There we met Zac, a friend of Chris and mike whom they met before they even got to the farm, in Noosa, where I’d been before as well. Zac was such a cool, friendly guy, and it was nice to be guided and shown around the city after feeling a bit like a guide myself for two weeks.
We took a ferry to Manly Beach which did provide for some good views of Sydney. Sydney is a pretty impressive city, the heights, the islands, the buildings are all really impressive to see. I’d been here before decades ago but couldn’t remember much.
We ended with some stunning views over the ocean from the cliffs near Manly beach. A great spot with very little people there, though the drops from the cliffs were a bit scary. It was good we had such a warm, sunny day because the next day turned out to be rain non stop. I didn’t take any pictures since we just hung out in the city, went to see Star Wars and then returned back to the camping to a soaking wet tent.
Zac had decided to come with us for a few days by then, so I’d have at least one person along in the car until newyears.
When we decided to leave Sydney after two night, my fridge turned out not to work anymore. We headed for a fridge repair guy who said he could have a look before Christmas. Lee turned out to be super friendly and figured out there was mainly an issue with the plug and that the fridge was low on gas due to a leaky valve, which meant it never ran efficient. He fixed it all, but it did take another unexpected chunk out of my budget. Chris and Mike bought a nice second hand fridge for a good price from Lee that he had fixed up. Now they could finally keep their beers cool!
When we finally left Sydney and made it to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, an hour outside of Sydney, the weather was still dreadful and fog had come up. We really didn’t feel like setting up a soaking wet tent in this weather, so Zac recommended we stay at the YHA hostel where he’d been before.
Even though it’s not that cheap (compared to free camping), you do meet lots of people there. We got talking with Sam, an 18 year old guy from Britain traveling alone. He was a bit hesitant at first but joined us for some pool games (which he all won) and a few beers. We found out Zac gets drunk really easily and starts saying the funniest and nicest things when he’s drunk, he gets so emotional!
The next day we were going for a ride to a few sights around Katoomba. Zac and Chris had met Lara, a German girl the night before. She had the worst of luck; she’d booked a tour and stay in Katoomba, only to find out pick-up was not included. That meant she’d spent 180$ for nothing. We offered her to come along with us instead for the day, so we had a full crew of six for the day!
The day was mostly gray, but dry until the afternoon. The Blue Mountains do offer some spectacular views, but the blue of the mountains was missing a little bit.
Another highlight was the intricate “wind eroded rock”, featuring some truly alien looking shapes.
We had a pretty good day, Zac is a really good photographer and he takes plenty of pictures of all of us (his style is more people than landscape and vehicles, like me). He really brightens up the day with his funny antics, at one point he gave Lara an impromptu dance lesson on how to shake her ass (Zac is a fitness and dance instructor in Sydney).
In the evening it was raining and foggy again, so much to Sam’s delight we went back to the hostel for one more night of pool and beers. We were absolutely set on camping out the next night, for Christmas.
The next day the weather was great so we went to see the iconic ‘Three Sisters” viewpoint. We’d tried to take Lara there the previous day but visibility was under 20 meters! It was definitely the best view so far, but it’s right on the edge of town, with a parking lot and spaces for buses to unload masses of tourists. I liked the view, but it felt weird with all the selfie sticks being waved around me.
We set out to find our Christmas campsite. There were lots of free campsites in the Blue Mountains, we decided to head down a road that had about 4 of them on it, we’d just pick the best one. We made quite a few wrong turns so it took ages to get to the last one.
Sam got out of my car to take this picture, but due to some miscommunication he got a bit close to the puddle and got completely soaked by the splash. Twice. Chris and Mike even managed to splash him on his back when they went through much faster than me. Poor Sam!
When we got to the last campsite, Dunphy’s Campground after about 20-25 km of dirt roads, it turned out to be stunning. We couldn’t have wished for a better spot. One other car with a Czech couple turned up for the night, but that was it.
So on Christmas day, I spent my time fixing the electrical system on my car some more. I finally managed to redo the wiring and the fridge battery is fully charging, lasting all night now!
Meanwhile master chef Christoffer Dalsgaard was organizing our Christmas dinner. In typical Danish style we were having duck. What you see above is the best plan they could think of to roast and brown the duck over the fire (after cooking it in a pan). The socks were to protect their hands from the heat. It wasn’t very comfortable, especially since the slightest movement could drop the duck in the fire. They didn’t really enjoy it much.
Chris’ meal turned out amazing (I liked the browned sugar potatoes a lot), and I contributed with some small Belgian influence under the form of the cherries. Thanks Chris, definitely the best camping meal I’ve had so far!
In the morning it was a bit colder and grey again. I got up really early, Chris, Mike and Sam had been drinking a lot for Christmas so they stayed in bed a bit longer. I heard a lot of stories that day that included burning 20 liters of diesel on the campfire, Sam eating 10 barbecued sausages even after his duck dinner, Chris falling asleep between the trees (“looking for kangaroos”) and Mikkel not finding the entry to the tent and falling asleep against the car, only to be woken up by rain an hour later. Funniest Christmas ever they claim.
We headed out of the valley to take Sam back to the YHA (he’d just skipped one night he booked there to stay with us). Some of the campsites we passed earlier turned out to be chock-full by the next day, making us even more happy with our amazing choice for Christmas.
Sam really wanted to see Wentworth Falls before he went back, he’d heard you could swim in the pools at the bottom. Chris and him realised they were a bit too hungover for the pretty steep walk down (hundreds of steep steps), so they just “swam” in the streams nearby the waterfal.
We went looking for another campsite nearby, by then we’d been in the Blue Mountains for 5 days already. The free campsite at the end of a 10km dirt road turned out to be completely full, a recurring story by now during the locals’ summer holidays. We stayed at a little day use area instead, talking to a lovely Italian couple who parked their van there.
The next morning I was picking up Phoebe from the station nearby. She flew from Melbourne to join us, as she figured this was her best shot to do something interesting during this period. She’s joining us until the 7th of January at least, by then she will decide if she goes back to Taiwan or stays a bit longer.
By then we kind of had enough of the Blue Mountains as it just always seemed to rain there (we had rain every day or night). We decided to head out north, through the Hawkesbury area. After a day of some shopping we took the ferry over the Hawkesbury River (it reminded me of the ferries I took in Sweden) and started heading for some really remote areas.
The Hawkesbury beyond the ferry was just stunning. We were driving through it at just the right time with the sun setting. Zac did a great job with picking some amazingly fitting songs to play on the car’s sound system, making it feel that much more special.
We stopped quite a few times to just take it all in. It all felt very different again, European almost compared to a lot of Australia I’ve seen so far. Zac and Phoebe had both been to New Zealand and said it seemed similar to that.
We got to St. Albans (population: 70) and put up the tent in the park there. It was quite special, the town seemed deserted, the old 19th century pub was closed and we saw maybe 2 or three cars and no people. I loved the place, there were old vehicles scattered everywhere around the pub, it was almost bizarre. The old 1930’s car in front of it probably still ran despite it being all rusty and having potato bags as seat covers (no joke). The old rusty blue Daihatsu was unlocked and had the key in it, the dash even lit up when I turned it on. The green VW kombi was pretty cool too, it seemed to have been fitted with a custom water cooling system with a huge radiator on the front (good for Australia, these originally air-cooled, rear mounted engine cars overheat easily).
The next day started dreary and wet again. Seemed like we hadn’t escaped the curse of the Blue Mountains yet.
Zac wanted to try (a lot of) vodka and juice for breakfast. He ended up not being his usual cheerful self for a few hours after that.
We drove a an hour or so on small, wining gravel roads, further away from civilization. I came past this reminder to take it easy and be careful on these roads; this car had missed the turn and ended up 5 meters lower on the rocks. Things eventually got better, the rain stopped and we got to some real remote parts in Olney State Forest.
Here’s Mikkel demonstrating the clean burning efficiency of their 1997 Mitsubishi Pajero GLX 2800 Diesel. Apparently my car smokes on the hills too, but I don’t think (hope) it’s as bad a this.
We had an absolute blast from then on. This forest turned out to be a true 4wd playground with lots of tracks. When taking a “little detour” we ended up on some of the most hardcore tracks so far, very cool stuff, I even had to switch into low gear to get out and over a few of them. Zac didn’t enjoy it that much he said, “way too bumpy”, but Chris, Mike and me felt this was truly what we got our cars for. They did great, no problems at all. The high clearance easily got me over the biggest obstacles.
The little detour ended up as a dead end after half an hour (half of that time was spent taking photos), the bridge was washed out and there was a 3 meter deep hole in much of the road. All side roads were just a bit too crazy for us so we just backtracked (which was pretty fun in itself).
Now we are in Morriset, sleeping in a quirky “camping” that’s just the parade grounds. At least it has showers and toilets for 15 dollars. And we could put the tent up indoors, covered from rain. I’m typing this while the rain is hammering down on the roof again! Let’s hope it gets a bit better soon…
Oh yeah and by request, here’s a map of where we’ve been the past week. The routes are very rough as It’s not very time-efficient to get the exact ones in there.