Finally free to put responsibility in the rearview, we snuck away to shake down the latest revision to the LandCruiser’s cargo and camping design. Throwing the swag on the roof, a new campsite in mind. It was time to explore.
The HEMA HN7 found some cool backroads to get us to Braidwood at which point a quick bakery stop was required. The turn off for the campsite isn’t actually signed and we were ignoring the Hema and taking in the scenery, so we actually circled back after some 20km of sightseeing.
~HEMA HN7 Found us a more interesting route~
The track is marked 4WD only and the erosion humps confirm it straight away. After a very full campground circuited on the way here, we were pleasantly surprised to find this one occupied by one family only. Huge fire rings, a newly built toilet and plenty of shade, on the water’s edge. Perfect.
~Looking back up the entrance to camp~
Claiming a site, we walked down to preview the water and at this point the deafening roar of the resident cicadas became apparent. The ranger greeted us back at camp and collected our fee, $12. We had a scratching of a plan under our hat so we only paid for one night.
Setup was a simple affair. Swag off the roof and unrolled. Chairs and table unsheathed and positioned under the deployed awnings. Not particularly hungry, freshly sliced bread for sandwiches made up our dinner, the fire pit lit for ambience only, eventually the cicadas retired and so did we, for a peaceful night in the swag.
Gentle rain woke me up in the morning, but pulling up the canvas, a healthy sleep-in ensued. Ham, fried egg and salad for breakfast with green tea. Morning tea expresso and an impromptu decision to go for a drive, return for a swim and stay another night.
The rear fit out and the gull wings were an immediate win. The rear drawer now housed the food and pans and camp oven. The clear top Drifta bag swallowing what would occupy multiple army crates or more. I plan to add another at least to my kit to organise my extended pantry staples.
~Food drawer, forgot to leave room for the Braidwood Hi-Top Loaf~
Having a hand pump in the kitchen gullwing box is laughable, zero water wasted, fine detailed output even the expresso machine gets its millilitre accuracy on tap. Unlike the 12v tap which you have to be mindful of after flow. The 10L jerry can, normally pride of place on the table seemingly retired for emergency use only.
Lighting seemed adequate, but organisation is still ongoing, I have Canvas and Sil Nylon plans for inside the gullwing boxes and this trip has confirmed how I will sew them up, should be quite easy but effective.
Camp abandoned, crossing the river was nothing, the ford was firm and shallow. The climb directly across was quite long and after that, another, and after that, another longer, steeper. And that was the theme of the afternoon. First gear low, rear e-Locker engaged, Toyo Open Country M/T deflated to 24 and 26 front and rear respectively. The LandCruiser walked up the inclines, the skyward view interrupted by the countless erosion humps.
Exhaust and suspension squeaks providing our soundtrack. Glimpses of the track ahead seemingly vertical on the hillsides ahead were quite intimidating but once we had a couple under the belt, looking up at them from their foot seemed a little less impossible.
One particular hillclimb, I diverged from the existing track and put my wheel in a hole. Without a front locker we very quickly stopped our ascent. A mildly terrifying reverse, not really abated by the grainy rear camera. Quick check of the tyres; which had warmed up and needed a bit more air out. Second attempt proved less wild, more mild.
Canvas tarp, potato chips and sparkling water painted our simple sunny picnic at the summit of Mount Merricumbene before we continued on, the environment becoming more temperate, lush ferns feathering the track and a little more uneven ground adding interest to the ascents and descents.
Given our decision to leave the swag behind, we reluctantly doubled back to camp, experiencing the inclines in reverse and trading point of views.
Feeling hot and dusty we abandoned the Landcruiser for the lullaby girgling of the water. A pre-dinner swim seemingly alone. Only two other campers had joined us but were setting up hundreds of metres away. The ranger revisited and we paid for another night.
Working up an appetite we filled the charcoal starter up and cooked my small, albeit homegrown ears of corn and scotch fillets on the Snow Peak fire pit. The ranger had left wood for us so the bush TV was fuelled for several hours.
Next morning played out similar to the day before, gentle rain, canvas up, sleep in. A hotter day we started with a swim, which extended into an all day affair, further driving forgotten, we laid out the canvas tarp, corn chips and gherkin dip for lunch. Fancy.
The goannas were not shy and although huge, well fed dinosaurs, around 1.5m in length they were eerily stealth and would sneak up soundlessly under the truck behind us looking for scraps.
Something we had noticed the day before, was the fridge failing to cool below 5-6 degrees, and offhand that the auxiliary battery was down from 13 to 12volts after our long drive the day before. Somewhat preoccupied with the fridge and well, swimming. We didn’t really give it our attention until the evening when we were water logged, pruney and done swimming. Oh, and our ice-cream was ruined. Pulling apart the fridge for a campsite clean and check of the motor, but nothing but dust bunnies presented itself and there were no fault codes.
With the auxiliary now drained below 12volts, and 60% charge, we ran the LandCruiser on high idle, but popping the bonnet the Projecta DCDC showed no charge from the alternator. After isolating the starter battery it was about now that a storm hit, putting the electrical drama on hold during the wet intermission. As quickly as it appeared it was gone again and we got a good fire going and settled down for the night.
Combined with the storm, heat and sunburn we spent a warm night in the swag, and when the rain returned, the humidity was a bit stifling. We had rolled the swag out away from the LandCruiser and its awning so having the canvas up against the rain, we were a bit stuffy, but too weary to care enough to rope out the canvas to the neighbouring tree.
The morning was beautifully washed from the rain, cooler too. After breakfast however, a storm hit, bigger this time. Rolling up a soaked swag was fun, but that, our two chairs and the fire pit packed, we were ready to go… for a swim. Hot and now rain free, we drove the LandCruiser down to the water’s edge and spent a few hours swimming.
~Despite the cloudy photography, the sun regularly showed up fierce and we went home burnt~
~Riverside changeroom to (un)gracefully peal off soggy swimmers~
Using the jumper leads to provide power to the auxiliary battery, we were able to air up the tyres before reluctantly saying goodbye and heading back to Braidwood for a late lunch. The scenery quite stunning with the rolling storm clouds we took our time. This little trip had provided a variety of weather, conditions and highlights; and we had barely scratched the surface. We absolutely can’t wait to return.
What’s a shakedown trip without a few shakes?