Your Trip Right

Steps of Girrba

Christmas in the Barrington's

Touching down in a big jet plane for Christmas 2014 was quite a treat. It was made even better when we added a camping trip to the Steps Of Girrba in the Barrington’s. Not many people would have had an experience of getting off a plane to go camping — It’s quite logistical getting all the equipment together. We were rather fortunate. We headed out in a hydraulic powered Extreme Camper and a 200 series Sahara LandCruiser. Things were not tough for us.

The LandCruiser belonged to Jess’ parents, and it’ engine had been enhanced engine chip  and a three-inch exhaust. With my grandparents 980kg camper behind it, the car drove just as well as my Prado without a load!

Jess’ sister, Rachel, jumped in the car with us since room was of a premium in her parents’ LandCruiser Ute, what with four bikes, two canoes, the fridge, and all the camping gear.

It is a great drive from Newcastle out to the steps and even worth a day trip if you’re not into camping. My Faithful BlackBerry took us down the road less travelled however eventually came good on its promise to get us to the Steps of Girrba

Setting up the extreme camper is quite a novelty. My grandfather had Jess’ father, Glenn, put hydraulics on it to open and shut it as it was quite heavy for their aging bones. Setting up camp, we got a lot of looks of awe, and even some of disbelief. One might call it a campground showstopper.

There was a wide and varied crew coming out with us. Jess’ parents were in a Jayco Swan, my grandparents in a Jayco Heritage, as well as some older vans and tents.

On the trip I could not help but notice the amount of portable solar panels being used. Most people had them. Jess and I have rarely even thought about one as we drive often enough and for long enough that the dual batteries are adequate. Since adding the T-van to the equation we have an extra 220 amp hour, we have not found the need for a solar panel.

There were also a few Arc packs getting around. Arc Packs are portable battery units that have a range of uses you can use alligator clips to your battery and use Anderson plugs to attach them to your camp accessories, and some even have 240 volts. To be honest I can’t get my head around them. They are very heavy and hard to move. If you’re a bit older they are almost hazardous to move. They require manual charging either through a 240-volt at-home, Anderson plug in the car or solar power. They do not have more amp hours of a dual battery set up. And, to top it off, they are not that cheap. But they are handy if you have two cars and don’t want to put two dual battery systems in it or you want to move the Arc Pack between the car and your caravan or camper. I have also heard the battery maintenance technology inside them is quite advanced.

Both Glenn and Jess’ grandfather Morrie had these. It was quite interesting to watch the difference between the two over the week. Glenn had a 120amp with a 1800 watt solar panel topping them up. Glenn was running his 20-year-old Engle fridge and some LED lights. Morrie had a 80amp with a 1200-watt solar panel running a new ARB fridge and lights. Morrie's Arc Pack hardly moved off 100 percent full and by 10a.m. in the morning it was full again. Glenn could not keep the power up to it with just the solar and on the third day when it was down at 46% took the Arc Pack for a drive to top it up. The weather was not ideal for the solar charging and Glenns Arc Pack could have made it through the weekend, however it highlights how far the modern fridge has come.

We also camped with Daniel Duggan. Daniel has the most kitted out FJ Cruiser I have seen The FJ also featured lithium batteries. Daniel also has a lithium battery in his caravan. At 120amp/hours and 1100 CC, it was as light as a feather (I’d  guess around 8kg). The technology is still in its infancy, and the battery did not boast any greater power capacity then what’s currently available, however the weight was exciting. If I were to replace my TVAN batteries with two lithium ones, I think I could save up to 30kg. I believe that in the future the power capacity of these batteries will blow current technology to pieces.

Around the camps there were an even mix of campers and caravans. Despite the wet weather, they all fared well.

There were some interesting cars to be checked out as well. Glenn and Wayne both have cruiser Utes with big tyres, exhausts, and chips. Wayne has taken his additions a bit further though, and we would like to feature his car soon.

Nathan, my uncle, and Robert, my grandfather, both came out in 100 series LandCruisers and two Hiluxes rounded out the cars.

The weekend was a damp one, but we had a hot afternoon on Boxing Day. However after that, it rained almost nonstop. The grounds held up really well — not many puddles and no mud. The activities were great, even in the wet conditions. We all had a go in the boats. Glenn and Deb paddled white water for Australia and know there way around the rapids. Jess and I went with Glenn and Morrie, who is also a very hand paddler. We left the camp ground and turned left around 1.5 km down the road where there is public access for people to put boats in. I found the white water to be not big, but still it was  quite daunting, especially when I flipped upside down. Understandably, I  was very panicked by being stuck in my boat. After I knew I could get out and the first wave of rapids, I felt a lot better. The rapids were really fun and if you don’t have the boats or the experienced people to go with make sure you check out these guys.

I was treated to a mountain bike facility. Now the MTB track was enough for the rest of the family and was adequate for me, considering this was my first ride back in six months. There were a good length of trails, and it was by no means boring. For a family bike ride it was perfect. For the more accomplished rider keep in mind it was not built for you. There is some fun, however, given the ability of people using the tracks and the mix of crossing the roads you won’t be able to open up enough for you to get full value out of the tracks. You will also quickly get a bit tired of the loop. But do take your bike.

It was rumoured around our campsite that they would be building a new toilet and shower facility.

The kids loved it — my six cousins and Layla had a ball. It is a great spot raining or shine, and you should check out the Steps of Girrba!

​Brett Toll

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