June 13, 1989

The Art of the Reccie

One of the most frustrating things about being the trip organiser for the Suzuki Club, is knowing what type of trips to put on and how often one should put them on. Another of the most frustrating things, (because there are several), is the task of trying to make it all really interesting and varied for you lot, and not repeat trips too often.

On becoming Trip organizer, or Trip Convenor or whatever the correct term is, (I kind of like "Road Director" myself, but to be honest, it is all a bit academic, and quite outside the realm of this preamble anyway.) Where was I? Ah yes, the trip calendar. Basically, we don't have enough trips. Our membership has doubled over the last few years, while our access to certain areas has diminished. Changing emphasis by the manufacturers of 4WD vehicles has also led to a rethinking of the types of tracks we have to use. Put simply, they don't make ‘em like they used to, and what with the theories of entropy working on an environmental scale, tracks can only become more difficult with the passage of time, (Bulldozers excluded, of course.)

"What's he on about now?" I hear you ask. Reccies, my friends, Reccies. The long lost Art of the Reconnoiter is due to become more fashionable again. And not before time either.

Reccies are fun. They involve lost skills like map reading, recovery and ingenuity, whilst rekindling childhood feeling of adventure and anticipation. Expect the unexpected. And remember, even the oldest joke in the world is still new to somebody. So it is with Reccies.

Let me set up a timeframe for you, so that you might begin to see a point to this ramble. May 13, 1989. Colo River crossing on the Putty Road. 4 diminutive vehicles all gather to experience the Art of the Reccie. Tackleberry, Andrew and Uncle Len, Greg and Leone, Donna and myself. Some lines are on some maps. We sit down to an open hamburger, pore over the maps and a plan of attack is formulated. One map in particular, the 1:25000 topographic of Colo Heights, has some intriguing dotted lines, leading to what could be spectacular views over the Colo Gorge. After reasonable contemplation, we set off, looking for the break in the bush, for the tell-tale signs that 4WD lifeforms do, perhaps, have a future on this planet.

Without any further ado, we locked our hubs, deflated our tyres and sallied forth. The terrain followed a ridge heading west, and upon closer inspection it was found that there were a set of wheeltracks in front of us, and the width and tyreprint looked suspiciously like a vehicle of our own persuasion .... a Zuki. We eventually came across the aforementioned piece of machinery, parked in a clearing with no sign of an owner. Thinking perhaps he or she had gone for a wander into the bush, we made some noise, consumed our lunch, and waited to see if anyone should turn up. No Suzuki owner was forthcoming so we continued on our way. The track began to get quite interesting, both in terms in the grade and the ruttiness of the terrain.

Coming to a clearing of sorts, we paused briefly to consider the alternatives. The narrower of the two seemed to go downhill, towards the river reasoned Mr Hamilton. As things turned out, he was quite correct. It did go towards the river, and would later prove the pseudo-mathematical equation; Find the limit of the Cockroach as the track approaches the river. More on this in a moment.

We chose instead to pursue the other trail. It was narrow, very overgrown, and began to descend via a very rutted and twisty route. Parts of the track were so thickly overgrown, that some of us resorted to using our headlights in order to see .... it was still mid afternoon. Despite our desire to continue, the track came to a rather abrupt halt with only a difficult walking track winding off up the hill.

We retraced our steps, back through the darkest jungle, and around the ridge to the difficult looking climb - Perhaps this would be an appropriate opportunity for me to compliment the driving skills of my companions. All drove extremely impressively, and it was a pleasure to witness Suzukis being handled in such a professional way. At no stage did anyone have trouble, take an awkward line.... I don't think anyone even spun a wheel.

We returned to the clearing, which was really just a bend in the track, a bit wider than the rest, and the prospect of investigating the track towards the river became obvious. Being the duly elected trip leader for this sojourn, I offered the Cockroach as a guinea-pig, (which would be a good trick, no?) Off we went, down the hill, down a steep section, down, down, further down... till without warning the track suddenly ended.

"Terrific", I thought.

Not having a CB radio to communicate with the group at the top, Donna offered to ascend and inform. Soon my companions joined me. Turning around on the side of the hill presented no great problems... It was the slipperiness of the clay, and the steepness that afforded only minimal traction, which caused the problem with not even the MudTerrains gaining any purchase on the ground. The decision was made to winch the car up. This was a good idea. The rear of the car was opened to gain access to the winch, but because of the steepness of the incline, the entire contents of the rear of the car spewed out and down the hill. This was not a good idea. It seems that the tightness of the pack did not offset the angle of the car.

The next three quarters of an hour was spent handwinching the car up the difficult sections, driving it as far as possible, and resetting the winch further up the hill. Eventually it reached the top.

Camp that evening was a pleasant affair, with tents set up on the track itself, such was the apparent remoteness of the location. An excellent fire was started, courtesy of our very own, Bushman Len. Bushman Len kept us all very well informed with his observations and insights into the Great Australian outdoors. "This spot here", he would say, "was a spot where someone once had a fire. You can tell by this ring of rocks and the ash!" Needless to say, we were all spellbound by these incredible observations.

The sensible boundaries of camp oven cooking were explored, with Greg H giving us all a spectacular display of his own particular brand of campfire pyrotechnics by setting fire to the oil in his oven .... Ole!. Andrew, as usual, amazed us all with his bag of spices and herbs, concocting some truly gastronomic delights. Tackleberry had his usual high cuisine from a can. Ah, but those roast chickens were delicious, except they were broiled. Perhaps not so much water next time.

Next morning we awoke to the sound of bellbirds and lyrebirds, had a hearty breakfast and broke camp. Today we would attempt to find the infamous Fred’s Hill. Instead we found Fred himself! Yes dear reader, Fred is an old man that lives in a caravan up near Wallaby Swamp. He was pleasant enough to talk to, although his directions to his own hill seemed to be a little wide of the mark. We spent an hour or so searching for the trail, but didn't quite find it. We found some other interesting options though, including a steep rocky descent to a prime campsite, which had not seen campers for many years. Now a home for deer, its potential was noted for further visits to this area.

Volume 14, No 6
June 1989
Chris Betcher