Left finally by 9.30am after finishing our packing, collecting kids and getting coffees for our journey down to Bendethera. We didn’t strike much traffic, except for a little bit on the M7, which was more trucks on their trips delivering goods, than cars on holiday adventures! We made our way down south, the traffic easing the whole way down, stopping at Braidwood for very cheap (Sydney standard), hot, delicious pies. I had a potato pie that had more potato on it than had mince inside, it was hot, yum and probably one of the best pies I have had for a long time!!
We took the road to Bendethera via Aurlen road, which is a long windy, dirt road, that snakes it’s way around the river, you don’t climb any mountains, but it is very slow going because it’s so windy, 70km’s worth, which takes quite a while to negotiate. Night was slowly descending upon us, making our arrival into Bendethera Valley just on dark, which wasn’t all that bad, just meant we had to set up in the dark and get dinner going quickly, as it was going to be toasted sandwiches cooked over the open fire, something we all enjoy!
We found a spot in the main site, finding a spot not close to many of the other campers that were sporadically set up throughout the area. Took us the normal hour to set up the trailer, in the dark…one of my favourite things to do, and something we do all too often!! The kids collected what they could of smaller twigs and branches to get a fire going, as fire meant food for them. After setting up the tent we went and collected enough firewood to get a fire going to cook our toasted sandwiches on.
Dinner, which took a while, was yet again a success, we all love toasted sandwiches cooked in the jaffle irons…delicious!! Bed was not long after and although it wasn’t terribly cold, it was nice to snuggle up and get warm.
It was a lazy morning, with everyone enjoying a sleep in after the fairly long drive the day before. When we all finally rose from our beds, we were surprised to see a camper trailer set up not far from us, having not heard them arrive at all during the night. We had coffees and breakfast, deciding not to do much for the day, except go on a small drive, up and out of the valley, on the Dampier Mountain F/T to collect some firewood.
Jason and I had driven this trail on our last visit and we still both agree that it is one of the steepest tracks that we have come across. We came across a large group of vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. They had stopped on the side of the track and were all out of their vehicles filling some holes with rocks and timber. We were surprised that this group consisted of some soft roaders and even one mug with a trailer despite the fact that there are signs at either end of this trail saying that trailers are prohibited.
We continued on and stopped to collect firewood, once it was loaded on the roof rack, Jason realised he had forgotten to pack the tie down straps. We turned around and headed back down the mountain to camp, at a slow pace hoping no firewood was going to roll off the roof and onto the bonnet.
Coming down the mountain, we could see the weather starting to close in and were glad that we were down and back in the valley before it started to rain. We got back to camp around 3.30pm and immediately got the fire going and then the rain came down for the next 15 mins or so. It stopped in time for us to get dinner going, which was a mild massaman curry with rice, which was yum and very warming for the insides. The kids then enjoyed their camping treat of marshmallows for dessert, while trying to spot stars and satellites through the clouds that were still lingering. We were all in bed by 8.30 – 9pm and despite sitting by the fire, it was warmer in bed!
Was a very foggy morning, we were up slowly, having breakfasts, cups of tea and coffees, while the sun fought it’s way through the low clouds, turning what was a dreary morning, into a stunning, sun drenched warm day. We decided to head to Bendethera Caves for an adventure for the kids, so we packed water bottles, headlamps, jumpers and hats then headed off for the next few hours.
We drove to the start of the caves walk, leaving our truck there, then heading on foot for the next 8km return trip to the caves. The first part was done at an easy pace, although there were 10 creeks to cross on the way, some tricky, some with lovely easy stepping stones spaced evenly across. We then hit the moderate / difficult climb, which took us directly up the side of the mountain to the mouth of the cave. It was tough going, slippery, rocky with numerous trees down, thus having to clamber over them, still on an upward, steep incline, finally reaching the mouth of the cave after just over an hours walk.
The kids all had an apple, while we conversed with some other walkers, then donned our headlamps, jumpers and headed into the dark of the Bendethera Cave. It was hard and slippery, climbing through small holes, then pulling ourselves up steep inclines using thick chain that was drilled into the rock. We reached where we could go no further, staying there for a while before heading back to the beginning, which was going to be just as tough, if not harder than the climb in. Keira and Kye were a bit frightened at one point, but after making it down, were very pleased with themselves for conquering what they thought, was a very hard section…as did we all!!
We finally made it back to the beginning, having to be helped out by another group that were waiting to descend into the caves for their own adventure. There were some very excited children waiting outside when I arrived, their faces, hands, clothes, and body parts filthy with mud and bat poo, but having achieved something very tricky and challenging, they were thrilled! We started our descent back to the truck, this time the going was extremely tough, as it was really slippery, but yet again, we all made it safe, with them all counting down the 10 creek crossing to finally reach the carpark at the start of the walk.
After our long walk and cave exploring we were all in need of a swim, or quick dip to rid ourselves of mud, dirt and bat poo, so we put our cossies on, then went in search of a river that was deep enough to swim in, or at least quickly emerge ourselves in. We found a spot, not far from where we were camping, that was deep, but rather murky, Jason in first, followed by me, Kye, Megan, Zarah then Keira. The water war rather fresh, not as cold as other places we have swam, but cool none the less. It was lovely to feel clean and fresh, especially after our long day exploring.
Back at camp, we dried off then got a fire going as we were going to have roast pork rolls for dinner, but actually deciding, by the time we got enough coals ready, it would have taken too long to cook, so we had chops with char-grilled vegetables instead…just as nice.
Megan, Zarah, Keira and Kye all had marshmallows again, cooking them with their new ‘special marshmallow sticks’ and still enjoying them no matter what instrument they are using. They also had lots of fun with their glow sticks, as it was dark and with a low fog rolling in, the effect of glow sticks being thrown in the air looks quite impressive.
We decided to go for a night drive to look for some wildlife, which is an exciting thing for the kids to see, so we all pilled into the truck, whacked all the spotties on, then off we went. We saw kangaroos, wombats, bunnies, more kangaroos, more wombats, then Jason spotted what he thought were two wombats, but actually were two wild black pigs running for their lives…they got the most screams for all inside the truck! Back to camp after a successful night time drive, it was pretty much bed time for us all, it wasn’t cold, but coolish and away from the fire, it felt a lot fresher, so bed it was, with us all tucked up and getting engrossed in our own good books.
Was a very foggy start to the morning, a little fresh as well. Jason was up early as he had decided to go for a bike ride for the morning, so he was up sorting out what needed to be done. I was up not long after, just pottering around camp, collecting what few twigs were around to start organising the fire for the early afternoon lighting! Jason was finally ready to leave, but as it was still rather fresh, his European Husaberg doesn’t like the Australian cold weather for some strange reason! thus he struggled to start it. He finally go it going then was off, well so I thought, only to have him back after a short while because it had stopped. He pushed it up a rather larger hill and gave it a good jump start, which got it going, so then he was off on his adventure for a few hours. We think it’s quite ironic that a European dirt bike doesn’t like the cold weather…and although he gets the shits with it not starting, it does make us laugh!!
Not long after Jason left, I packed the kids up and we went to collect enough firewood to last us through the early afternoon and evening. We drove along the track that takes you to the Bendethera Caves walk, when I spotted a great piece. I had the reciprocating saw in hand and attacked the log, which turned out to be a great find…we had enough to create a great campfire. Back at camp we emptied the roof rack of all of our wood then settled in for the morning, as the sun was now out, so it lovely just sitting soaking up the warmth.
Jason came back just after 12pm, so we had lunch then again settled in for the afternoon by the fire, which was now lite waiting for coals to be created so we could start cooking our piece of pork for dinner. Megan, Zarah, Keira and Kye all went in search of a nicer swimming hole than the one we had found the day before, which they did, although they weren’t in the water for long apparently as it was quite cold!. They came back and sat by the fire to warm up, daring us to try our luck at the water. We found the waterhole, which wasn’t far from our site and discovered the river to be rather murky, in fact, so much so that you couldn’t even see the bottom. We didn’t even go in fully, just to mid leg length, they were braver than us, as we didn’t even get our heads wet!!
The pork was cooking nicely, we were all having a game of Bocci, when the sky decided to open up and rain on us, or more to the point, rain on our camp oven that was cooking our dinner…it didn’t last long and the pork continued to cook beautifully! Our warm pork rolls with gravy were delicious and everyone enjoyed them.
The kids all had their marshmallows after dinner, when we decided to go for another night drive. We didn’t see pigs this time, but more kangaroos and wombats, it is still good fun to drive with all the spotties on! Back at camp, we sat in front of the fire for a bit more before the kids all headed to bed to read for a while, Jason and I not long after!
There was no point rising early as the tent was damp from the dew that fell during the night, so we couldn’t pack up until it was all dry. It was a cloudy, cool morning, with a little fog, that hopefully will clear to a beautiful sunny day so that the tent dries.
We were having bacon and eggs for breakfast so we got a fire going, so that we could start cooking. Jase and I were packing up while breakfast was cooking, but sat and enjoyed our egg and bacon wrap with coffee, the kids all enjoying theirs as well…and why wouldn’t they??
We finally packed up the tent, just before a little rain fell, then Jason and Kye went for a quick swim before we set off on our journey home, leaving Bendethera just after 11am. I drove to start, but had my nerves shot as we slid down a small, steep decline, realising that the trailer brakes didn’t seem to be working, was going to be an interesting trip home.
It took us quite a while to climb the steep inclines with the tailer on the back, the tracks were rather greasy, partly as they were clay and still damp from the little bit of rain that had fallen. The first down hill section that we came too, I had to change drivers as it was rather hairy, so Jase took over, realising that it wasn’t my driving, and that the trailer brakes weren’t responding for some reason. We slid down one of two sections, with the inertia of the trailer pushing the truck slightly, one time causing us to end up on the edge of an erosion mound towards the bush. The faces of the 4 children in the back was priceless, although there was nothing to be really concerned about, we just took our time and made it slowly down the mountain.
We finally hit the tarmac after roughly 2.5 hours, which took us longer than expected, stopping once for Vomit-tron (aka Keira) to empty all that she had consumed for breakfast!! Stopped again at Braidwood, after travelling through Moyrua instead of Arulen as it didn’t take as long, for a late lunch of sensational pies again. I drove from here, as there were no steep downhills anymore, for an easy trip home, not enchanting any traffic at all, arriving home by just after 7.30pm. We unpacked the truck, the kids all having much needed showers, having a light dinner before going to bed as they had school the next day, Jase and I started the washing, which was going to go on for days, winter camping creates so much more washing than summer camping!!!
Was a great trip, not as cold as we thought it would be, with lovely days and coolish nights, but lovely to sit around campfires again during the now colder months!!