Our Emu Camper just turned 3


blue_mountainsWe’ve just realised our camper trailer has just turned three. We celebrated with a little trip to Sydney by the coast over Christmas just gone, a week in the Blue Mountains and then shooting back along the Newell highway (Narrabri turned on some summer head to remind us just what we had missed). The Blue mountains let us escape the summer heat for a little bit and the semi rural campground in Blackheath left us close enough to the action but far enough away that we could relax.

The camper trailer itself is doing well for the 60 odd nights we’ve spent under the stars.  I’ve noticed a little bit of grease around the one of the wheel bearings so might be time to give those a service. Our battery system (a little gel cell and $20 charger on the toolbox) probably exceeded its shelf life by 6months and finally gave up the ghost. I guess there’s another $30 bucks we’ll have to spend to get us another 3yrs of light and charging tablets.

We are a pretty slick operation these days that sees us setup pretty quick. We have a minimum set of poles with marks for tube lengths and coloured tape to get the right ones out ready to go and backup ones if the weather is looking nasty (together with awning sides). These days we leave the awning on and come packup we actually drop and fold the entire tent (sans floor) first and then fold the awning in just before the floor.


We still haven’t made the journey to the dinosaurs at Winton, its just a bit far for the 2 weeks of school holidays in June and too hot any other time to do it 😦

We look longingly at the forward folds…maybe one day but I’m not sure the weight penalty is worth the convenience it offers.

Our favourite tech tools  for going off grid (yep I get the contradiction ) are the Google “My Maps” for planning our routes and the Wikicamps phone app for checking out if places (and free camps) are any good.


Carnarvon Gorge or bust…


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IMGP5759This school holidays was our first trip out west (ish) with the trailer, as opposed to south to the snowies. A night just outside of Roma at a farm was our first way point before making it into Carnarvon Gorge the following day.

We stayed at Ups n’ Downs (thanks wikicamps for the heads up) in what looked to be grey nomad heaven, complete with karaoke bar and a number of crooners, thankfully the greys go to bed early …even the party animals ;). Next morning was a neat surprise for the boys with a farrier dropping by to shoe a horse and a curious llama looking on.


Arriving at Carnarvon Gorge day 2  we stayed 4 nights at the Takaraka bush resort err… camp ground (as the national parks were already full 3 months ago when we first booked). It was pretty chilly, so much so that we had to unplug the fridge to help some of our prefrozen meat thaw out. Its 20 yrs since I last visited Carnarvon so was neat to remember the many places we visited along the gorge, though discovering how much you have forgotten is a sobering experience.   Close to the gorge an enterprising farmer has made a side business of chopper flights, so we ponied up a few bucks to give the boys (and dad)  a ride over a neighbouring gorge. Its landlocked so pretty much the only way you can see it.

Its wasn’t too long till it was time to begin the journey home, and we took the long way to see some friends in Bundy after a mid distance stop in Biloela (Bilo to its friends). We stayed the night in a heritage museum’s field for the princely sum of $10. For our night out in Biol we had a counter meal at a pub and took in the sites of Callide power station and the open cut mine (I’d worked here maybe 15 years ago). Is their anything as romantic as a power station sunset??…very Simpsons esq.

Surprisingly the water tank lasted the whole trip and our shovel was only used for 3 emergency road side stops 😉

UHF radios for camping

uhf-camper-trailer.JPGWe’ve been rocking some cheapie handheld’s for a while. We grabbed a pair off eBay a while back for a little fun around the campsite with the boys. But they have come in handy for a whole bunch or reasons. If we are travelling with someone else they are handy for staying in touch, if we split up out on a camp trip its helpful for getting the forgotten sunscreen or announcing dinner. Meanwhile on the road, keeping track of the trucks channels has been helpful to know of trouble ahead. In at least one case we managed to get off the Cunningham highway for a scenic tour of Boonah, instead of waiting out a closed highway for a few hours.  We  run mostly channel 18 (its supposed to be the caravans channel – not that we hear anyone else on it so we chatter away ourselves without bothering anyone ) and have a second “watch channel” on 40. Channel 40 is the trucks channel for most, but not all, of Australia’s highways (google it). Some times the language is a bit colourful but thats what the volume know is for. When on the road we just clip one to the dash so the range is not the great but its good enough for local info we suppose. We bought some vinyl lettering on eBay for the back of our trailer too.



Family fossicking fun



Letterboxes...a sign you are heading back to civilisation

Letterboxes…a sign you are heading back to civilisation

Star Wars monopoly saves the rain day

Star Wars monopoly saves the rain day

No more chocolates for the kids thanks driver reviver

No more chocolates for the kids thanks driver reviver

This way please

This way please

Nice fire dudes!

Nice fire dudes!

Last year up at the Bunya mountains (dang we meant to blog that) we ran into some fossickers, who showed off some of their stones from Emerald/Sapphire way (get what these places are named after ?) and our junior entrepreneurs thought they might get to strike it rich too. Being  summer we thought central Queensland might be a bit hot, so we looked South and in particular New England, where with the altitude it was quite a bit cooler.

Thus with out 50th night in our camper trailer in our sights we headed to Bullock Mountain Homestead some 15kms north of Glen Innes, a delightful farm on top of a hill. We camped down by the creek and soon had ourselves a good time pan handling for riches and loving our 50th night in our camper trailer too.
We had some local help too….go Molly go!!! and came up with a few umm… rocks!!. The next day we decided to head out to the old mine a kilometre  or so down the creek, but decided discretion was the better part of valour after running into a few to many Joe Blakes (of the red bellied kind) in the grass on the way. Alas that was our only chance to get there as it rained for the next few days (though it seemed longer). Fortunately Star Wars monopoly and Catan Junior board games came to the rescue and Mr 6 and Mr nearly 8 were well entertained.
Over night the creek rose about a metre and there were sheets of water on the ground. Fortunately our Emu camper trailer kept us dry with its heavy canvas and bath tub floor, we only had one leak to content with (through a zipper where we didn’t put the outside flap down all the way down). The next day everything dried out pretty quick and we were soon off down the highway.
Our plan was to head to the coast via the old Grafton Road, luckily we skipped this owing to time because as we passed the exit point near grafton we noticed some traffic warning for the road – likely it was flooded. Along the way and where we could get signal with co-pilot working the wiki camps app

Rockpool fun - crabs, cucumbers and all manner of critters

Rockpool fun – crabs, cucumbers and all manner of critters

Panhandlers at work

Panhandlers at work


Molly helping out

we booked us some comfortable digs at Iluka where we got to explore some rock pools, have a dip and our budding stunt riders showed us their tricks before heading home 3 days later.

All up a great little trip for the new year, a quick shout out to the driver reviver places for the fantastic job keeping us all awake – a few less chocolates and cordial drinks for the kiddies next time though please!!!

A visit from Yuji Ohgi

We took our good friends from Japan camping recently, we went to a nearby favourite. Just one night but a good time

SABEL's Sports Technology Blog - Enabling technologies for sport and health

IMG_1797A wek or so backIMG_1821IMG_1798we had the pleasure of hosting A/Prof Ohgi from Keio University at SABEL Labs. Yuji kindly gave a sophisticated talk on his work in aquatic activities, as well as a sneak peak at his aerodynamic research as well as a few other topics of interest. Although is was a Friday afternoon we had a good attendance at the talk and some very interesting discussions afterwards. Our thanks to university colleagues, the Queensland Academy of Sport and Swimming Australia for coming along. In the following week we had a good opportunity for research conversations and input to a range of projects including cloud based realtime databases for sensors, instrumented sports balls just to name a few.
Yuji was accompanied by his daughter who thanks to the generosity of Holland Park State School was able to be a student for a day.  Yuji was hosted at the…

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School camp out – view from site B5

12122607_967587699945955_3744917315825662293_nWe had a camping trip with a difference, camping on the school oval. He’s a little piece written for the P&C

Whew! Just back from Camp Out 2015. Its by far the closest campground and best facilities to be had this side of the black stump we reckon.

On arrival we were welcomed by Kristian L. and team, grabbed the kids Athletes Foot welcome packs and signed ourselves up for a volunteer helper activity.

Next up we found ourselves a spot out where the plovers were terrorising students just a few months ago and pitched our tents in an emerging tent city. One of almost 70 tents, it felt a bit like a camping exhibition and gave us a chance to scope out some likely tents for the future, as our trusty old tent which has been a good companion is showing the ‘kisses of time’ and needs an update before the summer season.

As any experienced camper will tell you setup time is about the time that kids usually get twitchy, fortunately however about then the fire truck, complete with working fire hose, made an appearance (Love your work Annerley Fireys, thats bath time taken care of too!). Then the treasure hunt clue sheet soon had happy kids racing every which way around the oval (play ground teachers, hats off to you, you manage this every day ….how do you do it?) with some lucky dip prizes on offer from BCF Greenslopes.

First prize, drawn Sunday morning, was an amazing fridge cooler from BCF Green slopes and well done Matthew…we have a winner!!!. Hang on, there’s more than one Matthew and no last name on the entry. A few chin wobbles and a tear or two later and the right Matthew is located, thanks to some careful handwriting analysis, together with the honesty and good naturedness of the older candidate (just another measure of the schools great community spirit). For all the runners up there were shirts, glow sticks, lolly bags and a sticker grab.

Later on a little bit of drizzle kept things interesting (and sent a few parents scurrying off to put up an extra fly or awning) and as night descended a sausage sizzle for the kids and burgers for the parents kept tummies full and were supplemented by assorted BYO snacks. FWIW I saw a pretty amazing spread at a tent out near the cricket nets! (next time I’m setting up next to them). The assorted sugary treats to kept little legs pumping and there were caffeine supplements for weary parents (thanks to Alex at Cafe Cartel for great coffee and sticking out the weekend with us).

As for lighting, if you look up in the trees around the oval this week you might see an assortment of glow sticks as a student contribution to the evening.

Later on it was time for marshmallows (thanks to ARC Metal fabrications for some cool braziers and donation of firewood) after sending the kids out hunting for cooking sticks (don’t tell the principal12036424_967587689945956_6735906533293663052_n11206942_967588986612493_8471329247281652196_n12190130_967588656612526_5827661802267113715_n though) and all too soon it was 8:30 kids curfew time which saw a steady stream of pyjama clad kids making their way to the library ablutions block and bubblers to clean teeth etc… before cuddling up to teddy, some obligatory sneaking from tent to tent with their buddies till eventually we heard something you don’t hear all that often at school ….silence!!!

Saturday night err.. Sunday morning a few die hard footy fans gathered around a 32″ TV set (nice on the spot engineering by Dawson Electric to supply and fit the antenna!) at 1am to watch the All Blacks make their way to the final, apparently some were watching on their iphones from the comfort of a sleeping bag though (Dennis… and you call yourself a Kiwi!).

Actually I have no idea if any of this happened, I crashed about page 29 reading Peter Pan at around 9pm and didn’t wake again till the dawn chorus of soccer players ‘kicked in’ somewhere around 4:30am (so I’m told) and then dozing to something more respectable for a Sunday morning (if you call 6am respectable).

A quick coffee err.. caffeine injection and it was time for some pancakes for breakfast. How do you cook for over 200 campers? Easy 4 BBQ plates, 8 early risers and Dads on a power drill (thanks again Dawson Electric!) with a large bucket to make up the mix of course (Malcom Turnbull, heres that ‘innovation economy’ your looking for).

The weekend was a fantastic success and a real exemplar of the school community in action. As a fundraiser I heard there’s almost $3,000 raised for the P&C too! Running smoothly, with little fuss and like clockwork all without seeming to take any effort, this is a sure sign of amazing behind the scenes work and organisational effort.

Thanks to our “2015 State P&C of the Year” for putting this all together, to all the volunteer helpers (especially Jason S., John B., Dylan D., Kev T., Ean D., Ben M. and Matt S.) on the weekend and all the mums (yes some of them actually stayed rather than give dad the ‘kiss on the cheek’ drop and run experience), dads and kids for making it such a fun time.

Lets do it again sometime!!!

40 sleeps in our EMU camper trailer …hooray


DSCN2733Its about 40 sleeps and 20 months since we picked up our EMU camper, after a good few months of vacillating and trying out a few others. Its been a good purchase and certainly got us out and more connected with each other and less connected with technology.  A few people (see Bens comments )have asked how we have found it so here goes….
What’s gone wrong
Nothing, have only had to oil the jockey wheel quick release (nearly dropped the trailer on our toes just the once). Early on we had a zip malfunction on the annex, but that was replaced by EMU. We replaced the water pumps (Trojan) as they leak (the web tells us its a common problem) with Breha (thanks Luke for helping us out with those) and one way valves (eBay was out friend)
How Quick is it to put up?
How long is a bit of string. Its only 6 tent pegs to put the basic camper up. Stocking it once its up with our bags, food boxes and stretchers and sleeping bags takes a bit longer. For more than one night stay we have the annex up – that takes a bit longer with 3 pegs and 11 poles at a minimum. Packup up is a bit longer as you have to wait for things to dry (unless its part of a multi day trip and then its no bother to  pack wet)
What do you recommend
We love the water tank and the Drifta kitchen (DSO)
Did you do any mods
We have done a few things to make it work for us and make the setup a bit easier
  • We checked out Luke the Drifta’s camper trailer setup and followed suit
  • We have a plastic foldable step ladder we use instead of the inside ladder that cam with the camper. It has greater utility
  • The water tank to kitchen tap connecter hose now has two quick connect hose fittings, rather than fold it under the kitchen each time
  • We added a light box to the side of the trailer  with a small gel cell and a trickle solar charger , we keep our torches in here and some LED light sticks for lightening
  • quick release clips on the tie down straps
  • we use some pole and peg bags and only take out the ones we need, rather than the whole kit and caboodle (which we hide up the back of the trailer
  • The annex sides are marked so we know what goes where, and we only get out what we need in case of bad weather
  • All poles have been marked with a texta so we know how far out to extend them.
  • The vertical poles have been marked with a tap code so we know which are the tall ones and which are the short and in-between

Back to where it all began

fire-darlingtonWe headed back to Darlington Park a few weekends ago, sometimes busy but always has a serenity about it. This was where we took our first ever try of a camper trailer (A hired jobbie) as a try before you buy, so it was nice to return in our own this time. The kids are now a few years older, so the tin tacs of camping now a well worn routine and there was even some opportunity to relax.
Nice to to camp with my sister and her kids too. Its been over a decade since we camped together, a camping safari through Africa BK (before kids) was the last trip. A bit non plussed about the stories shared from our childhood though ..it given our boys a few too many ideas.
Nice to get a view of the lost world razorback, from out back of the park. I climbed this a few times in my youth, was IDSCN2733 nuts?

Doing a Lap

the big lapLooks like camper trailers are going mainstream. Here is a two part article featured in ‘The Australian’ newspaper.

I liked the approach to their planning and lessons along the way.  We can dream….

Weber for camping

weber campingThe o’l 4 burner bbq is getting a bit long in the tooth and we had a bit of XMAS money left over from the inlaws. Its nice to cross purpose a bit, so was mindful of buying somethig we could take camping too. A bit of a hunt around online and through friends and we decided to pony up for a Weber baby Q. The price is a bit of a shock, but since we had our last BBQ for 10 years we decided its not as big a factor as quality and reliability. Some people cook some prety amazing things on them and they look really cheap on the gas too coming it at around 1/8th of the gas consumption (http://www.weberbbq.com.au/QGasEconomy.php). The other that impressed us on the user reviews was the amazing customer support years after a purchase.
We ended up with the base model, figuring the extra height and temp guage were not essential.
weber economyIts taken a bit of re-education to cook with them , but the results are great. As for doing anything fancey have baked a few loaves of bread on it so far – both of which didnt last the hour when our.
People rave about the flavour….yep definately a step up for both the usual BBQ , the salmon was amazing and the bread had a nice smokey taste.
We like how quickly everythig takes. There is a bit more clean up ( do this every few cooks) than the old bbq plate which we tended to just do a quick scrape and leave everythig else skanky. Looking forward to taking it away.
Oh the accessories we havent bothered with anything other than the trivet for baking.
Now just need to get our gas bottles over to POL rather than the mix we have had
weber baking bread