Report and photos by Brent Brian
I decided to head to Levuka Friday afternoon for the weekend trip to avoid an early morning rise and stress of an early dash to make the most of the day. Amber and I left Redcliffe around 4pm and reached the south side of Brisbane by 4.30pm and had good hopes for setting up camp before it became completely dark. By 5.30pm we were still in Brisbane and eventually reached Beaudesert by 6.15pm, and hopes of setting up while we can see what we were doing were fading faster than the sunlight.
We reached the front office 30 minutes after the last light disappeared. Trying to find the right roads on a narrow winding road, complete with late night logging trucks wide than the road itself, was a test of night time gravel road driving, and should be considered as an event for the next MDORC challenge (10 points for each truck you manage to pass without being forced off the road). We were given a quick overview of the park and the two main options for campsites and how to find them.
Trying to find the campsite areas in pitch black darkness with basic mud maps was our next challenge. We eventually found a spot to set up our camper, having already set it up twice before (once by myself), we were ready to see how we went in the dark. We did really well, timing ourselves from picking out the spot until we were sitting back waiting for dinner to cook was 40 minutes, down from over an hour the first time (we are now down to 20-25mins from arrival). Potential MDORC challenge event is setting up camp in the dark, and scored based on how many cow patties you managed to avoid.
The following morning we woke up after a lovely sleep-in (phone automatically shifted the time forward an hour, so wasn’t as good as I thought), and headed to the front office to meet everyone else to lead them to the campsite we managed to discover the night before.
After everyone setup camp we planned the weekend of hitting the trails. The weather forecast was for rain and a possible storm that afternoon or evening, so we decided to head to the rainforest section of the park first as it can be closed for access if it gets wet.
At the start of the rainforest section is a test track so we headed there to limber up the trucks – warm up the diff oils, do some stretching exercises on our springs, ensure we had suitable photo apps loaded on our phones, etc). There were dips and ruts and a few subtle leans to play with, and a stack of logs to climb over where everyone had some photos taken. After a couple of laps each we headed out of the test track to the entry of the rain forest.
The tracks started off fairly easy through most of the rainforest, but you could feel the undergrowth slipping underneath and why it would be closed when it is wet. There are a few steep sections and some rocky creek crossings for some change of terrain, and a couple of tight bends on a steep track that required a three point manoeuvre to get around, and not just the Patrols either. We had troubles identifying the intersections of some of the tracks on the map, but we managed to find our way through and have some fun on the way. There was only one section that needed spotting as it had a massive washout that had to be straddled just after cresting a steep climb.
Coming out of the rainforest we headed to the lookout spot, then headed back to camp for lunch. Nicholas wanted to play with his AFL footy but it was flat. No problems, Drew brought out his new high capacity rapid air pump. The ball was inflated in 0.97 seconds, and hard enough to knock you out if you didn’t catch it. The ball was sat down while eating lunch and discussed where we will head next and that the weather was holding off well for us. Next minute, BOOOOMMM! The weather was still fine, but the same could not be said for Nicholas’ ball.
We headed off in the opposite direction to the morning and look for the lake to see if it is suitable for the kids to have a swim and it didn’t take us long to find a track that Peter Armstrong was not willing to check if it was passable. An alternate track was next to it a few trees over, so we backed back and took the easier way with only a large rut on a side track to negotiate instead of the bubbling mud hole. To save having to shuffle the cars around too much, Drew took the lead for a while.
Around the corner and we arrived at the first real challenge (previous night excluded) where there were no alternate tracks. After assessing how to tackle it and finding a solid bottom under the mud, Drew now being first pigeon from the shuffling descended into the obstacle. The track was narrow and carved in deeply into the bank, so care was needed to not bump panels into the wall. The exit was slippery on a slight bend with a large tree protruding into the track on the inside and difficult to get enough traction to lift out of the hole. The winch was brought out to safely pull the vehicle to where more traction was available to drive out the rest of the way.
It was my turn next, and it was interesting how much vision can be lost of the obstacle dropping into the cut out, and the value of checking the track so you know what is happening with your vehicle. Easing the Patrol in carefully, avoiding the tight walls, I then drove the Patrol through the mud, around the slight bend and up out of the hole. Richard and Peter, also driving Patrols, drove through as well. The theory that Patrols are better at getting out of mud holes is supported by this.
The next section took us down a rocky decent which was easy enough, and once again we found identifying where we were in relation to the map somewhat perplexing. We worked out where we were and how to get to where we wanted to go. Over the next rise we worked out we had no idea where we were but where we were was where we wanted to be. To say that again, we had no idea where we were but where we were was where we wanted to be. It was easier to type it, but not much.
The water wasn’t the best to swim in, at least for today, so we hung around for a while and admired the country and took a few photos, before heading off again.
We found some more tracks that were similar to the rainforest section we were in in the morning, but it was easier and less steep… until. We reached a bog hole, that clearly had a passable way around it. I nosed into the bog hole and instantly found my front axle in the hole, and bellied on the ramp in. I could still move forward freely enough, but couldn’t get enough momentum to reverse back out without losing traction when it bellied again each time. The back was at an angle to the track so a snatch could have been unsafe. Richard assured me there was a better than no chance of getting through. While I was a little more pessimistic on his assessment, I thought “what is the worst that can happen? OK, let’s give it a go!”.
I already knew the step in was sudden, so I needed to balance a careful easing of the back end down the step, and power down to climb out the other side. I eased forward to let the back wheels drop safely down and when I felt the rear bar bottom out I planted it! That advanced me a further 5cms to effectively pin recovery points front and rear. Square peg, meet square hole. If you ever wondered what a Patrol looks like lowered, we have photos.
Richard doubled back around (the passable option wasn’t as passable with me in the hole) while we started clearing away some mud and look for a recovery point. The mud was thick, sticky and deep in all the right (wrong) places. Head first down below normal ground level, enough mud was cleared to recover the recovery point. We then manoeuvred Richard to winch me out of the hole.
By this stage it was getting late in the day so we started heading back to camp. We had also worked out a tree protector had been left at the first winching spot, so we took the easiest route back with Drew taking a quick detour to retrieve the tree protector. We then came across a long deep bog hole, except this one was about 60% filled with bat poo. Richard’s assessment was to find another way.
Back at camp we took the front wheels off the Patrol to clear out the mud from the rims and the brakes. For the small group we were we had an effective congo line passing buckets of water for cleanup. Both Amber and myself head to toe in mud it was time for dinner and a well earned shower. The showers are awesome at Levuka, which are gas heated and are free.
Feeling refreshed we settled in for a couple of drinks. Dark returned and the scenery disappeared as the night before. The stars disappears not too much later and the wind picked up. Soon it was bucketing rain and thunder and lightning shortly followed. The lightning was spectacular, but the frequency and loudness of the thunder was a little offsetting. Nicholas and Keira went to bed for perceived safety. As quickly as it arrived the lightning and thunder disappeared, but the wind remained for hours afterwards, eventually claiming Richards tent, snapping a pole and punching a hole right through the roof.
It the morning we opted to pack and leave without further driving on the tracks. The trip home ended up being very hot. We stopped at McDonald’s back in Brisbane for lunch to end the weekend away. We were with one less AFL ball, one less tent, and 75kgs more mud, but we enjoyed the venture to a different park than we normally go to.
Thanks to everyone for coming along for the fun. Levuka has nice camping grounds with great facilities while still feeling like you are in the scrub and away from it all. I look forward to the next trip there.
Hello fellow M’Dorcs
Well it’s November again already and that means it’s about time for the regular MDORC Inskip Trip lead by Warren and Sylvia Cross. This overnight excursion is becoming a regular event on the yearly calendar. This year 9 vehicles showed up for the weekend touring type event with a real mixed bag of participants. A Suzuki Vitara, Pajero, Hilux, 2 x Patrols, the might Maverick and dear me three Prados. Yep three, what is this club coming too?
We had a rather unique departure from BP northbound on Saturday morning with the first stop being Noosaville. Unique because even with 9 cars only one of the group didn’t count off correctly, usually we lose the plot after three. The Noosaville bakery got a nudge with bread rolls and sweets stocked up for the overnighter. I bought cold pies and bunged them in the oven so the timing was just about right for lunch. Love the Travel Buddy. The Noosa Triathlon was on the same weekend and there was an abundance of MAMILS peddling about the place three abreast. Talk about a target rich environment.
Off to the Tewantin Ferry. Both ferries where running and we just managed to jag getting all the cars across at the same time even if it was on two different vessels. Air down prior to the hitting the sand and then, wow out onto Teewah beach on what could only be described as a beautiful day. Enough beach had emerged from the ocean to provide a freshly resurfaced path to Double Island.
It wasn’t long before we observed a lot of dead birds that appeared to have washed up on the shore. Indeed the dead Short-Tailed Shearwater or Tasmanian Mutton Birds would be found all the way to the Liesha Track. 23 million breeding pairs of Mutton Birds migrate annually from Bass Straight via the Pacific Ocean to the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. There are amongst the most populous bird species on the planet. Some simply become exhausted loosing 50% of their body weight and are unable to go on. 1600 birds per kilometre have been found to be lost in bad seasons. I hadn’t seen this before and it was a little alarming, but this has been happening long before me and I hope will continue very long after. Nature’s way I guess.
The long drive up Teewah is always entertaining around the camp areas. Remember to slow at the stretch of beach at the designated camping zone. Firstly because it is a gazetted road and you can get pinched for speeding, secondly because it makes sense for safety but mostly because you get to see the crazy stuff that people cart up this beach. Lounge chairs and inflatable female dolls are pretty normal, a fold out lounge is a bit different, but I had never seen a Billiard Table before!
We crossed the Leisha Track onto Rainbow Beach. The inlet behind the spit is quite large presently and only a thin strip is traversed close to the cliffs to get around onto Rainbow Beach itself. We stopped for lunch at the tables just north of the toilets. Some swam in the flat water behind the spit, which I understand had a few lice in the water, but given the warm day this didn’t seem to be a huge issue. Now some may remember last year that our very own Page-3 model, one Gary Eichenloffabet, better known as Captain Flick Flack was out soaking up the sun at this location. Sadly Flick Flack has lost his banana chair and has now got a reasonably large papasan chair on which he was lounging about. Not topless this time, but still qualified for the tag “Papasan Pete”. Pete’s umbilical connection to the chair was reminiscent of the banana lounge last year.
Lunch consumed and swims swum it was time to head off to Rainbow and finally Inskip Point. I’ve said before that the ocean is somehow more emerald and blue at Rainbow Beach down by Double Island Point. This time was no exception, just beautiful. The coloured sand cliffs showed much evidence of slides and what would otherwise be avalanches. These were really big shifts where large sections of the sand cliffs have simply become unstable and slipped. The beach itself was flat and wide with little evidence of the famous rocks that have claimed so many vehicles. Either of the two Rainbox Beach services stations, the pub and even the surf shop have extensive galleries of submerged and beaten vehicles claimed be the rocks. The paragliders hung on the breeze, buzzing about above the cliffs at the Rainbow end.
In Rainbow some again topped up supplies (raising questions about a shopping rather than 4wd club) and off we tracked to re-enter the beach north of town. All 9 cars where again on the beach, heading for Inskip Point and a camp site for the night. Warren slowed at a location close to where we had camped last year. Having down a recon into the rough location a call came to come on up into the camp. The remaining cars did a pretty good Normandy Invasion like take of scrambling up the beach into the dunes to set up camp. I think it might have been the call of happy hour and it was only about 2:00pm!
Tents up, swags down and happy hour it was. Having sat about in the dunes for a bit the team assembled out of the edge of the beach for beers and nibbles. It as a delightful afternoon with the temperature about right (the beer I mean) and the company pretty much perfect. Even Papasan Pete made an appearance. There was to be more swimming and some making and attempt at fishing. The fish won.
Now I know we have a policy of not being able to place fines upon visitors. Should any committee members have been present I should think this restriction would have been removed for very good reason. A structure was built by one such visitor that was described as a camp kitchen. It was clearly well above club standard and should have been panelised accordingly. Indeed this folding marvel of modern camping wonder would have Gordon Ramsey gob smacked. Apparently it came with a seemingly endless supply of Wild Turkey! It had somehow been a long day and we all retired quite early, well apparently the turkey stayed up longer. Bloody tiring, all this relaxing.
The morning was full of the smell of cremated bacon and destroyed eggs. We had awoken to another glorious day. Sylvia has really nailed the weather on this trip. Must ask how she does that. Some who know me understand that is something of a ritual for me to always have an ice cream in Rainbow. I had not only missed the ice cream the day before but had failed to catch the ice cream truck on the beach in the afternoon as well. With everyone up and packed and with a need to let the tide drop a little our party headed to Rainbow for brunch, shopping apparently in my case ice cream. Having parked at the Surf Club all went about their business for about an hour before we mustered again for the next leg of the journey. I had three scoops (needing to make up for the day before).
Warren had put to the vote a run down the Freshwater track back out onto Teewah Beach. Off it was then through this inland track that truncates Double Island Point from Rainbow to Teewah. In parts this track s reminiscent of Frazer Island with areas that have the same rainforest feel. It was noted that even in areas where the canopy was broken this track didn’t appear to have lantana through it. We dropped out onto the beach but instead of turning south we headed back towards Double Island. The ice cream van was found parked up just off the track exit. Magnum Ego please. Job done lets go again.
We parked up just below the light house and some again took to the ocean. I don’t understand the fascination with wanting to become part of the aquatic food chain but I guess some wouldn’t understand 4 ice creams in 3 hours.
The awnings where out and drinks and nibbles again consumed. Marcel was off for a run on the beach (must be because Ellen keeps hiding the keys). We all just kind of chilled out again watching the ocean do its thing. There was a group playing some kind of music which is apparently termed Dubstep. Electronic dance music, I’m told. I didn’t understand and like a Jeep, hope I never do.
Well nothing left to do but have slow tour back down the beach to the ferry, air up and then varied parties toddled off home in differing directions. We had undertaken a very slow and relaxing weekend in perfect weather. No recoveries undertaken, no damaged vehicles and I didn’t snore as loud as last year. Captain Flick Flack is now Papasan Pete, so what next year? Great weekend, my thanks to our trip leaders and the gang for making it so. Only 12 months to go for what is becoming a ritual.
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