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Previous Trips

It’s a 6.5+ hour trip out to Native Dog Flat which is just over 50km east of Benambra in far East Gippsland, but so worth the trip when you get there.

I didn’t get away from Toot until 5.30 on Thursday night and while the traffic was moderate, I had a really good run and with a fuel top up at Bairnsdale and quick coffee and dinner (pies!!) at the Driver Reviver at Bruthen, I called it quits at 12.30 am just where Limestone Rd turns to dirt – not a bad spot to turn in for the night.

Up at 7.30 on Good Friday and finished the last 30 odd kilometres into Native Dog to meet up with the others, set up the van, have breakky, put up the Camp Host banner and meet up with the local NP Ranger to discuss all things Camp Host, tracks etc.

The rest of the day was a fairly lazy one around the campfire before going out in search of wood and the odd trip to visit other campers and perform our Camp Host duties.  Come about 4.00pm Christine and Ian suggested that as it was such a glorious day, we should go and watch the sunset from the top of a mountain peak they had been shown by Amanda Lloyd who knows the area well.  Sounds like a plan.  As it was an hour’s drive along a 4x4 (easy) track, we decided to take our “happy hour” nibbles and drinks as well.

It was well worth the drive as Christine’s pictures on Fb show.  We arrived back at camp in the dark, made up the fire, had dinner and opened a bottle, or can depending on your preference!  The usual great night around the campfire was had by all!

Leaving Mt. Murphy, we headed along Buckwong Track to the Davies Plain Track where we were travelling on the rooftop of Victoria – at times around the 1600m mark - and stopped for lunch at Charlies Creek – a beautiful Alpine meadow with a creek and a number of great camping areas.  We continued along Davies Plain Track with more magnificent views, this time over to Mt. Kosciuszko, until we made it to Davies Plan Hut.

This was a spot I had wanted to get to for years and it did not disappoint.  A well preserved hut in a magnificent alpine meadow surrounded by forests of gum trees with a creek and horse yards .  We spent some time walking around, taking photo’s and reluctantly headed off on the return journey although we all agreed it would be nice to return and camp overnight.

There’s an idea for a great trip next year!

We returned along Davies Plain Track until we hit Limestone Creek Track which is a good 4x4 track with some steep descents and a number of river crossings.  Would be great fun in the reverse direction.  We got back to camp just before dark having driven around 115km for the day – a long way in 4x4 on those tracks.  Another great evening was enjoyed around the fire.

Sunday dawned another perfect day and after such a big day yesterday, we opted for a shorter easier day.  Jason C had a trip in mind so he took the lead and I went tail end Charlie for a change.  We followed the main road back to Benambra and some fuelled up and others got coffee from the general store before heading out across Lake Omeo, over a steep climb affording beautiful views finally leading us onto the Mitta Mitta River.

We then followed the Mitta back into the Alpine National Park heading for Kennedy Hut and Taylors Crossing.  What was meant to be an easy drive turned into quite a long 4x4 track with long steep climbs and descents often with very deep ruts that required spotters to assist drivers through safely – thanks Julie, Jan and Tait for doing such a great job.

Along the way we marked a large number of wonderful camping spots on the banks of the Mitta that really need to be explored more closely.  They are relatively accessible so a mid-week trip would be best.

We made it into Kennedy Hut beside the Mitta for lunch at about 1.00ish or so and it was decided that the afternoon run would be cancelled and we would head straight back to camp to get the fire going as we needed coals for damper!!

Saturday dawned fine beautifully clear so after a quick breakfast we headed out on a day drive that took us along the historic “Misery Trail”, a route followed by the old goldminers to the Mt. Murphy historic gold mining area.  The tracks there provided the most magnificent views over the ranges but also showed the extent of the devastation from the bush fires.  It is coming back but very slowly.

Lunch was consumed, but there were so many wasps that we didn’t hang around too long before making our way to Taylors Crossing.  This would be a great camp spot other than all the people but the river crossing is quite wide and has a enough depth to make it interesting.  Jason took some good video that hopefully can be posted on the Fb page.

From Taylor’s Crossing it was back to 2x4, out to the bitumen and back to camp via Benambra and Limestone Road. It was still well after 4.00pm that we arrived at camp and I was surprised to see that it had been another 100+km day. The fire was enjoyed as was the damper.

Monday we had to head home and we were dreading the traffic.  The day dawned another beautiful day allowing tents and campers to dry before packing and most of us were on the road by 11.30am.  Air-up, a quick stop at Benambra General Store – pretty good hamburger for lunch – and home via Omeo and Bairnsdale.  The traffic was constant but no problem thankfully.

Thanks to everyone who came along, it was a great trip and we all enjoyed ourselves and most saw new country leaving us hungry to return and explore further.  I think the next trip will start at the NSW end of the Davies Plain Track, work its way to Native Dog and onto McKillops Bridge exiting the bush at Orbost.  Watch this space!!

The MMHT came about after reading a book titled The History of Wonnangatta Station by Wallace Malcolm Mortimer. The book got me in and I wanted to learn as much as I could and to see if a trip to Wonnangatta and finishing up at Lovicks was something that could be done over a long weekend. I asked Ken W. if he would join me on a planning trip where we would check the condition of the tracks and the timings for each day. It all worked out very easily and we passed the baton on to VP Nigel to be the Trip Leader. Not only was I interested in the tracks, but also the history of the people that had made their mark in this part of Victoria. The key people included Jim Barclay who was the station manager until he was murdered some time between 21st Dec. 1917 and 22nd Jan. 1918. In addition, two other prominent figures arose being Angus McMillan and Alfred William Howitt, both of whom played a major role win the history of Victoria. But, that’s another story.

The date was confirmed for the March long weekend and the starting location was the Dargo River Inn Camp Ground. 

Most arrived at the Dargo River Inn in the Friday afternoon & evening while a few arrived in the early hours of Saturday. Nevertheless, by around 9:00am we were on our way. First stop was Grant, just off the McMillans Road. Here we explored the many notices and land lots that would have been there many years after the gold had petered out.

The group was introduced to Alfred Howitt and Angus McMillan, both notable explorers of the 1800’s. Angus McMillan was responsible for the opening up of Gippsland in the 1840’s. In 1860 with the gold mining in and around Ballarat and Bendigo in decline, a Prospecting Board was established by the government of the day to search for other gold bearing locations. Angus McMillan recommended  exploration of the Macalister, Mitchell, Nicholson and Dargo areas. Alfred Howitt was selected as leader for the Mitchell River expedition. Howitt’s party travelled to McMillan’s Bushy Park Station then up to the Dargo.

From Grant we moved on directly to Talbotville where we crossed the Crooked River, named by Alfred Howitt due to the crooked nature of the river. Howitt reported to the Minister of Mines that the Crooked River and Good Luck Creek fields fields were a payable proposition and as a result in 1861 there were 800 miners on these fields. With the crossing complete, we travelled along Crooked River Track to Racecourse Track where we crossed the Wongungarra River, passed Howittville Hut then turned on to Station Track for the seemingly long haul with some heart stopping steep climbs and spectacular views to where we joined the Cynthia Range Track. Here we travelled on along the Cynthia towards the junction with Eaglevale Track - that’s one for the bucket list in the future.

From that junction we continued along Cynthia Range Track up to and onto the partially hidden Sugarloaf Creek Track to the helicopter landing area on Mount Von Guerard. Here we found that another group had got there a little before us, and had pinched the best view and parking spot!  Nigel B. took a great photo of our vehicles set opposite where the others had been. See the photos in the Photo Gallery.

Mount von Guerard was named by Alfred Howitt for his good friend, travelling companion and noted artist, Eugene von Guerard who had been with Howitt on a trip to the Baw Baws area and had also spent time on the diggings in the Bendigo and Ballarat areas.

This location on the tour turns out to be a good place to stop for a lunch break before continuing on to the junction of Wombat Range Track and Hernes Spur Track, the latter being only for the brave who are prepared to tackle the steep decline down on to the Wonnangatta River where it becomes the Wonnangatta Track.  So for some of us, Herne Spur Track will have to remain on our bucket list. Nevertheless, one only goes a short few metres before becoming to the not so steep decline down Wombat Range Track and on to where we turn onto Hart Spur Track for probably less than 100 metres to the beginning of Humffrey River Track. On this track, you only have to cross the Wonnangatta River once compared to six crossings if you went down Herne Spur.

The Humffrey River Track joins the Wonnangatta Track, and that track runs close along side the Wonnangatta River for quite a way up to Conglomerate Creek and onto Wonnangatta Station. Now at the Station some of us stretched our legs while others went in search of a suitable campsite. Ultimately a spot was chosen right beside the Wonnangatta River that was close by the Station Hut and soon a fire wood detail was formed and before long a good collection had been made and the campsite fire was on the go.

The first non-aboriginal to enter the the valley flats of the Wonnangatta was probably Angus McMillan who in 1859 occupied the original Eagle Vale Run which then included the Wonnangatta Valley. In Wallace Mortimer’s book The History of Wonnangatta Station he tells us that an American who had been prospecting  around Dargo, growing tobacco at Mathieson’s Flat and also share farmed at Crooked River. On one of his “prospecting rides he came upon the Wonnangatta Valley”. Oliver Smith soon set to work building an American style log cabin for his entourage which included his three sons and his de facto wife Ellen Hayes and her son Harry. Ellen and Oliver never married however, Ellen soon used Smith as her surname.  Sadly, in 1872 Ellen died giving birth to twins Malinda and Mary on the 5th of March, and Mary died on the 11th of March while Malinda also died the following day. Oliver, who could neither read or write crafted a slab of slate like rock he collected from the river and inscribed Ellen’s name.  Unfortunately he inscribed the letter N in her name in reverse and her date of death as 5th March 1873. Ellen and her babies were the first recorded deaths at Wonnangatta and were the first to be buried at Wonnangatta Station. See the trip photos in the Gallery for Ellen and her daughters. (NOTE: since the trip, the Friends of Wonnangatta have been succesful in the creation of a new tombstone with the correct dates for Ellen, Mary and Matilda. See new photo on Keith Leydon's Facebook page here (scroll down to 6th April 2021)

The other family to inhabit Wonnangatta around that time was the Bryce family, but that’s another story for another time.

Fast forward to 1914 when Arthur Phillips and Geoff Ritchie, both from around Delatite, purchased Wonnangatta Station from the Bryce family. Their first priority was to engage a manager of the property. Jim Barclay was duly employed.  Jim was born on 18th Feb. 1869 to James, a Scot who had emigrated from London in 1849, and Mary Fiddler in  who had emigrated from London in 1852. They were married in St. Enochs Presbyterian Church, on 14th Feb. 1853  and eventually built a home named Heroville which was located on Barclay Crescent in what was then known as Tyabb, but was later renamed Hastings after some rezoning in that part of the Peninsula.

By 1917 the work on Wonnangatta Station had gotten to the stage that he needed another hand to assist with the workload. So on the 14th of December that year he hired John Bamford as cook and odd-jobs man.  On the 20th of December there as a Referendum that Jim and John Bamford rode in to Albert Stout’s Post Office and Store in Talbotville to cast their votes. They stayed with Albert and his wife overnight and by 10 o’clock in the morning of the 21st of December, the pair rode back to Wonnangatta never to be seen again.

On the 22nd of January 1918, Harry Smith (son of Ellen Smith) rode up from his home in Eaglevale to deliver Jim’s mail. There was no sight of Jim or Bamford, but there was a note on the kitchen door with the words “Home Tonight”. Harry decided to stay at the homestead overnight. With no arrivals from Jim or Bamford for two days, Harry decided to return to his work at Eagevale. Harry’s next visit to the homestead was the 14th of February, and once there he found the mail from his previous visit was still where he left it and the “Home Tonight” sign still remained untouched. Harry decided to pass on the news of the disappearance of Jim and Bamford on to Jim’s employer, Arthur Phillips who arrived at the Eaglevale on the 23rd. Feb. After another day of searching around the river flats they eventually came to the conclusion that Jim and Bamford must have met with foul play. On the 25th of Feb, Harry and Phillips decided to conduct a search of the Conglomerate Creek valley where they eventually discovered the remains of Jim Barclay partially buried beside the Conglomerate Creek.

With this discovery, the Police were notified and when they arrived Harry led them to the grave which was just 425 paces from the homestead. Further search found no sign of John Bamford, consequently he was being seriously considered as a person of interest and so, a new search was to follow around the Wonnangatta Station area.

But more of this further on……

Back to the trip….

During the afternoon new members Daren and Julie joined us with their children and before sunset we gathered for our evening meal along with some selected wines, beers, chips n cheeses we all sat back to chat and yarn. :)

Next morning after a quick breakfast we did some more exploring of the cemetery, the large Hut and some of us collected fruit from the trees beside the area marked out with stones where the homestead once stood. And soon, we were off to tackle Zeka Spur Track which in places it is quite narrow and on a number of occasions we were forced to stop, move to the left and allow the oncoming traffic to pass by. In places there are seemingly dark tunnels through the heavy canopy of the trees, in other areas we were in more open ground until finally there was the decent down to the junction with Howitt Road. Here we turned left and travelled on to Howitt Hut where we stopped for a quick lunch break.

But, what about John Bamford…..

When the Police arrived at the Station they had travelled there from Mansfield and on the way, the group included amongst others William Hearne and Jim Fry who had been a very close friend and mentor to Jim. Both Hearne and Jim Fry were experienced stockmen who knew the country well in and around Wonnangatta. Harry Smith took them to the shallow grave and confirmed to the Police that the body was Jim Barclay. They then returned to the Station and carried out a search in and around the house and noticed that not only two dogs, blankets, a saddle and bridle were missing as was Bamford’s horse Thelma.

When the search for Bamford started there was much discussion on where he may have travelled to. He still could have been on the Station somewhere. Maybe he had gone up to Dry River and followed that up to the Howitt Plains, or disappeared up Riley Creek to escape being captured.

So the search for Bamford was started and eventually William Hearne and Jim Fry were searching on the Howitt Plain. Bamford’s horse Thelma was found wondering around without a saddle or bridle.

Bamford’s body was soon discovered not far from Howitt Hut under a pile of logs. Who killed John Bamford? We may never know.

The mysterious murders of Jim Barclay and John Bamford remain just that: A Mystery.

Back to the trip…

With lunch break finished we headed off again. This time back up Howitt Road, past the intersection with Zeka Spur Track, passed the Car Park which is a starting point for the hike up to the top of Mt. Howitt, and eventually onto King Billy Track. This is a very picturesque track with everything you could ask for on a 4WD Trip. A mix of open bush country, to thick trees and bushes. Along the way we passed a few Rivers of Rock, made the odd creek crossing and a number of very tight corners as we climbed up to eventually join onto Bluff Track. On the way up Bluff Track we stopped for the photo opportunity at the King Billy Tree, stopped for another photo op at Picture Point and finally stopping beside the Lovick’s Hut campground, which by this time was quite crowded.

We all had to find spots to park our vehicles, then start on setting up a fireplace, collected firewood then at last settling down to a good evening meal followed by cheese and crackers all of which were taken with good measures of fine red and white wines…

Next morning we broke camp and travelled down to Bluff Hut for a look see at what is a fine “establishment”. After that the next stop was on Mt. Lovick for more photo opportunities. Eventually after what always seems like a very long slow trip back down to the main road we eventually stopped to air-up the tyres then headed on to Mansfield for lunch and then home.

On – off!

On again – off again!

Wednesday lunch- time with less than 48 hours to the start ….. we are ON!!!! ….. but……

…. a modified course so go to Pikes Flat instead of Lovicks Hut!  All good – we are nothing if not flexible!

Lead by Lorraine and Ian, most of the team arrived at Pikes Flat by late Thursday afternoon and by the time I arrived at about 10.30pm, the fire was roaring (Ian had been busy constructing his master piece of a fire) and we had a plan of where we were setting up the food and hydration tent.  The first-aid team had also arrived and were good to go.   About 45 minutes later, Alex and Ava rocked up in the Ironman truck and shortly after Amy and the girls arrived in the new D-Max.

Great that’s the whole team arrived safe and sound (other than Darren and Julie who were arriving Friday night) and ready to greet the first runners at about 8.00am-ish on Saturday morning.

As usual, Alex twisted my arm – you can’t leave a man alone with a drink around a camp fire – and so with a mighty effort we sat fire firewatch until …… quite late!!

Friday dawned (way too early) and we were up with the sun to erect gazebos and tables, mix hydrolytes, cut fruit, make sandwiches and set up the “Check-In” tent ready for the first runners to arrive.

These guys are nuts – awesome but nuts.  The morning slowly heated up and by 10.00am about 190 runners had come through our aid station having run about 27km from the summit of Mt. Buller, across Stirling, to Craig’s Hut and then down to Howqua Gap and another downward 800 vertical meters to us!  From our Aid Station it was a “leisurely” 23km mainly flat – ignoring the killer climb up 4 mile - back to the summit of Mt. Buller.

All done by about 11.00 am, so back to camp for a quick lunch and then head out by 12.30 for a drive to enjoy the local scenery.  It was a great drive.  The route took us across to Bindaree Hut, ford the Howqua River, up Monument Track – a nice little climb – to Craig’s Hut.

From Craig’s we followed Clear Hills Track to Circuit Road and then around to King Basin Road and down to Pineapple Flat.  There we crossed the King River and had a brief afternoon tea with most saying they just had to come back to Pineapple Flat for a weekend’s camping.

I had forgotten what a wonderful camp site it is!

From Pineapple Flat we continued along King Basin Track, crossing the King River several times and noting another 6 or so magnificent river side camping sites along the way.  Even better, we found plenty of pre-cut firewood to throw in the tray for the nights fire!  Finally we came to King Hut and from there to Speculation Road, Circuit Rd and back to Pikes Flat. All in all, a very pleasant drive that allowed to some to cross off Craig’s from the “bucket list”, give all of us a few more camp sites in the memory bank and for Amy, her first real taste of 4x4 driving in the new D-Max.  Watch out Terry, I think you lost driving rights to the new fourbie!!

Back at camp, the situation had changed.  Due to the “on again/off again” and forced course change, Pikes Flat was “double booked”.  While we had been enjoying an afternoon’s drive, 25 horse riders plus support crew and vehicles had arrived and there wasn’t room for all!  It turned out they had priority so while our Aid Station could remain, we had to move camp.  It was only about 100 meters and truth be known, while pretty small, it was closer to the river and had its own beach for swimming!

Darren and Julie rocked up early Friday evening and were found a spot and soon had made themselves at home around the fire.

Saturday dawned fine and threatening to be hot! Today we had about 170 runners doing it for a second time (but in the opposite direction) plus another 230 (or so) runners doing the Archie 50km run for a total of nearly 400 runners to be checked in, feed, watered, tended to and got back on the track.  The temperature just got hotter and we encouragingly told them…

“…You’ve done the easy part, it’s all up hill to Buller!”  or perhaps

“… got plenty of water?  It’s 13 km and 900 vertical metres to the next Aid Station!”

Did I mention these people were crazy?

You do realise they called it “fun?”

It was all hands on deck as the runners came in thick and fast and I think we lost count of the number of sandwiches that were made, the number of pieces of fruit that were handed out and the number of water bottles and bladders that were filled.  Suffice to say there was not an awful lot of the 1000 litre water tank remaining by the end of the day.  And those 2 and half trays of loaves of bread – gone!!!

Just to make it interesting, the days heat culminated in a thunderstorm that halted the race for an hour or so until it was determined it was safe to continue.  By 5.00pm or so, we were all done and started the packing up before finally throwing ourselves in the river with a cold beveridge or two … or three!

Jason and Julie made an unexpected arrival late on Saturday arvo taking the new Ranger and camper out for a maiden voyage – great effort guys and always pleased see around the camp fire.

Saturday night around the fire was a bit more relaxed as our work for the weekend was done.  One of the Race Directors made the journey down to say thank you for our efforts and sorry for the camping stuff up – eh these things happen in a Covid Year, here, have a seat and beer! Apparently even with all the uncertainty, the race had raised a bit over $40,000 for Autism in the High Country – a great effort by the team and we are certainly proud of the role we play in this event.

The evening was capped off with a magnificent damper made by Julie – it literally evaporated!  I think it was Julie’s way of making sure their membership application got approved – and I think it may have worked!!

Sunday dawned another beautiful day and we packed up and by 9.30amish (very ish) we were heading up 16 Mile Jeep Track – another nice little climb – and then up Bluff track for a quick stop at and “morning tea” – left over bags of lollies – at Bluff Hut.  From there over Mt. Lovick for a quick photo opportunity ….

Once again, we found some magnificent high altitude camp sites with the most spectacular views that I must return to for a nights camping.  It would be cold but absolutely stunning!  We stopped for a brief lunch under the snow gums at Lovicks Hut, and then Jason took the lead further along Bluff Track to take us to what is reckoned to be the oldest snow gum in the Alps. The pictures show a gnarled and twisted specimen … and then there was tree itself!!!!

From the old snow gum we continued along Bluff Track until it met Brocks Road and from there we headed back to Sheepyard and out to Mansfield for a final stop (and iced coffee for me) before heading home after another very successful weekend trip.

Finally, a huge, huge thank you to all the members that turned up and worked so hard through the heat to help raise $40,000 for Autism in the High Country and make sure that those “bat #@%! crazy” runners get to have a safe and enjoyable (??!!) run through our spectacular high country.

It’s great that we participate in such a wonderful and local charity that really makes a hands on difference in the lives of children in the local area.  At the same time, we have built a great bridge between the “greenie” oriented runners and trekkers and the 4x4 community and had a good time doing it!

Hut2Hut or Oscars 100 is a charity event that the Club supports.  It seeks to raise awareness and money to support families in the Mansfield area and Victorian High Country living with autism.  It is a small, dedicated and very hands on group that makes a direct and positive impact on the local community.

It is described as one of the most extreme trail running and treking challenges in the event calendar. This year there were two treks/challenges - the regular 100km run/trek from the summit of Mt. Buller through the spectacular High Country, bagging 4 or 5 of the main peaks before ending back a Mt. Buller.  The second was a similar course but limited to a “mere” 50km!!!  These people are seriously fit athletes as they face some of the steepest climbs and descents and river crossing often in high temperatures and extreme weather conditions.

We are tasked with managing the main remote first aid station, check point with water and food and, overnight camp site for those taking more than one day to complete the course.  Usually we are based at Lovick’s Hut, but this year, due to the bushfires, it was an alternative course and we were based at Pikes Flat on the Howqua River with Yarra Valley 4x4 Club, and tasked to track and report progress, water and feed and attend to the needs  a total of 500 runners over the course of two days.  We had in excess of 100 trekkers staying over each of two nights for which we had to cook dinner and breakfast and get them back on the track the following morning.

We had 8 vehicles involved arriving from the Wednesday afternoon to the Thursday night so as to be ready to receive the elite runners first thing Friday morning.  It was a great drive in as after topping up with fuel, we headed out through Sheepyard Flat, Brocks Rd to 8 Mile Gap and then Bluff Link Rd over Refrigerator Gap to 16 Mile Jeep Track and down to Pikes Flat.  It’s a lovely drive with some easy 4x4 tracks through spectacular country.

Yarra Valley 4x4 were already set up and by the time I arrived on Thursday evening, they were well setop to run the catering side of things (dinner and breakfast) and us to deal with the checking in and out, and the food, fruit and water requirements of the runners coming through.  We had a great functioning team and the comments and praise from the runners showed that between the 2 Clubs, the runners were well looked after.

Our days generally started at about 3.00am to ensure that everything was organized by 4.00am for breakfast and check out times as competitors were keen to be back on the track by 5.00am.  Our team checked runners in and out noting the times and reporting to HQ so that they could keep track of where the competitors were on the track.  The rest of us filled water bottles, made sandwiches, cut up fruit and generally assisted the runners in and out of the check point.  This was complicated by the weather that went from just plain HOT, to thunderstorms and torrential down pours with high humidity! Great running conditions considering they had done 14 river crossing to get to us and as they left, crossed river number 15 with an 800 m climb to reach the next water point 15km away!!!  And they call this fun!

By 5.30am Sunday morning the last of the runners from the 2nd night had departed on the last leg of their trek and we then packed up all the gear before breaking camp and heading off ourselves by about 10.30ish.  

Our route home was a little indirect as we took the opportunity to head to Bindaree Hut and then a short walk to Bindaree Falls.  The falls are absolutely beautiful and well worth the 400m or so uphill walk to the viewing platform.  From here we followed the 2x4 roads to Craig’s Hut, one of the iconic Cattleman Huts on most peoples “must do list”.  For those who haven’t been there, it’s worth a visit just for the magnificent views over the High Country.  In reality, the hut itself was built as a movie set for the original “Man from Snowy River” film and as such is not a true cattleman’s hut, but it’s a great spot to visit.

From Craig’s, we returned to Mansfield and had lunch at The Bakery before heading back down the black top to the big smoke!  Overall, it was another very successful community volunteer event that continues to build strong bridges between the “greener” side of the bush users and the 4x4 community.   A huge thank you to all the members who attended and worked so hard – the feedback is that it was wholeheartedly appreciated.  Of course, this means that we will need to plan to be involved again next year, but hopefully, we will be back at Lovick’s!!

View our gallery here > 

Australia Day 2020 – Goughs Bay

Participants – HEAPS!!!!!!

With all the uncertainty that the bushfires bought in January, I was really quite worried about our ability to run a trip over the Australia Day weekend.  Fortunately, Rob came to the rescue and he was able to get us access to a 15 acre property with a frontage onto the Delatite River.  Better still, we could camp in a lovely shaded area right on the river bank.  Given how crowded places like Grannys Flat and the other local camping areas were, this was absolute gold!!!

The owners Chris and Lea - are related to Rob’s family and made us – all 22 vehicles, campers, caravans and dogs – very welcome.  Also there was their father George and brother in law Simon. They have even asked back!!!

By chance, I meet up with Glenn and Maggie and Geoff and family at Mansfield BP and we headed off to Goughs Bay arriving just before dark.  We found ourselves a spot by the river and were soon up at the shed fire pit area for the first of a few drinks and chats around the fire.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny and by 9.30 I was trying get trip convoys organised as we had 17 or 18 vehicles all waiting to roll.  Graeme & Jen offered to lead a trip for the more experienced drivers and 6 or 7 vehicles headed off to Mt Terrible and beyond.  That left 11 in my party for the easy trip.

We headed into Jamieson and onto Grannys Flat were we aired down.  Driving through the camp and I heard my yelled out only to find Bear and Jen (previous members now moved up to the Benella area) camped with a few family friends.  We had a good catch up while we all aired down and then headed up Gallows Track – a nice little climb to start with – before looping over around Jamieson Lookout and Sappers Tracks and back into Jamieson for a latish lunch.  By 2.30 I had rounded them all up – bit like herding cats as there was coffee on offer at the café!! – and headed up Polletti Track to Mt. Terrible Track and up to the lookout.  It’s an interesting track because there is an easy 2WD track that heads up but also a more challenging 4x4 track virtually running alongside.  Most followed me up the 4x4 route which again provided some fun for the less experienced with steep loose climbs and a couple of small rocky steps.

The views from the lookout are simply magnificent and well worth the drive.  A walk, a few pictures and quick drink and we returned to Jamieson, but this time via the Mt. Terrible Track, which led us almost into main street Jamieson.

By 5.00 we were home, had a quick dip in the river and set up an Australiana themed  “happy hour” outside one of the vans prior to having dinner – which none of us could really fit in after the sumptuous happy hour snacks – before heading up for another terrific night around the fire.

Sunday dawned another perfect day and again by 10.00am we had 2 trips heading out – a more experienced one with Ian and Lorraine in the lead heading for Mt. Torbeck and surrounds, while I lead a moderate 4x4 run up to the slate mine area returning via Running Creek camping area.

Our route led us back to Granny’s Flat, but this time, we crossed the river onto Masters Track and then Mitchells Track which has quite a number of steep climbs and descents on its way to the Slate Mine.  We made the Slate Mine for lunch and were again rewarded with magnificent views over the high country. We had a quick lunch trackside and the kids – big and small – climbed all over the mine area, broke up rocks looking for “treasure” before we headed down Steiners Rd back to Howqua via Running Creek camping area.  Running Creek is a lovely camp area on the Howqua river except on a long weekend – it was packed.  People, cars, loud music, crowded river – and so after letting the kids have a quick swim, we scurried back to our little piece of paradise at Goughs Bay.

Sunday’s happy hour got into full swing, complete with party pies, sausage roles, iced Vo Vo’s, cheeses and dips and …….. Graeme in his “happy pants and shirt”.  I’m sure you all saw the picture!!!!  What you didn’t see was that Graeme gave an impassioned speech about how lucky we were to have access to not only the camp site but the bush generally and that he wanted to do a “whip around” to raise some money to donate directly to the local CFA Station to show our appreciation of their efforts in fighting fires and preserving the bush on our behalf.

He obviously did a great job because we raised well over $400 on the night and it has been suggested, and, supported by the members (40+) and Committee members there on the night (5/8) that the Club should round that up to $1,000.  Chris, Lea and Simon said their neighbour was actually the local Goughs Bay CFA Captain and that that would be hugely appreciated.  We will put that to vote at the next meeting, but I would hope that it will get support from the general membership.  The following day, the CFA Captain and Treasurer came for a visit and photo opportunity.

Just to spice up the night, Aaron suggested that he would donate the princely sum of $50 if Graeme would ………. Ah well, you had to be there and, what happens on camp stays on camp!!  Suffice to say, Glenn finally came out from behind the electric fence!!!!!

Monday dawned another perfect day and while most had a leisurely morning and packed up, Simon (from the property) led 5 of us on a short trip into Eildon National Park and onto some very steep and rutted tracks.  On the map, one track descended over 300 vertical metres in about a 1km or less!  All these tracks were only a 10 minute drive from the property so we will definitely have to go back and explore the area further.

A quick lunch, a longer soak in the river and last of us were heading home about 3.30ish having had a really excellent weekend and Australia Day and made some great contacts for future trips.

A huge thank you to Chris, Lea and their family for their hospitality and welcoming attitude.  Everyone had a great time and loved the property and your company.  We have arranged to go back to participate in a “working bee” to clean up the camping area and particularly improve the river access.  This should be in early May so I’ll keep you informed.

Thanks to all who attended, - it was a great trip and showed that with a little bit of patience and organisation, even 20+ vehicles and 50+ people and kids can have a great time. Finally, I just have to say that I loved Isabel’s outfit and she really was our own little Miss Australia!  I would also be very re-miss not to also say that Hanka looked awesome in her Australia Day dress and sunnies – well done ladies!!

The recent trip to the Grampians was real change of pace and showed that we could really enjoy a weekend of camping, touring and walking with no 4x4ing at all!  For those who attended, it was a great weekend and there were multiple requests to “do it again” as there were so many other places to explore in the Grampians region and it is really is a special place for walking and photography.

A total of 12 vehicles made their way to our base camp at Cavendish Recreation Reserve which is about 25Km north of Hamilton and 30km west of Dunkeld, on the Thursday and I arrived with a small party of three vehicles about 10.30 that night to a lovely flat grassed camp beside the Wannon River with camp fire  blazing away to keep us warm.  Lower the legs and pop the roof, get a chair and a drink and join the fire – gotta love a caravan!!

Friday dawned grey and cool and threatening rain.  The plan for the day was a run south of Cavendish to visit Mt. Rouse (the largest of the extinct volcanoes) lookout, then traverse south west to Mt. Eccles National Park and Lake Surprise and its lava cave /tube, then head north to Mt. Napier National Park to see more/ bigger lava caves and to return to Cavendish via Wannon and Nigretta Waterfalls – a round trip of about 200+km.

Our timing at Mt. Rouse was not good as a major cold and rain front hit us just as we walked to the top of the lookout.  The view was confined by cloud, rain and mist and we scurried back to the vehicles with many of us looking like drowned rats!!  As we were already wet, we stopped at the crater and did a short walk to take more misty pictures.  From there back to town (Penshurst) and a quick stop at the Volcano Discovery Centre.  This was awesome and $7.00 well spent.  They have a huge amount of information and great audio-visual displays.  The rain had stopped and coffee was calling so a few made their way over to the local shop to top up the caffeine levels.

From there, were did about a 40 minute run, with the heaters and a/c cranked to dry ourselves, to Mt. Eccles National Park.  This was a real surprise – a great lunch stop and information centre, with camping available and lots to see.  We drove up to the lookout over the crater lake (Lake Surprise) and then a short walk to a lava cave that had easy access for lots more pictures.  From there we made our way to the day parking area for a quick lunch in vastly improved weather – there was actually some sun!!

Mt. Napier was next on the list, via Harmon Valley which is one of the largest lava flows in Australia.  While it’s all a lush green valley now, you could easily see the course of the lava flow as it made it’s way down to Port Fairy.

The Byaduk lava caves were next and we spent an hour or so walking between 3 large collapsed lava caves.  Tyron managed to scramble down into one – oh to be that young and agile!!  These are caves that have been created when a lava tube roof has collapsed.  Essentially, the lava flows in a river and the outside skin cools to form a crust.  As this thickens, it creates a tube and the allows the rest of the lava inside to keep flowing.  As the lava flow ends, the result is a hollow lava tube.  The Byaduk caves have been created where sections of the roof of the tube have collapsed.  While they were very interesting and are of international renown, personally I found the lava cave at Lake Surprise  to be of more interest as it actually gave you access and you could see the interior walls and colours that have been created.

By now it was mid-late afternoon but at least there was blue sky and sunshine for our cross country drive to the water falls.  These too were spectacular probably as a result the recent rains.  There was certainly plenty of water roaring over the falls making for excellent photography.  There was also good camping at Wannon Falls albeit that there were a few people there – call me unsociable!  Another short drive bought us to Nigretta Falls which were equally as spectacular with the advantage that you could walk down to river at the foot of the falls.  However, that meant a walk up a lot of stairs to regain the carpark but it was certainly worth it.

Time to return to camp at Cavendish (40ishkm) with some going straight there and others via Hamilton to top up with fuel.  The normal PP4WDC evening followed with nibbles, drinks and dinner around the fire.  We actually introduced a “new” concept – it was fairly “chilly” so we lite two fires allowing all to get close and keep warm!

Saturday dawned chilly but with the promise of a warmer day.  The plan was a round trip to Halls Gap via Dunkeld and the main road through the Grampians, an hour and half break in Halls Gap before following the Mt. Zero Road to Hollow Mountain and an indigenous art sight. 

The drive via Dunkeld to Halls Gap is just magnificent.  The views of Grampians rock ramparts just keep opening before you.  Being spring, there were plenty of wild flowers too.  Knowing Halls Gap would be busy, we went our separate ways in town agreeing to meet at the Mt. Zero Road at midday. A number of us spent the time at the Brambuk Cultural Centre learning about the indigenous and geological history of the area.

From there we headed up to Hollow Mountain to find the carpark very busy but as luck would have it, we all got a park and met at Gary’s vehicle for a quick lunch before heading out on the walks. The sun was out and it was suddenly “hot”!  A number of us headed up Hollow Mountain which we had been told involved a bit of “scrabbling” over rocks to get to the peak.  Someone needs to re-define “scrambling”!!  I reached that particular point and decided discretion was the better part of valour and climbing that rock face without assistance was not going to happen.  A few of the party agreed, while the younger (or more agile) carried on and made the peak.  They said it was a great walk/climb and had wonderful views.  The rest of us, returned to the carpark and then went to view the rock art site.  It’s a lovely walk and leads you to an elevated rock platform where the art shelters are found.  The views to the north are magnificent too.

Once everyone was done walking and climbing, we headed back to camp for another night around the fire.  It’s a pleasant drive down the western side of the Grampians – not as spectacular as the morning but very pleasant anyway.  

While there were no 4x4 tracks, it was nonetheless a great weekend of camping and exploring a new and very interesting part of Victoria. The Grampians are a fascinating area that are quite unique and equally as spectacular.  As well as many more walks to explore, waterfalls and lookouts to see, we also noticed a number of sandy tracks that may need exploring.  It’s definitely worth organizing another trip to explore this area further.  Also, Cavendish recreation reserve was a great place to base ourselves.  The camping is excellent and while the facilities are old, they are clean with lots of hot water.  They are also about to be renovated and updated so that will be a definite bonus.  Steve, the Manager, could not have been more helpful.  He stopped by several times when he saw we had some issues and was able to provide some tools and stood ready to help out in any way he could.  Great thanks to an awesome guy!

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In what has become an annual event, about 16 vehicles met and camped at O’Tooles Flat (on Donnelly Track in the Walhalla area) to participate in a snow drive to the summit of Mt. Selma.

The format of the weekend was as a base camp with a day drive on the Saturday to find and drive through snow and to spend Sunday morning exploring some the historic gold mining sites of which there are many in this area.

Many arrived during the Friday afternoon and set up a camp so when I arrived with four other vehicles following, we were welcomed with a warm fire to sit around and enjoy a wine or two – great job guys, it is nice to arrive to a cheery fire!

The forecast had been good with snow falls predicted from the preceding Monday to Thursday, but in fact very little fresh snow had fallen so I expected it would be a mixture of mud and snow rather than the more pristine snow we had last year.  On the positive side, it was not raining, and the camp area was not too muddy under foot!

Given the size of the group and the various levels of driving experience, we divided the group into 3 – Clive leading the more experienced group who went off seeking more challenging tracks, Matt and Greg who led a “medium” rated course to Mt. Selma, and me who took a more scenic route with an emphasis on finding snow on the way to Selma.

We left O’Tooles and immediately headed up Flats Track.  For those who know Flats Track, it is anything but flat!  It is a really steep climb immediately out of O’Tooles straight to top of Williamsons Spur.  The track is in good condition so it’s easy enough, but it certainly got the blood pumping for a few of the less experienced!

We were joined at the top by Graeme and Jen and Boston and we followed Williamson Spur track and turned left on Springs Rd heading for Mt. Useful Fire Tower.  No snow at this point but still a beautiful drive through the Victorian High Country. 

We finally came across snow on the final climb to the Mt. Useful fire tower and the final section of track to the tower actually needed 4x4 - snow under the tyres at last!!!  We took a short break at the fire tower to admire the views, take photo’s and throw a few snowballs before heading back out to the main road to Mt. Selma.

The track from Mt. Useful to Mt. Selma is quite spectacular as you are on the rooftop of Victoria and whilst there was not much snow on the road, there was plenty on the roadside and covering the surrounding country, so it was great for the photography enthusiasts.

The final climb to the summit of Mt. Selma again gave us the opportunity to actually drive in snowy slush and snow, with only one vehicle having to take 2 attempts to negotiate one section of slippery track.  The summit provided more magnificent views but there was a very cold wind, so it was decided to continue to find a more sheltered lunch stop.

Given that it was all 2WD from this point, Graeme took two vehicles – Serge and Jaddon – and followed a number of what should have been intermediate grade 4x4 tracks as a more adventurous route to camp.  The rest of us followed the main road and soon found a helipad that provided not only shelter from the wind for lunch, but also a good supply of firewood to load into my tray for that nights fire – bonus!

The rest of our trip became a touring style drive with stops at Andersons camp site, Smoko Point and the Toombom mine site.  All in all, it was a good day’s drive with great views, some 4x4ing, a look at the history of the area all without too much stress or strain.

We arrived back at camp at about 4.00ish expecting to find Graeme and his party already home. As we were first home, we got the fire going, drinks out etc and over the next hour, Clive’s and Matt’s group arrived at camp all having had an enjoyable days driving.  By 6.00ish, Graeme’s party still hadn’t arrived, and we were getting concerned.  I had spoken to them by radio at about 3.15ish and they should have been back by now.  Obviously, something had happened.  As it was now getting dark, we took 2 vehicles to again climb Flats Track to get some height and hopefully get them on radio.  Thankfully, we were able to pick them up to be told that final climb up to the main Aberfeldy Rd had involved 3+ hours of winching!!

Didn’t see that coming at lunchtime!  Anyway, they were all well, there was no damage to vehicles and Serge and Jaddon now have some great campfire stories!  The rest of the evening was the normal PP4WDC thing – fire, food, a few drinks and lots of story and good company.

Sunday dawned grey and threatening rain.  Some decided to pack up before the rain and head home.  The rest of us, headed further along Donnelly Creek Track to the historic site of Store Point.  As the name implies, this was the main “township” servicing the gold miners in the Donnelly Creek area.  There was a school, hotel, church and two houses of “ill repute” – I think at its height, there were about 400 people there.  We spent an hour+ following the walking trail and historic markers around the ruins of the old buildings, a Cemetery, and old gold workings.  We were very lucky to have a friend of Greg’s with us who is very knowledgeable about this area and its history and he was able to really bring the place alive for us – thanks Tony, much appreciated. The rain started as we concluded the walk, so it was straight back to camp, finish packing, have a quick lunch and head home.

All in all, it was another successful trip with a good mix of driving, walking and camping with good friends.  Thanks to all who came along and especially to those who stepped up to be trip leaders on the day – again, much appreciated.

A small but dedicated group of members met at the Blazeaid Workcamp based at Bunyip Recreation Reserve on Friday night to donate a weekend labour to help rebuild after the devastating bushfires in the Bunyip area earlier this year. It was quite a moving experience but also an extremely rewarding experience too.

We found it to be very well organized, our time was used effectively and we were able to achieve quite a lot. I know others have not always found this, but, we had very little standing around to nothing type moments.

We arrived Friday night about 9.00ish to meet up with Neil and Eric & Nancye on what was a pretty miserable night – cold and wet. The camping area was grassy but the accesses were getting very boggy. One group had a fire going but as they went off to bed early, we were forced to adjourn to Neil's camper (with a very effective diesel heater) for a couple of red wines and some nibbles. Fearing a similar problem on Saturday, I rang Lorraine and she was able to organize to bring down a fire pot with her the next morning – onya Lorraine! Anyway, we called stumps about 11.00ish as breakfast was at 7.00am aiming to leaving camp for the farms at 8.00am.

The format of the days was very well structured and effective. All the catering is provided by donations from the local community. Breakfast was a huge choice of eggs and bacon, cereal, fruit, juices, porridge, toast – just help yourself! Then there was the lunch table. Again, a large range of breads, rolls, meats, salads, dressing etc – make up your own lunch wrap it up in a bag with your name, go over to the morning tea table and select from a huge range of cakes, chocolates and juices, and put them in the large esky to be transported to the work site by the team leader.

Next, you signed in to be covered by their insurance, picked up a Hi-Viz shirt, gloves and safety glasses ready for the day. There was a compulsory safety briefing and shortly after 8.00 we were assigned to a Team Leader and on the road in convoy to the nominated farm.

We spent the day stringing new barbed wire fencing and by the end of the day, we were pretty good at measuring strand heights and knocking staples to hold it in place. If you were near the business end – tying and straining – the experienced fencers were really keen to pass on their knowledge.

There was a break for morning tea – selected cakes and plenty of tea and coffee – a lunch break all held out in the field to minimize down time. It was tools down around 4.00, tidy up and repack the work trailers and back to camp where afternoon tea was waiting – tea, coffee, juices, cheesecakes, party pies. You signed off and put your name down for dinner and the next days work party as was applicable to you. Dinner was served at 6.00 pm either at the camp common room or at the local hall. In our case, Saturday was a selection of soups followed by spag bol and range of desserts. Then back to camp, light the fire and finish with a few wines! The next day was pretty much a repeat.

It's a real “feel good” exercise. On the first day, we had an elderly farmer couple who had basically lost everything on the farm – house, shedding and all the fencing. Being their 80’s I have no idea how they would recover without this assistance. The second day was a younger guy, but was working by himself and as he said, we had saved between 3 and 5 days of his own labour. The appreciation and gratitude these people shown and expressed by these people is both moving and touching. The camaraderie working in the team, having dinner etc is also very strong.

Thanks to our Hon. Secretary for organizing it and I for one would like to do it again as soon as practicable.

I am pleased to say our skill share weekend was a great success with it being a true skill sharing event with lots of people contributing.  It was a very relaxed atmosphere which allowed everyone to share their knowledge on practical issues we are likely to come across in the bush.  It was very heartening to hear a new member say how valuable it was to have so much knowledge and experience available to learn from. 

Saturday morning started out with tyre plugging - it’s interesting to note how everyone has just a little bit of the destructive side in them and love drilling holes in the tyre!  It was good to practice on an old tyre and many members, both new and “older” came forward to have a go.  Although it’s not recommended, we did drill and plug a side wall noting that while not safe for high speed highway travelling, it would get you back to civilization at low speed.  We finished the session with an exercise using the weight of a 4bee and timber to break the tyre bead on the rim and then reseating the bead using a ratchet strap to provide the initial pressure.

It was then on to welding with car batteries. Ian and Rob had perfected the technique this year with three batteries wired in series - 36 volts with lots of amperage worked a treat.  Quite a number practiced their skills gaining confidence that it is possible to do minor repairs on the track to get yourself out of trouble.

Next, the 80 series and the BT 50 were then driven so that their “legs” were cocked up on large logs and it was time to discuss suspension differences, wheel travel, differentials, traction control and the like. To finish the morning, we moved down the back of the property to a slippery slope to see how different tyres and pressures performed. The Nissan unfortunately threw a power steering belt proving the point that no amount of engine revs would get it up the slope on road pressures of course the 80 on aggressive tyre's and lower pressures made short work of it. 

A bit of lunch provided time for Graeme's mate to help us with radio checks and repairs. This was of great value to a number of us with one of my radios pronounced dead another resuscitated, and my aerial collection sorted into junk and usable. He was also able to answer many questions and provided really practical and understandable information on a subject many of us find complicated.

The afternoon saw us doing all sorts of recovery from snatching through several winching scenarios then back for drinks and wonderful community dinner thank you all.

During the evening, the heavens decided to open up for a few hours, but this didn't stop the warm fires and good conversation although it did slow my drinking as the beers were in the car and I had to suffer a drenching to get them.

Sunday morning was a slow start with a nice casual breakfast. We had a great talk on first aid which allowed us to look and better understand our new defib and EPIRB and provided some great instruction on how and when to use them.  We finished off the practical exercises with a general discussion and hands on comparison of various electronic mapping options which was very valuable.

A big thank you to all that attended and contributed. I won’t attempt to name you but thank you all a great weekend and so generously sharing your knowledge. 

Cheers  /  Don

We arrived at Lovicks hut on Thursday afternoon. Set up our tent on the camp site and proceeded to ready Lovicks for the 100 or so runners expected by mid morning Friday.  We spent some hours preparing what would be needed for the next mornings rush and then retired to a nicely lit camp fire.

Crawling out of bed at around 7am we breakfasted and got ourselves ready for the plethora of runners we expected by mid morn. We each had our respective jobs to do and waited patiently until about 10am or so when the first of many of the runners arrived. After a while others ran, or walked into camp to be fed and rested before moving on to the next check point.

By around 12 noon it was beginning to get rather busy as they kept streaming in. Runners who arrived from 2pm onwards, were fed and readied to be bedded down for the night as they would not have made it to the next checkpoint in time.

These runners (approximately 102) were then given dinner by us, shown to their respective tents where they stayed resting until morning.

4am Saurday morning and Lorraine made sure we were all up and about, getting breakfast ready for the 100 or so runners, some of whom went on from Lovicks and some remained to be taken back to Mount Buller unfit or hurt and not able to go on.

We then cleaned up the camp, pulled down our camp site and were all chanting at the bit to do some 4WDriving for the rest of the weekend. The two days spent at Lovicks was a huge success.

Saturday afternoon we proceeded through the mountains along some great tracks, and camped Saturday night at Running River camp site. This camp site was very, very nice with a lovely river running through, in which some of us took a dip.

Sunday saw us having a nice little sleep in followed by a hot breakfast and then off again through some of the nicest areas I have experienced in the high country. We stopped at Granny’s Flat, again a perfect camping ground, for lunch and then off to Jamieson for a coffee before heading for home.

A great weekend enjoyed by all and we can’t wait for Hut 2 Hut next year.

We all arrived at Graham's property at various times on Friday night.

Then on Saturday morning we left about 10 o'clock and went for a drive along  the Old Carlisle track.  We went on to Dandos Camping Ground to have a look. Great camping spots. Plenty of places to camp, fire pits, long drop, a river and walking tracks.

We left there and went down Sayers track. Then we spent the next four hours, winchng and negotiating ruts for approximately half a kilometre, hoping we wouldn't get any rain, as there were alot of rain clouds about and it would have made our situation a lot more difficult.  The drive of the day belonged to Jack and his trusty Pajero as he was one of two vehicles thatmanaged to make it through one section without the aid of a winch. We them traveled through the Otways and came back by the Mount McKenzie track, then got back to the farm about 6pm and sat around the campfire going over the events of the day.

Sunday morning we had a pleasant and easy drive to Levers Hill  where we had coffee and cake before returning back to camp to pack up and head off for home.

The weekend started for me with a 6.00am departure on Friday morning leaving the house in 30 degree heat with an expected daytime top temperature forecast of 45 degrees. Great!.

Arriving at the Bairnsdale Vic Parks office around 9.15am, I had  a quick chat with the staff, collected the gate key for the property and was on my way.

After a final fill of the diesel tank and a couple of 20l jerry cans of unleaded I met up with George on route and we headed off to the property, airing down once we hit the dirt. By this time it was getting uncomfortably hot but I still had to clear the track into the property so George could get his poptop van in. Being a day of total fire ban, a chainsaw was out of the question so it meant clearing all overhanging branches and scrub with a hand saw. Needless to say this was pretty hot work and by the time I had cleared the obstructions from the 4km track into the property, we arrived at the river camp spot pouring sweat. Not only was I hot but bloodied as well, after standing firmly on a sapling that broke off and pierced a deep hole in the arch of my left foot. Note to self: don’t wear thongs when clearing tracks.

After having a bit of a breather, George and I both set up camp while drinking ridiculous amounts of fluid to keep hydrated. As it was so uncomfortably hot late afternoon, I suggested to George that we go for a drive to try and get some relief from the heat. We decided to go to the Dargo pub, a 120km round trip, but at least we would have the breeze through the car and some cold drinks awaiting us at the pub. The Pub was not much cooler but the drinks were cold and we stayed for a couple of hours under the ceiling fans, until the sun started to drop and temperature eased a little.

On arriving back at the camp we were greeted by a couple of members who had arrived during the afternoon. Then steadily during the evening more arrived with the last group coming in about 11.00pm. Unfortunately they had encountered severe storm and wind conditions on their way down and bought the rain with them, which meant some of them had to sit in their cars before pitching tents/campers between bouts of rain. As everyone was worn out from the heat of the day and the drive down. Most were in bed by midnight.

Saturday was agreed as a day of rest with humid conditions and perfect weather for lounging in the river. The river water was very pleasant, with the river rocks from the 45 degree heat the day before making for very comfortable swimming conditions. In the arvo a group of us decided to visit a popular local attraction, the Den Of Nargun and the Amphitheatre, a spectacular rocky gorge section on the Mitchell River.  Unfortunately after driving about 25km on an overgrown back track we came across a “ROAD CLOSED” sign. This was very disappointing as the only option was to turn around and make our way back to the main road. As it was already 4.00pm we decided to head back to camp, as it would have taken us another 3 hours via the main road to visit these sites and then return to camp. Maybe next time?

Saturday night bought some light rain which made things a little sticky but was perfect to keep the dust down for our Sunday drive. On Sunday morning a couple of vehicles from the group had to head home and by about 11.00am the rest of the group headed out for the day. We crossed the Mitchell River at Horton’s crossing (notorious for the loss of vehicles when the river is flowing harder), through a group of campers taking up the bank on the opposite side of the river, literally right through their camp dodging guy ropes and fishing rods, stopping only for some photos and then up Horton’s Track. This was the first test for all vehicles on steep rough terrain with some rock steps. Everyone made it through without too much issue, apart from Christine demanding from Ian, the fitment of a “Jesus Bar” on their new Ranger on its first 4wd outing. This hill climb also reaffirmed Ian’s plans to fit a rear locker to his new toy.

After about 70km of bush tracks we found ourselves at the Dargo Pub for drinks and a few photo’s. It was then a 60km run back on the main road to our river campsite.

The day’s  tracks went very smoothly with some cruising along ridge tops, with nice views of the mountainous Dargo area, including a number of steep downhill and uphill sections thrown in for a bit of variety. A bit of trivia from Nigel’s GPS suggested we travelled in an upward direction for about 5km and downward by about 5.3km over the duration of the day’s drive.

Monday meant most of the group had to head home but before leaving we put in about 20 person hours of volunteer work clearing fallen timber from around the camp area and homestead. Then in the afternoon Don and I filled my trailer with general rubbish and scrap roofing and other steel from the homestead site to be taken offsite to the Bairnsdale Recycle centre on my way home on Tuesday.

A big thank you for all the volunteer work as I am sure this will put us in good stead for future application to use the property. I am yet to get feedback from the Ranger but understandably they have been tied up with fire control in the region over the past couple of weeks.

This is a great venue not too far from home and suitable for any size group our club could wish for.

Cheers, and thanks again to all who attended,  /  Clive

The story begins with a BT50, Ranger and Navara meeting up at Longwarry for lunch, fuelling up the humans in preparation for an exciting weekend. The Ranger, it's door getting caught-up in the blustery conditions, decided to get up close and personal with a Mazda CX5, leaving an imprint in its door – not quite the way to make new friends. The convoy towards Muttonwood camp ground just outside of Licola was relatively uneventful, however the air conditioning in the Navara was determined to blow out only hot air in 480 temperatures.

The vehicles arrived at Muttonwood around 4pm, meeting up with the Patrol that had set up and saved a nice area for the group.  A quick check around the campsite saw us make friends with a few of the locals before a nice dip in the Wellington River to cool off. The change of weather saw a spectacular lightning show overhead but with minimal rain… We may need to check for fire updates.  Our 5th member of the trip snuck into camp around 1am after a long day at work.

Saturday saw a respectable morning wake up with all parties ready to set off at 9:30am.  The party set off, taking a last minute detour to the Pinnacles to chat to the Fire Spotter in the tower. Thankfully no fires had sprung up near our planned route so after a few pictures of the beautiful view we set off.

The route took us along Billy Goat Bluff – a bit like Bourke St and with some trick passing manoeuvres at the actual Bluff. Continuing along the dry dusty track we took a left and headed towards Eaglevale campsite for a spot of lunch. After crossing a very low Wonnangatta River, we headed up Eaglevale track to Cynthia Spur track, which saw us pass many more groups also enjoying the wonderful countryside. Finally down Herne Spur track and along Wonnangatta track to set up camp for night 2 in the Wonnangatta Valley.  Whilst the Total Fire ban had been lifted for the day the strong, hot wind had us debriefing the drive with some refreshing ales whilst sitting in the Wonnangatta River, unfortunately no fire again.  Later in the evening Norm chose to play his old time Rock and Roll to help Jacek fall asleep.

The overnight rain continued into the morning making for a soggy pack-up, but could not dampen our spirits for the tracks ahead. After taking a stroll and history lesson around Wonnangatta station we began our drive – up Zeka spur. The rain, which had now stopped, kept dust to a minimum but making parts of the track slippery.

Turning right into Howitt Road we stopped for lunch at the Car Park before heading down King Billy road where we stopped to check out the Rock Scree. Luckily the Navara tightened his side-steps because the rough nature of the track might have seen them get bounced off.

Turning right into Bluff track had us wind our way up to Lovick’s Hut where we set up camp for the final night. Beautiful clear skies had us viewing the lights of Buller Village across the mountain range with our first campfire for the trip setting some nice ambience.

Our trip started on the 27th, we left the peninsula and started our drive to Loch Sport. Nice drive and only just over 3 hours away. We checked in to the Loch Sport caravan park and started to set up. Nice caravan park – good facilities. We got a powered site, close to loos and showers. Close to the kids playground as well. After we set up we went for a little walk down the boat ramp to check it all out. Kids were a tad nervous about the “merky” water (watching too much river monsters I think) but they soon got over that and had a swim – water was lovely and refreshing.

We then  ventured to the “base camp”.  On arrival we were greeted by about a dozen club members and our hosts. 

Day 2 we launched the boat and just went for a little cruise around lake Richmond – Terry had a wake board and everyone had a quick shot in the biscuit. Started to get a tad windy and I needed to get sorted for the Banquet lunch – we got the boat back in – nearly minus a car due to me not putting the hand break on enough (I learnt this day to always leave the car in gear when pulling the boat in) Banquet lunch was AMAZING as all of the club's lunches or dinners are – every was different.

This was followed by a trip down to the twilight markets – where we brought nothing except food haha. Kids had a ride at the carnival. Then back to the Simmos for camp fire.

Day 3 – I got up early and went to Sale for my usually Saturday parkrun which was lovely. I got back and we got the boat sorted and headed to meet everyone at Sperm Whale Head – Jack and Jan came for a cruise there with us and we had a great time. Thankfully the wind died down a tad for about 15mins and we where able to have a wakeboard and knee board back to the jetty. After everyone had dinner and found their spot around the camp fire “bastard KK” commenced there was some serious stealing going on mainly for the same few items – being a window shade, solar light and some bundy and VB cans. Another fun night around the fire with a lot of laughs, a few drinks and Jack doing sing alongs. Paul and Hannah also arrived back from a big day fishing and Hannah was lucky enough to have caught a 100+cm Gummy Shark.

Day 4 -  Sunday Morning saw us all meet at the CFA for the garage sale. We were told by a few people to buy the worst And biggest thing possible to store in Glenn and Maggie's shed – a leopard print chair was nearly brought by myself but luckily for them I didn’t. We then went back to Glenn and Maggie and cooked up the Gummy that Hannah had caught and wow wee it fed everybody, not sure about anyone else but I started slow in case we ran out but we ended up having leftover for lunch the next day as well. After lunch we all headed out for a drive – first stop was the surf beach then we headed to the tracks about 10km out of Loch Sport were Paul decided to get a tad stuck – recovered by Terry.  John then had a bit of fun doing some wheelies on the dried lake before he decided to get bogged to also requiring a recovery from Aaron this time.

After our drive another night around the fire.

Day 5 – New Years Eve A few people had to leave. Terry was up early and headed out on the boat with Paul and James. I eventually got out of the caravan park and made my way to the Simmos on foot. Saw Graham and Jenny on the way. I ended up bumping into John down the beach and then Glen and Maggie – I was lucky enough to be invited for lunch at the Simmos (more Gummy –so yum). Relaxing afternoon before the new years eve party. The crew got back from fishing and had another fun day – James managed to get a ripper Flathead at 44cm.  At 9 we all headed down to the Fireworks which were fantastic – poor little Holly though didn’t enjoy the fireworks and got loose and somehow managed to make her own way back to the Simmos (about 2.5km). The night was still young – lots of drinks, laughs and fire. Midnight hit (more fireworks –nearly lost Holly again) a few people crashed after (like myself and a few carried on).  This day Jack found out that something in his car wasn’t working and that he would have to drive home at 40-60km/hr towing the van – wasn’t looking forward to the trek ahead.   

Day 6 – New Years Day – a few sore heads. A lot did their own thing for majority of the day – We took the boat out and had some fun on the skis and knee board. We then started to pack as we had to leave fairly early the next day.  We then met with Ian, Christine, Jack and Jan and Graham and Jenny for an early dinner, (Jack had found out that Jason was going to come pick his van up so he was not as worried about getting home). After dinner we  again ended up back at the Simmos for a quick drink. a good laugh about what people couldn’t remember from the previous night, like the fire brigade rocking up. Then we said our goodbyes and headed back to the campsite ready for the drive home the next day.

Day 7 – The trip home, uneventful pretty good drive home. And Jack and Jan got home safely as well (their van safely delivered on the weekend)

Thank you to Glenn and Maggie for having us all. Although not a 4WD trip as such – there was 2 recoveries and lots of fun to be had J

The program kicked off with a theory night at Graeme and Jen’s on the Wednesday evening where Jason and Graeme took the students through the official FWDVIC training slides covering the basics of 4x4 vehicle features, various track and driving conditions that can be expected and basic recovery techniques.  It also provides a great chance to discuss all of these issues between both the students and the instructors to ensure that we all have a better understanding of what to expect (for the students) and previous experience (for the instructors) to ensure that the practical training day is used to maximum effect.

Most of us arrived at Erica Caravan Park on the Friday night and by the time I arrived, the fire was going and it was perfect timing for a red!  Given we wanted a reasonably early start, we had an early-ish night.

Saturday dawned warm and sunny and we began by lining up the vehicles and going through a basic inspection routine highlighting some of the key things to look out for and be aware of such as recovery points, approach/ramp over/departure angles, battery tie downs and wheel nuts – yes, one of mine was loose so it's just as well Graeme was watching closely and picked it up!

From there it was along the bitumen and over the dam wall before stopping to air down and the top of Beardmores Track.  The idea was to take the group to the intersection with Low Saddle Track and to begin our practical exercises on the steeper sections between there and the river.  We soon came across a small bog hole and diversion track that was both rutted and narrowly twisted between trees.  We all got out and assessed the situation, checking the depth of the main bog hole and then choosing a line through the ruts and trees.  We got 3 vehicles through cleanly with no issues before a party coming the other way appeared, so we pulled over to allow them through and watch their line.  Clearly, they “hadn’t been listening” because every vehicle bottomed out as they banged and crashed through.  It was a great example of the difference between taking your time and choosing a sensible line versus rushing through with very little thought.  We got the rest of our vehicles through without any issue and then parked up at Low Saddle to complete the main part of the training - stall stops and key starts both up hill and downhill, reversing down hills, picking lines, drive-through-the-brakes etc. Even with 4 instructors, this took the balance of the morning, so we used the time over lunch to go through recovery gear, joining snatch straps, use of bridles and completing a snatch strap recovery exercise.

After lunch we headed along Low Saddle Track which provided a variety of conditions allowing many of the techniques taught during the morning to be used in real life.  There was one section around a fallen tree and over an erosion control going uphill with an off camber slope that results in a front and rear opposite wheel lifting.  This provides an excellent example of the value of traction aids (lockers and traction control), or, without these, the importance of taking the correct line!  This is followed by a steep and rocky decent with a few ruts for good measure.  This leads to the main Walhalla Rd and the aim was to take this to Fultons Creek to complete the exercise with a really steep decent and river crossing.  However, due to significant erosion, it was decided not to do Fultons and to push on to try Northeast Track and that river crossing instead.

Northeast Track at this end is very easy and the river crossing proved to be too shallow to be of any real value, so we backtracked to Trig Track and did the quite steep and rocky climb from the river to the Walhalla road.  This looked quite challenging for many of the student’s but all the vehicles did it with ease just showing the value of such good trainers ……   and perhaps, just perhaps, how good the electronics and tractions aids are on modern vehicles!  Given that time was getting on, we headed back across the dam wall to arrive back at the caravan park by about 5.00ish.

Don produced the rest of the paperwork and the “exam” which needed to be completed – I produced cheese, dips and biscuits – no prizes for guessing which was more popular.  During the day, Neil, George, Jude and Graham had arrived for the pub dinner and the Sunday day drive.  With the paperwork and exam completed, most headed over to the Pub while a couple stayed to get the fire going and get a head start on a quite ale or wine. We returned from the Pub and joined the others around the fire to talk about the days activities and what was planned for the Sunday.

Sunday dawned another beautiful day and after a hearty breakfast, we divided into 2 groups – one led by me comprised mainly of the students, Graham, Don and his daughter’s family who came to join us on the drive.  The rest of the group went out to play on some of the more challenging tracks!

My aim was to complete a loop via Aberfeldy, down Pluto Track (steep downhill with switchback) to the river, up Pluto Link (steep climb) to Macquires Track (long and possible soft damp climb) to the top of Mt. Selma and returning via White Star (steep downhill with rock steps and shale) to Junction Creek (2 x river crossing), up Merringtons and back to Erica.

All went well to the Pluto Link climb which has become extremely and deeply rutted.  We discussed various lines noting a possible problem where it narrowed between two trees thereby leaving no option other than to drop into the ruts.  The only way to test it was to drive it, so I locked the rear diff and headed up.  At the tree I locked the front and got through without too much of a problem.  Thereafter, it got somewhat easier for the balance of the climb.  I was thinking that it was going to be very difficult for some and well near impossible without winching for others, and then George charged up in the jeep.  He bottomed out at the tree and after 3 or 5 attempts finally got up with judicial use of MORE RIGHT FOOT!!!!!  When he joined me at top, he said he would need to check for damage underneath because had just “bulldozed” through with sheer power.  Well that decided it – we would need to find another route as this was a “no go” for those with unmodified vehicles and less experience.  George and I headed down, which was a technical exercise as the rear of the vehicle kept trying to break away on the loose shale.  Don decided to have a go with his son-in-law at the wheel and managed to get up but on the return journey, came very close to rolling as the rear wheels jumped into a different set of ruts and the rear decided to come and meet the front. They caught it just in time but we did get a good view of the contents of the roof rack!!

We turned around and went back to river for lunch and to allow Don and me to consult the maps.  The only other option was Spud Spur Track that looked steep at the beginning but good thereafter up to the Walhalla Aberfeldy Rd.  Don and I decided to explore it first.  Steep creek crossing, good track, getting steeper but rocky surface and no ruts, round a climbing corner to find a Hi-Lux rolled over into a tree and a long set of rock steps with really loose shale!  We got up with just the rear locker in but there was quite a bit of spinning and slipping so we quickly made the decision that it was unsuitable for most of the party.  Back to the river and announce that we were returning up the main Pluto track.

Obviously, the lessons had been learned and the confidence was building because everyone negotiated the steep climb, straddled and crossed the ruts, made the climbing hairpin and drove the loose shale sections without any problems.  Once we made the main road, we headed back toward Erica and turned off on Donnellys Creek Rd to do the two river crossings at Junction Creek.  The short steep pinch between the two crossings caught a couple of people out, making them back down and reassess the line showing that you always need to be thinking!  The longer river crossing was negotiated successfully and from there it was dusty 2WD tracks and roads back to the caravan park to air up, pack and head home.

Now it’s my turn.  The 2nd group on Sunday decided to do some tracks that were a little bit more serious, and not suitable for our beginners.  Led by Graeme with Tait as his navvie, followed by Gary and Lyn, then Neal and finally myself(Jason).

We headed back towards the Thomson Dam and hit the dirt at Beardmores Track.  This track begins at a crossing of the Thomson River, where we were met by a water dragon sunning himself on the bank.  After crossing the river we began the steep and rutted climb.  Thankfully we hadn’t taken our beginners to the lower section of Beardmores, it would have been a definite trial by fire.

Following on from this it was a quick couple of kilometres in high range to the beginning of Trig Track.  Our students would be familiar with this track, it was the last climb from our Saturday of learning.  We began our descent, and after passing the crossroad the track just got steeper.  This was a proper low range 1st gear track, with large holes everywhere, so careful line selection was required.  Once at the bottom we found one of the nicest swimming holes you could hope to find, adjacent to a small campsite.

From there it was time to ford the Aberfeldy River, via a very rutted and rocky entry, and then begin the even steeper climb to the top of the Trig Track. In the steepest section, there are now 12 switchbacks to negotiate with much steering wheel twirling.  After this comes the final very steep, rutted and rocky climb to the ridgeline.  Tait and Graeme being at the front, got out to watch the action.  Tait’s comment to me at the top, “That was awesome, the front wheels came off the ground.”  My reply, “Which one?”  “Both at the same time”, says Tait.

From there it was down One Speck Track and then up Fulton’s Creek Track, through the rough and rutted section we had driven past on the Saturday.  Back into high range and a couple of kilometres to the Low Saddle Track that had been driven on Saturday.  We then diverted onto Rum Rd, dropping down to a crossing of the Thomson River, and another small camp site with a lovely swimming hole and a rope swing.  Then back onto the bitumen and back to Erica for a leisurely lunch before packing up and heading for home.

Nine vehicles headed out to East Gippsland on a four day trek through the high country over the Melbourne Cup weekend.  The aim of the trip was to drive over Mt. Tingaringy, find one of the original “Black Allan Line” stone cairns marking the original Vic/NSW border and then continue to Mt. Pinnibar to drive over the highest 4x4 road in Victoria.  We achieved all of this and had some interesting driving in-between, and, great nights around the camp fire as well.

After meeting at Bruthen caravan park on Friday night, Saturday dawned warm and bright and just got warmer as the day went on.  Our route was from Bruthen to Orbost and then following Yalmy Rd as it twists and turns through forests and mountain country to Bonang and the Mt. Tingaringy turn off.  Here we aired down and followed a good dirt road and later a well-formed track, for about 16km to the summit of Mt. Tingaringy.  It was a very easy run and we were rewarded with spectacular views over the endless mountain ranges of the Victorian and NSW high country as well as a great lunch spot.  Having finished lunch and taken lots of pictures, one of our party, who knew the area well, led us to one of the Black Allan border cairns –  a simple rock cairn built by hand on the first Vic/NSW border survey expedition in 1872 to mark that straight section of the states border from the source of the Murray River to the coast at Cape Howe.  It took 2 years to survey and mark the 180km straight line!

From here we followed some more interesting 4x4 tracks over some fairly steep country and across a number of dry river crossings, finally coming down out of the higher ranges to Amboyne Crossing on the Deddick River. Here is another piece of history, a cable swing bridge, one of only 2 left in Victoria, opened in 1935 to service the Amboyne farming and grazing communities. More pictures and a walk across the old bridge to stretch the legs after a fairly long day.  From here, it was a short – and very dusty drive to McKillops Bridge and the camping area on the Snowy River.  McKillops Bridge is quite spectacular to see and drive.  It is a 255 metre, timber decked bridge - the longest in Victoria – and is of exceptional height spanning the mighty Snowy River.  The bridge we drove over was built between 1931 – 1936 replacing an earlier one washed away in floods. We arrived at the camp and soon had a fire going, cheese, dips and wine out and settled in great night around the camp fire.

Sunday was another warm and sunny day and we were on the road by 9.00. We went to have a better look at the bridge before continuing up one of the most spectacular mountain roads in the country!  That’s a big claim, but the roads from Amboyne to McKillops and then from McKillops back up to the Snowy Road are literally carved out of the side of the cliffs often with no railing and little passing room!  At the top of the climb we detoured to Little River Gorge – which is totally mis-named as it is over 500 meters deep from the viewing platform and more than 4km long making it the deepest gorge in Victoria.  Yeah right, just a “little” gorge!!!!!

From there out onto the very dusty Snowy Road through Suggen Buggen and onto the start of the Ingeegoodbee Track which we hoped would be an interesting route over to Benambra.  Interesting is not quite the right word.  Within 2km we were faced with off camber deeply rutted track climbing 2 or 3 rock steps with an overlay of loose shale and a near vertical drop on one side! Get it wrong or slip off the right line and damage to steering, tyres and underbody components – particularly for the newer and lower IFS vehicles – was a strong possibility.  We stop the convoy from coming up – too late to stop the first 4 vehicles – to inspect the route.  We walked on and found that it got a lot harder further up and probably only vehicles with traction aids were going to make it – and there was another 60km or so ahead and supposedly we hadn’t reached the “double black” sections.  We called it “too hard” for this trip as we had a number of “normal” 4x4’s and we judged that if this was typical of the track, we would still be there at midnight trying to get all 9 vehicles through. A radio message got those at the bottom turning around and heading back to Suggen Buggen for lunch.  “OK people, how do you feel about backing down?”  “Not going to happen they said!!”  True enough it would have been a very long and difficult reverse so that left only one choice – get our 4 vehicles up and over the steps to turn around.  One of our party got out and did a great job of directing wheel placement to avoid serious damage so we all made it up, turned around to made our way down and to the lunch stop. A brief and now “late” lunch was had, and we backtracked to Limestone Rd and made our way to Benambra to re-fuel before heading to our camp site at Buenba Flat on the road to the “three peaks” – Gibbo, Anderson and Pinnibar.

Buenba Flat is a huge area of alpine meadow and close to the smallish river (or large creek!) which is swimmable – in warmer weather!  We had a great night around the campfire good food and some live music.  The kids kept everyone supplied with toasted marshmallows too.  Monday morning was cool, grey and overcast with rain threatening. We were on the track to Mt. Gibbo by 9.00am with thankfully, a break from the dust.  The track was well formed and climbed into the snow gums before we turned onto the Mt. Gibbo 4x4 track.  This was a great drive on a rocky and at times long steep climbs to the 1,757m open and windswept summit of Gibbo with sensational views over the mountain ranges and our track ahead.  Grey clouds, wind and threatening rain saw us all rushing for jumpers and coats, but it was still spectacular.

The track headed steeply down over a couple of nasty steps and loose rocky sections to a sheltered saddle before again climbing to Mt. Anderson.  This is a lower peak, well treed and more sheltered so we elected to keep moving onto Mt. Pinnibar – our real destination for the day.  This track is well formed but has its fair share of climbs and descents culminating in a long steep and rocky climb to the Pinnibar summit at $1,763m.  It’s a great climb over bare rock sections and loose shale that is great fun and challenging without being dangerous.  You look at it from the bottom and think – “holy smoke, look at this climb!”.  You still need to pick a line to get smoothly to the top, and then you think, “That wasn’t too hard but a really great drive” and then you see the view and just think – “Wow”! To give you some perspective, the actual road level at Pinnibar is 1,763m while the Ski Village at Hotham is at 1,750m and Dinner Plains is at 1,590m.  I think I’m right in saying Pinnibar is the highest road in Victoria – just by 13m!!

After a longish stop for photos and leg stretching, the wind and cold drove us back into the trucks deciding it was too early and too windy to make this the lunch stop.  The track continued over the peak and wound down easily via Shady Creek Upper Track and various others to Pinnibar Hut well below the peak and nicely sheltered from the elements – lunch time!

From the Hut to the main Benambra – Corryong Rd was mainly 2x4 tracks and roads that were very picturesque before we turned south for Benambra and Omeo heading to “Dogs Grave” for the night.  This section of the road was very dusty and incredibly windy and slow.  The 75km took a lot longer than anticipated and as a result, we didn’t make Omeo until after 5.00pm.  We kept it moving straight though Omeo toward Swifts Creek turning up Powers Gully Track which I knew from past experience was a long, steep 4x4 track. It was looking like we would arrive at Dogs Grave in the dark, but luckily, before we got to the climb, a large grassy area complete with some fire wood, opened up and a snap decision was made by all to camp here rather than push on and arrive in the dark – it had been a long day!  Needless to say, a fire and nibbles soon appeared and good night ensued.

Tuesday dawned grey and overcast with rain threatening again and some very dark clouds hovering over the hills in front of us.  We had a more leisurely start as it wasn’t that far to Dargo and the bitumen road but by just after 9.00, I was in “low second” working my up the hill.  It was steep but a good surface, dry clay with some loose rocks, but no bad ruts or steps.  The next vehicle followed me up, but about ¾ of the way up, it went into “limp mode” leaving them stranded on probably the steepest section!  And then the rain started - heavy and getting heavier!  Unable to go forward or back, we  decided to walk – well slip and slid - down to them to render assistance but after a number of attempts of trying to drive up, it was decided that it had become so slippery that the only safe option was to winch.  Three winch resets later, ably helped by others who had now walked up to lend a hand, they were finally able to join me at the top.  The next two vehicles, both of whom had rear lockers, finally joined me at the top but had to work the vehicles hard and use all the traction aides they had to only just make it.  We called it a no go for the remaining vehicles as the rain was continuing and the track conditions rapidly getting worse.  The remaining vehicles part way up the hill backed down very carefully while the four of us at the top went on until we found a turn around and then slipped and slid our way down to the bottom to join the rest of the party.

A decision was made to head down the bitumen to Swifts Creek where we stopped at the bakery for coffee and to discuss the next move.  A number decided to call it quits and head home while four of us decided to take the major dirt roads over to Dargo aiming for a late lunch at the Pub! The roads over to Dargo were fine, if not a little slippery, but this just added to the fun.  We arrived at the Pub at 2.10 to find the kitchen closed, so we settled for a beer and looked around all the memorabilia before hitting the road for home.

While not everything went to plan(!!) and the dust was fairly tiresome for those further down the convoy, it was a great weekend that was enjoyed by all. We traversed some magnificent roads and country, had great nights shared around the campfire and set the scene for a return trip.

The Grand Final Weekend saw 13 vehicles heading north-west into the Victorian Desert country to explore the Murray Sunset and Big Desert National Parks over the 3 day weekend.  Most drove to Wycheproof on the Thursday night to enable an early start on the Friday given we had 200km+ to travel before turning into the desert country.

Wycheproof Bakery turned out to be a great breakfast spot for some of us while other chose to get an earlier start and have a ìbig breakfastî at the Hattah Roadhouse which was also our last fuel stop.

Fuelled up and feed, we divided the group into 2 in an effort to reduce the dust problem and agreed to meet at Rocket Lake camping ground for lunch.  My group continued up the highway a bit further and turned into the desert following the old gypsum mining road and railway line past a couple of good sized salt lakes, what looked like mine tailing or perhaps earthworks for dams and through various gates and grids in some pretty sparse farming properties.  We stopped and had a walk over a largish blazingly white salt lake and took the opportunity to air down as the track had become corrugated and rough with the occasional sandy section.

We came across an old gypsum hopper that had been used to fill the trucks and trains along with a tailings field that sparkled with gypsum shards interspersed with a variety of wild flowers.  Within a few minutes of arriving, the first group caught up with having taken a more picturesque route!!

It wasnít too far from there to Rocket Lake, so we travelled in one convoy to the Lake for our lunch break.  The camp site looked to be a great spot, sheltered behind a sand dune, with plenty of trees and basic toilets and it would have made an attractive overnight camp.

From here we again divided into 2 groups and proceeded basically south through rolling small sand dune country which was also quite heavily treed.  My map showed a soak very close to the side of the track, so we stopped for an explore and while we found the ìlow pointî and plenty of animal tracks, we never found any evidence of water.

We continued basically south to Mopoke Hut which is a very well maintained and quite modern Hut and camping area.  While quite interesting and obviously welcome in poor weather conditions, the camp site around it was quite open and wind swept so based on a memberís recommendation, we continued further south-west heading for Mt. Crozier.  

We got a radio message from the front group that they had left a big pile of firewood on the side of the track to load into the tray for the night because we all know how cold desert nights can be.  We made Mt. Crozier camp ground by late afternoon and basically had the place to ourselves.  The camp site is large, well sheltered with lots of trees, has basic toilet facilities and is in the lee of Mt. Crozier which, at 150m high, is one of the tallest mountains in the area.  We soon had a fire going and as usual, the cheese, dips and chips came out and we settled into a great night around the fire with Jack strumming a few numbers quietly in the background.

The morning dawned bright and clear and after a hearty breakfast, most us of climbed Mt. Crozier to take in the views of the surrounding area before heading off for the Pink Lakes and major historic salt mining area. This is a spectacular drive that winds though a number of salt lakes all tinged with flamingo pink colouring.  While we didnít have the time, I would love to go back and spend a day or two exploring this area.  From here it was a quick run into Underbool for a fuel top up before a 60km+ bitumen run to Murrayville for a picnic lunch at the local park.

From Murrayville, we travelled together as we navigated our way to Cactus Bore Track which I had read as being one of the more difficult soft and sandy tracks in the park.  While it was certainly more difficult than the other tracks, it was still only a relatively easy in 4x4 high range as it wound through what was now fairly familiar small sand hills that were often soft on the way up and badly rutted on the downhill side.  Once you got the knack of keeping up the momentum going up, backing off on the crest and coasting gently down the other side, they were all easily negotiated.  We came to the actual bore and a side track that lead up to a lookout.  At last, this track provided little more of a challenge to those who drove it!  It was reasonably steep with quite deep ruts in soft sand with potholes that were spaced so as to throw the truck from side to side quite violently.  This provided the challenge of matching speed to momentum to get up, but slow enough to keep the wheels on the ground and not damage the vehicle or its contents.  After taking a few of the others for a ride up to the top as they elected not to drive it, we continued along Cactus Bore track until it hit the main Murrayville track and then turned south toward Big Billy Bore which was our second nights camp.

Just before the camp is a side track that leads to another steep sand dune track and look out.  One of our party had been telling us about this track so we were looking forward to having a look at it.  It certainly lived up to his description ñ long, steep and very soft - Challenge accepted!!  Practically it was only doable by the bigger lifted trucks and even they needed several attempts to get the right combination of gears, torque and road speed to get to the top.  The final score card was 2 x Toyotaís and 2 x Nissans sitting at the top, BUT, the Toyota's sounded better!!!!!!!

Big Billy Bore is a very large camp site and is very accessible.  Consequently, it was crowded!  Canít be helped, so we found ourselves a corner and soon had a fire going with the usual cheeses and dips and drinks.  After dinner, one of our members bought out his accordion, some song books and lead bit of a singsong of old Australian bush songs around the fire.  Great fun but none of us should give up our day jobs.

Sunday was meant to be a short morning run to Snowdrift sand dune a completely white moving sand dune on the edge of the park - and camping area which was then only a short distance from the main road and the 450km+ trip home!  Well we all know about the best laid plans!!!  The 70km track turned into 100km track much of which was soft and winding keeping us to 20-30kph for probably more than half of it.  Great track and great driving through very desolate country probably the best section of track for the weekend.  We arrived at Snowdrift just after 1.00pm for a quick lunch and (for some) a scramble up Snowdrift to take in the views.  Lunch was had, pictures were taken and the tyres were pumped up before we headed back toward the Calder Hwy and to the big smoke and then home.

If you haven't been into this area, it really is worth making the effort.  Itís not a Simpson or Central Australian type desert but it really is a very isolated and harsh landscape.  It has its own brand of beauty because of that isolation and harshness that is unlike anything else in Victoria.  It is a long way to go so you really need a minimum of 3 days but 5 would be better to do it justice and to see some of the surrounding country.  Thanks to everyone who came along ñ it was another great weekend exploring our great country, sharing the tracks, a campfire, a few wines and beers and good company.


On the weekend of 25-26 August, twelve Club vehicles headed to O’Tooles Flat to do some snow driving around the Mt. Selma area.  The previous weekend had seen some of the best snow falls in many years making it impossible to get to the actual top of Mt. Selma at that time, so I was a little unsure what to expect for our weekend.

As it turned out, the weather was absolutely beautiful with warm sunshine from Thursday to Sunday making for perfect camping conditions.  Although the deeper snow had melted, there was still plenty to provide an excellent day of snow driving with the accompanying mud that came with it!

A couple of vehicles met up with me at the Longwarry servo and we headed into the bush at about 7.45 getting into O’Tooles about 10.00ish.  Everyone else had left earlier and so there was roaring fire to greet us upon arrival which always makes for a good start to the weekend. 

The next thing I noticed was that one of our members has a new 4x4 – a Range Rover!!!!!  Ok Ok cue the jokes!!!! It’s a serious piece of vehicle and he certainly put it through its paces for the weekend – and got home without a break down (Sorry!).  We also had 2 new members coming along for the first time, so it promised to be an interesting weekend for all concerned.

Saturday morning we split into two groups and sent the more experienced with the well set up trucks to Mt. Selma via Bridle Track, Ash Rd, Macquire’s Track (expect winching) while the rest of us headed down Donnellys Creek to have a look at Morning Star with the intention of using that to get to the Mt. Useful Rd and to Selma to meet for lunch with the others.

Well you all know what they say about the “best laid plans”!

Bridle Track took more than 2 hours alone and required much winching – all before even reaching the snow line.  One of the vehicles unfortunately blew a rear main seal, luckily after having driven unaided to the top of Bridle and had to retire at that point.  One of the trip members stayed to render assistance and eventually the truck was limped back to Erica and parked safely overnight.  The rest of the experienced crew kept going and from what I was told, the tracks continued to be extremely challenging and required a great deal of winching.  Eventually, with time running out, they decided to re-route and came back to the Aberfeldy Rd and from there drove to Mt. Selma, onto Mt. Useful and back to O’Tooles via Whitestar Track.

Our party was effectively doing the reverse.  Morning Star proved too slippery and rocky for a couple of our vehicles so we too re-routed and returned to Donnellys Creek and followed that to Springs Rd and then via Mt Useful track to Mt. Selma returning to O’Tooles via Aberfeldy Rd and Merringtons.  We were above the snow line before the top of Donnellys and had a lovely picturesque drive all the way to Selma.  The snow got quite deep from Mt. Useful onwards and we all got some great experience of actual snow driving.  

Our lunch stop was in a small snow covered clearing and if you wondered off the packed tyre tracks, you could sink up to your knees! One vehicle elected to fit chains at this point but the rest of us managed to keep moving using a delicate balance between maintaining traction (and not sliding off the road as another party had) and having enough momentum to get up the snow covered hills.  It was great fun and the views on such a sunny day with clear blue skies were absolutely spectacular.

We made the top Selma by about 3.00 pm to find the car park a churned-up mud and snow mess.  No surprise there.  But again the views are spectacular so all good.  We didn’t stay too long as I wanted to be below the snow line before it got too cold and started to get icy, so we took a few pictures and headed off via Mt. Selma Rd to link up with the Aberfeldy Rd and back to camp.  We passed the first group at about 4.00ish just at the snow line and after exchanging track information ahead of each of us, kept moving to arrive back at camp just after 5.00pm.

We soon had the fire going, cheese and nibbles out waiting for the return of the rescue party and the more experienced group after their very long day of tough 4x4 driving and winching.  Dinner was had, a few wines and beers consumed along with the stories of the days exploits.

Sunday was a relaxed start and again the group split into 2 groups with one group heading back up White Star track to see the snow they missed out on the previous day and my group which headed back along Donnellys Creek to do the 4km+ return walk to the historic old water wheel that used to power the crushing plant in the area.

The timing was almost perfect with both groups returning to camp within minutes of each other for a quick lunch and pack up aiming for an early afternoon departure as we still had to call the RACV tray truck to get the broken truck home.

For the trip out, one group out of O’Tooles via Flats Track to do one last steep 4x4 track and have a play on the rock face at the top, while the rest of us headed along Donnellys Creek, did the 3 creek/river crossing and then up Merringtons and back to Erica.

A few of us waited for the tray truck to arrive and then followed them home with the camping gear to make sure that everyone got home safely.  Other than the mechanical problems, it was a great weekend with good driving, a number of challenges to keep it interesting and great company – oh and the Range Rover got home unscathered!!!

Five vehicles left at various times on the Friday and met at Grong Grong’s Royal Hotel about 20km past Narrandera in NSW.  The hotel offers free camping in the grounds behind the hotel with “gold coin” access to toilets and showers and other facilities also available.  Those who arrived early had dinner at the Pub and cleaned up the meat trays in the Friday Night Raffle much to their delight.  We awoke to -2 degree temperatures and all met for a hearty breakfast in the warmth of the Pub.  Ted and Kay were great hosts and we would certainly recommend it as an overnight stop to anyone travelling the Newell.

We decided to take the back roads as we were not in a hurry and had a foggy morning drive via Junee and Cootamundra to a sunny lunch stop at the Japanese Gardens in Cowra.  The gardens are a beautiful and historic area and we all decided we needed to return and explore them more thoroughly.  

The drive continued across to Bathurst for a quick spin around the track complete with caravans in tow.  From Bathurst we continued via Ilford and the picturesque Aarons Pass to Lake Windamere for the Saturday night.  There we met up with friends from Wollongong who were joining us for the rest of the trip.

Sunday morning dawned with clear skies and -8 degrees and frozen water pipes in the caravans!   From Lake Windamere, we drove into Mudgee for fuel and onto Tamworth for lunch.  Once again, we found the back roads and were rewarded with a very pleasant drive through rolling hills and small towns rather than the B-Doubles and endless plains of the Newell.  From Tamworth, now accessorised with thermal groves and additional blankets for some, we headed to Armadale for fuel and found a delightful free camp at Little Styx River on the road out to Ebor and the start of the Waterfall Way. As usual, we soon had a camp fire going and a few wines soon chased away the chill.

Monday morning was considerably warmer than the previous two so that was a positive!  We followed the Waterfall Way stopping and walking around many of the beautiful waterfalls having lunch at the Dorrigo National Park Sky Walk Lookout.  Magnificent views and once again, many of us decided we needed to do a return trip to do it justice.  A couple of the group decided to do the 2-hour loop walk while the rest of us got back on the road to Coffs Harbour for the night.  The walkers caught up with us and we soon had a fire going, cheese and dips and a Beveridge or two on the go.  

I was up early the next morning to take Zoe for a walk along the beach and at last, the weather was milder, and we were finally on the beach! Back on the road for the short run up the Pacific Hwy to Brisbane for a final shop and fuel up before heading onto the Island on Wednesday.  The Pacific Hwy will be magnificent when its finished but it’s a nightmare of road works now.  Gold Coast traffic was heavy, but we made it to the caravan park and all disappeared in different directions to do our final shopping before meeting at the camp kitchen for dinner.

Wednesday was fine and warm – shorts and t-shirt warm – as we lined up to get on the ferry to Dunwich on North Straddie.  A very pleasant 45-minute trip over, pick up our camping permits and then lunch at the local park next to Moreton Bay.  We bought some bait and extra fishing gear before deflating the tyres and making the beach run from Amity Point to Flinders Beach camping area.  

As usual we had virtually the whole Northern end of the camp site to ourselves, so we spread out and set up camp, unloaded wood, put together fishing rods and then got down to the important business of lighting the fire, getting the cheese, nibbles and wine out before having dinner and turning in after such a hectic day. 

Thursday dawned cool but clear for the walk with Zoe along the beach before breakfast.  I then took the “newbies” to the island on the usual tour to show where all the important points are – along the beach to the Point Lookout exit, into Point Lookout (fresh water point /Foodworks /Fuel /Gas /Laundry /Coffee shops /hotel & bottle shop /doctor /chemist /etc) to the Life Saving Club with the magnificent view all the way down Main Beach.  From there onto the Main Beach vehicle entry and about 8km down Main Beach to the causeway road (bitumen) that leads across the centre of the island past Blue and Brown lakes and back to Dunwich.  Pointing out another Foodworks /butcher /bakery /bottle shop /sports club /hospital /fishing and camping shop /etc, we then headed along the main road out of Dunwich to Beehive corner and into Amity Point – general store/launching ramp/fresh water/club/ fresh fish, prawns and oyster shop – and back out onto Flinders Beach for the 4 or 5 km beach run to camp. The rest of the day was simply relaxing around camp or on the beach or drowning some bait!

The tides on Saturday morning meant that we could do the 30km run down to Jumpinpin which is the most southerly point of the island.  A couple of hours fishing and we headed back well before high tide as some sections of the beach are getting very narrow. 

The rest of the 2 weeks was much the same – morning walk, fishing, sunning, a coffee and cake – it’s a hard life but someone must do it!  Our guests boat bought a new dimension to the holiday.  It gave us the ability to go off shore on calm days and get up close and personal with the whales as well as explore and fish the Moreton Bay and Peel Island areas.  

All too soon the time came to return to the mainland and head south – not happy!  We had an early start to get the caravans off the beach well before mid to high tide and had breakfast at a café on Point Lookout.  Bacon and eggs, pancakes etc with that magic view was almost enough to make us “chuck it in” and become beach bums!  Nonetheless, we caught the ferry, battled the Brisbane traffic and camped about 300km south, just out of Inglewood.

The next day we were heading for Burren Junction Bore Baths and Camp Ground.  This is a free camp with reasonable facilities located about 90 kms west of Narrabri with a hot water bore swimming area.  The water temperature is about 28-30 degrees and after a trying drive to get there having to deal with a broken fan belt and caravan tyre blow up in the same morning – we spent a long time soaking the road rattles away.

Early start next morning – Zoe likes her morning walks – and we continued south through one of the longest dust storms I have ever driven through – 300km all the way to Dubbo.  Lunch at Dubbo and the rain started which settled the dust and then followed us all the way to Grong Grong Pub for the overnight camp site behind the Pub and another go at Friday Night meat raffle.  Saturday dawned clear and blue skies and we continued via back roads to Albury and to a friend’s farm just out of Wangaratta for our last night.  The afternoon was spent fossicking for amethysts, collecting fire wood and preparing a feast fit for the final night and to celebrate the end of a great trip.  Sunday was the final “drag” home and back to reality!

Report by Nigel, Club VP.

Queens Birthday weekend saw 30+ members gather at Rhymney to celebrate a Bush Christmas in June with what has become our traditional spit roast Sunday lunch with ham and all the trimmings.  It is safe to say that no-one went hungry!

Most arrived on Friday afternoon or evening to find a roaring fire keeping the winter chill away.  We arrived about 10.30pm and after setting up joined the crowd around the fire for a beveridge or 2 and good chat.  By about 2.30am we had wound down enough (!!) and called it quits particularly as I had suggested we should aim for 9.30 start for the trip into Halls Gap that morning.

The morning arrived much earlier than was ideal but at least the weather was quite good all be it that the cloud was rather low.  Bacon eggs and coffee blew away the cobwebs and by 10.00 the others had arrived and soon after we on the road heading to Halls Gap via Mt. William.

We turned off the main road at Pomonal and headed for Mt. William via a dirt track that soon became quite a good 4x4 track.  Steep sections with ruts combined with some dampness gave a few of the vehicles a bit of challenge but in the end we all made it over the range and back out to the tarmac on the Mt. William Lookout road.  There are some magnificent views on this road that are typically Grampians with low stunted trees and big rock outcrops poking through.  A few decided to do the walk up to the summit on a steep well maintained track which takes close to 2 hours return. The rest of us headed into Halls Gap for lunch at the bakery.  As you would expect, Halls Gap was packed with the queue out of the door at the bakery and every other food place similarly crowded.  Not ideal but you must expect that on Queens Birthday weekend in such an accessible and popular place.

After lunch, I had organized to lead a trip up to the Balconies Lookout and then down the Glenelg River Road in search of more interesting tracks, less people and good photographic opportunities.  Others decided to head back to camp via various routes and get a head start on the fire and socializing!

Six or seven vehicles headed off with me to the Balconies only to find it so crowded there was no safe place to park, so a quick decision was made to keep moving and head back to the Glenelg River Road turnoff.  This turned out to be a very pleasant drive on a good dirt road that led us into the interior of the Grampians and to a National Park camp site called Boreang Camp. Put this one the list to return to some day! By now the sun had come out, there were lots of Kangaroo's grazing and only a couple of camps so overall it was a very pleasant afternoon stop.

From here we headed up a 4x4 track that really was nothing more than a sandy track with a couple of creek crossings but nonetheless was very pleasant.  My chosen route from here turned out to be gated so we proceeded a little further before finding a more minor track that would get us back on the original route.  What a lucky find this was because part way up the climb, the track came to large rock shelf with magnificent views over a sheer walled gorge/canyon to a river in the bottom and views right down the valley to a lake in the distance which I think was Moora Moora Reservoir. It was an absolute gem of a find and was the highlight of the afternoon.  After a good walk and clamber around the rocks and many photographs, we continued onto Rosea Track, Silverband Falls Road, Halls Gap and back to camp.

Another great evening around the camp fire, another 3.00am finish and another morning that came far too soon!!  Nonetheless, most of us were up and about early with the meat spinning by about 8.30 am.  Given we had 6kg or beef and 6kg of pork to cook, we figured we needed a good 5 hours of cooking time. The fire was stoked to get the coals banked up for the camp ovens to cook the veggies and we then headed out with chainsaws and utes to gather firewood as we knew it was going to be a long day!

We were lucky with the weather and by 1.00 or so, the long-table was set up outside in the sunshine, decorated, the ham carved, the beef and pork being carved, the veggies keeping hot in the camp ovens and the garlic bread heating in the spit oven, and, by 1.30, there were 33 or so people all enjoying the magnificent banquet accompanied by various wines, spirits and beers.  See the pictures on our Gallery.

From lunch we adjourned to fire for the next of the day's events including Evil Santa!  I'm told we need a new name as Santa cannot be evil but given that you can steal other peoples presents multiple times, I think the name is rather fitting!  Great fun was had by all and by 4.30 or so, it was time to get the 3rd of the day's events underway:  the dessert competition!

Well, if you think the lunch looked pretty good, you should have seen the desserts!  I think the long-table was again filled with dessert options of every description.  They were obviously really excellent as complete darkness had fallen and people were still going back for seconds or thirds!  After a huge lunch and such magnificent desserts, the fire was stoked up and out came the karaoke machine and it basically went downhill from there!!  For most of you, don't give up your day jobs!  Midnight arrived - and went, but after the two previous late nights, most called it quits shortly thereafter.

Monday dawned grey and overcast and most decided to have a quiet morning to pack up and head off reasonably early in the hopes of missing the worst of the traffic.  However, a few of us headed back to the Balconyís Lookout to do the walk we had missed the previous Saturday.  Luck was with us and it was much less crowded, so we walked the walk, climbed the rocks, and took the pictures! Then it was back to Halls Gap for a quick lunch before heading back to pack up and drive home.

Overall it was another great weekend and looking forward to next year's event and thinking about a competition for the best cocktail!!


We had 15 or 16 vehicles attend last weekend’s Advanced Skill Sharing event and from all the comments, it was a great success.  

Most of us arrived on Friday night intending to get an early night in preparation for an early start on Saturday morning.  Well that worked out really well – we went for a quick “recce” at about 10.30pm and ended up winching 2 out of the 3 vehicles (for real, no demonstration) over fallen trees and up steep loose slopes.  Only the mighty Hi-Lux managed the track without winching and then only with the very delicate and judicial use of …  MORE RIGHT FOOT!!!!!!!  Finally, back to camp, another couple of drinks around the pot-belly stove before heading for bed. 

More arrived Saturday morning and after setting up and a hearty breakfast, we noticed that the Hi-Lux had not gotten away last night total unscathed – flat right hand front tire off the bead.  Perfect for a demonstration of securing a vehicle on a steep(ish) and side angle to change a wheel using only the vehicles bottle jack and whatever tools he carried.

From there we spent the rest of the morning going over basic recovery gear, what to carry, how to use it, where to carry it, basic vehicle maintenance and accessories finishing off with multiple practical snatch strap recoveries on flat ground.

A break for lunch and then we split into 2 groups and headed into the bush to try it all under more realistic conditions with each driver and passenger doing the work.  Nigel led one group in the 79 followed by a 200 Series, then 2 x BT50’s and a Challenger.

Nigel drove the first deep gully which if wet, really is quite difficult, and waited at the top.  The 200 came in and stopped at the bottom as though bogged.  Not a difficult recovery, but the vehicles were at very different heights, the 200 had to be snatched up a short sharp rise and then up the long steep slope on a curved track lined with trees and leaf litter.  Reasonably daunting for a less experienced driver and passenger who had to control the situation with hand signals.  Nigel snatched the 200 out and then had him reverse down and do it again.  The 200 then snatched the BT50, who then snatched the other BT50 which thne snatched the Challenger.  For some it was a first time, for others it was a good refresher and catch up.  Each vehicle and driver got to be the recovered vehicle and the recovery vehicle twice. 

We then turned around and did a practical winching exercise using the same gully.  In this case, we sent the BT50 in first and he used his winch to recover using a single line pull to a handy tree.  Next came the 200 series which was much heavier and had no winch.  To recover the 200, we turned around the BT50 and did double line recovery using a pulley block to come back to the recovery point on the BT50.  

By this time, it was 4.00 and the fire was going strong, so it was back to camp for a final debrief around the fire accompanied by 2 tables loaded to overflowing with nibbles and cheese and dips!

As many were using camp ovens, we targeted 7.30 for dinner and what a feast it was!  Not everything was from camp ovens but it was all prepared and served from “the tents” or fire!  We had San Bow Chow, HoBo stew, roast beef, Tuscan chicken, a traditional chicken Adobo dish from the Philippines , a couple of curries, a sausage stew, a liver, bacon and apple stew, crusty bread stuffed with cheese and then baked in the oven, camp oven pizzas and a range of desserts from fresh berries and yoghurt to a bread pudding – and those are only the ones I can remember!!

After dinner it was back out to the fire where a member picked up his guitar and was soon joined by three others who provided vocal accompaniment for a great night entertainment to finish that bottle of red!

Sunday was a later start and the morning was spent demonstrating welding with 2 x 12v batteries, using deodorant to re-seat a tyre and how to repair tyres using plugs.  Once that was done, a short drive around the more difficult tracks was organized in some of the “tougher trucks” which demonstrated some driving techniques in more challenging terrain.  Finally, a small group headed out to have a look at the “redwood forest” located just a few minutes from the property.

By about 3:30 or so, most had finished packing up and were ready to return home, having had yet another great weekend in the bush.

A big thanks must go to the instructors and experienced members for donating their time, vehicles and equipment as well as all who attended and especially for the contributions to the magnificent feast we had on Saturday night.  It was particularly gratifying to hear all the positive comments from our newer members who found not only the company very good, but also learned and brushed up on many old and new skills.

We met up with John, Rob & Ashley at Mansfield and headed off to Lovicks Hut. We got there about 4.30pm Thursday. Friday got up at 4.00am to get the rest of the team up at 4.30am and John, Rob, Ashley, Neil, Ian & Christine to AAWT check point.

With Ian communication and Jan as time keeper, Jack B showed the runners the way in to get signed off and Meagan was making sandwiches.

Well we had 62 for dinner 30 more than last year but we feed them all. Thanks to everyone. Saturday got up at 4.00am to get breakfast for them, Christine, Ian, Doug, Meagan, Jack & Jan to time them out.

As the last one left, we started to pack up to go back to Sheep Yard Flat for lunch. After lunch we drove to Howqua Hill track then Steiners Road down to a lovely river camp site called Running Creek. Cheese and bickies and all feed we sat around a fire with Jack singing.

Sunday gave us an opportunity for a nice sleep-in then we packed up for 10.30am departure. Left on Symes Track along Stoney creek , Master Track down to Granny’s Flat rolled into Jamieson then up Polletti Track onto and up to Mt Terrible for lunch at the fire tower, checkout the view and after a quick look at the facilities we continued on the Mt Terrible Track  until we turned right onto Matlock Track then down to Big River Road then out to the  main drag where we aired up tyres and then we all headed for home.

Thank you to Ken & Julie for being Tail End Charlie (dust suckers!).

P.S: We couldn’t have had a better "good weather" weekend and thanks to all for being a great team.

Fifteen Club vehicles met at Licola on the Thursday night ready to head off on a 3 day trek across the Victorian High Country visiting some of the most iconic 4x4 destinations that should be on your “bucket list”.

The weather was looking very hot (35+) so we had an early start with the hope that we might get camping spot at Talbotville on the Crooked River if we arrived by lunchtime.

The first group of 6 vehicles headed off with the second group following soon after to avoid too much dust. We were heading up the Tamboritha Rd for the Fire Tower at the Pinnacles and as luck would have it, the previous nights rain kept the dust down.

We arrived at the Pinnacles and most of us did the steep walk out to the fire tower to take in the stunning views looking toward Talbotville, Dargo and eventually to Mt. Blue Rag and Hotham giving us some idea of what was ahead.

After a quick cold drink and airing down, we continued to the top of Billy Goat Bluff – the first of our “must do” tracks. The track exits the tree line straight onto an almost bare rock saddle which drops away steeply on either side! From there, the track descends steeply to a helipad before reaching the Wonnangatta River. Fortunately, the track was in excellent condition, albeit a little slippery with loose stones a it was so dry, but we all made down with relative ease. From there, we followed the main 2WD track to Kingswell Bridge and then headed up the Crooked River Road to Talbotville.

Fortunately, the 4 or 5 river crossings heading into Tabotville were relatively shallow and we were able to find plenty of camping space right next to the river at Talbotville – perfect on such a hot day. The Crooked River Track is a great drive with several river crossing and pretty valleys. Again, if you haven’t done it – put it on the list! Even though it was only lunch time, we called quits as it was very hot and if the choice was another 2 or 3 hours on the dusty track or a swim and cold beer in the river, the river won!

Lunches were organised, camps were set up, swims were had before a group of us decided to do an afternoon drive along the Crooked River track, up Bulltown Spur track to the top of the range and return to Talbotville via Collingwood Spur track. This is a great drive encompassing 20+ river crossing (some easy, some rough), a steep climb up Bulltown and steep descent down Collingwood Spur. We all found the track conditions to be relatively easy, but they always need respect as we came across a vehicle that had rolled and done significant damage coming down Collingwood. We made sure they were right, confirmed they had people coming out to assist and one of our party elected to wait at the bottom to guide the rescue party. The rest of us made our way back to camp for a swim, nibbles and dinner around the camp fire.

We had some rain overnight and awoke to a grey and overcast morning. As we had a long day ahead of us, we elected for an early start with the 1st group taking Basalt Track South which is a very long, steep and challenging track to the top of range and from there to Mt. Blue Rag. The rest of us headed up McMillian Spur, a steep 2WD track to the historic town site of Grant before coming out on the Dargo High Plains Rd and heading for Mt. Blue Rag to meet up with first group.

The High Plains Road is an easy 2WD road but still a very pleasant drive through big forests, open high country meadows all the time watching for grazing cattle. The 4x4 fun starts immediately you turn up the Blue Rag track with steep rutted climbs and descents on either damp clay or loose rocks! The weather cleared and eventually, we came out on a virtual “razor back” track above the tree line for a couple of Kms with magnificent views over the range before a final short steep climb to the Trig Point at the summit. Our timing was good and we all met at the top for morning tea and a group picture! Once again, if you have not done Blue Rag, put it on your list - the comments from the first timers were – “these are the best views we have ever seen in the high country!”

Given it was now late morning, we elected to take the bitumen road from Mt. Hotham straight to Bright to fuel up, replenish supplies and then had a quick lunch on the Oven’s River as the temperatures had again soared into the mid to high 30’s. By 3.00pm we headed up the Buckland Valley to Goldies Spur. This track was only 2WD but as it heads over toward the Rose River (Whitfield), it provides some magnificent views over the ranges and sheer rock faces of Mt. Buffalo.

This bought us out on the Rose River Rd and we headed to Cheshunt and the camp sites at Sandy Flat on the King River above Lake William Hovell. We were able to find a big camp close to a good swimming hole at the crossing so it was another great camp.

Sunday was a more leisurely start as we did not so far to go – time for eggs and bacon all round and quick swim for Andrew and me before heading off around 10.00ish. The route led us straight up Buckland Spur track and towards Mt. Buller and Mansfield via Tomahawk Hut. Buckland Spur is a great climb, long and steep BUT please only do it in the dry! A quick stop at Tomahawk Hut before exploring Buttercup Jeep track (easy 4x4) and all meeting at Merrijig School carpark to air up.

From here, most went their own way, some into Mansfield to air conditioning and a pub lunch, some to a picnic lunch at Bonnie Doon under the trees and others straight home.

Whether members were re-visiting old haunt’s or it was their first time to these magic places, all agreed that it was a great weekend.

With around a 100 people attending the party I think it is safe to say that most of us know what a great success it was! There are also lots of pictures and as we all know, a picture tells a 1000 words – particularly those Graeme, Mal and Frank up on the stage belting out the tunes with Jack and his band!

The weekend was also a great mix of social, touring and 4x4 events. The major event was obviously the Party on Saturday night, but a large number of people stayed on a few days, some of us all 4 days, and were able to participate in sight-seeing tours to places like the redwood forest, Mt. Donna Buang, the Bakery as well as a couple of moderate and muddy 4x4 tracks around Big Pats Creek. And let’s forget the drives, the night drives and the recoveries on the property itself!

For me, there were many highlights that make the work and the effort all worthwhile. It was great to see:

  • Member’s step up and get the job done without having to be asked or driven. For example, Graeme and I went out to help with a couple of recoveries on Saturday afternoon when we had planned to be around to oversee the spit roasts. We came back to find it all under control and on-time!
  • Watching Geoff slipping and sliding on a muddy slope letting the Triton’s tyres down, then looking at me and saying – “I know Nigel, tyre pressures, tyre pressures, tyre pressures!” and then watching him drive out unaided! Great to see the driver training, experience, and influence all coming together to make us better drivers;
  • All the kids actually playing (and interacting) with each other and the adults rather than their b!@#%y iPhone! It’s good to get dirty, to build up the fire and cook a few marshmallow’s.
  • The guys getting up on stage to belt out a few numbers;
  • Sitting around the camp fire until 4.00am finally able to relax with a few “diehards” share a glass or port … or 3!
  • Our young adult members being a part of the group and not wandering off away from the “oldies”. The members like Chris and Pip, Pete and Sarah, Matt R, Rylan and Matt A all participating as equals, the Club has a bright future;
  • Matt for leading his trip up and around Big Pat’s Creek and then another trip(s) for those who really wanted to get muddy! and
  • For those who stayed until Tuesday, still having the enthusiasm, despite being tired after 4 big days and a lot of cleaning and tidying up, to get dressed up and have our own Melbourne Cup celebration.

There also has the be the “thank you’s”! I know I said it on Saturday Night, but it really needs to said formally as well. Jenny and Graeme for making the property available to the Club for the event. Dare I say that it is almost the perfect venue for us. Also for all the work as part of the organizing committee and all the work behind the scenes on the weekend.

Sue and Ivan for organizing all the catering, the cake, the spit(s), getting it out on time and carting equipment up there and back and many other things as well. Also for getting the door prizes, silent auction and other donations from sponsors and local business’s.

Rob and Lisa for all the work on the committee, all the running around picking equipment up and towing it up there and all the work setting up and packing up and probably many other things I didn’t see. For organizing the entertainment (also thanks to Christine) for the younger children.

Glenn and Maggie for all the pictures and video’s, the speech and providing that continuity over the 30 years and shares those experiences with us.

Marianne and her family for representing Phill and participating in building on the culture of the PP4WD Club.

Alex for his fire building skills, keeping me company with a port or 3 until the wee hours and providing a gazebo and the show bags and gifts.

David Au for his enormous generosity in providing the fire ring – which we presented to the owners of the property as token of our thanks for being so welcoming and generous with their property – and the mystery prize. That was most unexpected, and Chris was blown away when he discovered it was a 12,000lb electric winch for his truck!

Jack and his band – Out of the Blue. A great night of music and much appreciation for coming out in the bush and camping out. A special thanks to Jack for his music around the camp fire each night. I’ve spent many nights around camp fires and loved every one of them, but having someone playing great music just adds a whole new dimension.

Lorraine for the mint slice biscuits!!!! No seriously, Lorraine always seemed to be there cleaning, and washing up and tidying up and as always with a bright smile and great laugh.

Geoff for watching over and carving all that beef. Not sure whether you had help or not because it just all got done quietly and efficiently so thanks for that.

Last, but not least, my own wife Sally not only for picking up the meat and other stuff on Friday, packing it in fridges and then into the car, but mainly for having the patience and good grace to understand that she is going to spend a lot of time without me as I have so many other priorities demanding my attention.

I’m sure there are some I have forgotten and please forgive me if I left you off the list! It was a great weekend and I think we can all be proud that we celebrated the 30th birthday of the Club in a style and manner befitting the both the history and origins of the Club while welcoming and encouraging the new and younger members to carry the Club’s name into the future.

/ El Presidente