The day started early for all....4am from Junee, 6am in the Charleyong Camp. The thermometer had been good to us, dropping as low as 1 degree over night at Charleyong, and with cloud cover and no wind to speak of, the dog was not required to keep us warm...no ice this time....
After packing up, we bid farewell to the Rain Makers...(Ron and Liz, Garry and Michelle, their daughter Lee, and Rod,Deb,daughters Felicity and
Emily.) and headed for a hearty breaky in Braidwood.
At 9.30ish, our convoy of 12 departed, heading south. Not long down the road towards Araluen,(a gold town where alluvial gold was discovered in the late 1800's) we saw an out foxed fox lying on the road....which Mr Rutman took a keen interest in...apparently furry white UHF aerials pick up better than a std white pole (or Big White Whopper's as Kevin referred to them :-) Once on the Mericumbene Fire Trail, a suitable place to air down was found beside the first river crossing, and a few minutes were taken to prepare for battle.
Once across the river, the climb started, and continued, then got steeper, and steeper...it wasn't long before the altimeter was pointing at 1000m above sea level, temperatures outside fluctuated between a sunny 12 to 16 degrees, until the rain and wind found us...bugger...almost lunchtime, the worms biting, but its now too cold to enjoy it outside, and the track is deteriorating by the minute! press on we did!
At one point, where the track descends abruptly for a few 100 meters, we found 20 or so metres of wet clay based sludge, which was the excitement of the day! There was more than one car that slid down this section - Engine braking was the best way to keep straight....unless you had a 120 with HDC!
Glen and Sharron showed us all how it was done, on VX 120 Tyres!
Once down into the valley, it became apparent we were not going to be alone this long weekend, Mitch sweated on his camp site being available, (four river crossings down the road) as we passed at least a dozen other camps....but the campsite was waiting for us, Wombats, Roos and all....and a quick erecting of the tent and fly in the drizzle.
We were set up in two rows, or what quickly became known as "LCOOL Place". The invitation from co-tenants Gunderson's and Sanders' (3a and 3b LCOOL Place respectively), was snapped up as they had a tarp up - we took it in turns to push the tarp up and drain the water which was pooling - while the kids played in the rain and mud - pigs in poo you might say.
Party time at Campsite 3b sucked the rutman in...and the colour of red was evident when happy birthday cake and song erupted!!! (thanks Sandy...the cake was lovely) After the festivities, it was time to build a better fire....lucky someone had invented the chainsaw...Ive never stood that far back from a camp fire b4....it was awesome...you could sit there and not get wet in the rain!!!
Not so for the children, who took to renovating the wombat access holes! Mud was a constant this day :-)) It wasn't long after dark, before the grommies were all tuckered out from their adventures, which left more time for quite a few #6's.
Some time later (11pm), another couple of vehicles motored in...and made their presence known....chain-sawing wood and navigating round the open area to set up camp not more than 20 metres from our last tent.
When they started the fireworks well after midnight, the three LCOOL fella's still up 'deputised' themselves, formed a quick posse, and went to sort out the racket (primed by more than one Bundy) - a couple of quick words, and the fireworks weren't heard of again.
Sunday, bloody Sunday
Waking up at 7am and the sky is as foggy as the inside of my head, lord only knows what it's like on the inside of Rutmans and Little Stevo's noggins
Over to the fire, now there's the cure, time to warm up and........NO #@&%@ TIMBER, those mongrel drunks burnt it all, ahh hang on. I was one of them, I think.
And so it goes, fogged in, cold, wet and no fire...that s until Fergus the Flying Scotsman awakes, he checks the time does SuperFergie, 7.30am, YES he say's, plenty late enough to crank up the chainsaw and cut us some of the monstrous dead logs collected the day before for enough timber for a wee fire. And crank he did, 23 times until the trusty stihl splutters to life and so soon after the timber is burning, and what a delight for our fellow campers to wake to the sounds of the bush and its bushmen...plus one cantankerous stihl.
Fires burning, brekky bacon crackling, kids assaulting wombat abodes, it doesnt get much better than this.......time to plan the days activities
Trusty TL Mitch has a plan, a cunning plan, to lead the group upwards and onward to the untamed wilds of the Valleys rim
YYYYYaaaawnnnn, some of the girls decide its a perfect excuse to stay in camp and just kick back, and so the plans are made.
Mitch's marauding mob off to battle the tracks. Me, Lauritz and the girls to relax 'round the fire with some "me" time
A lovely day was had, happy chat, reading a book, checking out Adele and Lauritz's super off road camper, a nice walk here and there and a day full of nothing fills a most pleasant sun drenched day in Gods garden, what more could a fella ask for?
Late in the afternoon the 4 wheeling warriors return saw the peace and quiet disappear, feral offspring letting off steam and the dreaded happy hour preparations under way
And what a night it was to be, the all time greatest LCOOL cook up was underway
Under the watchful eye of Ivan the Caterer we had each been assigned a task to prepare for the evenings gastronomic event
Come 4pm and the nibblies appear The choice is amazing with smoked oysters and salmon leading a parade of dips and all sorts of wonderful cheeses and goodies to tempt the taste buds
On to dinner and a world record line up of camp ovens and hot plates with roasts, kebabs, stews, mornays, breads and stuff are around a raging fire as the cooks prepare what is to be the BEST ever camping smorgasboard imaginable
But wait theres more
.not to be outdone the dessert providers bring in the crowning glory of the night, the now traditional LCOOL apple cobbler accompanied by custard and ice cream.
Whilst a huge fire roars, happy campers with full bellys, a couple of MUCH quieter #6 sessions sit and contemplate the world
Does it get much better than this ?
The Day-Tripper Team
At 7am when I got up our camp site was shrouded in thick fog, the fire which had the previous night had been happily roaring away, was now nothing more than grey, smoldering ash. The camp slowly awoke and people slowly drifted towards where the fire should be. Not a lot of fuel around, particularly after last nights rain. Ivan had crawled out of bed at 7:30, and was immediately fronted for burning all the wood the previous night - spotting some as yet unburned logs which had been dragged up the previous day, decided to start up the chainsaw. More fuel for the fire was just the ticket, but for some looking to enjoy a peaceful sleep in probably not. The fog was slow to lift but nobody seemed to mind very much as a leisurely breakfast was partaken and people seemed happy to sit around the campfire with their cuppas and just enjoy each others company, a few of the kids were out kicking a footy or getting dirty in a camp oven Pit that Mitch and myself had constructed the previous evening.
Mitch had previously mentioned about going for a drive around the Bendethra
valley by way of fire trails that surround the top of the valley. Carol and I were busy doing some washing up when told we are leaving in 10 minutes, the leisurely pace then turned into a scramble to complete our chores and be ready to leave.
10 vehicles made their way out of camp, crossed the river then made a quick scout around some adjacent camping spots, this valley is truly a huge tract of land and blessed with almost limitless camping places.
We exited Bendethra and turned right onto Dampier Mountain Fire Trail which has quite a steep climb out of the valley, the whoopdee-dos in this area are huge and can make driving a manual 4WD a little tricky at times. Further up the track we came to the hairpin bend which can see some vehicles doing a 3 point turn if their turning circle is not the best. Mitch only just succeeded in getting a bloke in a 100series to pull over and wait for the following 9 vehicles to negotiate this narrow section of track, patience is a small price to pay for safety. At the top of the hill we turned right onto the Minuma Range Fire Trail and headed north along the rim of the mountain, great views could be seen as we traversed up and down the trail, eventually passing the Deua Trig (1048m) then turned right onto Mongamula Fire Trail and started our decent towards the Deua river and our lunch spot. Just nearby was the grave of a 7yr old boy who had died back in 1937. Lunch was consumed and we were back on the road, caught up a passed a Great Divide Tours tag along, they were also camping at Bendethra. We continued onto Mongaluma mountain then turned right onto the Merricumbene Fire Trail then continued past the Bendethra Trig (997m) and on down into Bendethra.
What a great sight to return to camp and see a huge roaring fire burning away, and knowing that soon a feast was to follow. Never seen so many camp ovens all lined up and raring to reveal their delicious contents. Everyone had chosen a particular meal to be shared, and before long we were enjoying some delicious Kebabs & garlic bread, courtesy of Lauritz & Adele, Kevin & Karen cooked up strips of Goat cheese on the barby. By now the main meals were ready to be served up, Ivan & Leanne were cutting up their Lamb roast as were Glen and Sharon with their Beef roast. Pete & Vanessa did a Tuna mornay, Steve & Rene a Curry, Carol & Rod lobbed up with some spicy beef chow mien, Damian was up for some damper, John provide a casserole and Steve and Sandy cooked a huge amount of baked veggies and gravy to help the meal along.
What a great dinner but it was only half over as desert was to follow, Mitch cooked up the LCOOL Apple Cobbler, Carol & Rod served Christmas plum pudding, Damian provided the custard to help things along and to top it off Lauritz & Adele came up trumps with heaps of ice-cream, a hit with both the adults and definitely the kids. To complement our Banquet our next door campers provided the fireworks. Thanks to everyone who participated in this great cookup, it was certainly a meal to remember.
The Menu, and recipe's used for the Cookoff are on a separate page - worth the visit just for the humour, let alone the recipe's!!!!
>>>> Find them here<<<<
Awoke to another fabulous Bendethra sunrise. Plenty of coals left to boil a billy for the early morning cuppa.
While the sun dried off the tents we went about breakfast and then set about packing up. Again, we stood in awe of Ivan and family as they somehow fitted 2 adults and 3 growing boys as well as all that gear into the now groaning Playdough.
Around 1.00pm we said good-bye to our friendly camp site and started the leisurely climb out of Bendethra Valley. With the Lauritz 80 and Tvan in front, we made the steep ascent up Dampier Mountain Fire Trail with some great views back across the entire valley. There were several hairpins, one requiring a three point turn. We past another group having lunch at Dampier Trig (1239m asl) and continued along the Minuma Range Fire Trail until it flattened out and we also stopped for lunch, group photo and aired up for the final section on Middle Mountain Rd to Snowball and Krawarree Road into Braidwood. Some of our Canberra bretheren took the Captainss Flat turn off, while the rest proceeded to well known (and about to be sold) Boiled Lolly Shop for some afternoon refreshment and supplies.
Some stayed in Braidwood lured by a warm bed and the coffee shop and bakery next morning. The rest of us headed off into steady rain which the district certainly needed. The last of the ACT group said their good-byes while the Sydney based contingent pressed on up via Goulbourn. We had intermittent rain all the way home. Thankfully the traffic, while solid, was not too heavy and there were no hold ups as one might have expected at the end of a wet long week end.
Thanks to one and all for your attendance and good spirit over the entire week end looking forward to the photos, especially of our world (well LCOOL) record of camp ovens and the Sunday evening extravaganza. Well done troops!
Lined up outside the Saddlery in Braidwood - and right next door is the servo - no people in this photo because they're all inside for bacon and eggs!
On the road out of Braidwood
Airing down on the Deua River near Dry Creek Camping Area
Long enough for the kids to find a tree to climb - Adam, Matt and Matt in 'still clean' clothes - but not for long!
Josh Lukies - "Dad, she's pretty full under here, but maybe you could squeeze a Unichip in the glovebox!!"
The creek was beautiful upstream
As were the views as we drove along the Merricumbene Fire Trail
There were some nice steep sections - going down!! (and see the track going up on the next ridge)
Well, this is Steve on his way up
And down again - some of the track was in shade for most of the day, and this led to some slippery sections
This was one that was a whole lot wetter and steeper than this photo shows - and more than one vehicle had a slippery dip!
Lining up to do the final (of four) creek crossings in Bendethera itself - John makes his way across
Yep, something's warm under there!!
Making good progress across the creek
Damian almost gets a bow wave going
The weather was closing in fast
Nibblies at 3a and 3b LCOOL Place - we all took turns at clearing the water off the tarp
Order of the day for the kids was gumboots and raincoats - Ben kept his face clean!
Steph gets her hands clean! (ready for cake no doubt)
Glen and Damian
Rippin' Rutman - Rene told us it was his birthday, and true to form, Sandy not only had a cake......
....but some letter writing stuff (I'm sure it has a real name) as well
(You been drinking Sandy??)
Steve - and no, not the Stones already - you know what that does to you!!!
Yep, Fergus the Scot - in all his glory - best brush those pegs mate!!
When the rain stopped (7pm), we all got around the fire - Rene and Leanne - and no, that wouldn't be coffee!!
Pete and Steve - If you read Pete's grin, what do you get... "We're not being naughty Mum - - - - - promise...."!!
I guess fault finding the electrics on Steve's fandangled NASA rockets was within reason!! ;-)
Rutman - no, not passed out (not yet anyway) - that's a log for a pillow, looking for satellites - "I'm not going to bed until I see one"
LCOOL Place the next morning - the fog/mist was pretty heavy for a while
Looking up the street - there's a couple of cars here!!
Stand back and there's a few more!!
Breakfast time - Ben - "I CAN do my own toast Dad!"
There's that Fergus again! Think about what you're doing mate!
A game of footy - kids against the adults - wombat holes are the goals - and Fergus makes yet another appearance!
Yep, more kids - a mound of dirt surely makes a quarry
New shirt, Old shirt - Mitch and Kevin contemplate a day in paradise
Off for a day drive
As we climb out of the valley, part of the camp area is seen in the valley below
Yep, she's paradise all right!
Steve with his new Rhino Rack
A grave just short of the homestead
A nice climb
And long in the day, Damian gets artistic with his shadow - the 60 series almost looks graceful ;-)
Glen and Sharon - keepers of the fire, had it all prepped for the evening's festivities
Kevin, Karen and Mitch contemplate what is to come
Nibblies at 4pm
And all manner of delights (see menu above) - that'll be four camp ovens and a hot plate
Nup - that's eight camp oven's and two hot plates!!
Andrew and Josh in dinner attire - Idle threats are made (probably not so idle) - that not only should we do the cook-off every time we go away - but we should take a leaf out of the Lukies book - and come dressed for it!!
Damian hooking in - no matter what size plate anyone had, it wasn't big enough!
But there was always seconds!! - and thirds!
Mitch contemplating his Apple Cobbler - it turned out beautifully!! John pondering a refill
Tea's over = time to crank the fire up
Karen with a warm bum, and big smile!
Pete and Steve - "You're coming with me fella.."
"Nup - you're coming with ME!!"
Mitch just having a quick check of the old eyelids - Josh watching on
Breakfast and the mist is back
Rod and Carol's camp on the other side of LCOOL Place with a heavy mist in the background. They were contemplating staying another night - but decided against it due to the forecast - good move, we got drenched on the way home (though long after it mattered!)
The group photo - we were missing a couple of people, so Sandy did the Photoshop thing and added them - this is before...
....and this is after - six new faces - can you pick them??
(don't forget Fergus!!! - or his brother!)
Air up before we go home - another great weekend!