Last year we asked Drifta to outfit our LandCruiser’s new gullwings. On top of our standard drawer system, this has proven a real game-changer in our wagon’s organisation. After more weekenders than I can count, and our Alpine Adventure, we were ready for the next phase of expedition storage.
The second row of seats, a cushioned shelf, has stored our larger gear well enough over the years. In attempt to be weight conscious travellers, we have attempted to store our heaviest items here, between the axles. But this has always been limited to the ergonomics of the seat in situ. Designed for human cargo, which it has rarely carried.
We’ve finally installed a cargo net above the seats, after some procrastination. Tightened across the width of the cabin, it holds our pillows, coats and towels. Lightweight but somewhat bulky items that, in the event of anything rough – wont hurt anyone if they were to fall out.
Creating a functional space, something quickly interchangeable with the seat, could provide a safer and balanced means of storage for heavy but infrequently used tools for example. These are currently stored in the rear drawer. With the addition of tie down points, we could strap down the gear (clothes, bedding, camera bags) normally resting on the seat.
We also had plans to add a third battery to our setup. Lithium this time, with the relocation of the Redarc BCDC into the cabin.
Trading sketches, deposit and a tentative date, we booked in with Drifta 4WD at Gloucester. Confident that they could not only translate our ramblings and drawings into something functional. But also build us something ergonomic and durable. We envisaged this build to integrate seamlessly with our existing Drifta fit out and the Kaon cargo barrier.
Taking advantage of a couple of days in Gloucester we stretched our leave to allow us an extra long weekend. Planning to detour, an adventurous way home, avoiding the M1 at all costs.
Leaving early, we arrived at HQ at 8am. and pencil in hand, Beechy had us measured. Catching up with Luke The Drifta, we played around with his new winching gear before touring the sprawling factory. Each visit ensues admiration of the increasing spread of beige Colorbond.
Industrious and inspired, are what spring to my mind. From the camp kitchen box to the camp fortress D.O.T. Not to mention the glorious camping gear, tried and tested, in between.
Trailer builds, up close and personal
The Drifta canvas catalog
Heading into Gloucester we binged on burgers in town for a late lunch. After a wander about town we decided this was a good time to install the CarBuilders Stage 1 we had been avoiding. Last year we lined the cargo area and have since lined the doors. The sound deadening has given the cabin a slightly quieter ride. However the seated area of the cabin remained outstanding. Given its impending re-fit, we had thrown a box in, prior to leaving home.
The park provided enough space to empty the vehicle and within no time I had cleaned and massaged the insulation onto the bare metal. Replacing the carpet and bags (seat was left at home), we walked back into town for a coffee and cake. We were tired from our pre-dawn departure. We spent the afternoon dozing under a tree, waiting on the dinner bell at the local pub.
$10 schnitzel special done and dusted we departed Gloucester for a camp out at Copeland. Unrolling the swag in the dark, it felt additionally cold after the warmth of the crowded pub.
I didn’t sleep well, with a stomach ache I dozed in temporary fits of restlessness. Dawn came and woke David, who made me tea. Attempting to feel better, I sat at our picnic table. David dragged the swag into the sun to dry out, as we had had a heavy frost. Feeling the need to lay down, I joined the swag, momentarily. Vomiting ensued. Feeling shockingly better though, we packed up and headed into Gloucester to complete the fitting at Drifta HQ.
Not long behind the wheel though, I began to fade. Finding Beechy was not yet ready for us, I tried to stay conscious under a tree while David unpacked the LandCruiser. It appeared I had some sort of food poisoning perhaps, so the day industriously past without my participation. As you can imagine, my activity was limited to bouts of unconsciousness and upheaval.
With the sun hanging low, our LandCruiser was handed back and presented. Smelling fresh of glue and ply and copious amounts of storage space. Mustering all of my energy to convey my glee at the handiwork, as it was glorious. Afterwards, a neighbouring customer showed us his newly fitted out Mercedes van, ready for family adventures. Despite its amazing real estate, I was chuffed to see what we could achieve in our pint sized wagon. David got to work and quickly purged our large rear drawer contents into the two storage boxes. I was remiss, or too drowsy, to consider what we would store in the drawer instead.
The centre box was left empty, its sized and fitted out to accommodate the Lithium 125aH battery, Redarc BCDC and wiring.
Ready for power
Angle of the tank behind created a space. Or rather, our new wiring channel
We decided to swag it at the local Holiday Park. With an amenities block close by. After another rest, on the lush lawn by the Gloucester River. I was feeling quite good, stir crazy. So we walked back into town and David bought some dinner. Best Meat Lovers he’d ever bought, apparently.
A hot shower was all I could manage before going to bed. I had spotted a Tawny Frogmouth on my walk back however, and it was the end of my strength to holding the camera up to its amber gaze.
Sleeping solid until a few hours after a cloud filtered dawn, I felt normal! My legs were no longer lead and my torso felt strong enough to remain upright.
Taking it easy, we packed up. Loaded the fridge with some food, and grabbed some firewood. Today, the newly empty rear drawer housed snacks and charcoal. We were heading west again. Climbing into Barrington Tops, the weather remained heavy and clouded. Stopping at the Firs, the wind picked up, threatening something more.
The drive across the Tops is a pretty one, wide gravel road that, weather dependant, poses no real threat to decent tyres and responsible speed.
After the Firs, the weather started throwing a fit, fat rain drops on the windscreen and a mist swallowed us whole.
Descending towards Moonan Flat, we stopped frequently, despite the weather, to admire the misty hillocks. Lycan covered, rock strewn paddocks reminds me of my childhood. Instead of rich brown Herefords of my childhood grazing, there were thick sheep, soggy in the weather. The road was a little slippery but nothing to worry us about, we were travelling slowly to enjoy the scenery.
My eye was caught by the ten dead dogs, hung from a tree. Local farmer’s I assumed, protecting their flock. They were huge dogs.
Rolling into Scone, we found nowhere to have lunch, cafes were closed or closing. So we retreated from the rain back to the LandCruiser and headed north. Risking it all and trying a meat pie at Murrurundi. I barely ate mine, and we kept going. Veering west at Quirindi we were accosted with the sun for the next couple of hours as we weaved our way to Coonabarabran. Travelling through agricultural land, in various stages of harvest made for a simple drive. The unfolding sky above the flat plains was more attractive to us. We appeared to be leaving the clouds behind.
It was dark when we made it to Coonabarabran, but well signed. We found the ancient ruins of Warrumbungle National Park, their rounded peaks casting black against the night sky. We wound our way to a camping ground that allowed car-based camping.
All to ourselves, we picked a spot by the bone dry creek. Like synchronised swimmers – we had the charcoal glowing and the swag unrolled within minutes.
After the ringing subsided in my ears a little, we settled in. I also paid our fees in the convenient dropbox. Thankfully, this site is not exclusively online. Empty and adorned with a picnic table and fire ring, there were modern aerated composting toilets yonder. They are complete with a solar powered battery bank and sensor lights.
Being a Dark Park, these were on short timers whilst still accommodating to the droves of travellers this area must accommodate. Or, tonight – just us. The clouds had returned and obscured our stargazing, so it was even darker than usual.
Despite my enthusiasm, I was forced to retire rather early. Not before idly watching half our wood supply ceremoniously burn in the Firepit.
During the night, the rain came. Pattering down on the canvas, it was as relaxing as it was crushing. My hopes of a long walk up a high peak were dampened, literally. Soothed by the percussion, I slept until dawn, another grey one.
Frequently looking up, trying to predict the weather, we had breakfast. A nutty porridge. Washed down with our usual coffee brew. Feeling good and calling it a tie, we dressed, packed, and headed out to the start of the walk. If it began to rain beyond our comfort, or the saturation point of our shell jackets. We would turn around. But until then, lets walk!
And walk we did. Walk, talk, take photos, repeat. Photos doubled as rest stops but even at our stilted pace, we made good time. There were probably two main challenges for us. The long paved climb. It’s long and gradual and the pavement, although hard under foot, promises that its making it easier for us.
Then the staircase. Anyone who walks, will agree. Stairs – either steel or built into the earth with slabs of timber, suck. This walk has a little bit of both, preserving the popular area. The constant views as we advanced are rewarding though, and we ate them up.
Turning back after the peak was timed quite well. In the low light, we were treated to the last couple of kilometres of birdsong and dark wallabies. Each braving the open bush for supper. We no longer felt like departing for a southbound camp, something we had planned on our walk. Somewhere toward Lithgow. Instead, we retreated back to our camp of last night. We had neighbours tonight, a few motorbike tourers with a big fire and big voices. Thankfully, both collapsed to a whimper within twenty minutes of our arrival.
We cooked some nightshades into a hot salsa for sausage sandwiches.
A fresh breeze settled into camp and helped the lumber burn hot and fast. This suited me fine, I was feeling all kinds of wonderfully tired. Twitching muscles and my brain saturated with the views of the day. I went to bed whilst David watched the fire burn out.
The following morning was sunny and beautiful. Birds and kangaroos were back for breakfast. I was reluctant to leave the swag, the sunlight dappled across the riverbed, a picturesque setting for the soundtrack. Crows, magpies, cockatoos, currawongs and kookaburras. The occasional percussion of a Grey kangaroo relocating in our camping area.
Given the intensity of the 2013 fires, we were grateful to see life tentatively returning to the park. Fire’s power and destruction evident throughout, but the resilience of the bush showed.
We slowly changed and packed, deciding to peruse Coonabarabran for a cafe before we headed south.
Despite multiple short stops, enjoying country NSW. Our detour adventure, was at an end, not even the Blue Mountain’s weekend traffic had slowed us down. Only the office, who were expecting us in the morning, would be grateful of that.