The day started early but not ‘it’s not worth going to bed’ early.  We were aiming to arrive at Levuka by 9.30am.  The requested arrival time was 10am, so we would have time to set up camp before starting the first drive of the day. 

It would also mean that we would almost definitely not be the last to arrive.  Unfortunately, we reckoned without the eagerness of everyone else in ensuring the trip report was not their responsibility.  Don and his entourage went one step further and arrived the night before, just to be on the safe side.  Although he said it was because he was shy about getting it up with people watching – the camper, people, the camper (sigh).

Whilst Bryan was deciding which bit of uneven ground we would be putting our camper trailer on, Bronn and I went to say hello around the camp and found that Jacquie had sensed our immanent arrival and put the kettle on.  Bronn, almost immediately christened the campsite, right next to the back of Craig’s car and the hunt for poopy bags was on, whilst Craig stood next to the offending article to ensure it could be found again, which probably explained how Buddy managed to step in it.QLD4x4Club Levuka Don

Once our trailer was livable we set off for the first drive of the day.  After trundling along for a while, we came to the mud hole, scene of a mud-off at last year’s Levuka trip where three people tried and nobody succeeded.  Ian, as trip leader, was first into the fray and roared along until coming to rest on the raised middle section that has halted the progress of so many before him.  The rest of the cars pulled up along-side the mud hole to watch Ian’s attempts to extricate himself and his family from their predicament.

Whilst we were waiting for Ian to decide if he was going to continue along the mudhole or reverse back the way he had come, David and Ollie had been contemplating the condition of the contents of the hole in front of Ian’s car.  The top was dry and cracked as there had been no significant rain for quite a while so in the interest of science, David offered Ollie $20 to walk across the hole to the other side.  The offer of money should have been a clue.  On his second step Ollie found that the depth of the dried crust was not sufficient to support his weight and that the mud under the crust was pretty deep.  This neatly diverted us from Ian’s failure to drive the length of the hole although it did help him to decide that reversing out may be the most sensible idea.

The next challenge on our drive was the grade 3 Bumbuster Climb, everyone made it to the top with no disasters but I did nearly dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back.  This gave me the confidence to give Grames Track a go.  Ian, Ollie and Ty went off to walk the track, especially looking at the point where there were route choices.  The left track was taken by Ian and also by Don, David took the right track and made it look easy.  Despite this I didn’t fancy my chances up the right track, so I decided that the left track was for me. I didn’t quite make the top on the first go but after getting about a metre of front wheel air we made it.

Next, we stopped at the playground for some fun and shenanigans, and after having one go around I thought it was only fair that Bryan had a turn and took the opportunity to let Bronn out to stretch his legs and take some photos and videos and was rewarded with Bryan managing to get some awesome air coming up the hill in the Landrover (which I totally missed with the camera, so he had to go again so I could get it on video). 

We headed back to camp with thunder rumbling regularly in the distance.  Half the convoy stopped at the Homestead for more firewood and whilst waiting for them to return, Ollie, Bryan and Peter set to work rekindling the fire.  Once there was a decent blaze going, Ollie (with a silent P) put the kettle on and we all had tea.  He also took advantage of the opportunity to dry out his boot after his failed attempt at re-creating a miracle.

QLD4x4Club Ollies MudAfter grabbing a quick bite to eat, the wagons rolled again, this time leaving some of the girls behind to guard the camp from any roaming Viking bands or hordes of zombies.  Mackenzie was to be our front line of defence as she could show them her almost out tooth and they would run screaming for the hills.

The afternoon drive took in a few of Levuka’s more challenging tracks and at one point, Bryan, now flying solo in the Disco, came around a corner to find Ian wedged between two trees.  He was trying to avoid decorating said trees with white paint from the sides of his car.  He was able to reverse out of this predicament and choose a wider alternative.  Now it was Bryan’s turn, and if he was going to avoid the problems Ian encountered, he was going to have to come up with something creative.  At first glance the only way to avoid the smaller gap was an impossibly tight turn, however there might just be enough room to do a three-point turn by driving up the opposite bank and reversing the car through the gap, a manoeuvre that could have high frog fine potential, but actually came off so well that the rest of the convoy followed suit.

As the afternoon wore on the thought of returning home for happy hour started, yet there may be just a little more time for one more track...Rock-n-Roll Gully, a dried creek bed strewn with boulders that would give the springs a real good work out, the vote was taken, go home for early happy hour, or take on the gully.... and the gully won.

Rock-n-Roll Gully is well named, plenty of rocks and lots of body roll, the gully floor is covered with loose rocks of all sizes, and the convoy was well down the track before Ian called a halt as there was a ‘rock of consequence’ in the path.  A large boulder, that had once been part of the bank, had fallen into the gully, and was offering a significant obstacle.   An assessment was made and it was decided that, with a little track building, we would be able to pass but, should we find an impassable object further up the gully, it would present a significant challenge to reverse the convoy back over the boulder.QLD4x4Club Ollies Shoes

We set to with some enthusiasm and made the track passable and started on our way again.  A very short time later we found that our hard work and enthusiasm was rewarded by finding that the gully was indeed impassable further along and had clearly not been driven for some time.  As luck would have it we were once again able to put our track building skills to good use again as there was a potential escape route.  Fortunately there was plenty of building materials on hand but it did take some careful manoeuvring to get the convoy out without scraping the inconveniently placed trees, but we were soon free and making our way back to the comforts of the camp.....

Woodsman Don (as the only person with a ute) volunteered for another trip to the homestead to replenish our diminishing wood supply after Charlene declared our current stockpile less than adequate for our needs.

The happy hour preparations were very much appreciated and we soon adjourned to the fire except for Mackenzie and Archie who stayed at the table under the awning to keep the greatly diminished food company with just an occasional sprint around the slightly damp campsite, presumably to keep themselves warm.  Keeping warm was not a problem for the Colhoun family fur-kids who were sporting matching purple jackets as night fell and the temperature dropped. This was quite a feat of purchasing considering one is a Great Dane and the other is a little white ball of fluff.

After Ollie’s mud spa earlier, talk around the fire centred around previous recipients of the dipstick award.

The promised rain appeared with a vengeance during the night and a couple of group members learned valuable lessons about the merits of closing car windows and ensuring an awning slopes down to the front a little.  The second lesson was a little harder learned, as the very efficient rain water collection system that was inadvertently installed on the Bambry set-up caused the awning to collapse.

QLD4x4Club A HillWe started the morning once the rain had stopped with a little trip up to Rusty’s Road.  Everything going pretty well, if a little bit squidgy here and there.  Ian took a track off the left and as it was a little steep we stopped at the top and were able to watch him pinball and slide down the track.  I had already decided that if Bryan was going to give it a go then I would be walking down, when Ian came over the radio to let us know to stay at the top.  After some discussion is was decided that the best course of action was for Ian to turn around at the bottom and head back up the slope to a point where he could be winched the rest of the way – boys and their toys (eye-roll).  But then, last year’s Levuka rescue was a leaky Landrover.

David was nominated to run the rescue, sorry, recovery.  Craig and Ollie braved the slope on foot to prepare the winch, then returned to the top and Ollie positioned himself at the top of the slope and was attached to Craig with a very fetching, vibrant purple snatch strap provided by the Landrover contingent.  Bryan was nominated to drive Craig’s car whilst Craig attached the winch and I moved the Landrover out of the hot zone.  With everything live and the recovery about to start Ian came over the radio to ask if Craig had engaged the winch.  After some serious racking of brains, Craig ventured back down the hill to check and emerged triumphant that he had actually engaged the winch even if he couldn’t remember doing it.

The recovery was accomplished successfully and safely and it was decided that a return to camp was probably the best idea as the amount of rain we had overnight had made things a little squishier than most people were comfortable with.

On returning to camp, the packing up started in earnest, everything was sodden and there was no chance to let it dry out before leaving.  Ollie and Archie went off on an explore before heading home but we met up with them again somewhere along the Gateway when Ian’s ice cream proximity radar was activated and he suggested we visit a certain cold dessert emporium in the vicinity and Ollie came on the radio to announce that Archie thought that would be a fantastic idea.  The owner of said emporium declared he was happy to facilitate such an impromptu visit but would not be able to attend.  It was decided to defer the trip to another time and is documented here on behalf of the younger members of our group to ensure it is not forgotten ?

It was a really great weekend, made better by the number of doggos who came along with their hoomans, with a special shout out to Nitro who was on his first camping trip.

Trip Leader: Ian Brown
Report: Bryan Davis