The Map Patrol are often reacquainting themselves with the off-road regions of Australia, much like two old friends catching up with one another every now and then. This trip got them very familiar with one of the richest, most intriguing of these regions: Outback NSW.
On this expedition we used the Travelander camper trailer as a base camp, then explored tracks and campsites around that central point. Our first base camp was Hawks Nest, and from there we explored Myall Lakes, Stockton Beach and Barrington Tops.
After that, the Hunter Valley was our base for Yengo and Dharug National Parks, and then Katoomba and Lithgow were the base camps for the Blue Mountains, Wollemi and Kanangra Boyd National Parks. One thing we realised was that there is such a huge area of spectacular wilderness protected by National Parks so close to Sydney. Another point to note is that Taralga was a great base to explore Abercrombie National Park and the southern end of the Blue Mountains.
Regional NSW Navigation & Maps
Particularly in this area, we would try not to retrace our steps. If there was a different road to go on, we would explore it. After all, that’s what all good Map Patrol explorers should aspire to do! A brief sojourn in Canberra was more than enough city life for us while we explored Brindabella and Namadgi National Parks. We then travelled east over the Great Dividing Range again to the coast to explore Bendethera, Deua and Morton National Park (which had some steep areas that tested the low range of the Map Patrol).
Mapping for a living
Life on the road isn’t all about sitting around the campfire. Well that’s what we tell the boss. Seriously, each day is about preparing the rig, safety checks and planning the places we need to go. Some days are long with slow 4WD tracks. Along the way there is mapping, checking roads, documenting conditions and taking lots of photos. You wouldn’t think being out in the wilderness, you would get too much screen time but with a mapping laptop, two Hema navigators and the iPad app, the last thing you want to do at night is get on the computer. The other thing to keep in mind is trying to type while bumping and grinding over rough 4WD tracks. Well that is my excuse for typos.
The highlights for us were the unexpected discoveries. Wollemi National Park was up there with our favourites, and we're sure a lot of other explorers would agree. The Gardens of Stone were spectacular too, and so unusual in comparison to the surrounding area. It was also amazing in some places how a track was ever created there in the first place. As an example, the road to Mt Irvine constantly reminded us that there was no turning around or room for two cars if one came in the other direction; which was something that certainly got our hearts racing.
Another thing we found was that the steepness of some of the tracks put the Hema Map Patrol rig through its paces. The low gears allowed us to climb slowly but surely up the inclines and down declines. It is amazing when going down an acute angle in first and low range without feeling the need to apply the brakes. A couple of spots meant we had to use the air-lockers and they did a sterling job.
Our best experience outside exploring this great country was our wildlife encounters with wombats. As Western Australian’s, wombats are a huge novelty and we saw many signs that they were around, just no wombats. That was until one night when what we thought was an earthquake turned out to be a wombat rubbing its itchy back against the undercarriage of the camper. Our campsite in fact was overrun with wombats. After three nights we were used to nearly tripping over them. When you add kookaburra alarm clocks, kangaroo and wallaby camp guests, parrots galore, lyrebirds, the odd snake and tree climbing goannas, it was a great trip.
The hardest part
The expedition ended just before Christmas, and so we packed ourselves up one last time and rolled back to Brisbane. We would have preferred to just keep touring NSW, or perhaps go south to Victoria and do the High Country. Either way, you can rest assured the Map Patrol will be back on the roads shortly, and not a moment too soon!