to have our nephew Jon and his family living there so we had special guides to help us explore this beautiful country region. Check out the 4WD Barraba Track up to Dawson Springs in the Mt Kaputar national park…
Mt Kaputar 4
Mt Kaputar 5
Mt Kaputar 2
Mt Kaputar 1
Wow, what a great trip and place to camp – a special blog will follow for our 4WD mates!
Ian was stunned to see a Huey H model helicopter parked in a local farmer’s shed – to use his words “The last time I saw these choppers at work they were part of a slick of 12 on a LZ (landing zone) in South Vietnam”. This one is now in use as a commercial fire fighter.
Huey 1
 We crossed the Great Dividing Range from Tamworth to Murrurundi for the final day of the ‘King of the Ranges‘ stockmen’s challenge and bush festival. A great showcase of the everyday tasks and skills required by stock men and women, and loved the demonstrations of the wild horse catch where the women outshone the men in speed and control on this occasion! Unfortunately it was a very wet and cold day, and even the horses were unhappy – ‘”You want me to kneel down in the mud – why?!”
King of the Ranges composite
King of the Ranges composite 2
Learning about the local agriculture and stock industries from Jon gave us a much better understanding of crops, soil types and local growing conditions. Constant research is underway to improve the quality and output of crops and to control the ever-present weeds. The intensive cropping includes cotton, sorghum, beef, chickpeas and wheat, along with beef, lamb, pork and chicken farming. The Narrabri info centre had great fact displays about each industry, but no copies were available…. presumably the info gets outdated too quickly! One fact we do remember is that that KFC now uses only Australian canola oil instead of imported palm oil.
The Long Paddock has been grazed bare this year due to drought conditions. These stock routes for mobs of cattle or sheep are easy to spot as the verges on either side of the road are very wide so that the livestock can graze as they travel. Water has to be available along the way and signs are put up so that motorists know stock is ahead as it is compulsory to give way. Certainly not an easy life.
All of this made us wonder why more farming tours are not available in local regions for everyone to understand a bit more about the rural sector and the food we eat? Overseas visitors might be interested too, and it might help farming families’ budgets as well? Do you know places or other countries where this happens well?
All in all, we loved the city of Tamworth. It is most famous as the country music capital of Australia, but as well we found it a thriving fun place to be and learnt lots too.