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Bylong Creek Continued
We sure have enjoyed our stay at Bylong Creek, 4X4 park, the people, the whole off-road experience. One of the benefits of coming to a park like this is you get so many terrain environments in such a compact space. It’s a perfect opportunity to put your 4X4 or your off-road van through it’s paces, all in the one place. You quickly learn what your gear is capable of and what you do and do not know. That’s how you learn.
As we are packing up, Macca and Tania cook brekky, and doesn’t it smell good!  Another one of Macca’s “one pan” wonders. Grated Potato, Bacon, Onion, melted cheese, Macca decides he is going to call this creation his “Bylong Creek Hashbrown.”
Overnight we have received another inch of rain; this Basalt Clay is going to be slippery. You know what they say, “what goes up must come down,” we got these vans up here, now we are going to have to get them back down again. On the way up the hill these vans were a dead weight holding us back, now they will be pushing us down the hill. We have a quick chat about it and decide that low and slow is the order of the day. We check tyre pressures, make sure that all our gear is secure. We pick a low gear, stay light on the breaks and keep the vans moving slowly. With a little bit of slipping and sliding, we get them down without too much fuss. This park sure has been a great experience. We recommend everyone head out there and have some fun.
Leaving the Bylong Creek 4X4 park, we head through Ryalston, a quick stop to get some fuel and then onto Kandos. We have heard about a neat little motorcycle museum in Kandos, and we can’t wait to check it out.  If you are into old school motorbikes, especially Harley Davidsons then make sure you stop and the Kandos Motor Cycle Museum. You will see some very rare bikes on display, plenty of vintage bikes that you won’t see anywhere else. Ken and takes us through a quick guided tour. Hearing about the history of these incredible machines and how difficult it is in restoring them gives you are a real appreciation for the passion and hours of love that goes into a museum like this. There is a vast range of bike
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Kandos to Kurri Kurri
Well, today we are back on the road, were traveling from Kandos to Kearsley. But first stop is a quick pit stop in at the Bylong General Store, a great place to stock up on supplies, grab a coffee, also a good place for a chat and a great source of local information. 
So it’s back to the black stuff today, and we head through the Hunter Valley and into Kurri Kurri. We got a few mountains to navigate first, and by this stage, our break pads on the Lotus Caravans and Galaxy Caravans have well and truly seated in, so they are even easier to tow and break. We have a short stretch of dirt road to navigate before we head through Jerrys Plains and onto the Golden Highway. Back on the highway and these vans are just as capable as any road-van and equally a pleasure to tow.
On the road when towing a van, you are often slower than other vehicles, and in some sections of road you can’t pull over and let people through. We have all experienced it, impatient drivers stuck behind a caravan. Just keep moving and let people through when it is safe to do so. After a few hours drive, we come into Kurri Kurri, and it’s a chance to swap the vans and 4×4’s for something a little more nimble and faster around the track. We are have just arrived at Go Karts Go in Kearsley just outside of Kurri Kurri. It didn’t take long for the talk between Macca and Tania to escalate to a challenge, and the loser has to cook dinner. Macca is pretty confident he’ll have no trouble rounding up Tania, but I have seen her handle a 4×4 and tow a caravan and she is no slouch. I am not sure if Macca remembers that Tania has driven in a celebrity race or two before, this should be interesting. After getting fitted with hairnets and helmets, it’s time to race. Tania is first out on the track, closely followed by Macca. And to be honest, that’s the position they stay in all afternoon. Macca was never able to round her up. It looks like Macca is making dinner tonight!
After an enjoyable time at the Go Karts we push on through to Maitland and an overnight stop in Maitland at the Coachstop Caravan Park, Tomorrow we push on through to Stockton for a few days and a chance to check out the sites of Newcastle.
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Maitland to Stockton

We are hitting the road again with a quick drive from Maitland to Stockton, it’s a nice easy run, past the coal loaders on Kooragang Island, over the Stockton bridge and a sharp right hand turn into Stockton. For the next two nights, we are staying at the Stockton Beach Holiday Park. The park is situated right on the water’s edge, hosting by a stunning beach that stretches 32 km from Stockton at the southern end to Anna Bay in Port Stephens at the northern end. The day we arrive 5” waves are rolling in, and the surfers are all out checking out the waves, apparently the waves are usually not that great for surfing in Stockton, but today they’re great. Stockton Beach Holiday Park has 27 cabins in two and three bedroom configurations. They have a range of powered sites and unpowered sites for vans including eight ensuite sites. They have two amenity blocks and new modern camp kitchen. If you love a holiday park on a beach, then you can’t go past this place, and if that didn’t satisfy you, there is the Newcastle Harbour at your doorstep, where you can sit and watch an active working harbour or take a quick 3min ferry ride across to Newcastle.

We quickly position our vans on some powered sites and decide because it’s such a stunning day we are going to get out and have a look at Newcastle. Now there is a light onshore wind blowing, and the tip is if we head in to Newcastle we might see a bunch of people hang gliding and Paragliding. We might even see if we can get Macca to have a go. We head over to an amazing lookout high above Glenrock Beach and meet up with Tony from Newcastle Paragliding Tony gives us a quick instruction, and then we have to make a decision about who is going over the edge. Because there is only a light breeze Tony is not confident the wind is strong enough to lift him and Macca. The option is to come back later, or we get someone else a bit lighter than Macca to strap in. Tania, it is then. She has never done Paragliding but this girl is up for anything, and her attitude is, “what the heck, you only live once” way to go, Tania! Just quietly Macca looks relieved he is not going over the edge.cAfter getting fitted out with a helmet and all the safety harnesses, Tania and Tony are all rigged up in a tandem configuration. They get in position, and Tony inflates the large sail above them. We wait for the big run and jump off the cliff. There is none of that, a quick adjustment of the two handles by Tony and they are up and away, it’s just so graceful and effortless; there off soaring along the cliff faces of Newcastle, in front of them just blue sky and ocean. Later when Tania lands and I ask her how the experience was? She says, “it was the closest you can come to flying, completely amazing” Paragliding is such a great way to see a coastline, it docent use any power, doesn’t make any noise or emit any pollution, you just need the wind to blow and a sense of adventure. Well, we are off to a good start in Stockton and Newcastle. The place has a very nice feel to it, we know we are going to enjoy it here, there is so much more to see and do, can’t wait for tomorrow.

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Stockton to Nelson Bay
Today we head out of Stockton and making our way north to the jewel that is Port Stephens. But we have a few interesting stops along the way. The first place we visit is the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter at Bobs Farm what a fantastic hands-on experience. There are over 180 Sharks and Rays on hand to touch and feed. Macca and Tania are both up for the experience, so it’s on with the waders, a quick check of how many fingers they have and time to jump in the pool and pat a shark. If you have ever had a fear of sharks or Rays, you are not alone but by going to a place like the Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter you quickly realise there are so many more species of sharks and Rays and they are not all villains. Some like the sleeping shark are actually very placid. Getting in the water with them is a unique experience, learning about how they live and what threatens them in their environment is awesome, getting kissed by a giant Ray, well that’s a whole another thing.
With the shark and ray experience under the belt, and more importantly, no casualties, it was time to trek just a little further north to the sleepy seaside town of Shoal Bay to get camp setup at the gorgeous Shoal Bay Holiday Park. The facilities here are second to none, and we wasted no time in unhitching and heading back down the road for a little off-road fun!
Port Stephens is world-famous for being home to the massive Stockton sand dune system, a collection of constantly moving dunes that stretches out along 32km of coastline, and covers more than 2,500 hectares!
We met up with Bruce and Nicole from 4WD Tag-A-Long Tours, and headed off for the dunes for a little bit of an off-road thrill in the sand! But before we hit the serious stuff, Bruce and Nicole wanted to show off a terrific little spot called Big Rocky that is home to an array of birdlife that features more species than even the mighty Kakadu NP up north! Some of the birds here were quite curious about us, to say the least!
But the light was fading fast, so we made a beeline for the little town of Anna Bay, and entered the northern end of the massive dune system. Macca and Tania were aboard the big G&S Chassis Land Cruiser, with Sal behind the wheel, and it wasn’t all smooth sailing, with Sal getting the big Cruiser a little bogged! Haha! Macca and Tania had the adrenaline pumping going up and down the super steep dunes, and Tania even went for a ride with Nicole in her beasty old Land Cruiser!
Before long the light had all but disappeared, and we sat back to take in what was a truly magnificent sunset over the dunes.
Yep, the team is doing it pretty tough out here in Port Stephens, but it’s alarms set for a 4 am start tomorrow for the next adventure – what could it be?
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Stockton & Newcastle

We are up and at it again today in Stockton, there is something very soothing about waking up to the sound of waves breaking on the shore. It’s time to get out and explore some more of Newcastle, but before we do it’s a quick brekky right on the beach at Lexies on the beach great food, fast, friendly service and one of the best locations for a cafe you’ve ever seen.

After a quick drive into Newcastle, we pull up at the Queens Wharf to meet Chris from Newcastle’s Famous Tram tours  Chris drives a replica of one of the trams that used to work in Newcastle in the 1920s. It’s a fun and quirky way to explore the city and tap into Chris’s wealth of local knowledge. We go for a quick tour of all the cities beaches, some old forts like Fort Scratchley, King Edward Park, we also stop and have a wander around the magnificent Christ Church Cathedral, a stunning old church. If you are new to town, it’s an excellent way to get an overview of the whole city and decide which places you want to go back and spend more time looking around. One of the places that we were all very grateful Chris stopped at was the Anzac Memorial Walkway. It’s a 450m cliff top walkway that both commemorates the 100th anniversary of ANZACs landing at Gallipoli in 1915 and gives you the most incredible view of the city and the ocean. What a fantastic asset to the city, well worth your time to make the short walk, you can even read the names of locals who went off to war. Depending on the time-of-year, you might even be lucky enough to see some whales making their way up the coast.

Well were back to Stockton Holiday Park and it’s cooking time again. Tonight Macca and Tania are working on a French Onion Soup made from scratch and a family recipe that Tania got from here sister, fish tacos, not too sure about the fish tacos, but after seeing Tania cooking the Tasmanian Salmon, adding salsa and salad, they sure do look pretty good.  While dinner is cooking there are a few people in the park the want to take a look through the Lotus Caravan, the boys from G&S Chassis are on hand to show them through.

We sure have enjoyed our time in Stockton and Newcastle. We know we’ve barely scratched the surface, but we like what we have seen so far. Tomorrow we continue our way up the coast to Port Stephens for more adventures.

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Mudgee
We’re saying goodbye to Dubbo for now and making our way over to Mudgee. For the duration of the next two weeks, we are joined by Salvatore & Marc from G&S Chassis. They’re getting their hands dirty and lending a hand with towing the vans. It’s great having them along, as we can ask questions and learn from the experts about the importance of getting the right suspension set-up for an Off-road van. On this trip, we’re towing three vans from Lotus Caravans and Galaxy Caravans. All have G&S Control Rider independent suspension fitted, and we can’t wait to get them off-road!
So it’s back out onto the highway, travelling through the countryside that Henry Lawson grew up in, and it is stunning! Our first stop in Mudgee is the Short Sheep Micro Winery, and the owners Sue & Tony are there to meet us. They have laid out a beautiful spread of local produce to complement some of their fabulous wines. While Tania is off talking with Sue about how the name ‘Short Sheep’ came about, Macca is heading over to the bar with Tony to sample a few of the wines.  You’ll find them open seven days a week from 10:30 am -5:30 pm, no need to make a booking unless you’re in a large group, and the wines are worth the trip out. They even have accommodation, if you are looking for a place to stay.
After stocking up on some wines for our trip, it’s time to hit the road again and make for our campsite. Tonight we’re staying at Old Bara Campgrounds a stunning private cattle property that offers over 1100 acres of beautiful countryside, and it’s our first chance to get these vans off-road and put this G&S chassis and suspension through its paces. Having all three vans fitted with the Control Rider, trailing arm and independent suspension means that an uncomfortable ride is removed from the equation. This allows us to focus on driving to the conditions and making sure we have enough width and height to get our vans through. Whatever we threw at these vans they ate it up, causeways, cattle grids, undulating tracks, corrugations, creek crossings; the trip was made so much easier, because we had the right vans that were set up with the right suspension. 
By the end of another big day, it was time for us to make camp while Tania and Macca cooked up a feast for all the crew.
How good is this!
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Mudgee continued
We have our second day exploring Mudgee today. There are so many things to visit and see. There is such a great atmosphere to the town. Not only is it neat and tidy, but it’s also actually gorgeous. All the shops are filled, the buildings are in excellent condition, and the only thing you see on the ground are the autumn leaves. 
It has been a 4 am start for us this morning, and it got quite cold overnight. We are greeted with a light fog as we drive into the entrance of Blue Wren Wines; surely we can’t be doing a wine tasting at 4 am. Just before we arrive at the cellar door, we take a quick right-hand turn, and we find ourselves in the middle of a large open paddock with bear vines behind us. Even the sun is still thinking about getting out of bed. Craig and Sam from Balloons Aloft meet us. We are about to ride in a Hot Air balloon over Mudgee to catch a sunrise. This should be fun, but Macca looks nervous. First off is the safety drill and the guys from Balloons Aloft really put you at ease, ensuring that everyone’s safety is their number one concern. The balloon is inflated which is a mesmerising experience in itself. Then it’s up and standing tall above us. Before you know it, it’s time to jump in the basket. There is no time to waste; this baby wants to soar. We have lift-off, slowly rising above the township, catching the first rays of golden light as they sweep across buildings and treetops. Now, this is the way to see Mudgee. We gently float across town and come down like were on pillows in the middle of another open field. The support truck and some of our vehicles are there to meet us. Everyone then lends a hand to pack away the balloon. All this activity so early in the morning builds up and appetite, some just want coffee. We are fortunate enough to have Paul and Chef Kip from Blue Wren Wines on standby with the most fantastic breakfast spread you can imagine. What a stunning venue Blue Wren Wines have, animals wander freely around the garden and fresh herbs are flourishing everywhere. After a quick chat with Paul and Kip, it’s time to farewell the team from Balloons Aloft and Blue Wren Wines. 
We head on over to the Mudgee Riverside Caravan & Tourist Park. Owners Ian and Lyn are on hand to welcome us with warm country hospitality. We have brought into the park the aptly named Galaxy Nemesis caravan into the park. It’s an impressive van, fully equipped for off-road and underpinned by the world class G&S Flow Rider suspension and a tough checker plate exterior. This is a serious off-road caravan, packed with all of the creature comforts but built to stand up to the most punishing environment. We can’t wait to take this van offload tomorrow.
Before we go, Tania has one last request; she would like to see a bit more of Mudgee but this time on the back of a trike. Did you ever picture Tania Kernaghan as a bikie chick, well let me tell you she can pull it off!! Nick from Mudgee Trikes comes straight to our caravan door to do a pick. Nick’s trike is a head turning BOOM Mustang Trike imported from Germany.  There’s room on the back for two so Macca swaps his Akubra for a helmet, and he and Tania are off to see some more sites in town. We drop into the old railway station, take a browse through their arts and craft store, then it’s off to the most beautiful park you have ever seen. Lawson Park sits at the northern end of the main town centre and has the Cudgegong river flowing through the middle of it. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to say goodbye to Nick and to wrap up our stay in Mudgee. What an amazing town, the facilities are top notch, every local we have met have all been so proud of their town. It feels like Mudgee has reached critical mass interns of establishing itself as one of the must-see towns in NSW. We highly recommend stopping in Mudgee on any trip you plan to make. We are all making plans to stop back in.
Stay tuned for tomorrows adventure!

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Bylong Creek
We are pushing on from Mudgee through the Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, well worth a stop for a photo, through Wollah and into the Bylong Valley. It is a very scenic trip, with lots of variations in the country side, there has been a few steep climbs but nothing too serious. 
 
Our destination today is the amazing Bylong Creek 4×4 Park. We’ll make camp here tonight and have a bit of a play around the property and explore the surrounding towns tomorrow. Bylong Creek 4×4 Park is 800 acres of heaven. Owned and operated by Bruce and Suzie, you won’t meet two more friendly, eager to help park owners than these guys. They are there to make sure you are safe and enjoy your time. The Park has a bit of everything; located in a Valley of aged cliff towers and either side of the valley a creek runs through the middle of the property. The drive into camp is a well-maintained dirt road with a few creek crossings, a few tight sections where we weave our way between massive boulders of granite. The park is a haven for campers, bike riders, 4WDers, caravaners and anyone wanting to get out onto an excellent property and have some fun. We are making our way to the bottom camp, one of the several campsites; honestly, you could camp pretty much anywhere you want, but there are toilets and firewood close-by to several of the camps. Today the park has received about 30mm of rain. Many of the tracks are thick clay, and the addition of the water makes for a slippery surface. We are towing these offload vans and their setup with fantastic suspension, giving us lots of ground clearance. Actually, in some instances, we have more ground clearance in the vans than in the cars. 
 
As we come around the corner, were met with quite a steep hill of smooth clay. Our day is about to get interesting. We know we are traveling with recovery gear, winches, maxi tracks, snatch straps and our secret weapon; Bruce on hand with a Unimog if we get stuck. We are up for challenging ourselves and the vans. This is how you learn, get out there and have a go. Sal from G&S Chassis is first up in his 200 series land cruiser. With exhaust and chip work, he is packing north of 850nm of torque, add to that all-terrain tires and lockers all round; if Sal can’t get up the hill, no-one is getting up the hill. Off he goes, with power to burn. We quickly realise that in slippery clay it doesn’t matter how much power you have, traction is king. We have have been running highway pressure in the tires, so Sal decides to get out and drop the pressure to suit conditions. Once he does that, he makes it to the top! The other vehicles have standard road tires and a bit less power, so we were glad to get some assistance from Bruce to help us up.
 
We have now arrived at camp; we set up the caravans; this is happening quite quickly now, I have been impressed with the Lotus Caravan and Galaxy Caravan. We have given these vans a real workout today, through some challenging terrain. We have had the clearance we needed; the vans haven’t been bounced around all over the place. They have been rock solid. And when you finally arrive at your destination there you have all the creature comforts you could want. The barbie is lit, the steaks and sausages are cooking, now what about a fire? It looks like it might rain again tonight, could make for an exciting day tomorrow.
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