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.
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!”.
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.