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Previous Trips

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!

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.

Cheers
Nigel

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!!

Cheers!

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

Thursday, 28th Sept.
The plan was to meet up with Don and Daph as well as any others at the Longwarry North Caltex services area on the Friday evening. On arrival, I topped up the fuel tank and checked in to Hungry Jacks where I was soon discovered by Christine and Ian Smith. Don and Daph soon arrived a little later and once we had all “enjoyed” a burger, we headed off towards Moe where another fuel stop and vehicle check was carried out.

Don then led the small group up from Moe, through Erica and on to the junction of the Walhalla Rd and Merrington’s Track with the objective of joining up with Donnelly’s Creek Road that would lead us on to O’Toole’s. In the dark, the many tracks in and around Merrington’s Campground became difficult to discern with some road signs being somewhat vague and so after two loops across the Aberfeldy River crossings without being able to pick up the Junction Rd, we decided to stop over at Merrington’s. By this time, it was somewhere around 10:30 and I was surprised to discover that finally at 12:30am, I was crawling into my tent and bedding down for the night. During the night there were a few rain squalls that swept through, but by morning the campground was none the worse for the weather.

Friday, 29th Sept.
Christine and Ian had brought along their little dog which was not in good health and they had endured a bad night looking after it, so they decided to return home and get their pet to a vet as soon as possible. After bidding them farewell and our best wishes, Don led the way as we headed back along Merrington’s Track to the Walhalla Rd and on to Donnelly’s Creek Rd.

This was my first time through this area and was impressed with the signage along the way pointing out various historic sites and roads as well as those of Kitty Kane’s Hotel and grave beside the road.

Donnelly’s Creek Road is a well maintained narrow track which winds its way through the Toombon Gold-Mines Historic Area where relics of the gold rush days still remain. Eventually, Don made a sharp turn to the left that took us down onto O’Toole’s Flat campground which at that early hour of the day was pretty well empty. Here we soon discovered that Neil H had setup camp the day before along with prospective club member Jack. After selecting sites for our tents Don and Daphane and I began unpacking and got the billy boiling. We were soon joined by Doug and Rylan McL then Lorraine & Sally H as well as Jenny, Graeme & Matt R.

By and large, the morning passed quietly, and Don brought out the CAMP HOST banner which was prominently displayed for all arrivals to see. During the course of the day more arrivals turned up and the campground became a bustling community so Don set off in Hi-Vis vest to carry out the duties of Camp Host handing out and collecting surveys from fellow campers. With those duties done, Don offered to take me for a short drive up, down and around the local White Star Mine Track -- GULP !! – however, this was not initiation by fire as Don gave me an introduction on driving techniques which made the tour quite instructive. With the tour over, we returned to camp for lunch after which, Don, Doug, Rylan, Neil and I went up White Star Mine Track to forage for firewood. Don did the chainsaw duties and before long we had the Patrol’s roof rack stocked up and a good collection long cuts while smaller pieces were stashed away in the back of Rylan’s Land Cruiser.

Back at camp we mainly relaxed and the fireplace was stocked ready for later in the day. To my amazement, our entourage was placed under extreme supervision by Mother Duck who led her 8 little chicks in, out and around our camping area. By now, there were more arrivals entering and spreading out so that the campground became a small village as new arrivals setup camp. It was amazing to see a large caravan arrive and we wondered why anyone would be game (silly?) enough to bring such a large van into this area over the narrow and twisty tracks such as Donnelly’s. It takes all kinds – I suppose…. With more arrivals in O’Toole’s, Don donned his Hi-Vis again and continued with survey duties. Once completed, the fire was lit and we gathered around for a yarn, then dinner, and more yarning…. During the afternoon and evening there were a few light showers and during the night, more light squalls swept over O’Toole’s.

Saturday, 30th, Sept.
Saturday morning was cool and overcast so I was delighted to see that the fire was soon re-kindled and before long became the main meeting place for our small group. Since it was the day of the AFL Grand Final, there was much display of the colours of Richmond with Jenny R taking the prize. Don did more surveys and later Don, Daph and I followed Doug and Rylan on a drive down towards Merringtons via Williamsons Spur Track where we discovered that Hema maps was missing some track changes that google had not. Handy tip: download a local copy onto your phone/tablet of the area you are going to visit. This can be useful when the “authoritive” map does not compute! Once again, we crossed the Aberfeldy and noted that it had risen over the last 24 hrs or so. We then ventured up Junction Track to Donnelly’s Creek Rd and dropped in to visit the new facilities that had been established at Jorgensens Hut. We were all very impressed with the new hut and toilet here and there was some firewood by the fireplace plus a small collection of food inside the hut for emergency use.

Back at O’Toole’s Don took a blow-torch to his billy in order to get a hot cuppa and after a lunch break Lorraine, Sally, Jenny, Graeme and Matt were granted leave of absence to journey down to Rawson Pub to watch the Grand Final. Doug informed us that Rylan was going to have a close look at the Wall on Flats Track and our Facebook page has some imagery of the encounter. The rest of the afternoon was essentially down-time as we gathered around the fire and whether we liked it or not, we listened to the Grand Final play out thanks to the load radio of nearby campers. Annoyingly for some of us, the loud radio was replaced by overly loud heavy metal junk music. In any case, with the Grand Final now resolved in favour of the Tigers, those of us who remained at the campsite decided to stay put and wait for the Tiger’s cheer squad to return. By 7:30pm the common consensus was that Jenny and her group may have decided to stay over in Rawson so we set about the evening meal. Within 15 minutes, or was it less? headlights and a loud “G’arn the Tigers” echoed out across the Flat as Lorraine, then Jenny et al appeared. It was a long evening and late to bed….

Sunday, 1st Oct.
Sunday morning, everyone was up and about early as we set about having breakfast, then packing/tidying up. Don had accumulated 26 surveys during his Hosting activities and was well pleased with this. Neil had departed the previous afternoon while Lorraine and Sally, together with the Jenny, Graeme and Matt headed out after breakfast. Don and Daph, visitor Jack and I then wrapped up the camp around 10:00am and made our way slowly back along Donnelly’s Creek Road. We made a stop at the Toombon Mine and checked out the remains of the crusher, other assorted relics and the nearby cemetery. Full credit must go to all those involved in discovery and restoration work in this significant area.

And so, another adventure with Port Philip 4WD Club came to a conclusion. In closing I would like to acknowledge the work done by Don and all the other members who made this trip such an enjoyable trip.

/ John A.

Article by Johnno.

The weekend started Friday for Robert and I when we met up with Jack B at Fisheries Road. Travelling on to Moe where we bought some essential provisions for the weekend – beer, Muscat and steak for tea that night. We arrived at the Rawson Caravan Park around 4.30pm and proceeded to set up the caravan. We then cooked our steaks and ate them, washing them down with beer.

Nigel and Don arrived later and we helped them set up. Then we four sat under Nigel’s awning discussing four wheel driving – what else! Bed beckoned us at 2 am.

Saturday dawned with a bit of low cloud around but promised to fine up. After a leisurely brekky of bacon butties and a coffee heart starter we headed in our vehicles for the training session. The convoy consisted of Nigel’s Toyota, my BT – 50, Jack’s Pajero with Lorraine riding tailend in her Toyota. The theory part had already been done by Jack, myself , trainers Don and Nigel on the previous Wednesday evening. The place selected for the training was at the foot of the Thompson Dam where we had a excellent view of the spillway. Jack and I were coached to do drive through braking, stopping and starting on a reasonably steep track. After a hesitant start on my behalf I gained sufficient experience to satisfy Don. Jack had Nigel as trainer and also achieved his goal.

We then set off for a bit of 4wd experience. First off was a river crossing. After a bit of a discussion on techniques we crossed the river which I estimated was up to the centre of the wheels. Even so I manage to create an all important bow wave. The second crossing was a bit deeper and on entry the water came half way up my bullbar, a bit scary for me as I had never attempted that depth before however it was accomplished successfully and I was quite stoked about that.

The next obstacle we came to was a mud hole. Testing the bottom with a stick it was determined that it had a solid bottom and perhaps 12 to 18 inches deep. The entry and exit was deeply rutted and after discussion it was decided not to attempt and take the chicken track – no one wanted to do any damage.

While we were discussing the mud hole 2 other 4wders came up and showed us how to cross the hole – flat out with engines roaring and rooster tails of mud!

Lunch was next, in a nice sunny area we all gathered on Nigel’s tray using it as a table.

After lunch our trainers demonstrated the technique of snatching recovery. Lesson learned – never walk over a live strap! I hooked up my BT to Jack’s Pajero and snatched him, then he did the same to Lorraine’s Toyota. Another lesson:- Snatching does not need to be done at 90mph – let the strap do the work it is designed for.

After a few more kilometers of tracks we headed back to the caravan park for a few drinks and snacks before walking over to the Stockyard Hotel, part of the park, for our evening meal. Other club members had joined us that afternoon Clive and Jack A and their partners and Graham F. Take my advice, do not eat too many snacks beforehand! I am embarrassed to say I could not eat all of the Stocky Hamburger and chips! From my observation the meals there are king sized and good value for the price.

After tea we all gathered around the obligatory camp fire and yarned away the evening till around midnight. We were joined by a chap called Brayden on the next campsite who hailed from Nowra. He was in Victoria on a “working holiday” with his wife and 3 children. He was driving a rather neat looking 70 series cruiser like Nigel’s and had some very interesting mods done to it by himself. We asked him if he would like to join us on our drive the next day which he gladly accepted.

Sunday: Jason and Tate arrived in their BT-50 and Neil with his Challenger. After breakfast we assembled our convoy of 10 vehicles and headed out for some 4wd fun. Rob’s car is in dry dock waiting for some TLC so I offered him the driving seat for the day, I quite like being the co-pilot as it gives one time to have a look at the scenery for a change.

After a most enjoyable day out in the bush we headed back to the caravan park and packed up our gear and headed for home.

Rawson Caravan Park is the ideal spot to take time out from the hectic day to day stuff and have a relaxing time in pleasant surrounding. The caravan sites are set in treed settings with your own ensuite to each site. This has a toilet, hand basin and shower with copious hot water. Campfires are allowed but bring your own fuel.

I would like to thank Don and Nigel on my and Jack’s behalf for their expert and professional tuition and for putting in the time for us. If you are new to 4WD driving I recommend that you do a driver training course. I have learned a lot of good information and techniques from them both.

We both passed!

HAPPY 4WD DRIVING

Johnno

A brief report by El Presidente Nigel...
Course dates were 14th - 17th April.

Ken(leader), Tom, Norm, Jack B and Nigel (tail) all met at Jacksons Crossing on the Snowy River north of Orbost on Easter Thursday for the start of a trip through some of the most iconic Victorian high country.

The first night’s camp site set the scene for the rest of the trip – it was on the banks of the legendary Snowy River surrounded by steep rock cliffs dropping into the mirror smooth pools and nestled in a clearing of tall gum trees and a canopy of stars overhead. A campfire burning, Jack on a guitar - it doesn’t get much better!

But I could be wrong as the next day saw us heading a beautiful winding climbing dirt road in pristine condition as we headed for the Deddick Trail – one of the tracks that’s been on my “bucket list” for a long time! Smooth dirt road, no traffic, last in line so I know there’s nothing coming toward me, wonderfully tall gums and rock cliffs to bounce back the note my V8 powering up the hills and around the corners – does it get any better?!!

The rest of the trip just continued to deliver wonderfully scenic tracks with magnificent views, good easy to moderate tracks (with the occasional steep section to keep you on your toes) and great camping spots.

The Deddick Trail wound through tall tree ferns and old growth forest with the occasional river crossing. It climbed to a high point for a lunch stop before descending the “staircase” and continuing to provide us with the spectacular views. At one point, we stood on a cleared rock bluff and could see a tiny McKillops Bridge (over the Snowy) in the distance before once again descending to led us to Amboyne Crossing and a small campsite on the banks of the river at the historic restored swing bridge. Another great campsite to add to the list!

Saturday saw us mainly on 2WD roads as we re-crossed the Snowy at McKillops Bridge. If you haven’t been there, put it on your list to visit. Steeped in history from the cattle days, the Snowy is wide and beautiful, has great National Park maintained campsites and narrow winding road clings to a cliff face providing great views. That said, the road is in great condition and we even passed a group of 15 or so vintage cars (Ford Model-T type vintage) coming down to Bridge.

We continued to Little River Gorge – a 500m walk to the lookout – which is anything but ‘little”! Some have referred to it as Australia’s Grand Canyon! That’s probably a stretch but you get the idea. From there we travelled to Mt. Seldom Seen and as the weather was clear warm blue skies, the views were again spectacular.

We left the 2WD tracks here and headed for our Saturday night campsite on the upper reaches of the Buchan River. Ken nailed it again with a small camp site just right for the 5 vehicles just over a river crossing, surrounded by trees and all to ourselves. Chainsaw out, fire pit dug, quick swim for me (damn cold but refreshing after wood collecting) and another great night around the camp fire. Great company, food and drink and live music from Jack and Ken (plus some catawalling from the rest of us albeit that Ken & Jack kindly called it singing!) were now a regular feature of our camps.

Sunday morning saw us straight into a steep clay climb from the campsite and traversing good 4x4 tracks heading towards Swifts Creek and Omeo. The closer we got to Moscow Villa Hut and Washington Winch, the easier the tracks got – with more people too – but again, if you haven’t been there, put it on your list. We made Swifts Creek for lunch and Tom and I walked around Swift’s Creek – Tom actually worked there in his younger days – soaking in the atmosphere while the others drove into Omeo to top up with fuel. We left Swifts Creek about 3.00ish and made it to Martha Vale Hut about 4.30ish to find it crowded to capacity. However, a quick chat with the other 4x4ers and we were headed to large flat clearing only 1 or so kilometres away. No river but a good camp non-the-less. Flat, grassy, the size of 2 football fields and only 1 other vehicle! You can guess the rest – camp fire, good food, wine and port, music and stars.

Monday was an earlier start as we wanted to make Dargo by lunchtime – or least I did as I had to be home that night. A great mornings drive over some moderate 4x4 tracks once again offering spectacular views over the Victorian high country. We ended up on the Upper Dargo River Road passing all those great camp sites on the Dargo River. The only problem was that being Easter, they were very crowded and for the first time in 4 days we had to contend with (aghhh) traffic!

We made Dargo by about 11.30ish and the boys headed to the Pub for lunch. I had to air up and hit the road as I had a boat to pick up at Stratford and then get home and be unpacked and ready for work the next day. Looking forward to retirement!!!!!

I think this trip will live in our memories for a long time as one of those trips were the comradery was great, the tracks and route was a perfect 4x4 touring trip. It wasn’t hard but you needed 4x4, you needed to be self-reliant, we were isolated enough not have to share our camp sites. The views were spectacular and for me, I able to finally see 2 places I had wanted to see for many years – the Deddick Trail and Little River Gorge. While all that was wonderful, one the greatest memories will be Jack and Ken siting around the camp fire playing Beatles and Elvis on a guitar and piano according not to mention Norm’s rendition of “I was born under a wandering star” – Lee Marvin eat your heart out!!!!

Thanks Ken for all your hard work in organizing the trip – it was a really great experience - and good luck trying to repeat it as it will be a tough act to follow but I want to be there when we do!