Byron Bay to Melbourne – The Disastrous Drive Home

That’s all she wrote, or at least it should have been.

We woke to our last morning of our NSW East Coast trip and I dropped off Amanda and the kids at Ballina airport to make their flight home. I on the other hand had the long drive back to Melbourne with the Millennium Flamingo Camper in tow.

The plan was simple, drive to Nelson Bay / Newcastle area and free camp a night before heading back to Melbourne via a stop off in Benalla. I had banked up my favorite podcasts and penciled in a couple of stops along the way to stretch my legs, so it was at 10am I left Ballina for the highway.

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One of the many antiques shops in Ulmarra

First stop was in the town of Ulmarra, where passing through on our way up I noticed half the town comprised of antique shops. Now I am not one for shopping, if ever I need anything I make the exception and get in and get out as quick as possible. Not the case with antique shops though. If I could, I would quite happily spend the whole day treasure hunting.  Alas I could not spend too much time, just enough to pick up a stack of classic records. Seriously though it’s worth a stop in Ulmarra if this is your cup of tea!

Onwards until about 6pm, leaving me about 1.5 hours until sunset to find a campsite. I parked just outside a packed caravan park and opened up an app that showed free camping in your area. Bingo! Karuah National Park apparently has a creek side campsite that is accessible in summer for 2WD and caravans. It was February and we’ve had bugger all rain, so into the national park I went.

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Narrow, but still smooth and dry!

Onto the first dirt road, which was dry, wide and smooth, so wonderful, things are looking up. Onto the next road, hmmm this is quite narrow, but still dry, so onwards! Splash! Interesting, a puddle, oh well it’s not that big. SplASH! Oh, that one was bigger. At this point, I stopped and considered my options. I was almost at the campsite and I could not easily turn around on the narrow road so I decided to go on, but only to turn right back around and get out of there in case it rained overnight making things worse. That was until SPLASH!!

This puddle took up all the road and I tried to skirt the perimeter going half into the bush, but my back wheels with the weight of the camper slipped and settled into the middle of the quagmire. I was stuck and I had about 30 minutes of daylight left. I was furious, with myself, but overcome my embarrassment and quickly rang NRMA to organise someone to come and get me. But, I was in a national park and they don’t cover national parks.

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Bugger! 

So there I was stuck in the bush in the dark. Amanda, now at home in Melbourne, took up the task of finding a tow company that could come out and rescue me from the muck. In the meantime, I took it upon myself to try and dig my way out and at least get the car unstuck.

By the time Amanda called and said she thought she had found someone, over three hours had passed. I had been digging the whole time with the tiniest of garden spades (at best it was a glorified spoon), and was now covered head to toe in sticky clay mud. Oh and did I mention I had no shoes on…these were all in the camper and my thongs lasted 3 seconds in the sticky clay. However, I did manage to clear all the mud from direct contact to the car’s undercarriage and the same for the camper.

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Hmm, nope! The situation looks just as bad from this side. 

Thankfully, Amanda did have success and an outback rescue guy was on his way. It took him an hour to arrive, so I spent my time coming down from a massive adrenaline rush, which culminated into an almost panic attack as my predicament finally dawned on me. Luckily, this passed quickly, so by the time I saw headlights coming closer I was ready for action again.

I knew I was out the moment I saw the rescue beast. A Landcruiser kitted out with every off-road accessory you could dream of, it was like something out of Mad Max. After chatting with the Peter (my hero) and sharing a chuckle we got to it, first pulling my car out of the muck, leaving only the camper to go. Where my car was stuck, his had no such issues. He backed into the mud, hitched up the camper and simply reversed it out, leaving me with some serious car envy.

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Oh so close to the campground!

We managed to reverse the caravan into an opening in the trees about 100 metres back from where I was stuck and he towed it the rest of the way back to the main road. I had a ball driving behind him, slipping and sliding through the puddles that had earlier gave me pause. So he went on his way and the Millennium Flamingo and I were back together again on solid ground. It was now past midnight.

Too jacked up on adrenaline still, I had no need for sleep so I hit the highway again, stopping only at the first Maccas to wash up as best I could in the disabled toilets. After filling the sink with mud I almost walked out until I noticed the remnants of mud that remained looked ominously like something that was not mud, remember I am in a toilet. I quickly washed out the sink and hit the road again. The plan now was to get to Sydney and have a proper shower at the first site we camped at in Lane Cove, I only hoped that the code for the shower block had not been changed.

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Nothing to see here folks, just a bearded man covered in mud, carrying clothes to a disabled toilet very late on a Saturday night.

Again, my plan was thwarted, as a dozen backpackers had the same idea as I and had taken up all the possible parks near the outside of the caravan park. Resigned to my fate I could only chuckle as I wound my way out of Sydney and back onto the freeway heading South. I traveled on until I needed fuel, which I pushed until only fumes were left in the tank. Turns out there are no road stops for about 100kms after Sydney. Luckily, one popped up at the opportune moment at Pheasant Nest and to my now bedazzle and delirious eyes I immediately saw out the back of the road stop a wide area for free camping. I immediately pulled in and setup before hitting the hay, still covered in mud. It was 4:30am.

6:30am the trucks started rolling in, but the two hours’ sleep felt like much longer, such was its depths. Thankfully, the rest of the trip was uneventful, except for my stop at Benalla, where I stopped at the in-laws for a long hot shower. I was finally home to Melbourne where the embarrassment of the ordeal had abated and already I was seeing the lighter side of this memorable return trip home.

 

Be sure to head back and check any of our more recent adventures, but most importantly those associated with this trip starting with Our Maiden Camper Road Trip, followed by Nelson Bay, Port MacquarieCoffs Harbour and Byron Bay.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

 

 

 

Byron Bay – Our Final Stop

I’m such a fool. I am writing this after the fact, as I’ve just realised I never completed the write up of our NSW East Coast trip from February 2018. This was the penultimate destination of our 2 week long road trip, so be sure to head to the links below to check out the other places we stayed along the way. Or for those just looking to read about Byron Bay then thanks in advance for stopping by and reading up on our few days staying in this brilliant part of the world.

We arrived quite late in the day to the quaint little caravan park that is Byron Bay Holiday Park. We set up quickly then we went for a stroll spying the chook pen and swimming pool before heading into town for fish’n’chips on the main beach foreshore. The kids were the entertainment of everyone there as they chased the seagulls around, so they didn’t steal anyone’s chips. With the sun setting over the mountains across the beach to the west our first impression of Byron was, as expected, quite spectacular. I could not help but notice the multitudes of young backpackers kicking around though, I sound like such an old man saying that, but they were everywhere. This however, only added to the great vibe that is Byron Bay.

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No seagulls were harmed in the eating of the fish and chips

The next morning was the Byron Bay Market and I am never one to miss a market! Of course there was a multitude of fresh food of all kinds and all things organic, as is the Byron Bay way. By happenstance this was a bigger turnout than usual as it was celebrating a milestone birthday (I can’t remember how old), but this meant more stalls than normal and a visit from my the kids favorite ABC TV character Dirt Girl. As someone who loves the outdoors and gardening I admit I was a complete fanboy whilst the kids couldn’t have cared less and just wanted to get out of the heat. We did not buy anything from the market, instead we just enjoyed the festivities with jugglers on stilts, folk musicians, watching the the hundreds of bats flying overhead and hanging with our mates from Melbourne who were also in Byron for the day.

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I’m not gushing, you are! Shuddup!

It was super hot and thankfully we were able to leave our car on the oval where the market was, so we went straight to the main beach in town and for a swim. Amanda and I were not dressed for the water, so after a quick splash the kids spent their energy on the playground just off the main beach. Fletch was determined to master his surfing skills as Immy went after those pesky gulls trying to save everyone’s lunch. Speaking of lunch, we hit up Miss Margarita in town for some quality Mexican, only after buying ourselves matching straw hats to keep the sun out…such tourists!

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Nothing like matching hats and a family selfie to say ‘we’re not from around here!’

That afternoon we trekked from the caravan park across Tallow Creek to Tallow beach for a proper swim. Only this time none of us got into the water, rather we turned back dodging bluebottle jellys that had been washed up on the beach.

What was going to be an uneventful BBQ dinner at the caravan park turned out to be quite interesting with an unexpected visitor. A friendly kookaburra perched itself on a post near the BBQ, obviously looking for a meal to steal, so I went and grabbed the kids to come and see before it nabbed a sausage and buggered off. Still perched on his post he sat calmly as we got close and even let Immy and I pat him like a legend!

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Oh Ho how we all laughed!?

Later that night Amanda and I were lucky to survive the onslaught of mozzies that came out of know-where to ravage any exposed skin! Not to mention the orb spider as big as my hand with its web spanning the road just in front of our camper!

Our final day of the trip we decided the get the touristing done early before it go to hot and so we could relax and enjoy the final afternoon. However, the evening before we got talking to one of the caretakers and he told the kids to find him in the morning, so they could help look for eggs and so before we could go anywhere it was off to the chooks. Alas, no eggs.

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Some chooks and my Little Chicken

Byron Bay Lighthouse was the main adventure for the day making our way to the most easterly point of mainland Australia. After ticking that box, we trudged down the many many many stairs of the Lighthouse Trail. The views were amazing looking back into the town and out to the various inlets and rocky outcrops and the kids did great walking down all the many, many stairs, allowing us to enjoy it even seeing a water dragon just off the path. However, I could not help but think what goes down must come back up. As I may have mentioned there were many stairs and of course, upon the return trip the kid’s legs stopped working. Upon reflection, I’d say fair call, they had walked a lot, but at the time our legs and backs complained all the way back as we juggled the kids.

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A view like this makes carrying kids up stairs worth it!

Nothing a swim at the main beach couldn’t fix, so that’s where we headed. Only to find Amanda did not think to wear or pack bathers [facepalm]. So, whilst she walked to the shops to buy some, the kids and I enjoyed the warm, clear water and building sandcastles. By the time Amanda returned bikini clad I was buried up to my chin in mud and was glad for the reprieve, so I could swim out to the deeper cooler waters to clean off. As I made my way out I noticed all the fish swimming around the shallows, some bigger than a foot in length.

After the beach the kids had not swam enough, so we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool chatting with some locals and letting the kids play with some newfound friends.

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Even better buddies by the end of our trip.

We spent a quiet evening together enjoying each other’s company and reminiscing on our first big adventure away in the Millennium Flamingo. It was an amazing trip and I can honestly say it brought us closer together as a family. I seriously questioned what we were thinking travelling like this with a 2 and 4 year old in tow, but it brought out the best in them and by association us as parents. We got so many compliments from the grey nomads we camped with saying how great it is to see a young family out seeing Australia in that way.

The adventure was due to stop there, but stay tuned for the next installment as I recount the disastrous drive home!

Also be sure to head back and check any of our more recent adventures, but most importantly those associated with this trip starting with Our Maiden Camper Road Trip, followed by Nelson Bay, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie