Its been a little while since we’ve updated the blog due to the silly season. Christmas, New years all the rest of it everything gets a bit hectic.
So about a month ago Jess came to me with a great idea, we should take the troopy down to visit her family in Melbourne for Christmas. Since we’ve been working on it for nearly 9 months now and have hardly driven the car let alone taken it off road we both figured it was time to put it through its paces. Naturally this meant finding some decent 4×4 tracks and secluded camp sites to put all our hard work to the test.
We set off 4 days before Christmas giving ourselves about 3 days to get to Melbourne arriving on Christmas eve. A friend of mine who recently purchased a Toyota Prado was also keen to tag along for a few days and do some four wheel driving and camping. On the Saturday morning we left early and headed for the Deua National park which is about 350Km South of Sydney. It took us the better part of a day to get there as we went at a leisurely pace through the Kangaroo Valley and stopped off to see a few sites along the way.
As we arrived at the Deua National Park we were very surprised to find all three of the different camp sites completely empty bar one small group of campers. We went for the more secluded site down by the Deua river which we had to cross. I only knew of this site because I drowned my bike in the river there a few week prior.
We set up camp for the first time, Jess and I were keen to get the awning out with the extensions and the oztent just to see how it fit together (and to show off all our new gear to our friends).We were very stoked at how easily it all came together and the time it took to set everything up. So much easier when everything has its place and is easily accessible. Turned out to be a good move getting the awning out as it rained lightly that evening, there was plenty of room for four of us to sit and watch the fire slowly die down before retiring to bed.
That was the first night sleeping on the new memory foam bed that Jess made up. I found it really comfortable and actually slept much better than on my mattress at home. Because its a big effort for me to roll over in the night, I have to sit myself up then wrestle my legs into position before rolling the rest of my body over, I often sleep most of the night on my back until my hips become really sore, then roll over. I have sensation all the way down to my waist, which causes me a bit of grief because all the muscles in that area become so contorted from sitting in the wheelchair in same position all day, that when I lie down they all stretch out and it can cause a bit of pain. I found with the memory foam mattress I could pretty much sleep the whole night through on my back which is really rare for me. On the other hand Jess had a terrible night sleep as she prefers a firm bed.This was a bit worrying to us as it will be our home for the better part of a year and it needs to be comfortable for both of us. My mate that was camping with us is actually my osteopath, we asked him about it in the morning, he also converted to a memory foam mattress at home and said it takes some getting use to.
The next day we decided to explore the park a little more, we were very surprised to discover how steep and challenging some of the tracks are in the Deua national park. From our campsite we climbed 700m in about 3 or 4 km. The troopy went really well, the tracks really put the tires, suspension and driveline to the test. It was great to finally feel the tires clawing for traction and the locked diffs in action. Been to long since we’ve been proper offroad. Later that arvo we headed back to our campfire for a nice swim in the river then a yarn around the campsite as we cooked dinner.
We woke early the next morning as we had to break camp, leave our mates and continue heading south towards Melbourne. The Southern end of the Deua National Park finishes near Cooma which is at the foot of the Snowy Mountains National Park, home to Australia’s highest mountain peak, Mt Kosciusko at a mere 2228m above seal level. We decided to head for Jindabyne where the Barry Way starts. The Barry Way is a 72km unsealed road that heads from Jindabyne South through the Australian alps to the Victorian border. Sections of it follow the snowy river, there are some very steep climbs in and out some of the valleys which make for some spectacular scenery. We camped a night on one of the many campsites that are scattered through out the region.
The following morning we both had trouble getting up because the bed in the back is so dam comfortable, it was also a bit chilly through the night making it very cosy inside the troopy. We were both very relived after Jess found her way with the mattress and also agreed that it is better than the bed back home. Back on the road, we finished the Barry way before lunch then hit the highway to Nar Nar Goon where Jess’s family live.
After a few days celebrating Christmas, catching up with family and gorging ourselves silly we hit the road again. This time heading for the Victorian Highlands which I’ve heard a lot about but never explored in a 4×4. We hit Mt Buller late that arvo after a late start. As it was about to become dark soon we hit the trails and started searching for campsites. We did really well finding a nice place to set up camp on a secluded mountain peak overlooking Mount Buller. Later on, on the way back after some googling we realised we were potentially the highest car in oz at nearly 1800m above sea level.
The following day we were up early as we knew it was going to be a long day crossing the alps. We weren’t wrong, we drove for nearly 10 hours but only covered a bit over 60Km. some of the tracks were so rough and steep we were virtually moving at walking pace most of the time. There was a bit of mud on the tracks which always gets me excited, I’m still like a little boy who likes to play in the mud and always aim for the muddy sections and puddles when driving. Once again we did really well to stumble across a nice hut next to a pristine creek in a picturesque gully to call it a day. Unfortunately for the life of me I cant remember what it was called. These shelters are scattered all through out the alps, some are remnants of when the area was first colonised others have been built as shelters for travelers that need refuge when the weather closes in.
The following morning we made haste as we had some distance to cover after the mere 60Km the day before. We traversed Mt Selwyn which gave us some amazing 360 degree views including a view of the Twin Jeeps Track which we heard was quite a challenging one. This was our way out and back on the the sealed Great Alpine road. We arrived at the beginning of the Twin Jeeps Track around lunch time so stopped for a quick bite before attempting the track. The track certainly lived up to its reputation. There was some very steep climbs with loose rocks and sheer drops on either side. The road was very narrow which made passing very difficult if you were to meet a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. This happened a few times which called for some tricky reversing to find somewhere wide enough to pass. It was only about 20 odd km but took us over an hour to make it the end of the track where it meets with the Great Alpine Road.
This was pretty much the end of our four wheel driving, At least this is what Jess thought. The Twin Jeeps track meets the Great Alpine road in the same place where Dargo High Plains road meets it. Its is only a short drive down this unsealed road to the Mount Blue Rag track which I had heard about and was really keen to check out. Luckily it wasn’t to late in the day so I begged Jess to let us check it out, didn’t take much to convince her because I think she was keen to check it out also. It was only about an hour detour but well worth it. The views from atop mount Blue rag were simply stunning at 1718m above sea level this is possibly one of Australia’s highest tracks. The climb up there was not too challenging but the views along the way were amazing.
After Mount Blue Rag we hit the road again and headed back for Sydney. Only made it to Albury that night but found a really nice lake that is part of the Murray river system to camp next to.
The Troopy ran almost flawlessly, we noticed the center diff lock light was flashing intermittently whilst engaged so that is something to look at. We also wrote a big list of all the things that still needed to be done or tweaked, mostly minor things but it was really good to actually use everything and work the bugs out. We are definitely getting there!