January 15, 2003

Not the New Year’s Eve Trip

Just lately, I’ve been doing a bit of travel up to Coffs Harbour, and as I gaze out the window of Virgin’s 737s, the mountains to the west of the coast have become increasingly alluring. The mountain ranges of the mid north coast extend well away from the coast, and from the air one can still see numerous tracks and trails running through them. I’d become quite fascinated by the possibilities this whole area might hold for 4WDing, and promised myself that it would be good to get up there are take a look around some time. So when Buzz announced his Not the New Years Eve trip into the forest regions around Wauchope, it immediately seemed to be the chance I was looking for to go exploring the area.

We Betchers had originally planned to drive up the coast with the Hammos on the 28th, but due to unforseen circumstances we ended up leaving later that morning and just met the others up there. The trip was uneventful, and slow… the traffic travelling north was unbelievable, with major delays at all the usual spots – Karuah, Bulahdelah and Kew. I can’t get over how many people have no idea how to merge from two lanes into one! It seems that the simple act of merging, and allowing another driver to pull into the space in front of you, really brings out people’s mean-spiritedness and aggression on the road. Anyway, I digress.

Our first shock as we arrived at the beautiful Swan’s Crossing campground was to see Buzz’s restyled Vitara looking much more like a Honda HRV. Seems he had a little “off” and reshaped the roofline somewhat. We were filled in on the awful details by Hammo and Di at the campsite, and informed that Michael and Krissie had taken Buzz to Port Macquarie hospital for treatment. He was a very lucky boy to walk away from it.

After settling in to camp, we took a quick explore of the area, walking up to the Top Hole swimming area. The campsite was stunning… a large flat expanse of green, with tall timber surrounding it on all sides and a charming creek running past our camp. The kids swam and enjoyed it, while the adults took to relaxing around the campfire.

Michael and Krissie eventually returned from the hospital at about 11:00pm after transporting Buzz back to his parents’ place near Byabarra.

Rain during the night and into the morning left many of the tracks quite damp, but the sun shone periodically during the day. A few of us decided to go explore the area, so a convoy of cars headed up the track from the campsite and onto the main ridge. Although Buzz had spent quite some time doing reccies and planning trips, without his expertise we were limited to some blind exploring of our own. Map in hand, we travelled across some good forestry roads, some steep and narrow logging tracks, as well as some tar roads into the surrounding district. After a brief stop at the Mt Comboyne lookout to take in the view, we drove out to the village of Comboyne itself where we had a pleasant picnic lunch in the park, and on to the amazing Ellenborough Falls. I wish we had a little more time here, as the falls dropped over a height of some few hundred metres into a large swimming hole, and it would have been great to do the walk into the valley and take a swim in it. Another time.

After some ice creams and my attempt to gas the locals, we headed back through Comboyne and past the “sleeping cow” towards camp. It certainly is a pretty area and was so green that it seemed almost surreal. A bit like turning the colour up on your TV so that everything seems exaggerated beyond normal. A small detour down a logging track was aborted after it got steeper and wetter and more slippery. As defacto trip leader for the day, I decided to play it safe and call it off when our car, with reasonable tyres, started sliding down the track several metres at a time. With other cars in the group running standard tyres, we decided that without a winch and without knowing what lay ahead, the smart thing was to back out. That was a little easier said than done, and the Hammomobile was used to assist The Harris’s XL7 back up the hill. Michael found out just how critical tyre pressure could be in such a situation, after going from immobile to mobile with a change of only 2 psi. The trip back up the hill took a little while but was quite a lot of fun.

Next day was superb weather, so a trip the beach at North Haven was the go. Buzz was right about the area… there is plenty of variety and things to do. It was actually quite nice to be able to camp in such a pretty and comparatively remote spot, yet still be so close to amenities like beaches and towns. We frolicked on the beach for a while before eventually heading back to camp and then moving out for another drive around the local area, this time with Buzz at the helm.

A drive to the very top of Mt Comboyne took us to a fire observation tower where we met a nice young bloke whose job was to sit in the tower all day and look for bushfires (seriously!)

More logging tracks, more trails - some quite steep ones – where Dave and Liz showed how clever their Subaru was, and Mike C showed us what a good little bus his ex-roo-shooting Sierra ute was. We found some nice loose and rutty hills to play on, with rewarding views at the end of them, and after a very full afternoon of exploring we swung via the pub at Wauchope for supplies and cheap oysters, then back to camp via Byabarra and the Buzzmeister’s mum and dad’s place. With an interesting detour in the dark we got back to camp about 9:00pm.

Brian and Dave showed us why butter knives are not the ideal tool for opening oysters, and Krissie pulled out her guitar and songbook, and another nice night was spent around the campfire.

Waking to more perfect weather on the final day of 2002, many of the crew had trouble getting started this morning. With deliberations still going on as to how to spend the day, Donna and the kids and I decided to drive up to Port Macquarie for the day and see the sights. After a bit of shopping, lunch in the pub, and a sightseeing sea-plane flight over the local area, we returned to camp to begin preparing for “the feast”. New Years Eve was planned to be a huge communal dinner and it was superb. Nibblies and drinks evolved into a virtual cornucopia of gastronomic delights - French casserole, roast chicken, garden salad, dips and chips, apple pie with cream and custard, and more… yumm! It was a great way to spend NYE.

We saw in the New Year with singing and dancing around the fire – it was very tribal – and the final countdown was marked with sparklers and horns, kisses and hugs and a great time by all.

It was great to get to know a few more people in the club, including many I’d not met before. A big thanks also needs to go to Buzz for organising the trip and making it possible for us to come enjoy the area, under what turned out to be fairly regrettable conditions for him.

Chris Betcher
January 2003

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