The Adventure Travel Film Festival

On the weekend I attended the Adventure Travel Film Festival held in Bright, Victoria every February. This was the first time I’d attended the festival and honestly the main draw card for me was Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet, who was presenting early on Saturday morning.

We decided, we would head up to Bright after school finished on Friday and have the weekend at Bright. The kids were chuffed as they love tubing on the Ovens River and Craig was chuffed because his ulterior motivate was to visit Ringer Reef and get some more wine! I was chuffed because I was going to see Tony Wheeler. I told my friend of the change of plans and low and behold she decided to come too! So much for Valentines Day weekend, but hey we’ve been married for 12 years and Craig doesn’t believe in that crap! He usually buys me a bunch of flowers the day after Valentines Day because they’re cheaper!

Bright is in the Victorian High Country about a 3 hour drive from Melbourne, its one of those towns that is popular all year round as there is always something going on. During winter it’s popular with skiers visiting the surrounding snow fields, all the rest of the year its popular with adventure mountain bikers and hikers as the snow clears and there are some really nice tracks for getting out and enjoying nature. There are some lovely gorges for swimming in and the rivers are shallow and really safe for kids.

The Adventure Travel Film Festival

We arrived at 8.45pm at the Bright Riverside Caravan Park. My friend was already there, she said a quick hello and headed across the river to the first evening of Starlight Screening in Howitt Park to watch South to South. I didn’t go that evening as we had quite a bit to set up and the kids hadn’t had dinner. Our site was right on the river and we were looking straight across the Ovens River to the Bright Brewery and Howitt Park. Perfect location although a bit noisy but to be fair by 11pm it was quiet so I was more than happy with that.

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Here’s our set up with the morning sun shining through.

Next morning I was up at the crack with a council worker and his blower vac cleaning up around public areas at 6.30am! Bit early but hey I was excited and keen to get to the first presentation which was Tony Wheeler. We were there early and got a seat in the second row of the church. There were 4 venues being utilised around Bright and each had different presentations and films that you could freely move between. Luckily for us on the Saturday all of ours were at the Uniting Church so we didn’t have to go far.

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Bright Uniting Church – one of the presentation venues, think they have outgrown it now!

Tony Wheeler – Lonely Planet

As it got closer to 10am the church started to get full, by 10am it was a packed house with people sitting in the aisles and standing where ever they could. Many people missed out and I was so thankful I wasn’t one of them. The presentation started and he covered the beginning of their travels briefly as he only had a 1 hour slot. He discussed the humble beginnings of Lonely Plant (if only he knew I currently have a stack of 12 on my bedside table!) and then he discussed the charity work he and his wife, Maureen are now involved in (champions, good to hear they are giving back, makes them even more brilliant) and finally his trip from London to Melbourne over 24 days using only budget airlines (not too proud to sit in economy (insert emoji love hearts here)). Worst thing about his presentation, it ended! I could listen to him all day.

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Lonely Planet founder, Tony Wheeler’s presentation


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My signed copy of Dark Land’s written by Tony Wheeler. We stopped at the Bright Brewery for pizza and a beer! The Alpine Ale’s a nice drop if you can’t decide!

Other significant speakers

Now I say that Tony Wheeler was my draw card but to be fair there wasn’t a bad speaker. I’m going to briefly describe who else I saw in bullet points. I didn’t see everything that was shown as you can’t be in 2 places at once but I will certainly be making this a annual fixture in my calendar going forward.

  • Francis Clarke – Adventures of el Kangaroo – in 1962 Francis drove a 1946 WW2 Willy Jeep around the world including 12,000 miles around Australia at the end of his trip. He was told when he purchased the Jeep it wouldn’t make it out of state! Francis was engaging, funny and happy to share ALL of his experiences! I wasn’t sure what to expect when he first stood up but I’m sure glad I stayed for it!
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This is a 1946 Willy Jeep, the same model as el Kangaroo. Would you take this around the world like Francis did! Take my hat off to him!!
  • Bondi to the Baltics – A vintage Silk Road Journey – self proclaimed ‘crazy old blokes’ drove a 1920 Dodge Tourer and a 1926 Willy Overland Whippet from Bondi to Finland to visit some friends. They travelled through Thailand, Laos, China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Russia to Finland. Amazingly the vehicles experienced few breakdowns but the most interesting part of their story was the border crossings! The main message was that people in these countries are inherently good, friendly, generous and humble people. I loved the photos of them engaging with the local people.
  • Hitchanbul – a funny movie of 2 fellas that decided to travel from Belgium to Istanbul in 6 days only hitch hiking. They recorded their interactions with the people who picked them up, particularly discussing their thoughts on hitch hiking and the reasons for stopping for 2 scruffy looking blokes with a large cut out thumb to assist them in getting picked up! This was in sub-titles but was very funny. I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did and it was another packed out venue. I’m going to see if I can find this online to show Craig.
  • Ron and Viv Moon – Crook Cops, Bad Borders and Great People– Ron and Viv wrote their first guidebook on Outback Australia in 1984 and over the last 9 years have been travelling the world in either their Nissan Patrol or Dodge Ram including Africa, North America, South America and Cuba. These guys have done some serious travelling and done some amazing things. I liked their presentation least only because it didn’t flow as well as  others. Having said that their content was wonderful and I loved their photos, they just need to streamline it a little better. They had some amazing stories and again the message I walked away with is that people are good nearly everywhere you go. After all the travelling they have done, I love that they have nothing bad to say about anywhere and this is a great message as watching the news/media we are not getting this message.

After all this we went back to camp and had dinner with the family. As so many people missed out on Tony Wheeler’s presentation, he had graciously agreed to do another presentation before the starlight screening that night at 8.30pm. I, of course rushed back to camp to tell Craig he’s coming to listen. I was secretly hoping he was going to listen and then think exactly what I was thinking – we’re going to do that! He didn’t quite respond the way I had hoped but he enjoyed it all the same. Even better, I enjoyed it second time round!

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Even better with a beer!

The kids were playing in the park behind us during Tony’s presentation and they returned at the being of the starlight screening. I was a bit disappointed, I thought we would have to go then but to my surprise Caelan  and Keira curled up on mine and Craig’s laps for half the movie before falling asleep. Alannah lay down on a towel and watched the sub-titled movie. Craig had been across to the Bright Brewery and we enjoyed a few Alpine Ale craft beers while we took in the following movie:

  • Gold of Bengal – Corentin sailed his tiny home-made boat crafted from jute fibres with 2 chickens and a green house full of plants to sustain him. He sailed from Bangladesh to Indonesia while being totally self sufficient. Its a great feat of adventure and his interactions with the chickens and his failed potato crop keep it light hearted and gives you a few giggles. Very impressive journey! Alannah really enjoyed it, which was great and Craig enjoyed it enough to want to attend next years event.

I wasn’t going to attend any of the Sunday sessions as I thought I would have to help Craig get packed up to leave. I was up early again thanks to the council blower vac! There’s a silver lining to every cloud though as I had the inside of the camper packed up early and Craig said to me, go and watch a few before we go and he and the kids would finish off the packing up. Didn’t have to ask me twice, I was out of there.

  • Cape Horn Passage to California – This is a vintage film from 1937 about a family with 2 young children aged 4 and 6 that sailed around Cape Horn from Massachusetts up to San Francisco in an 1885 german built schooner named Wander Bird over 8 months. Very impressive journey and better still, watch how freely the kids are living, no helicopter parenting there and to think that I was stressing the night before with the kids in the park 50m away from me!
  • Paul Pritchard – Surviving the Ultimate Adventure – WOW OMG! This guy is truly inspirational!Paul is a rock climber, having climbed in the Himalaya’s, Karakoram, Patagonia, Baffin Island, The Pamir and the European Alps, pretty impressive list there. Personally I think mountain climbers are fearless, crazy buggers but this guy’s something else. In 1998 while climbing the Totem Pole near Port Arthur in Tasmania, he suffered a massive brain injury when a boulder fell on his head. His injuries were extensive and left him extremely physically impaired, not to mention epilepsy and speech problems. He has taken a long time to recover but he hasn’t let this stop him. He has since climbed Kilimanjaro, gone caving, sea kayaking, white water rafting and has even got back to rock climbing all while being partially paralysed down the right hand side of his body. In 2009, 11 years after his accident his rode a recumbent tricycle through Tibet to the Everest Base Camp. He showed a 20 minute film on the challenges he faced during that adventure.

Now this presentation made me really think, what makes someone so determined and confident in their ability to actually do what this man has done. He was really inspiring, he’s made me want to challenge myself a bit more, not sure how and what yet but I’m going to look at things with the different attitude now as this guy is quite inspirational. Now I just wish Craig had seen this presentation.

Tips for visiting the Adventure Travel Film Festival

There were plenty of other films and presentations by inspiring people but those listed are the ones I made it too. Click here if you would like to see the full schedule of the weekend. I also missed all the events on Friday. So what have I learnt this weekend;

  • first take a leave day Friday and get there earlier,
  • its going to be an annual event for me whether or not someone else comes along (you could easily attend this by yourself and meet some really lovely people),
  • plan a bit better before hand so I can fit nearly everything in over the 3 days, and most of all,
  • keep planning journeys and believe in yourself that you can do it, as a number of the presenters said ‘its between your ears that tells you that these things can’t be done’ – fear.

Last thing to always remember – most people are good and willing to help!

What did the kids do while I immersed myself in all things travel?

So what were the crazy kids doing while I was dreaming up new adventures for us:

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They just love tubing down the Ovens!
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Our little mermaid!
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Never to be out done by his older sisters!


Now you might think something like this is going to cost a fortune but I think the prices are great value. Prices below are for adults.

Day Pass for the Saturday                                           $65.00

Pass for the whole weekend                                       $130.00

Family (2 adults, 2 children -under 15)                 $255.00

These prices are correct as at February 2019.


Another great place to stay in the Porepunkah Bridge Caravan Park, if you aren’t a camper, you can hire a cabin for the weekend. The Riverside Bright Caravan Park is another great option right in the middle of Bright. Staying in bright means that you can park up your car at the park and get to all the venues by foot and enjoy a few beers in between screenings.

Overall, it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time and can’t wait for next year’s.  Hope to see you all there.

Safe travels






This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Travel junkie

    Annual weekend it is. I think we need to come up with an adventure and present next year.

    1. Sally

      Sounds good to me! Its a really great weekend and there isn’t a massive amount of people there. The crowd is very comfortable and their a friendly bunch too. We had ripper weather too which was great, 37 degrees on the Saturday, with a mild 25 degrees for the evening movie. It was well organised and the event ran smoothly. Hope to see you there next year.

  2. Nick Fletcher

    Great review. Thanks

    1. Sally

      No worries Nick, we had a great time and will definitely be back next year. A big shout out to the organisers and volunteers also, they did a brilliant job.

  3. Wow…what a great review. It felt like I was there. Hope all is well after your medical procedure xo

    1. Craig Lucas

      Thanks Lynda, glad you enjoyed the review. I really did enjoy the whole festival. All good thanks.

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