Pyrenees, Moonambel – April 2019

 Pyrenees, Moonambel, Victoria, 13-22 April 2019

Leaders: Barb and Trevor B

Participants: Trevor and Julie, Iain and Emilee, Jenny and Barry, Greg and Maria, and visitor Dave.

Saturday, 13 April.
We were up and away quite early. Having been to Moonambel before, and camped at the Rec Reserve, we knew it would take most of the day. We arrived at about 4pm, and we were last. Having not too much seeing up to do, we joined Geoff and Andrew from the Geelong Club by their fire for drinks and nibbles (thanks Barb and Trevor). They had spent the last two days exploring the tracks ahead of their club Muster in June. After an easy dinner, we returned to the fire for stories of tracks and cars…..usual campfire talk. Barry was particularly interested in one track…called by numerous names: 200 Series Stuck in a Hole Track, Dave’s Secret Track, and the name Geelong uses, Morries’ Track.

Geoff arranged for info on the track to be sent to us in the next day or two. Looks like Barry will be leading that day. As it cooled down, we headed to bed quite early for a good night sleep.

Sunday, 14 April. Leaders today: Barb and Trevor
We woke to a lovely warm day. The Geelong boys were heading back home, and we were all ready for our first day of tracks. Trevor thought it would be good to ease into the tracks and start out to the lookout, then the Fire Tower for lunch to get a lay of the land.

At the lookout, we could see how difficult the summer had been. The farms were all very very dry, as was the bush we were driving through. We spent much of the day on Center Track, which divides the Range in two. We would be exploring each side over the next several days.

The West of England Fire Tower was a great lunch stop, with views in every direction, and even a loo for the girls. Thanks Trevor. Emilee was tasked with recording the highest point each day. Today – 620 meters.
We travelled many tracks… most notably Grumblers Track, although I didn’t hear any grumbling. Heading back to camp, we found some great wood on Teddingham Track for our campfire.

Getting back to camp about 4 it was time for drinks and nibbles….tonight hosted by Greg and Maria. Thank you.

Overall, it was a very good day. Emilee thought the best thing for the day was driving all the hills. And for me, the best thing was no car damage, and a lovely fire. Degree of Difficulty: 5/10.

Monday, 15 April. Happy Birthday Julie. Leaders today: Barb and Trevor again
Another lovely sunny day and some more challenging driving awaits us. Trevor had decided we would do Slate Quarry Track today. To get there, we had to negotiate Sardine Track.

Sardine Track was somewhat challenging with steep climbs and descents. Halfway up we had a flat tyre….luckily with so many boys it was changed in no 􀆟me. The sidewall had been pierced and that’s the end of that tyre.
Maria and Emilee decided to walk ahead and get picked up a􀅌er morning tea. They did that yesterday, and it worked out well. Today however, they took the wrong track, climbed a very steep and rocky section, only to radio back that they were at a dead end. They hadn’t seen the easy bypass track at the bottom of the incline. Oh well, it was good exercise.
We got to Slate Quarry Track, which Barb had really wanted to drive, but it was closed. We turned back to assess Old Bluff Track and Fraser Track. Either would be a good adventure. But Old Bluff looked a bit too rugged, so we settled on Fraser Track, which turned out to be quite challenging anyway.
And it did take us in the right direction for lunch.
Iain had been hearing a not right sound….so lunch found him under the car. He seemed to have a shock absorber problem.
We all headed into Avoca, for fuel, tyre repairs, and shock absorber repairs…..and perhaps an ice cream and a bit of shopping. Tyre cannot be repaired…shockies can’t be fitted in for two weeks…..but the ice cream was nice. Iain got an appointment for his car in Ballarat on Wednesday so no tracks for him tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow – Barry got his track info and we are doing it tomorrow.

We got home early enough to set the fire for coals to cook our bbq on. Trevor and Julie hosted drinks and nibbles today – thank you.

Highest point today: 744 meters. Degree of difficulty: 8/10. And even with a couple of bits of damage, everyone got home safe. And Emilee loved the tracks again today.

Tuesday, 16 April. Leaders today: Barry and Jenny
Another lovely sunny day and three cars are heading out to find and conquer Dave’s Secret Track. Iain and Emilee are having a play day due to car damage, and Julie and Trevor are sightseeing in and around

We started out well….past the vineyard to Wild Dog Track….was it past the vineyard or through the vineyard? Amazing how many kangaroos hang out in a vineyard when they aren’t expecting traffic! Finally finding Wild Dog Track, we next needed Blue Mountain Track – a horseshoe shaped track where both the entrance and exit to our track intersect.

Just after morning tea we found the entrance. Almost everyone walked down a ways to assess the condition of the track – I didn’t bother because I don’t generally get a vote! It was decided the down track was doable, even though it was very chopped up with deep wide ruts in places. At least it was dry. The first time we did this track it was winter, wet, and slippery. Our car just bellied out in the ruts and skidded all the way to the bottom. Yikes! Not today though. Everyone did a great job getting down safely.
Now we just had to get back out.

It took until lunch time to transverse the creek bed. One vehicle may have got a bit too close to a few rocks/trees…but that’s all part of the deal. Anyway, side steps still work even if they are at the wrong angle. Luckily we had a chain saw, drag chains and muscle because there was lots of work to do. After lunch the boys assessed the road up…more track maintenance required. Here it was more filling in holes and bolstering ledges and jump ups to make for a more achievable line. Even so, the correct line
was going to be tricky to navigate, especially with diff locks on. There was no straight up here. It was start left, veer right, miss the big tree….you get the idea. So after leaving Blue Mountain Track at morning tea, we reached the other side about 3pm.

Returning home via Iron Gate Track should have been an easy run…a good track with some small challenges….and one huge log obstacle. Get out the chain saw and drag chains again.

So today…the best thing was getting home safe – albeit with some damage. Degree of difficulty….OMG = 10/10. Special mention….Maria did really well today – even started to enjoy 4wdriving just a little. Well done.

Iain and Emilee had drinks and nibbles ready when we got back to camp – thank you. We had another nice evening by the fire. After the big day we had had, I thought everyone would head to bed early. Not so. Turned out to be our latest evening yet.

Wednesday, 17 April. Official day off.
Today is our official day off. We woke to overcast skies and occasional drops of rain. Iain and Emilee had left early to get to Ballarat on time. Greg and Maria packed up and headed off to spend Easter with their family. A couple of car bonnets up so everyone had a look, and an opinion.

Barry and I went for a drive around ending up in St Arnaud for lunch. It was the first time we had taken the time off tracks to see what else the Pyrenees had to offer. Lots of cute little places with interesting names.

We got home early to set the fire for a bbq and to arrange our turn at drinks and nibbles. It was a much cooler day, with some wind and occasional showers. We persevered by the fire though and by mid evening we were dry. Dave, our visitor, arrived about 8:30. We learned a bit about him and his experience 4wdriving. We were looking forward to taking him out on the tracks tomorrow to see how he would go.

Most were off to bed by 9:30. We stayed up till 10 to put the fire entirely out as the wind was a bit gusty.

Thursday, 18 April. Leaders today: Barb and Trevor.
Very cool morning after a cold and windy night. Iain and Emilee were heading to Sovereign Hill for a Gold Rush adventure, so we would be four cars today. On our way out of camp, we were stopped by the Rec Reserve Co-ordinator who advised us that there was now a ‘no fire’ policy and if we set another fire we would be fined $1,900. Turns out we should not have been having fires all along, but Trevor had asked, twice, and we were assured it would be ok. From now on it would be cool evenings and cooking at home.

Trevor wanted to take Dave up the lookout track to show him the area as it is his first time in the Pyrenees. It also gave us a chance to see how he was as a driver. We needn’t have worried. Dave proved to be a very capable and keen 4wdriver. We took Cactus Track out to Landsborough Ridge Track, heading to Landsborough township for lunch. Not much there now. A nice sports oval, and a pub still open but everything else was closed up. Not
even an ice cream to be had.

We headed back out Blue Mountain Track and Barry resisted the urge to do his favourite track again….perhaps another day. Using Iron Gate Track to get home, we had a very pleasant day. Degree of difficulty: 5/10.

After lining up for showers, Dave hosted our drinks and nibbles ahead of going into Avoca to the pub for tea. It was schnitzel night and it was yummy. Returning home in the cool of the night, and no fire allowed, we all headed to bed under extra blankets by 10.

Friday, 19 April. Good Friday. Leaders today: Iain and Emilee.
A cold night led to a cool morning, although we had a lovely warm day in no time. And today, all 5 cars coming out.

We started out on Turpin Track which was supposed to be easier than some others. It turned out to be very cut up and quite challenging, and unknown as yet, would be the scene of our troubles later in the week.

With Iain leading, it was always going to be a day of good tracks. We spent time on Sardine again, with its steep climbs, down New Nowhere Track then on to Old Tiger which became New Tiger. Cameron Track led us to lunch in Glen Patrick. After a bit of sightseeing, including ruins of a dairy, we found Point Patrick Track, which I call ‘Up the Lady’s Driveway Track’ because you have to go up a lady’s driveway to get there. This caused us untold difficulty our first year here. Not sure if it was today, or a previous day, but at some point we went on Fishermans Hut Track, to a fishermans’ hut. And Sardine Track? You have to know there is very little water here.

Where does the fisherman fish….and does he only catch sardines? One wonders. Heading home through Avoca, after leaving Mountain Hut Track, we found lots more campers at the Reserve. The Easter rush had begun.
Highest point today: current record of 750 meters. And Degree of Difficulty? With many challenging tracks: 8/10.

Still no fire allowed, we set up our circle out of the wind, and had drinks and nibbles hosted by Iain and Emilee. Thanks.

Saturday, 20 April. Leaders today: Trevor and Barb.
We woke to noises of market stalls being set up right beside us. It’s a lovely warm morning for the Easter Market at the Reserve. We were four cars today. Trevor and Julie were having a day off.

Today we were exploring what Trevor referred to as the other end of the Pyrenees. We made our way to Farnsworth Track, spending time on Main, Crofts, Clear Patch and Sanderson Tracks. I especially like Dry Dam Track…which was damn dry (you had to know that was coming!).

On Jackson Track – we weren’t sure which side of the loop to take – from the ‘Y’, both looked steep and challenging but doable. Barry walked off on one side, Trevor on the other. It wasn’t exactly a race, more a survival expedition. They occasionally reported in, having taken their hand-held radios with them. The further they got the more breathless they became….until….nothing. hello…hello…are you guys ok? Then Trevor’s red shirt was sighted…the boys were together returning down Barry’s side and
all was well. Not sure which side we ended up taking but it was the most challenging track of the day.

We returned home on Wild Dog, past not through the vineyard today. It had been a nice day….lots of gentle meandering tracks where one could enjoy the vistas….with the occasional steep and rocky bits to keep it exciting. Today degree of difficulty was a 6/10. And our highest point was 752 meters – the tallest so far.

Home mid afternoon, and with still no fires allowed, we enjoyed drinks and nibbles, with our jackets on, provided by Trevor and Julie. Thanks.

Sunday, 21 April. Happy Easter. Leaders today: Barry and Jenny
Woke to a cool and cloudy morning. We were told to an􀆟cipate a cool and wet change around noon. Perhaps it came early. As I sat up in bed, I noticed the Easter Bunny had been past our house in the night. We must have been very good this year. Thanks EB.

Only four cars going out today, with Julie and Trevor staying back to start packing for the next leg of their holiday. Perhaps they had a premonition that today was going to be ‘different’.

We had planned to get to the top of Mount Avoca today, plus explore some tracks around Glen Patrick. But we had to get up Turpin Track first. We had done it before so we knew it was tough and tricky. We decided to use the ‘call up’ method of climbing – one up, two up, three up……and four? Are you there four? ‘We’re in trouble and Barb has fallen’ came anxiously across the radio. Barry, Dave and Iain all jumped out of their cars to go help. I was told to stay put in case we needed the medical bag….Emilee was sent to me to keep track of. It was all hands on deck.

By the time Barry radioed back to me…Barb was in the car, and ok, thank goodness. The tail shaft was in the gutter beside the track, the universal joints were broken, the car was diagonal to the track….and winching was being arranged. It was decided to winch Trevor up the hill to the flattish landing. This took several rearrangements of winching cables but bit by bit, over a couple of hours, they were up and safe. Barb was sore, but brave, and the car was broken but drivable.

Going down was clearly going to be the best escape, so we all turned around, and with Trevor now leading, tied to Iain, who was tied to Barry, we set off slowly and as gently as Turpin Track would allow. Now, those of you who have known me for a while know that it took me a long time to relax and enjoy four wheel driving….this I did not enjoy. Being tied to two other cars that were essentially pulling you down the hill is scary. I trusted the boys that we would be fine…and we were…but I didn’t enjoy that

Home for lunch and to see what the RAA man would say to do next.
Barry and Dave, after sitting around for a short time, were restless to get back out on the tracks. So our two cars headed back out. As Barry was navigating, I was driving. We didn’t return to Turpin Track, and
it was mostly going to be an easy afternoon….until we got to the bottom of Old Tiger Track, which had recently been bulldozed. It looked as if the loose dirt and stones were about two feet deep. So Barry said, calmly, don’t panic, you can do this, just take it easy, and let the car do the work. So what do I
do….plant my foot and get up that damn thing as fast as I can – well not quite….but Barry kept saying too fast, slow down, take it easy and words to that effect. Luckily nothing untoward happened….and we got to the top. Dave, happily behind us, got up not troubles…and possible not so fast either.

We headed towards Glen Patrick, and once there, took the road home as we were on drinks and nibbles tonight. News from Trevor and the RAA man was as expected. They would be there bright and early the next morning to put the car on a truck and tow the camper to Ballarat for repairs through the week. Done.

A mild evening, without the forecast rain, and lots of Easter Treats at the end of a long day. Degree of difficulty today: OMG, YIKES, and GADZOOKS: 10/10.

Monday, 22 April. Leaders today: only two cars left – share it – Iain, Emilee and Barry, Jenny.
Up early to help Barb and Trevor pack up and get ready for the 􀆟lt truck. What a sad sight watching them go like this after such a good trip…thanks you guys. We said goodbye to Dave, Trevor and Julie too. Now we were two.
Our last chance to reach Mount Avoca today. Emilee and I were looking forward to seeing if we would beat our altitude record of 752. And the boys were looking forward to a few more good tracks to finish off the trip, with no damage.

We had some trouble getting anywhere in the morning…we tried this track and that track, always being turned back by a dead end, a campground, a gate….we just couldn’t get through where we wanted to. I think it was Cameron Track that ended up being the most useful.

We made it to Mount Avoca, not higher than 752 – only 747 meters I think. And we went through Glen Patrick again. The boys wanted to do North Glen Patrick Track. It took us a while to find the entrance. We could see it on the map, and we could see a crazy steep track off to our right. Was that it? Had to be. How do we get there? After a little backtracking, we were at the bottom or a crazy steep, side of a cliff, off camber climb. Oh my….! Seriously? But up we went. It was long and steep and a rocky…and I
was glad to be at the top.

As we wanted to get a bit of work done for tomorrow’s departure, we got home mid afternoon, had drinks and nibbles on the tailgate of the car, then a quiet evening inside.

Tuesday, 23 April. Heading home.
We got up earlyish, and yet it still took us till almost 10 to get mobile. The trip home is about 7 hours, so we weren’t rushing.

Thanks to Trevor and Barb for arranging this great trip. The Pyrenees is one of the best four wheel drive destinations you can do from Adelaide in just a few days. We are lucky to have access to the region, and also to be included in the Geelong Clubs Moonambel Muster, every June. It really is a great
time away. And thanks also to all the other participants for making this a great trip. And finally, thanks to Emilee for her help with this report, and for always trying to keep us entertained, even when we
were tired, old and grumpy.