Have you heard of MSO?

The Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA) is the largest RV Club in the Southern Hemisphere. One of the great benefits of the CMCA is the Member Stop Overs (MSO). This relatively new initiative is where some members voluntarily open their private yards or properties for fellow members to stop over on private property for a night or several nights. All members using an MSO is expected to be fully self contained. There are no fees involved. Occasionally some other services such as power may be available but it is at the owners discretion and is not to be expected.

One popular MSO property not far out of the Sunshine Coast are willing to take several vans at once
Each place is different. Some have only the room for one small RV at their place, maybe in their driveway and others might be able to fit in half a dozen or more on a small acreage

This is at our own place. It can fit 2 or 3 depending on the size of the rigs
These private properties are scattered all around Australia. Some are in cities and towns, some are on small farms or properties. There are certain conditions that must be met, such as a courtesy phone call asking if the property is available at the time you hope to roll up. Some allow you to stay more than one night, some allow dogs.

Sometimes it is just at the side of a house
As stated right at the beginning, to make use of the wonderful MSOs that are available right across Australia, you must join the CMCA. There is a one off joining fee of $16.50 plus a yearly membership of $44. There are a lot more advantages of CMCA membership than just the MSO but maybe that can be the topic of a future blog post or you can suss it out at the CMCA website yourself right now.

A disclaimer:
This is just my opinion and from my own personal experiences, which have all been positive. It in no way reflects the official views nor has any permission or payment been sought or given in the making of this blog post. Please regards any mistakes and inaccuracies as my own and then please accept my humble apologies.

Heading north to warmth

Once again we head north for winter to where it is not only warm but we get to catch up with family and many friends we have made on the road. I do feel that we didn't spend as long at home as I would have liked as with a broken wrist and the recovery of  movement in that hand restricted the catch up of gardening etc around the home.



However we packed as much into our brief 4 weeks at home as we could. Catching up with our kids including a family camp at Port Stephens and then welcoming of a new baby, our first grandson were our top priorities.


Various health checks as comes with older age and health issues are par for the course. We were also blessed with catching up with various friends on a one to one basis. Closes family and friends are the fabric that holds as together. De-cobwebing and dusting type housework and the gardening especially weeding are always crying for attention too.



Robbiebago II also had to have various 'health' issues fixed up. The springs were noisy, some part of the gears needed replacing and there's always a few bits and pieces that we think of to make life on the road more comfortable.



Finally we set a date and though it comes too soon for me as I still hadn't caught up with the weeding with my bad hand slowing me down, we were happy to be heading north once again. It has been a mild autumn but the nights were well and truly getting cooler. So the bus is fuelled up and stocked, bits and pieces are packed away and we are off!

First off we visited dear friends in Toronto near Newcastle, who we worked together with on many BCA projects on earlier trips. They invited us to camp overnight to continue the fellowship which we happily did.

Friends from back in 2010
We then went via Port Macquarie and met up with an Aunty whom I have only briefly seen once in about 45 years. It was good to really catch up with her and an uncle who popped by who also lives in Port Mac. Our time all together was very pleasant. We certainly can't let it go so long again. I have cousins I should become reacquainted with too! This is a photo of my self with my aunts and uncle, far too many years ago!


From there we went to Frederickton where they have a very friendly little golf club in the foothills behind Kempsey that welcomes self contained campers. We were thrilled to find out that right next door to the club is a church, the Christian New Life church where we attended on Sunday morning. It is a very welcoming church of all ages with a large musical leadership. Fabulous! It is very similar to our own 10 o'clock services back home without the volume. They were having a meal afterwards and pressed us to stay for lunch which we happily did. There was a lot of encouragement to stay for the monthly evening service too which we had to decline. Not only we had to move on but it had started to rain very early in the morning and we were concerned about getting bogged in the grassy campsite if it got too wet.

Pretty garden at the entry to the Golf Club

Our next campsite was originally going to be very close to the border, but with the later start after church lunch and then a traffic accident just south of Grafton which held us up for more than an hour, we decided to camp at South Grafton. We arrived quite late and left early so no photo.

So we pushed our driving a bit further and drove just across the border to Beenleigh. We are grateful for this campsite which is basically a gravel carpark next to a little grassed park that also borders a little creek. It is also between the highway and the Beenleigh Shopping Centre. It is not the first time we've stayed here as it is quite convenient for us. One time, I'd like to stick around long enough to take the train into Brisbane and do some sight seeing.

Hugh Muntz Park, Beenleigh

From here we will stay with friends in Beerburrum tonight. They are fellow travellers who also have a 1 acre block that welcomes travellers within the CMCA club. We were thrilled to catch up with both sets of friends whom we met here the last time we stayed. Patricia and Rod and Vickie and Rod. The eight of us made great use of happy hours in the foothills of  the Glasshouse Mountains.

Happy Hours with friends in Beerburrum

We are well and truly in Queensland now and that is just where we want to be over winter.

Thai Yellow Curry Fish

Just because one is camping  there is no need to skimp on flavours esp with all the wonderful curry pastes that make simple fast dinners a pleasure to cook as well as to eat. Here is one of my favourite recipes  for 2generous serves that is just perfect for cooking fish, prawns, yabbies etc in your RV. Going fishing anyone?


Thai Yellow Curry Fish

1 Tablespoon oil
1 onion chopped
1 stick celery
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Thai Yellow Curry Paste
2 carrot julianne strips
½  zucchini sliced
pinch salt
400ml coconut cream
2 pieces fish fillets eg blue grenadier or basa
¾ cup rice

Method
Heat oil and gently fry onion garlic and celery for 5 minutes.
Add curry paste.
Add cream to curry mix.
Start cooking rice.
Simmer curry gently for 10 minutes
Add fish & vegetables and cook 10 minutes.
No seasoning required!
Rinse and drain rice.
Serve fish in top of rice, scoop vegetables and sauce over fish.
Garnish with coriander leaves

Can substitute with prawns, yabbies
Also can substitute with curry powder

Free camping at SawPit

This free camp is just 15km from Portland which is one of the western most towns on coastal Victoria.

The actual historic Saw Pit on site

It’s a busy campground, and you can see why, barely off the main road and you feel like you’re miles from everything.

Plenty of room

It is well serviced with a ranger coming past to clean up fire pits etc. We did have any fires whilst here since the fire warnings were a little ambiguous and we though we'd err on caution.
 

Relaxing beside the Robbiebago II

Birds such as kookaburras and the colourful rosellas are plentiful and they come looking for some food, obviously having been fed this way plenty of times before, as did some rather shy wallabies, even a wallaby with a joey in the pouch.

Mamma Wallaby not that you can see the joey very well

We spent a few restful days here. We enjoyed meeting with other RVers and even met up with Hans & his wife who are also members of the Highway Wanderers, which we joined just last year.

A Whaler's  Lookout with Portland on the extreme right side.

A pleasant hour was taken going for a little walk along one of the many bike trails to a whalers’ lookout. There had been a bushfire in the area a few years ago and the black trees standing out against the green of the bracken ferns was just striking.

My recipe organiser

I have had been looking for a while for an efficient way to organise all my tried and true recipes as well as those found in magazines, recipe books an online.


After trying a few, I love using Paprika Recipe Manager (available for Android, iPad & iPhone) It is not free but at just $7.99 I believe it is an excellent way to organize my personal digital recipe is book. Paprika's built in web browser lets you easily search the internet for your favorite recipes and save recipes from many different websites. You can also clip found recipes and save it into your own Paprika file.

My Dutch Pea Soup
I have my own family recipes that have been handed down over the years. I also have a huge pile of recipes that I have collected from various magazines or ear marked in various recipe books, let alone the ones I see on the Internet.

With Paprika, it is simple. The new recipes I find online are so simple to save. It is done for me, no typing other than to delegate what catergories  I want them to have. The older recipes, I can manually type them in and edit these or any of your save recipes in-app. I love the ability to make my own tweaks & adjustments to recipes collected, including those collected off the internet.
Once you've loaded in recipes, you can organize them into various categories of your own choosing, even if you wanted one called Grandma's Recipes.

A screen shot of my own recipe files

There are so many features I love. You can tap on an ingredient after adding it to cross it off the list so no more forgotten ingredients. You can tap on a step in the directions to highlight it. Cook times are automatically highlighted with built-in timers that are easy to adjust if needed. There is even a simple conversion calculator that can be quickly accessed when you are in a recipe. And one of my favorite and most-used features is the automatic recipe scaling, which makes quick work of even awkward calculations like 2/3 or 1/6.I love how the app also detects cooking times, providing built-in timers that you can trigger with a tap as you cook. You can even scale ingredients based on your desired serving size, which is great as many recipes are for families and now there's just my hubby and myself most of the time.

Actually you have an electronic timer built in - I'm just showing off a clock my hubby made!

Some other features I haven't gotten around to using yet (and may never) include a grocery list, meal planners, a pantry log and more are among the many features of this excellent cooking app.

I use Paprika at least 4-5 times a week, and consider it an indispensable tool in my kitchen, both at home and on the road in my motorhome. I still haven't copied all my own recipes into but bit by bit I do. I certainly have been trying out a new recipe almost weekly that I have collected and thus my cooking has improved greatly as well as it has broadened & tantalised my tastes.

My Massaman Prawn and Pumpkin Soup
 
Food presentation is not my forte and thus has a low profile for me but with the saving of recipe photos, my presentation skills have improved too which is nice when having friends over for dinner.

My pride and joy: the wedding cake I made for my daughter

About the only thing I wish it could do is allow me to search by ingredient. Maybe it will come in a future update! 

Great Ocean Road

An almost perfect day greeted us on our chosen day to make the trip up the Great Ocean Road (GOR). This famous road is reportedly is one of the best drives on the planet. Rob has always wanted to drive and see it. Now we have the opportunity, it's too good to miss.

Map includes the rough location of our 2  free camping spots

 

Free Camp

We left our base camp at Lake Colac. It was a beautifully warm day with virtually no wind. We went via the Otaway Ranges to Lorne.
The Great Ocean Road is actually a route registered in the Australian National Heritage list. It is a road 243km long, or 151 miles, that starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford. We thought we'd go first quickly up to Torquay and then cruise the GOR from east to west, keeping the ocean on the left which also makes it easy to pull into anything if we so desired to stop whether it be for a photo shoot or a break.

Bell's Beach

Though not a part of the GOR, Bell's Beach is Victoria’s surfing capital. With 2 sons that love surfing and snorkeling, we just had to stop at Point Addis and post a photo for the boys.

The iconic surfing capital, Bells Beach

Memorial Arch

Of course one must stop at the grand Memorial Arch to the Great Ocean Road here. Did you know that this is the world’s biggest war memorial? It was built by the returning soldiers, between 1918 and 1932, and is dedicated to the many soldiers killed during the WWI. It is between Lorne and Aireys Inlet.

Aireys Inlet

A lovely inlet and picnic area with a cute hamlet town.


Port Campbell National Park

Gibson Steps are a part of the sprawling expanse of Port Campbell National Park. The steps were carved into the cliff face, where decades of years of rain and wind have sculpted and honed them to perfection. We elected not to go down the steps however you can see the two stacks in the ocean known as Gog and Magog, from the viewing platform at the top of the steps.

Gog and Magog

In places there was some haze in the sky in places due to controlled back burning south west of Apollo Bay. This affected the view and little and certainly the photos but hey, it can't be perfect 100% of the time.
The haze did detract a little but the magnificence was still there.

The 12 Apostles

The 12 Apostles is the Great Ocean Road’s most popular stop. Though they are called the 12 Apostles, there are only 8 pillars left standing, with the 9th, and tallest, having collapsed in early July 2005. The Apostles and the nearby cliff faces are eroding at a rate of 2cm each year as they are buffeted by wind and waves all year round. If you take a closer look at the sandstone pillars, you will notice the many different layers of limestone.


There are so many beautiful spots to stop and take a variety of photos. I can't remember the various names of them all. Just enjoy the photos.


Conclusion

Yes it is absolutely wonderful. The first part of the drive from Torquay to around Apollo Bay reminds us very much of the magnificent Grand Pacific Drive back home in Wollongong. So we were just a little spoilt, but after this, the rest of the drive there is no comparisons.
There's really not much more that I can say. Just go for a drive and see it for yourself. It is a gently undulating road offering stunning views, sheer cliff scenery, cool rainforests, and an abundance of natural landmarks. You wont regret it.


The many benefits of free camping

Lots of room free camping at Bethune Park, Ouse, Tas
We’ve been free camping for about 6 years now - all round Oz! It started as a stop gap when travelling huge distances in Western Australia and we didn’t have the energy to continue to drive to the next caravan park. We saw a bunch of RVs and thought we found a Caravan Park that wasn’t on our book.

From this we discovered many benefits of free camping.

It’s free:

Oh duh! That's why it is called free camping. Personally I like the term "freedom camping" even better! What a great way to offset the cost of travelling especially these huge distances within Australia.

 

It’s friendly:

Especially if you have rocked up to a popular site, you’re instantly welcomed into the grey nomad set. Popularity is governed generally by the natural beauty of the spot, the ease of parking, accessibility to a nearby town or tourist attraction and/or a toilet. Once in a while you will strike one with free showers and/or maybe even power too! These rare gems are treasured and word gets out and about.  So make sure to get there early for a good spot! Pay If there is a donation box there, please make the donation so that there is a good chance these places are still there for others to enjoy. (By the way, to these providers I say a hearty thank you!)

You might even get lucky with an impromptu music sing along

 

No booking required: 

It is great for those that don’t plan their journey too rigourously. You can just pull up when you are ready. No need to stick to an agenda, so if you like a place, you can stay and investigate (within site regulations) and if you don’t like it then you can move on quickly! Another reason why I prefer the term "freedom camping".

Just rock up when you are ready to stop

It’s easy going: 

Most grey nomads are a friendly easy going lot. Who can you complain to if the long drop is rather stinky or the ground is not level. You don’t have to use it or stay there! Frequently there is someone who has started a fire (when allowed) and there’s likely to be a happy hour going somewhere from anytime esp around 4-6pm which are generally open to all comers with smile, or start up your own! Even if you want your own company, you can have that too, just park on the fringes.


Mates around a campfire

 

Security is what you make it: 

This is the toughest part of free camping. Generally both commonsense and experience when camping but in most places campers are a friendly neighbourly bunch. Still we feel more secure if at least one camper joins us at a free camp. Having said that, we’ve never had a single negative experience in terms of security. However I would say trust your instincts or you’re in for a long night. We will stop at a free camp where there are no other campers, usually by 2pm. Sometimes it just take one to stop and others travelling by might decide to stop there too now that someone has stopped first. If no one else has stopped to join us by 4pm then we might move on to the next place that has some people. Again trust your instincts! Take photos of other campers esp their rigs and number plates if you like. (It is easy to delete them the next morning when you wake up.) Don't forget to lock your doors. Security is what you make it!


 

Usually Pet friendly:

Another advantage of free camping is that your fur baby is welcome too. They are usually prohibited in National Parks and some council sites. In order to maintain this privilege please keep your dog on a lead if required; or if other people, wildlife or stock are around - and for goodness stake, please pick up their droppings!

A gorgeous staffy kept on a lead

Do your research: 

Do you have enough power, water and food for the duration of your camp? Not all places welcome genies and fires. Don’t forget your toilet. If you need to go bush toilet, then take a shovel or even a garden spade and hide the evidence including toilet paper and go a long away from the populated areas.
Aussie True Blue Bush toilet!
or a bring your own toilet

Where these free camps?

We use 2 apps as our main sources of information: WikiCamps and GeoWiki (the latter is available to CMCA members only). Next we use word-of-mouth through questions and chats usually over happy hour. We started off with CampsAustraliaWide books but that is less and less often now since we have the apps. RV and Caravan magazines are another way to learn about free camps. Last but not least is the Tourist Information Offices in many towns. They have personal knowledge of their areas as well as brochures on what’s available in their area as well as interesting places to sight see whilst you’re in the area.


So if you are yet to try free camping rest assured there is an entry level to suit any comfort zone. A little research is all you need. We just appreciate the choice is ours!

The painted toilets at Frances Creek, Qld
See you on the road or at the next free camp somewhere in Oz!