Sunday, August 24, 2008

On debut; Watagans Adventure

The adventure of our lives is only five weeks away and will be the accumulation of so many seemingly insurmountable milestones it's hard to remember the trepidation in the run up to each.

I'll get to the detail at a later stage.However this weekend gave us the first (and only) dry run before we head off for 12 months of exploring this great country of ours.

To anyone who knows how hopeless unpractical I am, to only have one dry may seem a little foolhardy. Australia is a big country. And a hot and dry one. After spending months planning to ease into things gently by head South first without any intention of straying out of range of the NRMA, we are now committed (thanks to Si and Charl) to heading West to the Big Red Centre. Even at this late stage I still don't know how to change a tyre. Ness is quite good at checking the oil, although we don't yet have any spare if it needs topping up.

We're booked on a two day 4wd course in Broken Hill en route to the hot and dusty Strzelecki, Birdsville and Oodnadatta desert tracks as well as the road out to Uluru, the Olgas, Kings Canyon and Alice Springs. Two days should be more than enough for most people to learn how to drive and maintain a massive 4wd t
ruck. But then, I'm not most people. Stay tuned.

(The name of the blog was an easy pick for me, although maybe a little harsh on Ness, but time will tell. For the non Australian's it's a steal from the TV series that followed Russell Coight's disastrous travels through outback Australia "spreading misinformation and causing accidents". I'm more than capable on both of thos
e fronts.)

For our maiden voyage (off road) we chose the Watagan Mountains which are about an hour and a half north of sydney. Some of the mountains are state forest and some national park, so note to self we can take the Millie dog when we go back next time. Watagan's was described as an easy introduction into 4wd in a 15 year old book I picked up from Elizabeth's second hand book store.

Until Friday we'd had around 2 weeks of unbroken sunshine, which wouldn't normally surprise but we've been having a fairly shitty winter this year. All was looking good and then the heavens opened on Friday. I suspected that things might not be quite as easy as the old book had suggested.This was confirmed within about 10 minutes of turning off the freeway and realising Ness was about as good at navigating as she is at using the pasta maker. Actually that’s probably a bit harsh but there are some similarities.

Obviously I was my usual calm and reasonable self as I did the required u-turn on a treacherously boggy single lane with a fair ditch behind. (My nervousness enhanced by the fact we don't have any recovery gear fitted yet.)We had though engaged the hubs for our first time in 4wd. A comforting green light on t
he dashy confirmed that all was well and we’d now be consuming fuel at an even quicker pace. (I’m still convinced there must be a hole in the fuel tank.)

Once back on the right track things got pretty exciting for us. Washouts galore, rutted roads, rocks and plenty of isolation as we made our way up the ridge praying we didn’t meet a logging truck coming the other way. At the top of our first steep ascent we stopped for a cup of joe and a calming ciggy (which I’ve vowed to be off by the time we start the real trip).

The driving was heaps of fun and I was pretty chuffed I got us to the campsite without any major disasters. I nearly lost it when Ness spotted a wallaby off to the left and it was a good reminder to keep my eyes on the road.

Setting up camp was a dream, although I think I picked a bad spot. It was off a sharp bend at the bottom of a steep hill. Seemed good to start with but every dirt bike and 4wd that came thundering round the ben
d looked as though it was going to come and join us.

We’ve had a few less well equipped camping trips in the past. But with our roof top tent, proper lighting, card table, benches to keep things off the ground, and a nice warm dooner all was well, if a little chilly when we were outside. Despite how much we'd spent on some of the accessories, probably the most useful thing we took was the milk crate. We need to find two more and then I think we're set.

Ness prepared a lovely dinner and the breakfast porridge made with powdered milk was awesome. I was particularly proud of getting a nice little fire going in an old bucket I found and only needed one match and three
pieces of newspaper. The only downer (and I’m sure she will mention this) was Ness absolutely flogged me at Yahtzee.

Packing up was much much easier than we’d expected and the roof top tent zipped back perfectly into its cover. We set off early for the return and had some more bouncy 4wd action before hitting the freeway at Wyong and were home in a jiffy after a short stop at the Hawkesbury River Bridge to eat some sausage sandwiches and an apple.

Proud of our work and after unpacking we retired to the Coopers Arms with our maps to plan the first week of our trip.

Five weeks to go ....

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