2010 National Gathering Logistics Planning (a camping trip to & around Wiluna)

Thursday, Oct 08, 2009 at 17:06

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

OVERVIEW:

This trip was planned purely for the purpose of attending a meeting with the Wiluna Shire, and owner/operators of Gunbarrel Laarger - Travellers Rest to discuss logistics for the 2010 ExplorOz National Gathering planned to be held in Wiluna next year. Althoughh Wiluna is just 950km from Perth (a day and a half drive) we made it our school holiday getaway camping trip and hoped to spend a little time hunting the spring wildflowers, and would meet up with friends for a camp out for the last 4 days.

This was also the first field test of the prototype version of EOTrackMe, which has been working well in testing around metro Perth but we didn't know how much of our trip would be in out of mobile service range and how the system would contend with that. The system uses a GPS enabled mobile phone (our prototype has been developed for iPhone initially) on the Telstra NextG network to transmit positions at a predefined interval to the EOTrackMe server. This outputs the positions and connects the dots to show a route snail trail on the ExplorOz mapping system (iMapPlot technology) in real time. We are developing this as a feature of ExplorOz Membership, so each Member that chooses to use the service will be tracked on their Member Profile page when travelling, and the Members EOTrackMe page will show the positions of all Members across Australia currently being tracked.

We also have the POV Helmet Cam (that David intends to use for filming his Great Southern Adventure Race two days after we return) to experiment with. For this trip we have various mounts to experiment with to capture driving footage (ie. mounted to the roof of the vehicle, door panels, bullbar etc...).

I also decided this was the trip to trial not taking camp ovens. I did this because I knew we were headed to a few national parks that did not allow fires so I planned a menu to make the most of our Cobb oven and to test out the Thermos Shuttle Chef (slow cooker).

We also have brought along a few of the new items we've added to the ExplorOz Shop to see how they faired. So this blog will probably contain some discussion on all these topics throughout a daily diary.

DAY ONE: Sunday 27th September, 2009

Packing only started yesterday so departure today was not an early one as there were some last minute issues to resolve. We did get away at 10.45am but had to stop for a big fuel up only 10mins out. Dalwallinu was reached for lunch @ the local café in the main street (kebabs, hot dogs, hamburger, cappuccinos = health!). We pulled in and parked behind a couple in a white 80 series cruisers with an original EO wheel cover and WA plates, but they didn't seem to notice us so there was no conversation.



The Great Northern Highway was full of wildflowers (and possible pretty weeds) growing along the roadside so although late in the season, we were still pleased to see the blossoming of spring. Once we were travelling again, we discussed our destination point for the day and realised we only had enough daylight left to get a little further than Payne's Find (and the no-camp zone). From previous trips we knew the camping options along the section between Paynes Find to Meekatharra were rather limited so I opened up the laptop with the idea to plot a path to someone suitable. First technical setback (of many) of the trip. The laptop would not boot up. It appear to have blown a hard drive. Although we were also running a PDA (with GPS Mouse GPS, OziExplorer CE, and Natmap sheets for the area) this was a bit of blow. Although David's iPhone is fine for browsing web pages, we are limited without the laptop for performing "work" as it has all the necessary development software. We would normally connect via my 3G Nokia and the laptop to have full access to our office systems and site code. Without the laptop, we also cannot download images from my cameras SD card, nor the helmet cam's SD card so we knew we had to ration our film footage!



That technical setback aside, I used the Hema 4WD Road Atlas to locate a short-cut to Wiluna from Paynes Find via Sandstone along tracks we've not been on previously and using the Natmaps on the PDA we found the signs of a possible good bush camp about 40km along by a creek. The track was full of wildflowers and upon arrival the camp was just as we had hoped and quickly set-up a lovely first night's camp.

Dinner was too easy! Before leaving home I had prepared a minestrone soup in the Thermos Shuttle Chef and so it was ready to eat when we stopped with some fresh bread.

DAY TWO: Monday 28th September, 2009

Sunrise at 5.50am never looked better than from the swag. We slept in until 6.10am and found the day pleasantly chilly so stoked up the fire again. 5 year old Chardae hasn't been on a proper touring trip since 2007 (because we've been going to Ningaloo) so it was like music to the ears to hear her first words this morning being "I love my swag. I wish I could sleep in it at home". We were all happy, packed and away by 8am with the helmet cam mounted to the side doors to film some dusty road footage. This really is an excellent find - no more driving up the Great Northern Highway from Paynes Find to Meekatharra now that we've found this track. It's easy driving, wide and graded, well signposted and saves almost 100km off the whole trip to Wiluna. We saw lots of goannas dash across the path in front of our car (perenties), some ''roos, emus and lots of parrots.


Arriving in Sandstone around 10am we were further surprised to find it a delightful place. Beautiful old buildings, kids playground, a well presented open heritage museum in the main street with signboards, and the general store was open even thought it was a public holiday. I had to take a photo of the fuel point too. Classic!

The post office/general store had some brochures and signs in town lead us to follow a short 20km loop driving trail (heritage trail) through breakaway country. Each stop was signposted and each stop was very interesting. Caves, mine pits, etc.. A must-do when visiting Sandstone.



So, it was not yet lunchtime and we pulled out of Sandstone and continued to drive towards Wiluna. With time on our side I thought it would be interesting to check out Lake Mason, which my Hema Camping Atlas & Guide to Western Australia told me was open for camping. As I was to learn, this is just one of quite a few similar set-ups in the region where former stations have been taken over by DEC and de-stocked, dewatered etc. and set-up for field studies. We were quite disappointed by what we found as it differed greatly from the description in the book. I later learned that it had only recently been abanded by DEC - but I don't yet have the full story on why.

Not far from Wiluna we passed a group of nearly 20 vehicles (who stopped to say hello) but that was the only traffic we saw. On arriving at Wiluna at 3ish we didn't stop but continued east along what becomes the Gunbarrel Highway (but it really the Wongawol Road) for 10km ''''til we reached the marked turnoff to our destination - Gunbarrel Highway - Travellers Rest.

We had no idea what to expect, but were warmly greeted by Gillian (Gill) Marchant who was expecting us. We'd no sooner arrived and set-up swags & OzTent on the green grass than David changed into his running gear and went off for a 5km run. Meanwhile, the kids and I collected firewood from the wood heap, had showers and prepared sausages, snow peas and an asian rice salad (I'd previously prepared at home before leaving). The site is set-up with 3 groups of dongas (air-conditioned units appointed for either singles, twins or families) with mini bar fridges, tea/coffee facilities, wardrobe and tasteful bedding. These are arranged in a circle around a grassed area featuring makeshift tables (cable drums), chairs, a fire pit and 2 ablution blocks. A large building houses the campers kitchen, dining room, and reading/tv room. There is also ample camping on the "mulga flat" for caravans/camper trailers serviced by another ablution block. Campers can elect to be self-sufficient (with full use of laundry, kitchen and tv room), or they can book in for bed & breakfast (continental). Looks pretty good! This service is well used by the visiting "corporates" such as visiting Government workers and contractors.

Gill introduced us to another camper Dave, who was the local (from Geraldton) water corp guy who'd driven in to inspect a fault in the town water supply. We chatted around the campfire on a mild night before retiring early (about 8.45pm).

No later than 9.30pm and we were woken by the sound of a large animal outside our tent. I peeked through the window and was shocked to see 3 very large, Brahman Cross cows grazing within inches of my kids heads who were oblivious in their swags. I must've startled the cattle because they bolted - knocking over all the camp chairs and tables. This troubled me and I couldn't help but think of the girls safety - the cattle seemed hungry enough to risk coming so close. An hour later and they were back... this time a whole herd of them. I knew I couldn't sleep with them tramping around so close to the kids sleeping on the ground so I dragged the kids out of their swags and into our tent for the night. The cattle'd pushed up against the tent all night - and upended a sealed food tub we'd left out.

DAY THREE: Tuesday 30th September, 2009

Gill greet us warmly this morning asking how our night had been and was dismayed when I relayed our story of events with the cattle. Apparently, there had been some fencing issues with the neighbouring station so we were offered a unit for the remainder of our stay. We really had wanted to remain camping on the beautiful grass but the very hungry cattle seemed not keen to share it with us. (As it turned out, the weather turned foul later in the afternoon and we were lucky to have moved our gear into the unit when we did before the rain hit). But before the rain, we had a beautiful day of weather. We arrived at the Shire office for our 9am meeting and was instantly impressed by the lovely building, and the professionalism of the staff on duty. Having been visitors to Wiluna on 3 previous occasions it occurred to us that we'd never even been to this Shire office, yet could see that it was one of the best facilities in the town. The building is the old hospital and its open for visitors to tour through the old wards and rooms. Out the back is the Tjukurba Art Gallery, and the library. We sat at a boardroom style table for our meeting in this lovely room with the Shire CEO, the Tourism Officer, and the Community Coordinator. Meanwhile, local aboriginals wandered in to collect paints and canvas from the art room to take outside, whilst others stayed inside listening to music whilst painting from the heart. Quite a stark contrast to what you see if you drive down the side streets of town. Our meeting covered aspects of venue for campers to the National Gathering, numbers, activities and community involvement. Meanwhile, our girls Leah and Chardae sat on lounges and read books from the library. Leah found "Fairy Foals" and even when we'd finished our meeting, she had not finished her book so we waited while she did. It must have been some book - as it didn't stop talking about it for the rest of the trip! We were given names and details of everyone in town to visit and went off to meet everyone and let them know of the impeding numbers expected at next year's gathering. With 68 Members registered for the 2009 Gathering, and 54 already on the list for the Wiluna Gathering, we have to expect a significant number. The Gunbarrel Laarger - Travellers Rest is perhaps not idyllically equipped for 70 vehicles and 100+ people so the plan is to utilise the nearby "claypan" for the overflow or indeed for much of the communal activities. The nature of who owns/governs use of the claypan was discussed, and nobody really knows so chatting with everyone and getting the general ok was suggested and the community coordinator said she'd deal with the rest. We drove around and chatted with the local mechanic (to ensure he has plenty of spares), we dropped into the Police station to see if they had any concerns about our plans, chatted to the republican (who also runs a campground out the back), and to the store/servo/café owners - Gunbarrel Groceries. Rather than fill up this blog with details, I will update the Gathering Page with all relevant planning information.

Once our work day was done, we headed off to North Pool for a picnic lunch. We have previously loved this site, but it is definitely a favoured spot with the locals. If you can overlook the remains of '''roo and the oddly placed firepits, its a great spot (albeit a blowing gale for us today). The gale was the start of bad weather. We drove back to our camp at Gunbarrel Laarger - Travellers Rest and saw the rain clouds closing in. David asked me to drop him off on the outskirts of town (10km from camp) and he ran back and the kids and I drove back (we circled him a few times with the helmet cam to film him running on the Gunbarrel Hwy of course too). As I got to camp first I cleared up all the remains of our gear left outside in preparation for the rain and by the time David was back he was drenched.

After a clean up, Gill and husband Mal (keen and long term passionate ExplorOz business member) took us for a tour of their property and explained the history and shared their personal story. What a lovely couple they are and I'm convinced that they can handle anything our gathering next year might throw at them! The Gunbarrel Laarger has recently closed down operation of commercial grape growing activities due to insufficient sale prices. For the last 10 years they have produced seedless white table grapes (harvesting in November). Such a shame as the grapes were of high quality and were uniquely early producing due to the northern climate to be ready for the Christmas market in Perth.

Gill had booked us into dinner at the Wiluna Gold Mine (mess). Open to the public, but bookings 24hrs in advance, and just $15 per head it was a great experience and something rather different to any visit to Wiluna we've ever had. We bought a nice bottle of wine for $17 from the adjacent tavern and had an all you can eat smorgasbord of hot and cold foods complete with desert. The kids thought it was even better than Sizzler - and I didn't have to contend with cooking a meal outside in bad weather.

Back in our room that night we enjoyed a cuppa tea, and read the RM Williams Outback and National Geographic magazines left by our bedside tables and enjoyed being warm and dry indoors whilst the rain and wind howled outside.

DAY FOUR: Wednesday 1st October

The rain has cleared! This morning I went for a run at 6am out along the access track and back (about 5km). After showers and breakfast for all, Gill met us at 8.30am with a hand-held GPS and a mud-map ready for our excursion to "the claypan" and off we went to explore. By 10.45 we were back again having travelled through a maze of tracks and circumnavigated the entire claypan (massive). There are certainly many options for camping and rogaine activities out there! If there is some rain before the event the claypan can fill to 1m deep across and the locals will drag out their sailcraft. There is a large variety of flora and some historic sites of interest so pottering about exploring will be interesting for those coming to the gathering.

After returning to the Gunbarrel Laarger - Travellers Rest, we decided to packup. I had stored the leftovers of the minestrone soup in a 1.5L nalgene canteen so that was reheated in the microwave for lunch with some hot toast!

From here on we have another 8 nights until we need to be home but our friends Greg and Melissa have asked to meet up with us for 4 nights. The plan is to meet them on Saturday afternoon at Coalseam National Park but this still gives us a bit more time to spend up north. We don't like the prospect of heading south where the weather could be cooler, or even wet so a quick look on the maps had me choosing Lorna Glen as our next stop. We doubled back to Wiluna to restock fuel and milk and then drove the 150km to Lorna Glen and arrived at 3pm.

Lorna Glen is a Conservation Reserve, formerly a pastoral lease to the north-east of Wiluna. DEC acquired the station in 2000 with the intent to remove feral cats & foxes and to trial translocation of native mammals. Bilbies and brush tail possums have been successful and visitors to Lorna Glen can find out more about Operation Rangelands Restoration from the exceptionally accommodating resident caretakers Kaye & Bruce Withnell.

Most documentation about Lorna Glen says bookings are not "essential", however having been there I can clarify that you should definitely enquire first as it appears that the facilities and campground is regularly taken over by visiting groups of environmental scientists. There is also the likelihood of visiting indigenous representatives - 2 weeks prior to our visit the Wiluna Clan staked a native title determination over the property.

There were two other campers (with camper trailers) set-up in the dry creek bed beyond the back gate who had come specifically to Lorna Glen from Mandurah/Bunbury. They had stayed for 5 days exploring various areas of the station and Kaye said she'd give us a map of sites to go out and explore too so it seems we will stay here another day at least. For now the kids were just happy to play on the old fashioned swing set.

Our little animal lover, Leah, was very excited at the prospect of handing possums but Kaye thought yesterday's rain might keep them away for another night - and she was right. In fact, the sky was still stormy and as the sunset the air had a nasty bite to it. We planned to roll out our swags on the grass and utilise the bunkhouse facilities (included with camp fees of $7/night, free for kids), such as kitchen. We ended up snuggling inside the bunkhouse reading all the nature books and stoking up the fireplace until after 8pm at which time the weather cleared and the temperature actually increased to a very pleasant night in the swags.

Dinner: chicken & spinach filo pastry rolls cooked in the Cobb oven and served with snow peas and broccoli. Desert: 3 chocolate coated almonds each!


DAY FIVE: Thursday 2nd October, 2009

We awoke to a lovely morning so David took off for a run along the access track we'd driven in but complained it was very difficult to run on the corrugations! We put on a load of washing and started to plan our day. Whilst we've agreed to stay put at Lorna Glen for another day, this means we won't have time to continue our planned tour further north up to Glenayle, Sydney Heads and back around to rejoin the Gunbarrel Highway (Wongawol Road) at Carnegie but we will explore the northern and western boundaries of Lorna Glen. I was particularly keen to learn the history of Lorna Glen as Gill from Gunbarrel Laarger - Travellers Rest had lived here with her previous husband in the 1970s but she was reluctant to talk much about it. In fact I found out much of the history by browsing through some folders that Kaye and Bruce have in the homestead. You couldn't ask for more helpful people to make your stay enjoyable and interesting, without being intrusive on your privacy.

So armed with a topo map showing feature points we headed off for a tour of the former station. As it has been destocked and dewatered, each site has been signed which made it quite a good tour. We covered 110km and saw numerous wells, bores, beautiful breakaways, dead camels, 1 live camel, roos, finches, galahs etc.

We made it back by 5pm only to find a huge group of campers had taken over the campground, creek bed and homestead and there were a couple of kids. Within moments, one introduced himself on behalf of the others as the WA Landcruiser 4WD Club and told us where they'd been. We were a little worn out and in need of rest so perhaps didn't engage ourselves in conversation as much as we could have but we were later approached again by another from their group who asked "are you ExplorOz fans?" noticing our t-shirts and hats I think. Of course we did clarify who were were and he then admitted to being a long term member also and gave his member number and a card. After we'd rested some more, we warmed up to more conversation with a few more people in their group and enjoyed their company although we kept mostly to ourselves and retired early but not before the kids spotted the brush tail possums, birds and emus that came to feed and drink at sunset at the homestead.

Dinner: mince curry with carrots, snowpeas and left over rice. Dessert: jam rolls with hot custard!

DAY SIX: Friday 3rd October, 2009

David ran at the crack of dawn this morning for about 6km on one of the back roads that seemed less corrugated but the mornings are too nice to sleep in by the time he returned, we'd all started our hot showers, washed hair and begun the packup. We had a long chat with Bruce and Kaye who did not know of ExplorOz but mostly we wanted to learn more about future and the management plans for Lorna Glen. We were a bit disappointed to hear that it was likely that DEC will have to hand over to the Wiluna Clan sometime next year as this would be an excellent site to recommend to travellers coming to the Gathering that weren't heading up the CSR. We paid our $27 for our 2 night stay and took the "back road" out to the Wongawol Road (32km), then back to Wiluna. Along the route we encountered a convoy of 5 vehicles spread out across about 20km. With simple pleasantries exchanged over the UHF radios, I picked up enough clues to realise that Visitor Peter who had already emailed me a mud map to access his property that was ablaze with wildflowers was amongst this group of travellers. We had a quick chat over the airwaves and confirmed we'd be on his block on Monday. They had been on the Hunt Oil Road and were on their way back home.

With full mobile service in Wiluna we were able to catch up with office issues, eat a big greasy lunch at the Gunbarrel Cafe (fish & chips, chicken & chips etc). After a hideously fattening and filling lunch we drove to Meekatharra (fueled up) and then onto our camp destination at Lake Nallan arriving just before 5pm. Once again, we're into wildflower country and the sunset colours were to be enjoyed. I took the kids for an excursion around the lake and through the flower beds whilst David setup our camp and set a lovely campfire. We had a brief chat with a foreign traveller who I saw was holding a paddy melon - I suggested he didn't attempt to eat it to which his partner said "see! I told you!". I actually think he was going to try it, so I explained it was definately poisionous. To this of course, my kids had lots of questions so back at camp we cut open one and talked about bush food and poisions. It was the warmest evening of our whole trip and was very enjoyable - except for the incredible sound of thundering road trains! Dinner: asian noodles stir-fried with asian greens, fillet beef, and thai herbs.

DAY SEVEN: Saturday 4th October, 2009

We had an early start so arrived in Cue at 8.30am but were pleased to find the store open and exceptionally well stocked. We only needed bread, coffee beans, cash and moisturiser but picked up a Science Illustrated magazine too. From Cue we took the dirt tracks to the west then south to Yalgoo via Walga Rock, Dalgaranga Meteorite Crater, an un-named homestead and a couple of mines. We had a fantastic day and if we weren't committed to meeting up with our friends would have stopped and camped at Walga Rock.

Yalgoo was not as expected (from reading the glossy WA Toursim brochures), but they must be very proud of the new travellers toilet block and gazebos with free bbqs - signed with one of those huge bill boards stating it was funded by the Government's Building Economic Stimulus project. We continued on and had a bush stop for lunch and sat amongst the wildflowers on the road the Mullewa. Arriving in Mullewa we stopped at the servo owned by the Brady's (friends) and restocked with milk and iceblocks for the kids. Then checked in at the Railway Hotel to purchase our first alcohol for the trip.

On arrival at Coalseam National Park it was a hot afternoon with flies aplenty at 3pm. We soon spotted our friends and moved our gear into the camp site they had set aside for us. David and I went for a run of about 5km, had a quick wash up and then prepared dinner (chicken schnitzels, carrots, chat potatoes and snow peas). Meanwhile the kids sat in Greg's car and watched DVDs!! By then we had all had enough of the terrible flies and the night turned cold and windy so our friends agreed that our plan to move 200km further south-east to Peter's property would be ideal rather than stay extra nights here.

DAY EIGHT: Sunday 5th October, 2009

We awoke with anticipation of impeding heat and flies so took advantage of the morning cool to walk along the Irwin River bed and check out the park sights. There were lots of puddles in the river bed which kept the kids amused. We had some fun throwing paddy-melons around and the kids dug up some pieces of coal to take home for school "news". Back at camp the flies were intolerable so we quickly packed the camp away ready to drive off but not before Melissa and I took another walk in the other direction up the Irwin River. We drove around each of the park sights - River Bend, Fossil, Breakaways, the Irwin Lookout and took photos and all the walks (very short and easy). In the lookout carpark we found Nick Underwood and Ian Elliot and stopped for a chat. Heading south to Mingenew we stopped for lunch and saw Nick and Ian again. We then eated east to Moraw, then south to Perenjori, Latham and at Maya followed the mud mup I'd received via email from Peter to locate his property on the edge of Mongers Lake. Not a great mud map Peter, but thanks to mobile phone coverage, we were able to phone the homestead and get the right directions but not before getting lost and wasting 45minutes!

The kids thought the salt lake was fantastic fun and whilst we setup camp, they run amuck slipping and slidding (whilst we are aware this would leave unslightly scars til the next rains, we hoped this wouldn't upset farmer Peter?! and let them have their heads to enjoy their childhood).

Our first night was on a full moon so the photography of sunset, moonrise etc was a priority but I didn't have my tripod but i was still happy with the results.

Dinner: chilli con carne with penne pasta.

DAY NINE: Monday 6th October, 2009

I was the first one awake and had my camera in the swag so I could make the most of the sunrise (5.30 - 5.50am). It was a cold start to the day but it quickly warmed up and we had to erect a shade tarp. The kids were having such fun on the salt lake and running around enjoying their freedom - so we let them have their heads. I don't think we've had much free time lately without the kids so for us 4 adults sitting around quietly, our conversation started with the highly taxing game of "eye spy" which had us stumped on even the most basic clues! Some time later when we were gazing across the salt lake from the comfort of the shade and our camp chairs we spotted a mast coming towards us - the kids had gone to the trouble of pushing the land sailer all the way from where we spotted it in the scrub last night (about 500m) back up to our camp. Such a show of effort and determination deserved some reward so as it had a flat tyre the men carried it up to the camp and ran the (underbonnet) aircompressor to inflate it. Then they setup a tow rope and ran around the edge of the salt lake giving the kids joy rides!

For lunch I baked a zuchinni pie (bacon, onion, grated zuchini, eggs, oil, SR flour, grated cheese) in a cake tin in the Cobb oven which took 50mins. Later, Peter came by and took David off on a tour in his vehicle (with a Hema Navigator) to show him some special sites which was very generous of him. We all had a chat for a while but then he headed back home and left us to the camp. Dinner: stir-fried beef fillet strips & morroccan herbs rolled up in wraps with mango chutney.

DAY TEN: Tuesday 7th October, 2009

David started the day with a run out as far as he could see on the salt lake. Upon returning his fancy shoes look ruined and he said it was hard going to get a firm footing.

We perservered again through another hot day full of flies but it was worth it. The kids however were so exhausted from yesterday's activities that they locked themselves in the car (4 across the backset) and played with their electronic gadgets (Pixel Chix and DS), read their mags and books, did drawings etc - all day! They were actually quite smart, the vehicle wasn't hot as it had shade and they rolled the windows down using the sunshades for air so they had cross ventilation and NO FLIES!!

Likewise, the adults spent all day sitting in the shade and read mags and did puzzles. The Science Illustrated mag I'd picked up in Cue was fascinating and we all enjoyed the high-brow quizz! Later than night I burned the New Idea magazine. I also did a little washing - the kids clothes and shoes particuarly were covered in salt lake mud from their slip'n slides of yesterday. I setup the travel clothesline (no pegs required) - from the bullbar of the car to a tree and it's actually rather neat although has a limited number of beads to hook on the clothes so I think next time I'll take a couple.

For lunch I baked on the Cobb again. This time I made seafood pizzas using pita bread, tin crab, tin prawns, a base of red capsicum and cashew pesto paste, topped with fresh red and yellow capsicum, cheese (and jalapenos for David). After finishing lunch I also prepared dinner using the Thermos Shuttle Chef - just 5 -10 mins on the gas cooker to saute and bring to temperature I had a beef casserole with potates, zuchinni and a packet casserole base mix in the pot and slowly cooking for dinner (7 hours) inside the thermal casing using no cooking heat/fuel. If it works I'll be impresed as I am a bit fussy with meals and like food to not only taste good but look good.

Later in the cooling afternoon, David and I went for a long walk to explore the wildflowers, the soak and gnamms holes and take some photos.

Dinner was very tasty, but I think I opened the pot too many times to check it throughout the day and it could have lost some heat so I put it back on the gas for the final 15 mintues and this helped bring the temperature back up to piping hot which I think is needed on a cold night for a casserole. It sure makes the end of the day easy by freeing up the cooks time to enjoy the sunset without having to slave over the camp kitchen so I think it just needs a bit more experimentation to get it perfect.

DAY ELEVEN: Wednesday 8th October, 2009

We packed up camp and departed by 8.30am but now for another technical setback, the helmet cam failed to initialise. We suspect it is due to too much file storage and since we can't download to the laptop, and we don'thave a spare SD card we just had to turn it off and do without. Of course, today on the track lots of intersting things passed our view and were missed filming opportunities - birds hitting the UHF aerial, stumpies slithering across the track, rabbits and wildlife everywhere, and beautiful driving through tall wildflowers along the track. Ah well, at least we don't have to go through the pains of travelling with a professional film crew - this experience is enough to put me off any thought of that being enjoyable!

So, we hit the tar and travelled down the Great Northern Highway through Wubin, Dalwallinu, New Norcia, Bindoon and home by 1pm.

TRIP SUMMARY
*National Gathering plans well in action - logistics seem solved.
*We should take spares harddrives and SD cards (like you would take spares for critical vehicle parts) for even the shortest of trips!
*The Trek & Travel toiletries are good value. I was skeptical of the Shampoo/Conditioner as they never work for me (long, knotty hair that requires gallons of conditioner at home) but have been converted. The bottles shape design is clever - not round, but eliptical so they lie mostly flat in a toiletry bag. There is a stopper that reduces wastage too which I liked. Came home only having used less than half a bottle of wash, ditto shampoo/conditioner - between 4 people.
*The Nalgene canteen has many uses, not just water but left over food (especially if using a slow cooker), and the 1.5L seems the ideal size.
*The clothesline is great - but need two.
* Cobb and slow cooker combo good if not taking camp oven. Could cook everything including dessert so might try this again. Definitely freed up my time in the evening and much less washing up effort.
*The POV helmet cam is cool! We used the 110 wide lens (perfect for head-mounted activities, hiking etc) but for driving footage the landscape is flattened and you cannot zoom so the narrower 70 lens would be better. We used all the mounts - most necessary for getting the right angles but the magnetic tripod was best on the roof. We tested both clip and tag modes and found tag is perfect for capturing stuff you miss - it simply records predefined segments (we set to 1min) and loops over itself until you click tag in which case it saves a copy of that 1min loop starting 30sec prior to when you tagged and 30 secs after.
*The prototype of EOTrackMe worked brilliantly. Our family members knew exactly where we were when we called and were thrilled to be able to see us moving live. When we moved out of mobile service range, the tracker simply draws a straight line between your last postion and your next position detected which was fine for this trip. Surprisingly, mobile service via Telstra 3G was pretty good where we went. However, David is going to look into development of the application for Simbian, rather than iPhone as it will actually store the GPS positions when out of range, and post them to create a more accurate track than what the iPhone can achieve as clearly, for our market a system that can track a plot regardless of mobile coverage is more desirable.

And now, all I need to do is go and upload all my photos to Places and add some of the information I learned about each Place - this will give me more space to give more details and share all the photos I took (a total of 653 in 11 days).
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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