Kangaroo Valley by Ethan Astall

Like the first forgotten child in a family of siblings, the kangaroos that live in this valley must surely be fed up with the attention the hairier and fatter Australian native animal in these fields is receiving at night - the true party animal of the valley family, obviously remains the Wombat. Like most people the idea of finding the Australian icon was high on my list, turns out if you want to spot one - Kangaroo valley is the place for you to burrow the dream - with it ranking in as top five spots to see one in Australia.

We pulled up at Bendeela camping reserve around 6pm (ten minutes from Kangaroo valley township itself and only 45 minutes inland from Kiama, NSW)- a free camp, surrounded by mountains with a creek running through it - like me, if you think “i’ll probably be unlucky and won’t see one when I get there”.. then you’re wrong, because you literally can’t miss the giant waddlers - and you won’t miss them at 2 am when their using your van as a scratching post either- but hey…maybe that’s why their not featured on an Australian coin. With more wombats then you could poke a stick at we played with them until 10pm, only to stop for a quick nutritional smoko of mi goreng which I’m sure is better then “gooey, brewy, yummy, chewy, wombat stew!).

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Royal National Park by Ethan Astall

It’s hard to imagine 30 kms out of the “rat race” of Sydney, you can find yourself hiking the coastline surrounded by native Australian flora and fauna and mostly have it all to yourself, the views are something pretty unreal - some of the most known highlights (aka instagram made famous) include Wedding cake rock, figure eight pools and the coast track 30 km in length stretching from Bundeena to Otford lookout; the views are surely to be fit for a king…or a Royal anyway?

We previously ventured to figure eight pools on our last trip here - adhere to the warnings of “LARGE SWELL” even if you have checked the tides or hope your iphone, runners, gym clothes and hiking bag swim better then ours did on our first date together - but never the less, these pools are everything their name implies (a rock pool shaped as a number eight) and much, more.

On this venture we decided to do the southern loop of the trail starting at Otford lookout heading deep into “palm jungle” (cue Guns n roses - welcome to the jungle) this hike will have you TREE-ted to a series of fauna starting in a eucalyptus wonderland, you trek down the hill towards the ocean, as you delve deeper into the hike, the bushland changes to a sub tropical rainforest (a real palm jungle…some would say) and then following this track through to “burning palms” (can confirm, no palms were burnt in this adventure), you can turn around and trek straight back the same way, but we opted to loop around to the Garrawarra farm and through the main track back to the trusty van - approx 14 kms of easing trekking and some of the most scenic scenery…you’ve ever seen ( Russel Coight - forgotten hero ).

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Burg Tunnel and Sea Cliff Bridge by Ethan Astall

Hidden away in the scrub land of Helensburgh sits the glow worm tunnel (optional glow worms depending how deep you go). Take the gum boots also, every bit of run off slop accumulates inside the tunnel not making it ideal for janoskis as shoe preference or birken stocks ladies they won’t cut it.

The Sea cliff bridge has been in a mass amount of ads and now finally seeing it first hand, its not that incredible as the ads make out. But whats a drive along it without scaling the scrub for a photo above as per every travel photographer ever. Youv got to run along the train tracks for a fair while before darting into the bush where you find a spider web like maze of little dirt trails people have made over the past 17 years, until you finally arrive to the magical photo opportunity youv seen on social media.

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Read Head and Tin city by Ethan Astall

Tin city is a little shanty town situated in the dunes of Stockton beach (the biggest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere). The houses were erected during the Great Depression and since then the dwellings have been handed down within the original families that built them some 80 years ago. The most common way to access tin city is by fourbie but seeing as AceVantura doesn’t posses such capabilities we trotted in via an easement trail on the way to Nelson bay. This isn’t anywhere on the net but if you google maps tincity (not iPhone maps) you can see a no name trail that comes in off the highway to Nelson bay, just park your car off the highway and it’s about 1km of fire trail and 1km through the dunes and takes about 40 minutes one way. There are 7 dwellings to observe all with there own little quirks, sometimes residents will give you a tour and have a yarn, but we were greeted by a cagey red healer who didn’t want a bar of us approaching the owners house. Also pack a lot of water she gets bloody hot out there!!

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Seal Rocks and Grandis by Ethan Astall

Leaving port Macquarie we headed towards seal rocks for the night and set up camp in Yagon camping area. Upon arrival a few hippies perched alongside their ancient Hiace complemented us on Ace Vanturas set up. Without sounding like flogs we were both pretty stoked to finally be travelling in a van we’d both always dreamed about owning. We woke up to a couple of fun little waves at seals and treated ourselves to a roof top breaky. Bulahdelah isn’t home to much, especially since being bypassed on the highway. The local op shop only open two days a week, bloody spewing no bargains to be had that day. We carried on to the Grandis picnic area which houses the biggest Eucalyptus tree in NSW. A 75m flooded gum dwarves the bush land beneath it.

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Port Macquarie Family Things by Ethan Astall

Few days around home seeing the rents and doing all the tourist activities around port aswell as introducing Elo to everyone possible. Never surfed in my life so tackling the stick has become the new thing to try and master, great times ahead and trying to duck dive a canoe out in the surf. Nothing beats a breaky out of the van at various beach locations either, what a time to be alive.

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Roma and Lightning Ridge by Ethan Astall

On our way South towards Port we stopped in at Roma and saw the big bottle tree, amongst the other 1000 in the town. We treated ourselves to a glorious hot shower at a dingy road side toilet block. The sunsets out that way are absolutely breath taking, due to the road train diesel fumes but the sky is nice to. Rolling into lightning ridge at midnight we got a candid photo at an art wall at a suss servo and checked out the local hot springs which were occupied by a couple of naked old blokes, also suss so we headed to bed at a road side stop on the highway.

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Carnarvon Gorge by Ethan Astall

Just a short 7 hours drive down the road, We tore in and arrived at Carnarvon gorge, the drive takes you through various mining towns with not much more to claim then the local watering hole and points of interest such as “COLD BEER, INTERNET, COMFORTABLE BED”. Driving through the western Queensland outback playing the old game of overly enthusiastic highway Salutes to oncoming drivers, until suddenly the nothingness roads leads to walls of ranges and national parks, in a place where the land goes as far as the eye can see...and maybe even further with binoculars. With the moon settling in for the night, we pulled up in the visitors centre to look at the hikes through the gorge only to find the camp ground is only open in school holidays, the info centre had shut for the day so we figured we’d be able to hide a giant white hi ace in the dark of the night without too much trouble.

We heated up some frozen dinner (thanks for pre loading us on departure Elo’s mum) by 7 pm we’d settled in ready for an early night but of course RANGER DANGER a man dressed in his finest mutton chops and casual weekend attire rolls in in his trusty outback steed of a Ute - unable to make appropriate eye contact but insists to tell us we cannot camp in that spot, despite there being nowhere else to camp for 40 kms or so... with Ethan trying to sweet talk the ranger into turning a blind eye this night and attempting to wrangle argument to lack of available camp grounds and spending money to which “mutton chops” then insisted to progress to say “well you’re on holidays, you got money”... continuing on to “that van need petrol” (continue to the pain stakingly obvious) “petrol cost money.” And with the swift realisation there was no sweet talking this flamin galah, we kicked up the red dust of the car park and headed out of the gorge to return at sunrise without a hefty fine.

We headed for a spot Etho saw on the way in soon to be found to be the smack bang in the middle of a cows slumber club with 50 little beady eyes looking angry we had ruined their ambience of the Milky Way. Morning came back around - we survived the cows plotting vengeance and headed back to the gorge to tackle the main track while the sun rose. We opted for the 20km return main track as it leaves from the visitors centre and manages to wind you passed just about every unreal turn off within the gorges walls, each of which view will leave you saying “ya kidding”, the “amphitheatre” is about 4km into the hike and winds you up into an empty rock cascade that’s been gradually washed away by flooding waters - it makes for the ultimate echo if you enjoy your own voice but will leave you speechless anyway. Continuing on the track, you’ll also pass the art gallery which holds cultural indigenous paintings and cathedral cave - similar to art gallery. From here, you continue on the trek rock hopping across many creek beds and walking beneath hundred year old cycads, eucs and palms. Such an incredible hike and worth the trek inland to see it if your on the coast.

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Jacinta and Jim's by Ethan Astall

Day one saw us kicking off from Elo’s mates place who live in Mackay, starting the journey saw us running down Mackay beach with their majestic border collie Eddie who has more personality then most people we know.

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Hiacevantura Reno by Ethan Astall

Three weeks turning Hiacevantura into a camper, such a ripper time with Elo as TA. Taking all our construction skills we possess to bring this together was at times so mentally exhausting, to make sure it would all be practical in the long run. Here is the finish product. Some people think it’s weird to speak about money etc but to save people asking the Van was 20K and fitting it out was roughly $7500 and that’s everything from materials to fridge, 12V set up and draws etc. If anyone has questions about other stuff flick me a message, time to tear into the Australian dream like a hot chook!!

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Midge Point Beach by Ethan Astall

On the final countdown to hitting the road, we spent the last week of vanervations out at elo’s parents place and headed to Midge point beach, most people’s response when the town is mentioned is “where on earth is that”, the easiest answer is half way between Airlie beach and Mackay, the township still liking to claim the fame of remaining part of the almighty Whitsundays, but there’ll be no “heart of the reef” key-rings found around here.

To find this tropical oasis head south from Airlie beach and you’ll pass many kilometres of Sugar Cane fields, a few bogans fishing off the side of the highway in flooding creeks, you’ll then pass a billboard that says “WELCOME TO RID COUNTRY” (adhere to the warning), then take a wrong turn on the highway left and pass an abandoned resort called Laguna Quays and you’ll find yourself in a sleepy little town the locals would prefer if you didn’t find on the map, but are too busy at the local watering hole to notice your presence.

We spent the week enjoying the last of some glorious motherly home cooked meals with all the trimmings (literally lunch consists of six different menu options, elo’s mum has enough food for the apocalypse and I was not complaining knowing soups and stir frys were about to be daily van staples). In between the family feeding was tweeking last minute things to the van - which turned into hours and days of “things” things to the van.

On van knock off time, we found ourselves on the moon…or a little beach wondering who pulled the plug, checking out the local soldier crabs and sand birds.

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Dingo Beach camp by Ethan Astall

On completion of the slide out kitchen we decided to head up to dingo beach for the night and give the van a test to see if we should change anything.

Off the bat id heard of a hike up to a rock in Hideaway Bay that looks over the town. We pulled up at the bottom of the hill and Elo looks at me with a smirk “ahh all iv got is burkeos”, the perfect hiking attire for some but look theres just no bloody foot support ya know. With two shakes of a lamb tail we scaled the hill ahead battling itchy plants and unstable sandstone but non the less it paid to be a cracker view at the top.

We drove to dingo, had a swim, gave the new kitchen set up a run and showered ourselves with a camel back off the roof of the van. Every insect the universe ever created was also stoked about our camp spot and joined us in bed, the old grass hopper in the hair was a treat and a family of green ants now live on the roof of my van.

An unreal sunrise greeted us for baked beans in the morning and soon after we headed home.

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More Van Things by Ethan Astall

Bed base, bed storage, shelf, pull out and fridge and 12 Volt set up all installed. Its slow going but super rewarding what wev both crated so far.

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Bowenwood by Ethan Astall

Went up to Bowen to spend the night with Elo’s family. Kite from toy world for $15 was an absolute steal. Got up for sunrise the following morning and found a little run down shop.

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Van Renos by Ethan Astall

I left Hamilton Island and my job last Thursday to set off for bigger and better things that iv been dreaming of for years. The past 5 days Elo and I have been hooking into renovating the van and its looking epic!!

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