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Big Desert - Nov 04

Wonga camp ground in the Wyperfeld National Park was the assembly point for the cup weekend trip, the convoy of ten cars gathering throughout the evening with the Koniw family pulling in late after 10pm (omen for things to come). We had a full selection of cars from a 78 turbo tray, 80, 90, 105, 120 cruisers & someone even let a Landrover Discovery slip in.

Saturday morning while waiting for the Waterpowermarine bus to pack, Craig Cheetham our guide for the trip showed the group some historical sites in the area before heading up to the Eastern Lookout. Airing down a little we turned North through the Mallee scrub, the sand progressively getting softer and deeper catching a couple out. Stopping at a known Mallee fowl nest we all marvelled at how a bird only ½ a metre high could move 2 tonne of sand on its nest in a day to keep the eggs at 33 degrees.

Up to Pine Plains and owners Adrian and Susan O’Sullivan showed us around their wonderful outback accommodation with brilliant views from the observatory perched atop of an upturned shipping container. Those looking for a base in the area can check out their site at:

Just down the track we stopped for lunch at the Snow Drift where the kids had fun sliding down the giant sand dune. Around the Wirregren Plain we continued north through Underbool and onto our camp at the Pink Lakes. One of Dan’s Grandtrek tyres got a mystery leak but stayed up after reinflating.

Sunday morning we gathered at the old Salt works then headed south into the Big Desert state park. Convoy procedure was momentarily forgotten resulting in the tail of the group motoring on towards Murrayville. Back together a detour was taken to avoid unnecessarily scratching the two ‘Pretty’ 120 Prado’s, Dan’s Grande only three weeks old. Arriving at White Springs those looking for a challenge dropped the tyre pressures even more to tackle the lookout track.

A few got close but it was David in the four litre Prado that powered up using more than his fair share of the track and venturing through the scrub before bogging just five metres from the top. Unfortunately from that position he couldn’t back down so we winched for an hour before finding an anchor point that would hold.

On to the Big K lookout a few hardy walkers braved the heat to get to the top while the rest sat in the air conditioning. Jeanette took over the driving from Bill into camp and just as Craig said we have 15 minutes to go managed to stake a brand new MTR on a Mallee root not once but three times. After the delays, the day was shortened to Big Billy Bore so we could have showers and everyone drooled as Max and Kay cooked their roast. The kids all dressed up for Halloween and went trick or treating around the camp. Dan got another mystery flat in a second tyre?
Day three and the group were looking forward to some challenging driving. They didn’t have to wait long as the lookout near Cactus Bore tested out both car and driver. In the end the petrol’s ruled with David in the 120, John in the 80 and Peter in the 105 being the only three to crest the top. Smoko was at the Red Gums then off to the South Australian border.

Recent dozer work had detoured the old bog holes and a few dunes down to Hensley Trig but at least all the scratching trees had been cleared as well. Dan continued his bad run of flats staking a tyre, Craig quickly plugging the leak with a tubeless repair.

Finally the big dunes rose before us and the soft sand made the going hard. A few second attempts were needed on the first two as drivers experimented with different gears and tyre pressures but the third caught almost everyone out. Craig and Kristen leading chugged over the top with about 300 revs to spare followed successfully by John and Kim in the petrol 80. (It took nearly two hours to wipe the smiles off their faces). Max and Kay fell just short in their Prado 90 before being snatched up the last car length, then David and John powered up doing it easy as usual in the 4 litre 120. Bill and Jeanette ran out of legs first time up but introduced the turbo to the governor and cruised over on the second attempt. Pete in the big petrol 105 tried a slow and steady approach ploughing his way up with the diff locks but digging such deep holes he couldn’t even back down. No one was able to drive over Pete’s track, not even the next group.   John and Yan in the Disco tried but took the detour. Stuart and Marree with their heavily laden 80 (2 Kids) had several goes but needed to drop the tyres down to 16 PSI  to counteract the GXL spare dragging on the sand. Bugger!! Ever reliable tail end Harry and Beryl in the 78 tray also had trouble bogging down but we suspect the tyres were a little tight.

The main challenge over, we continued down the border then cut across the Southern Firebreak track. It was a late arrival into camp at Broken Bucket, no one happier to arrive than Beryl having trouble controlling her double D assets on the rough track, Harry probably getting a clip over the ear for mentioning it on the CB.
The kids had a ball getting dirty in the dam and found an elusive Mallee Fowl wandering through camp. It was the last night so everyone stayed up late around the fire for Marree’s special awards.

Cup day and we said our goodbyes to the Martin’s and the Davies then headed north for one more track. A heavy shower made the Murrayville rd a little slippery so we turned east on the Chinaman Well track where the rain had made the going a lot easier on the sand. Coming out at Lake Albacutya we had morning tea at the boat club before driving across the dry lake bed  (dry since 1975) where the black soil painted the cars leaving them suitably dirty for the drive back home. Another successful LCOOL weekend!!

Click here for the Trip Awards

Craig Cheetham
RV 105

The Eastern lookout in the National Park

The crew check out a Mallee Fowl nest

Pine Plains homestead

Property owner Adrian Mennan shows us his Telescope

Early Shed built from pine & straw

View from the observatory

The Snow drift dune - Where the kids were the Masters of the Sand!

The "Three Amigo’s", John, Dan & Dave picking up some kindling for the fire

5 o’clock drinks

Sunset at the camp

Morning briefing

"And on my right we have the Pink Lakes"

Kristen shows absolutely no interest in Stuart & John reminiscing about the good old days


John reversing down the lookout track

Lunch at White Springs from the lookout

Wooo Boy - that's one stuck 120!!

"Do you think David will mind if we leave it here - she's in tight" ;-)

The sand dune walkers

B1 leads the convoy onto Brush cutters track

Jeanette proves MTR’s don’t have indestructible side walls

“Trick or Treat”

Cactus bore

Cactus bore still

Yan makes a quick retreat as John points out his Nobby knees

The kids on Henley Trig Point

Alison hangs on as Dan powers up the Red Gum lookout dune

David & John show everyone how it’s done in the V6 120 even if they weren’t on the track all of the time.


Stuart & Maree bog down in their heavily laden 1HDT

Pete completes the trifecta being one of only 3 cars to get to the top

John brought his Disco so we had something to laugh at. He didn’t disappoint as it bogged down again

John & Craig at Red Gum swamp smoko

John & Dan enter South Australia through the dingo fence

David & Dan check tyre pressures on the Border track

Dan stakes the Grandpukes paper thin sidewalls

Seasoned desert travellers Max & Kay explain to Pete & Bill that the coiled air hose is no good as a snatch strap

Even with the Traction control on, Dan bogs the 3 week old Grande to the amusement of the crowd

Dan opening the instructions on the new ARB strap

Bill tests the govener on the turbo 80

David powers over another dune

Pete pours the power on and chews up the sand with the diff locks. No one could drive up the track after him

Pete bogged to the axles

B1 snatches Pete out

Regrouping on the border after a difficult dune

Pella Track

Lining up on the Southern Firebreak track

A wee stop on the Chinaman Well Track

Cutting across the dry bed of Lake Albacutya