Paul Trouse reports:
This trip had been under planning since our Tolmie trip at Easter last year. So much to organise and so little time to do it!
In reality, all we had to do was book the campsite and get our gear together. The South Australians did the rest. We were, in fact freeloaders, enjoying their annual trip to Beachport for fun in the sand.
The way it all came about was due to discussions Brendan and Gillian had with Simon from the South Australian club at Tolmie. This led to an invitation to join them on the Australia Day weekend. The only difficulty was that the holiday was celebrated this year on a Wednesday. A decision had to be made as to whether we add the first, or the last, working days to the trip. We chose the latter, thereby making our trip from the Wednesday to the Sunday. This proved to be a great choice as the number of other vehicles on the tracks over the period was negligible.
The S.A. club arranged the Happy Hours, the trips run and the weather, which was a delightful 22° every day with cloudless skies most days. The only thing I could have done without was the March flies. But there weren’t too many of them. I had just returned to work on 17th January after a three week break (if you can call mowing, whipper snipping and other maintenance tasks a break), so there was the usual catch up to cope with. But after seven whole days of work, I felt I had earned another bit of time off. Brendan rang and we made plans. They would call in to my place and we would travel together to Beachport. The only concern was the state of the roads after the floods which had covered a fair bit if Victoria the previous week. The Vic Roads site indicated the roads we wanted to use were unaffected and this proved to be true. We did encounter some potholes and road damage, but nothing major.
Come Wednesday, Brendan and Gillian arrived at my place about 8.00 am and, after I completed my packing, we set off about 8.30 am. As it was going to take most of the day to get to our destination, we took a leisurely approach to the drive and stuck to the speed limits, just in case Mr. Plod was lurking. As it was, we saw no police vehicles at all in the entire trip.
Our first stop was at a little country café where we stopped for a cappuccino and a white chocolate and raspberry muffin. It was definitely worth the time to stop. On then to a wayside park called Wallan Falls, located a short distance from Hamilton. I had been there many times on the way to the South Australian beaches over the years, but my companions had not. It is a comfortable native bushland park with a waterfall (or more precisely, a drop-off). There have been times when there has been no water flowing at all, but after recent rains, the volume of water was tremendous. The roar of the water as it hit the rocks below was deafening. We took photographs, walked around a bit, then set off for Mount Gambier where we were to refuel. A casual question informed me that Brendan and Gillian had not seen the Blue Lake, so I took them up to the viewing area.I had suggested to them that the famous blue tinge may not be present, as the normal period for this phenomenon is around November each year. We were pleasantly surprised therefore, to find it looking quite blue.
One of the parks proved a great place for lunch, as we were able to find a shady spot out of the sun. We continued on to Beachport, finally arriving about 3.30 pm. After booking in, we drove to our sites and erected our tents after some discussion on where the sun would rise in the morning. After we had set up, we were told about the Happy Hour which had been in progress for some time. One of their members, Kevin, had been out to his craypots and brought back three crayfish for the group. The remains were offered to us, not that there was much left. However, the spread of other nibbles was extensive, so much so, we hardly felt like dinner later.
After dinner, the Happy Hour continued with drinks and conversation until I pulled the pin about 9.00 pm and went to bed. The next morning, after we had decided the previous night which trip we would join, we fronted up for Simon’s trip to Robe. The weather was a little cool to start with, but improved during the day.
We headed for the first beach, which we understood was probably too soft too traverse. However, Simon did a part recce on foot and declared it to be all right. So we followed him out on to the beach and the convoy proceeded without incident. The rain the previous Tuesday had made the sand fairly firm and it was only at the Robe end of the trip we encountered any really challenging sand.
This was my first venture with the Prado on sand and I was suitably impressed with its performance. It seemed that some of the more challenging tracks had become far less daunting in the intervening years since my last trip in 2006. Morning tea was had in beautiful conditions on the beach and lunch on a rocky point. The water was crystal clear and the light breeze kept the temperature down.
After lunch, we continued along the beach/inland tracks to Nora Kreen, then took the road out and travelled along a dirt road to the next beach access. This stretch was as picturesque as always. When we reached the last beach before Robe, we came across a Prado stuck to the axles in the sand and a family awaiting a tow truck from Robe. Of course, we offered our assistance in the recovery and it was a perfect opportunity to try out the Club’s new Max Trax. Fortunately, Simon also had a pair and we put one under each wheel. After dropping his tyre pressures (he had been on 40 psi), we got the driver to attempt the escape. This he did, but only travelled a car length before getting bogged again. We repeated the procedure and got him to use 2nd low instead of 1st low. This time he extracted himself cleanly and did not stop until he had cleared the beach, leaving his family to walk up to him. He did offer us some money, but we refused this on moral grounds.
After we completed the final part of the journey into Robe, we stopped at a lovely bistro for coffee, cakes and a rest. The group then split up, each to make their own way back to camp. Brendan, Gillian and I did a slow walk up and down the street to see what changes had occurred in the township since my last visit. Not much I decided.After a couple of purchases, like an extension cord, we pumped up our tyres at the local service station then headed back.
On this return journey, I had the privilege of driving Brendan’s 4.2l diesel Patrol, while he drove my 4.0l petrol Prado. Back at camp, we found we were once again late for Happy Hour and had to hasten to catch up. This night was quite cold and we were very grateful to have a wood heater, brought along by Kevin, to stand around. Another pleasant night was had by all and, apart from some diehards, most drifted off to bed by 10.00 pm.
The next day, Friday, a trip with a difference was organised. Today we were to take two trailers on to the beach and conduct a cleanup of the rubbish. Most of the refuse was washed in by the tide, but much was discarded by some of the users of the beach. One group started from the Robe end, while the other started from Beachport. The intention was to meet in the middle. After about three hours, both trailers were full, so we made our way independently back to camp. We never did get to meet up. The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the camp, then the inevitable Happy Hour.
On Saturday, our final day, I went on the relatively short trip to South End. I enjoyed a number of very pretty views, a quiet lunch on the beach and an easy drive back along a solid beach to camp. This left me a couple of hours to sit and read, before heading to the local pub to celebrate Simon’s wife Sue’s birthday and another on the previous day. While I was doing my thing, Brendan and Gillian were kilometres away on a trip to Carpenters Rocks and beyond. They ended up doing a long drive that day and had to cut it short to return for the pub dinner. They said they enjoyed it. Unfortunately, we had to vacate the pub by 7.30pm because the room was booked for a 21st. But we made up for it with another Happy Hour and two birthday cakes.
The next day was Sunday and reluctantly, we had to head home. But not before a minor complication. The park we were in had a boom gate system controlled by computer. The system recorded every vehicle entry and exit and would not let you out after the compulsory exit time of 10.00 am. Unfortunately, Brendan had entered too soon the night before and so was not recognised as being in the park. This meant he could not get out. He had to wait until I exited so that he could sneak out with me.
As a penance for going on a trip on our wedding anniversary, I went in to town to get a crayfish for Vonnie. After one last cappuccino, we set off for home, again taking it easy as we knew it would take the best part of six hours to get to my place. Along the way, we made a detour to Nigretta Falls, on the other side to Wallan Falls. Again we were greeted with a spectacular vista and sound display. Well worth the time to stop.
On then through Hamilton and a lunch stop at the same café where we had had morning tea four days earlier. It is very strange, but the journey home seemed to be much longer than the trip to Beachport, probably because we were a little tired after our enjoyable time away. The weather had also changed and we had a range of temperatures from 37° to 40° all the way home. It probably would not have been so pleasant on the beach that day.
I would like to express my thanks to the South Australia club who made us so welcome and allowed us to share a wonderful four days on their great beaches.
- Paul Trouse – Prado
- Brendan Jones & Gillian Adams – Patrol
- Holden 4WD Club of South Australia