When we left Brisbane in 2019 I felt a sense of loss, I was very excited to go back to Tasmania because that is where I know I belong but we’d had a fantastic 4 years and made so many friends. As we drove away I made a pledge to visit a couple of times a year to keep contact and maybe do some racing. 3 months later there was a global pandemic which threw that plan out the window so when we entered the city it was just shy of 2 years since we’d seen our mates. Brisbane welcomed us with pouring rain which made the going quite slow as we crept along the highway with the other afternoon traffic. We reached our friends David and Teneale’s beautiful house in the late afternoon and had just enough time to unpack our things before we got back in the van and drove out to Grandchester for my early birthday dinner at my favourite restaurant Homage. Dinner was outstanding (as always), we had three courses and enjoyed every bite.

We woke up the next morning and spent the entire day doing nothing, the weather was average and the house made us feel like we were on some kind of holiday in France. When you live in a van you begin to develop a huge appreciation of basic things in your old life that you just took for granted, things like sitting on a couch, having a shower, and not having to walk outside to go to the toilet. That night we made pizzas and David cooked them in their wood fired pizza oven, honestly they were the best pizzas I’ve ever had. On Saturday morning I got a lift into Mount Gravatt to meet up with my allied health workmates from my old job at Tricare. We had a coffee and pastries for breakfast, caught up on the past 2 years, and I grilled them a bit about a career in allied health as I think my passion in nursing might be gone. Jess surprised me by bringing me back my wedding dress which I’d lent her just before we left. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it but it’s nice to have it again. That night (Saturday) we met up with some of our cycling friends and had dinner and drinks at the Breakfast Creek Hotel, things got a bit rowdy and Matt and I both had a large number of beverages but it was a great night.

On Sunday I woke up feeling fantastic which was very surprising given the amount of drinking the night before so I was fresh as a button to go to brunch with my friends Punam and Cherie. It turned into a long brunch because we had so much to catch up on but it was just lovely and I felt like we just took up with our friendship where we left off. I ended up getting a lift into Toowong with Cherie because I was meeting Matt and his uncle for lunch just around the corner from her house at the Regatta which also meant I got to catch up with her partner Calan. Lunch was delicious and it was nice to chat with Matt’s uncle and find out everything he’d been doing since 2019 (a lot), the weather was just beautiful and we both felt very content sitting in the sun outside our favourite pub.

Matt and I had another lazy day on Monday but in the evening we went out for Vietnamese with our good friend Sarah and her beautiful little bulldog Mia. Tuesday was my 32nd birthday and I woke up to cards from Matt, my parents and brother, and my sister, and a box of chocolates from David and Teneale, needless to say I had chocolate for breakfast! Matt and I then took the van to Ipswich and dropped it at the Delica Garage for our long awaited install of the long range fuel tank, we also somewhat impulsively decided to get new wheels and bigger tyres as the little ones had been annoying us since we lifted the van a couple of years ago. We caught the train back into town and went to the Lego Exhibition in the museum. For lunch we went to Lune and had an amazing croissant. That afternoon we got back on the train and went back to Ipswich where we picked up the now much more hard core looking van, on the way home Matt surprised me with my birthday cake which we took back to the house and put in the fridge for dessert later. Following a quick rest we got back in the van and drove back to the Regatta for my second birthday dinner at The Boatshed. Things went momentarily downhill when after wondering where our friends Chantelle and Ash were I realised that I’d sent them to entirely the wrong restaurant on the other side of town. I felt so bad but they drove back 45 minutes into town and we did end up getting to have dinner together along with Andrew and Geraldine. It was such a great birthday and I’m so glad I got to have it in Brisbane!.

Wednesday was our second last day in Brissy, we had coffee on Mount Gravatt with David in the morning, did some trip planning, and I then left and caught up with my friend Huddy. We spent the day together, eating chocolate, catching the River Cat, and finished up at his house where we hung out with his huskies, picked up some groceries, and then Huddy made me and his wife a delicious dinner. On our way out of Brisbane we had one last catch up with my friend Cheryl in Macca’s as she was heading to work. Matt had arranged to stay the night parked out the front of his mates house in-between Brisbane and the Gold Coast but we had a bit of time to kill so we went and watched the new bond film before driving down. Huge thank you to all our friends that took the time to catch up with us, and to David and Teneale for hosting us for nearly a week, it was so appreciated and we had an amazing time.


From the Hidden Valley to Noosa North Shore

It is proving to be a bit of a challenge fitting trips in around both of our jobs so we have decided to get the most out of it we will leave on Friday afternoon post work and return on Sunday giving us two nights of fun rather than one.

On this Friday Matt picked me up from work in the van which gave me an opportunity to show it off to my boss. We drove up the coast to spend the night in Hidden Valley Camping at Grow Mad Plantations, an active macadamia farm. Glen and Sharon (the owners) came out to greet us and sold us some great firewood (we have quickly learnt there are big differences in firewood quality). Our campsite was down in the gulley surrounded by rainforest and away from the main camp area. It was a little bit boggy because of the recent rain but was otherwise perfect. We quickly became very grateful for the firewood as the temperature dropped to a chilly 5 degrees.

We packed up early the next day after a breakfast of bacon and eggs and continued to drive north making a quick pit stop at a random Saturday market somewhere around the glass house mountains. I bought some fresh fruit to have as snacks for the rest of the trip.

When we arrived in Noosa we needed to fill the van up which is a pretty standard activity but as we drove away I noticed a really strong smell of petrol. At first we thought that Matt must have got petrol on his shoes but the further we drove the stronger it got until it was eventually unbearable and even worse when the window was down. 3km down the road from the servo we were forced to stop and low and behold Matt had forgotten to put the petrol cap back on and left it behind. With all our fingers and toes crossed we turned around and made our way back to the petrol station where a kind soul had handed in our cap (whomever you are thank you so much).

Petrol cap firmly back in place we paid for our vehicle access permit ($26.40 for two days), camping permit ($14) and ferry ticket ($7 one way).

On the other side of the river we were greeted with sand and lots of it, which made sense as we were now in the southern end of the Great Sandy National Park aka the Cooloola Recreation Area. The word Cooloola comes from the local indigenous word for the sound the wind makes as it whispers through the branches of the coastal cypress pine tree.

Our route of choice was the 60km Cooloola Beach Drive which would take us to our camping spot for the night on the far northern end. The going was not overly challenging with minimal wash outs and generally hard packed sand with a few softer areas. We were entertained by hundreds of whales breaching and various birds of prey gliding over the cliffs (brahminy kite pictured).

We stopped for lunch in a shady camping area where I also had a bit of a nap in the back of the van prior to moving on to our next attraction.

Almost the entire length of the coast is lined with stunning multi-coloured sand cliffs in every shade of cream, brown, orange, and yellow that you could imagine. The Aboriginal legend of how they came to be is that “way back in the dream-time there lived by the beach a beautiful, black maiden named Murrawar who fell in love with the Rainbow who came to visit her every evening in the sky. She would clap her hands and sing to this lovely Rainbow.

One day Burwilla, a very bad man from a distant tribe, stole Murrawar for his slave wife. Often beating her cruelly and making her do all his work while he sat in the shade admiring his terrible killing boomerang. This boomerang was bigger than the biggest tree and full of evil spirits.

One day Murrawar ran away and as she hurried along near the beach, which was then all flat, she looked back and saw Burwilla’s boomerang coming to kill her. Calling out for help she fell to the ground to frightened to run. Suddenly she heard a loud noise in the sky and saw her faithful Rainbow racing towards her across the sea.

The wicked Burwilla attacked the brave Rainbow and they met with a roar like thunder. The boomerang died instantly, and the Rainbow shattered into many pieces, which fell to the beach forming the coloured sands cliffs which are still there to this day.”

Of all the coloured sands Red Canyon was the most impressive. The intensity of the dark orange sand against the pale white of the beach and the blues of the ocean was just stunning. We carefully climbed around this beautiful place taking in the views. Before making our way up the final stretch of beach to our camping site for the night.

Although the day was sunny and still the weather forecast was suggesting a night time storm influencing Matt and I to opt out of the clearly very popular beach campgrounds and move inland to Freshwater Camping Area. We parked up, set up camp, and did the 1h walk to Freshwater Lake through the impressive scribbly gum forest. While climbing on a log I managed to disturb a little snake into the water and as we sat enjoying the view a pale-yellow robin joined us.

Back at camp we sat around, did some reading, extracted a huge green katydid from our bed, had dinner and went to sleep.

After a restless night of rain and wind we woke to find that our gross, mouldy, orange awning had not survived the night. Neither of us were very upset about this as it is a truly filthy thing however it was a bit annoying when after breakfast we had to pack it away (in the rain), and couldn’t because the pole was so bent it wouldn’t lock back into the van. Matt used his brute strength and the crook of a tree to straighten it just enough so that it would fold away.

Freshwater Rd was the most direct route to Rainbow Bay so we took it deep through the forest and fog and back to civilisation.

Matt and I were feeling a bit under the weather due to a lack of sleep so we popped into a cafe at Rainbow Bay for a couple of flat whites. The weather was still pretty miserable and the beach was unappealing swaying our decision to opt out of more 4WDing and hike to Carlo Sandblow instead.

The Carlo Sandblow is a 15 hectare mass of sand created by the wind and dunes. We didn’t spend much time there as the rain kept rolling in however it was an impressive sight and one that I’d be keen to visit again in better weather.

On our way back home we stopped twice. Once to take some photos of what I can only describe as a fogbow and a second time in Lake Alford Recreational Park.

Campground Review

Hidden Valley at Growmad Plantations – A beautiful site run by a lovely couple. I actually wish we had had more time to spend at this camp, make use of the facilities and meet more of the animals but it wasn’t to be. $37 per night per couple 7/10.

Freshwater Campground – Despite the horrible weather we experienced at this site and the damage to our awning I actually think this was the best spot we’ve stayed at thus far. The environment was beautiful, the sites were big and flat, and there was heaps of space that gave a very secluded feel to it. The hot showers were a huge bonus and cost $1 for 4 minutes which turned out to be more than enough. There are also free gas BBQs in the day use area. $6.55 per person per night 8/10.

Water Water Everywhere

Condamine River Road is a 20km 4WD track through the center of the Cambanoora Gorge near Killarney in SE Queensland and it is where we headed next for a day trip to test out the river crossing capabilities of the Delica.

Our first stop for the day was the Ipswitch Nature Center, a cute little wildlife park in nearly the center of town. Entry was a gold coin donation but we ended up giving a bit more, both being animal lovers, and both of us being really impressed with how well looked after all the critters were. If you have a spare 30 minutes – 1 hour I’d strongly recommend dropping in.

The drive out to the gorge was absolutely spectacular. Matt was not in a stop-for-Annie-to-take-a-heap-of-photos mood so I did my best shooting out of the window. The area is predominantly used for cattle farming with some forestry also present.

Next came the river crossings. There are 14 along the 20km stretch which is why the area is so popular with 4WDing. On our way in we were given 5 minutes of entertainment by a bloke in a mercedes AWD trying and failing to get across the first shallow crossing…probably don’t drive the road unless you have a high clearance vehicle.

The crossings are (in order) First, Second, Double, Mawhirts, Bullocky, Flaggie, Rocky, Mill, Reis’, Heywood’s, Billy John’s, Andrew Evan’s, Long and Watson’s Crossing. There were two that were a bit challenging (Second and Long) but Egg handled them all like a pro. We stopped for lunch of cheese, dips, and bread next to one of the crossings and watched the traffic roll through.

Another great day on the road!

Testing Egg Out

And just like that we had a van. Matt decided to hit the ground running and get some 4WDing in ASAP so a few days later I found myself bumping along the road feeling like a queen looking over every other car in sight. Delicas are bloody tall!

The Egg, as I previously mentioned is a 2005 Mitsubishi Delica Chamonix. It was built in Japan where they are predominantly used to ferry people up and down ski slopes. Ours came complete with a snow melting window and an internal fan that it routed over the top of the engine (I’m sure this is great in cold places but not in Brisbane). It is also a 4WD and when I say 4WD I mean a proper high clearance, low range, take it on a beach and over rocks 4WD, not a 4WD that can manage some slightly rutted gravel. This thing is the real deal.

The Germans had spent an unbelievable amount of time and care converting the van into a touring machine. The bed is huge as Karl (the boy German) would have easily been over 6 feet tall, and sits on top of the draw system which has a full kitchen area and storage, fridge, table, and yet more draws for storage at the back. Behind the drivers side chair there is a battery that hooks up to the solar panel which is mounted to the roof. The windows are covered in home made curtains with a pattern comprised of happy jellyfish in purples, blues, and pinks. Karl was stung by a blue bottle the second time he went to an Australian beach so they made them for him to remember that lovely event (German humor).

Anyway enough about the van and back to the trip. The drive out of Brisbane was pretty dull but we stopped at the edge of Lake Samsonvale for lunch which was lovely. We made our first meal of ham rolls with tomato and cheese and sat on a picnic table in the sun watching waterbirds and listening to children shriek. Matt wanted to make our way through D’aguilar State Forest via 4WD and then down through the Glasshouse Mountains to our campground for the night so we headed off into the hills and to my first ever experience of 4WDing.

I have got to say as a 4WD virgin I found the entire thing to be seriously nerve wracking and a couple of times I had major misgivings about the entire plan. I imagined myself accidentally tipping Egg off a ledge or getting wedged between rocks without another human for miles. But it all worked out well. The only thing that nearly brought us to grief was a log that had fallen across the track. Not an issue for literally any other type of car but a big problem for our 2m+ van. Matt managed to sneak under by lining up into a ditch on the right hand side and carefully easing it through.

With the sun going down we had to call it early and get back onto the asphalt. We arrived at the campground just as it was getting dark which gave us enough time to unsuccessfully attempt to light our first fire (Matt blamed the wood).

The next day we got up and I eagerly started cooking our first camp breakfast. Bad news we forgot a spoon for stirring the eggs in our non stick saucepan, good news I made a replacement out of the lid from a tupperware container. As Bear Grylls always says, improvise, adapt, overcome. We were joined for a while by a pair of friendly kookaburras.

After breakfast Matt wanted to go for a walk up the creek. The water was murky and still which resulted in some really beautiful reflections. There was an abundance of bird life, beautiful plants (which I took too many photos of) and you could be certain the river was full of fish.

Post walk we packed up the van and started to make our way back to Brisbane via the back roads of the Glasshouse mountains. On one particularly rough gravel number in the middle of nowhere we stumbled upon a woman in a van stopped on the side of the road so we checked on her to make sure she was ok. Not only was she fine she gave us a CD of her great music and a sticker, perfect #vanlife moment. I’ll let you know her name when I can find the CD…it’s somewhere in the van.

Overall we are both beyond stoked with the Delica and our first little trial and have already started working out where we are going next. I can’t wait!

Campground Review

(I’ll try and write up a bit about each campground we stay in)

Coochin Creek Campground – Located in the Beerwah state forest just over an hour out of Brisbane (or 4 hours if you go inland and start mucking around on 4WD tracks). As far as campgrounds go it was really lovely. The place was really busy because it was the Mother’s Day weekend but the spaces were a reasonable size and it still felt like we had a lot of room. There were clean toilets (that ended up all getting blocked on Sunday morning), fire pits, electric BBQs and a launch for kayaks. We both really liked the creek setting but apparently the mozzies can be a nightmare (not an issue for us). $7 per person per night 6/10 (not terrible, not amazing).