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‘Bungles to Brissie – #5 – Terry Hie Hie

Tuesday morning! Normal Business day – hooray! We got up and headed a few streets up to the Dunlop mechanics we had spied on Saturday hoping they would be able to fix the tyre today (and somewhat quickly). We were in luck. We dropped the truck and headed to the cafe for breakfast. Well what else were we supposed to do !!!!

With a little bit of shopping under our belt – an array of odds and ends that would make you laugh, we got the text to say the truck was ready.

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Saturday’s lunch pub – The Imperial .. and rocking some solar
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The breakfast cafe – Sisterellea’s Cafe (Black and White sign)
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The Clock Tower
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And Memorial

So with Charlie looking a little more flash with his proper tyre back on and spare under the rear we headed back to the park to collect Leeroy and get back on our way.

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Looking slightly better

Narrabri

We drove through to Narrabri and stopped at the always helpful and welcoming Visitor Centre to grab some information (and update some old ones). I had sort of forgotten/not realised that it was cotton harvest time, thinking it was later in April. So i was pretty stoked to see this display and hear that the cotton was out and ready to be harvested.

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Cotton display at the VC, hopefully a good sign

Not too far into our drive our first crop of cotton for the trip was spotted.

Terry Hie Hie Aboriginal Area

We were making our way to Terry Hie Hie Aboriginal Area, 50km south-east of Moree. Terry Hie Hie features six significant cultural reserves.

Beginning at Terry Hie Hie picnic area, Yana-y Warruwi walking track offers a scenic stroll through the beautiful vegetation surrounding the township.

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Information board at the start of the walk.

The traditional Kamilaroi Aboriginal People once used this area for important ceremonial gatherings, and evidence of this usage still remains in the form of axe-grinding grooves on rocks.

Starting with cypress pine and silver leaf ironbark woodland, the track then weaves through open grassland and smooth bark apple woodland.

Ezzy’s Crossing

With sunlight starting to run out, we made the run to our next camp spot at Ezzy’s Crossing near Gravesend, just in time for a beautiful sunset.

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Pull up, reverse in
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Pop the top and it’s beer o’clock
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And sunset sets all around you.
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‘Bungles to Brissie – #4 – Pilliga Exploring

Monday morning. For most of the crew (read everyone but us!) it was home time. A good feed of pancakes every way you like them had us all ready for the pack up and drive ahead.

Coonabarrabran Bound

Packed up and ready to go we said our goodbyes and confirmed the location from last night for next year. We bid farewell and safe travels before heading off into Coonabarrabran. With Easter we hadn’t been able to get the tire fixed and we weren’t keen on continuing the trip without a spare, so we had decided to sit the night out in Coona and get the wheel fixed first thing tomorrow (Tuesday)

We arrived at the John Oxley Caravan Park just on the edge of the Main Street and the managers were fab, giving us a spot straight away and letting us stay as long we needed tomorrow to get the wheel fixed.

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Quick awning on, and it was time for some lunch before heading off to explore

The Sandstone Caves

With the van unhitched and most of the day to burn (Coona is about an hour from Tooraweenah) we headed back to the Pilliga and to the sandstone caves.

Situated around a large sandstone outcrop, the Sandstone Caves are a series of cathedral type caves and overhangs displaying an array of interesting colours and shapes, formed over tens of thousands of years through the weathering of the fragile sandstone. The Sandstone Caves are an Aboriginal site for the local Gamilaraay people. Grinding grooves, rock art and other Aboriginal sites provide a strong link to their history and country.

The track is well maintained and loops around the rock. There are a few sections of steps and there is a toilet near the junction of the loop .

There are two sites secured off to exhibit some of the indigenous history of the caves.

What a shame that signs like this are even needed!

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We shouldn’t even need this sign !

The rock is amazing how it changes colour and shape and the grooves and holes.

The view around the rock is pretty awesome as well.

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The view from the track is stunning
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Yaminba Lookout View

Sculpture in the Scrub

From the caves we decided to head out to the sculpture in the scrub, so it was back to the Newell Hwy before hitting the dirt again. This section of the Pilliga has been hit hard by bushfires and quite recently in some places.

Deep in the vast Pilliga Forest lies Dandry Gorge and the Sculptures in the Scrub. Once a secret location of the Aboriginal Gamilaroi People it is now an extraordinary place for all to share.

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By the time we arrived at the car park we could hear some rumbling in the sky off in the distance so we knew we didn’t have time to lounge about. We headed off on the walk which is slated to take about 2 hours. The track takes you along the top of the ridge where there are 5 different sculptures before looping back down under the cliff along the river bed and then back up again.

There is an awesome picnic area at the carpark area.

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Sculptures in the Scrub – Picnic Area

It’s a well maintained track and despite going up and down is reasonably easy going. With the thunder getting close and the clouds getting greyer we managed it in about an hour, so two hours is a very comfortable timeframe to allow.

The five unique sculptures reflect and acknowledge the local Gamilaroi people, their culture and the Pilliga Scrub itself. The first four sculptures were created back in 2009 by artists who worked with the local community to create artworks that held true meaning with the Gamilaroi people. These sculptures are called

1) Scrub Spirits.

2) First Lesson

3) Yundu Yundu

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Yundu Yundu

4) Connections

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When the milky way appears the emu lays its eggs
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The Rainbow Serpent and the Warrumbungles

The fifth sculpture, called Respect Mother, was unveiled in 2012 and created by and for the Gamilaroi women. Respect Mother consists of five elements that represents the five communities in the Gawambaraay Pilliga Co-Management Committee.

Once you descend down into the valley as walk around the base and look up you can see two of the sculptures.

I decided before heading off home that i would throw the drone up. It’s been a little bit of an adventure with the drone until more recently when i worked out the sequence to get it all to connect, so i was hoping the sequence would work this time, and it did! So much more fun when it only takes a few minutes to get it up in the air compared to the 20-30 minutes i was previously having to endure.

With a quick car park flight under my belt we kept an eye for a spot to pull over on the way out to try and capture the devastation the fires have left behind.

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Looking out to the Newell Hwy and the impending Storm
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The road to Dandry Gorge
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Looking back towards the Warrumbungle Ranges

At the moment this whole area is under a fight against coal seam gas, and i cant imagine (and don’t want too) what it would be like if a fire like what went through here already, went through an area with coal seam gas vents, venting.

We found a great location and up went the drone again.

Coona for the night

We arrived back at the park just on sunset. A few kms before the end of the dirt we hit the storm you can see in the drone pics above, an rained pretty steady off and on all the way back to Coona. Not having planned for rain and only staying one night we had put the quick awning up which means a small space over the side of the van has cover but the rear kitchen does not. So on went the rain coat and dinner and I managed to cook up a pretty decent spaghetti bol even if i do say so myself.

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Mungo Run – Day 3/4/5 – The Lunette. 

I’ve saved the best of Mungo ’till last.

Mungo Landscape.

The iconic, the famous views that Mungo is known for. The Mungo landscape continues to be moulded by wind and rain. From the ancient dry lake basins of Mungo, Leaghur and Garnpang, lunettes on the eastern shores and dunefields to the west. According to the NP materials, the lake bed soils are a mosaic of grey and red heavy clays.

The Lunette

The Mungo lunette (the Walls of China) is made up mostly of loosely cemented whitish sands and well consolidated clays, with considerable gully erosion. The Leaghur and Garnpang lunettes have only suffered minor erosion and have abundant vegetative cover.

It’s strictly forbidden to climb on the lunette features or disturb artifacts. To access the Lunette you need to go on a guided tour.

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After missing the sunset on our first afternoon, we staked out a what we thought would be a good sunset position when did the “Loop” on our second day – Red Top Tank Lookout. We arrived just as the sun started to hit the peaks of the formations.

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The lunettes are major landforms of great importance to the ancient heritage of the area.
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Didn’t quite hit the sunburst just right, so i ended up with some lens flare.
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As the sun dipped and the light went off the formations, the pastels behind the Lunette began to light up.

Out on the Lunette

The following morning we headed down to the visitor centre ready to join our National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) Aboriginal Discovery Tour with one of the park rangers.

Well we scored big time with our guide. Ivan is an amazing guide and fellow. His tribe is the Paakantji tribe, from around Balranald. He is a school teacher by trade if you like, and discovery ranger by choice. He also sits on the World heritage committee that looks after the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area, and was heavily involved in getting “Mungo Man” returned to country, including being part of the party that escorted him back to Mungo.

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Ivan Johnstone a Paakantji MNP Ranger
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Our first step out on the Lunette, well technically our second, as when we were here in 2009 you were still able to freely walk over the Lunette.

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Over thousands of years, wind and water have carved the lunette into spectacular formations comprised of sand and clay. Rain washes away the soft sands and muds, creating the rilled ridges and residuals that characterise the Walls of China. The dislodged sand is then picked up by the wind and heaped into huge mobile dunes along the back of the lunette.

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There are four major layers of sediment form the Mungo lunette, and each represents a different period of time and different environmental condition. The layers have been named after the local pastoral stations Golgol, Mungo, Arumpo and Zanci, and were deposited in that order.

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As you move about on the Lunette the landscape continually changes, from flat down low, to formations in the middle and sweeping sand dunes at the top.
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Depending on the light the colours also change, or become more defined.
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Some of the formations are small, others like this one tower over you.
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The White Walls wrap themselves right around the lake, seen here up on the right hand side.
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The upper three layers contain a vast amount of evidence of human occupation including hearths, middens, stone tools and burials; as well as megafaunal remains. Ivan is showing us some of the bones and tools that have been unearthed on the Lunette.
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Almost at the top.
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An unexpected delight when we reached the top, dunes, dunes and more dunes!
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Looking towards Vigors Well, where we climbed the sand dune the day before.
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One could say it was a little windy when we got to the top!
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Footprints lead down into the gully
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How amazing are these! about 8ft tall as we walked between the, down the gully
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All of this from wind, water, sand and clay. Nature is amazing.
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Looking back to the gully.

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Those colours and patterns.

After the morning walk out on the Lunette with Ivan the temperature continued to rise, searing the air around us, so we opted to kick back and relax at the van in the shade, cause no-one needed to be out in that heat! On the way back to camp we ducked over to Mungo Lodge, a privately run lodge to see if they were running any sunset trips and luckily enough they were. We booked ourselves onto the tour and headed back to camp for the day avoiding the 46 degree heat (urgh).

Sunset on the Lunette

7pm finally ticked around and it was time to head back to the lodge to join the evening sunset walk on the Lunette. The clouds had even hung around and i had everything crossed they continued to hang around.

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The colours as sunset descended on the lunette were just gorgeous and the clouds were playing along perfectly.
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The difference in light from the bright, intense searing morning heat to the slightly chilled, cloudy sunset was immediately obvious. The different layers were clearly able to be seen.
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As the winds blow, and the water washes across the lunette more bones and artifacts are uncovered. Some of the date as old as 22,0000 yrs.
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Calcified trees are found across the lunette, and give some idea of the landscape 10,000s yrs ago, and how the stack formations were formed. The sand and clay would get around the tree and slowly build up, the tree dies and over time calcifies.
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Each stack and formation is different
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oh my sandy waves of sand patterns make me very happy
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Not quite at the top, looking back over Lake Mungo and the sun dips below the horizon.
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As sunset descended the air changed, and the as the cars left the car park and headed back to the visitor centre, the dust floated across the road and then remained, it looked awesome.
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Back at the gully

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Inside the gully.
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Mungo Stacks.
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Some of the vegetation survives.
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Mungo Run – Day 3/4/5 – The Loop.

Mungo National Park is the traditional meeting place of the Muthi Muthi, Nyiampaar and Barkinji Aboriginal Nations.

Home to the famous archeological discovery of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, the World Heritage Mungo National Park is a region rich in Aboriginal history and natural beauty.

The visit centre or meeting place is the start of the Loop.

Remarkable human footprints walked straight out of the last ice age when they were re-discovered at Willandra Lakes in 2003 during a routine survey for archaeological sites. The footprints may have been exposed for some time before 2003, and some local Aboriginal people say they already knew they were there. Research has revealed that the well preserved footprints are about 20,000 years old, and can tell some amazing stories. They are the oldest footprints ever found in Australia and the largest set of ice age footprints in the world.

3D generates impressions of some of the footprints and the story they tell have been laid at the back of the centre. The story goes mum was walking with a child, child runs off and is chased down, men are hunting and catch food. One of the men is one legged. They are said to have been around 7ft tall. The story was followed and interpreted by experienced outback elder trackers brought in specifically to tell the story of the footprints in the ancient clay pan.

There are plenty of places to see and stop on the Loop Rd self drive tour. The Loop is 50-70km (dependence on if you do all the roads) and mostly one way except for the start and finish.

The next stop is right next to the visitor centre – the Woolshed.

The woolshed was constructed in 1869 from locally sourced and hand-cut Cypress Pine.

Obviously when the woolshed was built iron water tanks didn’t, so they dug these to help conserve water. This is a reconstruction finished in 2016 and covered to preserve it and skylights added so you can see into the construction.

Inside view of the water tank.

Many of the traditional woodshed items are still there, like this sorting table and bale scales.

The holding pens.

The shearers shoots.

The Shearers line

Literally the engine room of the woolshed.

From the sorting pens up the ramp to the holding pens.

Those white walls are visible from almost all angles in the park. Next stop – The Walls Walk.

The information boards at the beginning of the Walls Walk.

A tribute to one of the guides that passed away, representing his tribe, his family and the park including the lake and walls of China.

The flat dry lake bed of Lake Mungo stretches as far as the eye can see.

Even after some rain a few weeks back the ground is still so dry!

From the Walls Walk you head around to Red Top lookout. This is the last of the two-way road from here on The Loop it’s one way so make that’s where you want to head!

The lunette like landscape Mungo is famous for is evident here and quite close. In krder to protect and preserve both the indigenous and geological history, you can no longer walk out onto the “lunette” without an accredited and authorised Guide. This lookout gives the best close up view of the Lunette if you don’t want to take a tour (I’d highly advise you do but more about that in another post to come).

This mumma and her baby we’re keeping an eye on us.

Can you spot Charlie 🚙 .. Nothing like vast landscapes to remind you have how small you really are.

From here you travel over the walls and along the eastern side of the park where the landscape changed at every turn. From stands of Rosewood and Belah, to grasslands, and over the red dunes and mallee scrub down into the depression where a number of old wells were located, past the remote Belah campground and old goat trap.

Our next stop was Paradise Tank. One of the many artificial watering holes in the park, a legacy of the past pastoral activities.

Relics of the pastoralists can still be found in the park. They were very clever for their time and technology.

Welcome water for the animals, shame about the 40 degrees keeping them away lol 😂

Nooo, don’t run away!

Next stop – Vigors Well, a very worthwhile detour.

Plenty of opportunities to spot emu particularly given the ‘hidden’ watersource.

Can you spot the emus sitting in the holes?

It took us a little while to figure it out, but watching them we realised they weren’t just sitting the holes, they were digging, digging for water! The well is a natural soak and they know it. So clever.

Can you see the tail and footprints of the kangaroo?

Emu prints in the sand, see the palm tree like print of their feet.

Seriously who needs a drone when you’ve got legs 🤔🙄 … Yep that’s where we walked!

The sand was super glarey and gave an almost optical illusion of being a straight drop off as we walked along the crest of the dune, when in fact it sloped down away from us. The view was pretty spectacular.

That’s Tash in the distance! Lol she’d had enough waiting around and was headed for the shade of the shelters back at the carpark 😂

Emu patrol heading back to their watering holes

Next stop – Zanci

The old Zanci property stables.

An example of the thatch roof that would have been used.

Zanci Station – Woolshed.

The White walls are back in view on the horizon again.

Inside the old Zanci shearing shed. By 1922 Mungo shed had been reduced to 4 machine shearers, so a section was removed and rebuilt on Zanci.

The old Zanci station homestead ruins. Zanci is also the name given to the upper grey-green clay and sandy sediment of the ‘lunette’

Ahh the old outhouse is still standing.

The dugout – built deep into the ground to help store provisions away from the searing heat above the surface. It was a good 10 degrees cooler down there! I reckon the rabbits and wombats are onto something 😁

Old machinery.

The loop now takes you back to the Visitor centre.

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Mungo Run – Day 3/4/5 – Park and Main Camp

Home to the famous archeological discovery of Mungo Lady and Mungo Man, the World Heritage Mungo National Park is a region rich in Aboriginal history and natural beauty.

The remains of Mungo Man, the oldest human remains discovered in Australia, and Mungo Lady, the oldest known human to have been ritually cremated, were both discovered within the park and have now both been returned to Country. They were buried on the shore of Lake Mungo, beneath the ‘Walls of China’, a series of lunettes on the South eastern edge of the lake.

The national park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Willandra Lakes Region, that incorporates seventeen dry lakes.

The Visitor Centre holds an impressive collection of bones, indigenous implements and tools, pastoral era artifacts.

Remarkable human footprints walked straight out of the last ice age when they were re-discovered at Willandra Lakes in 2003 during a routine survey for archaeological sites. The footprints may have been exposed for some time before 2003, and some local Aboriginal people say they already knew they were there. Research has revealed that the well preserved footprints are about 20,000 years old, and can tell some amazing stories. They are the oldest footprints ever found in Australia and the largest set of ice age footprints in the world.

3D generated impressions of some of the footprints and the story they tell have been laid at the back of the centre. The story goes mum was walking with a child, child runs off and is chased down, men are hunting and catch food. One of the men is one legged. They are said to have been around 7ft tall. The story was followed and interpreted by experienced outback elder trackers brought in specifically to tell the story of the footprints in the ancient clay pan.

One of The ginormous footprints

Aboriginal story telling of the Dreamtime serpent, with the lake and walls of China, and the male brolgas dancing for the somewhat unimpressed female. The three colours represent the three tribes.

The facilities in the park are very impressive. Each of the stops have shade shelters, tables, water tanks and most have toilets. These shelters are at the back of the visitor centre. There are also showers available here for use by all Park visitors – we loved that!

Even some fly proof ones!

The Shearer’s Quarters for those wanting more of a glamping experience 😃

The information displays at the beginning of the Walls of China.

The boardwalk at Red Top Tank lookout

Looking back over lake mungo from big red top

The roads whilst dirt and very susceptible to rain are for the most part in pretty good condition.

Mallee landscape is predominant across the park – where it’s not there’s flat sandy saltbush or red sand dunes 😊

Reminds me of Africa 💝

Plenty of Skippy’s about so you need to be watching when you drive and walk!

Most of the time the emus run well before you get to them but sometimes across the road is their choice 🙄

Aerial view of Vigars Well facilities and surrounds.

We stayed at Main Camp about 3km from the visitors centre. The campsites vary in size and shape but most have tables and fire pit, some of the tables are covered.

Our table and fire pit

Plenty of room to spread out on our site. The gravel top and hard outback dirt was not so pleasant.

Our entire site. There are approximately 25 to 30 sites at main camp.

Thankfully we had our new (not so little) Hexpegs to help us out! Drill and peg. Most certainly wasn’t getting pegs into this by hand.

Aerial view of our site.

We weren’t the craziest. Most nights it’s was us and tents!

The toilets well camouflaged (and unexpected)

Chilled out dude in the shade at camp .. Or ready to kill, it was hard to tell.

Mmm these are tasty