California Dreaming – Again…. July 2015

Trip participants were

Tony and Faye Lachy Thomas and Amber Evans
Paul and Madeline Cook and Saxson Brian Payne
Ivan Pora and Caleb John Bryce and Helen Tanner
Jason Harmer Glenn and Clarissa
Scott Horne Bob Luxford
Danny De La Paz John and Helen Smythe and special guests Loretta and Helena (They left their bicycles at home this time!)
Bev Forte

Clarissa and I left home from Sydney around 6:00am on a chilly July morning, with Clarissa dressed in layers of clothing plus a beanie to protect her from the certain blizzard to come (Clarissa doesn’t like the cold). The trip north was pretty event free, with the inevitable stop at Maccas on Pennant Hills Road. We don’t usually do the Maccas thing, but I had a craving for a bacon and egg muffin (a decision I would come to regret later).

As we drove up the M1 (aka F3) through Peats Ridge and Somersby, the sun started to rise over the horizon. The morning fog and low cloud combined with the sun rising lead to some spectacular views during our early morning drive.

We pulled in to Wollombi around 8:00am and met up with Jason, who had beaten us there. Over the next half hour the rest of the crew rolled in to town. Once everyone was assembled TC started his pre-trip briefing.

It was about this time that Lachy pulled out his bright red ‘Trip Leader Undies’ from a previous trip, he pulled them on and completed his transformation into a super hero. Everyone had a good chuckle.

The plan for the day was to head North to Bulga, then up the California track in to Wollomi National Park. We would then pop out on to the Putty Road for a short distance at Howes Valley and enter Yengo National Park for the final run back to Wollombi.

There were a few new members along on the trip, and a large number of trucks, which was wonderful to see. Because of this TC went over convoy procedure, before we pulled out of town and headed north towards Broke. Along the way the convoy made a stop at Baiame Caves. As we headed down the track towards the caves there was a local farmer with a load of freshly picked vegetables. This created a bit of chatter on the radio, some of us decided to pick up some of the produce on the way out.

Baiame Cave is known for its association with the main figure depicted in the cave. It is believed to show Baiame- the creator, the ‘Father of All’, the most important ancestor and law-maker. This site is also of significance for its history and associations with the Wonnarua, the Aboriginal people who are thought to be the traditional custodians of the artwork.

After a short time spent viewing the cave, we jumped back in the trucks and headed towards to main road. To our great displeasure, the farmer (and his produce) had moved on (no fresh veges for us!). Disappointed, we headed North for Bulga where we stopped to fuel up, air down and have morning tea. Encouraged by Faye, Clarissa and I decided to pick up a coffee and a sausage roll from the servo (another decision we would later come to regret). After what seemed like hours, the coffees and snag rolls finally turned up and we headed outside to be sociable and eat our morning tea.

Once everyone and their trucks were suitably fed, watered, fuelled and toileted, we headed a short distance to the entrance of Wollemi National Park and the California Track. The climb up the track was a bit of fun, as the chiming bellbirds echoed through the early morning. It was about this point that Faye came on the radio and attempted to railroad someone into taking on the written and verbal trip reports. After the usual uncomfortable silence on the radio, I put up my hand for the written report. Clarissa also offered to do the verbal commentary at the club meeting. So here we are.

I then proceeded to start taking notes on my Surface, and Clarissa made every possible effort to hit every bump and erosion gulley she could find on the continuing climb up into Wollemi, making that an almost impossible task.

There was quite a bit of banter on the radio from this point. Clarissa was driving our truck, and apparently Amber had managed to man handle Lachy out of the driver’s seat, taking control of their Patrol. While I’m quite used to (and comfortable with) Clarissa driving on and off road, clearly Lachy might need to come to grips with the fact that Amber may just be able to drive the big truck!

According to Clarissa and Amber, Glenn and Lachy made several inappropriate comments on the radio which lead to Lachy being on the receiving end of the occasional ‘soft blow’ from Amber. I thought I was doing pretty well, until I copped a branch of wattle in the face as we drove across a creek crossing. I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure Clarissa did it on purpose. She thinks it was just a coincidence, because I was silly enough to have my window down at the time, but I’m not convinced. That was closely followed by Amber following suite, in an attempt to return the favour to Lachy. From then on it was open slather, with the ladies taking every opportunity they could to find errant trees and brambles to swipe into the passenger side windows (they disagree).

Next up was a stop at the California Hut, which we’re guessing is a remnant of an era when timber getting and mining was active in the area. After poking around the old hut, we headed off taking up our position second from the back of the convoy (where all the hard work happens). We planned to stop for lunch at the Sheep Shed, but not before a cacophony of noise and chatter on the radio from Lachy.  Apparently a roo had burst out of the bush on the side of the road, and right out on front of Amber who was driving at the time. This was closely followed by some solid breaking and violent steering – if you believe Lachy’s view on the incident. Our perspective was that Amber took it in her stride, and manoeuvred the big Nissan with skill and poise. Well done Amber!

We arrived at the Sheep Skin Hut right on 1:00pm. On our way into the site we could see that quite a bit of trail abuse had occurred in the area. There’s a steep and slippery ‘short cut’ into the area and the trail that heads off down the valley towards the helipad had clearly seen too much traffic. TC pointed out that we’d been requested not to drive on these tracks by the Rangers. We all pulled into the small picnic area, and found a place to park. Making a point of leaving plenty of room around the family who were already eating their lunch there, and walking their dogs (Not going to comment on the fact that it’s illegal to bring dogs into a National Park – but they were from the ACT…so…. Just say’n).

Everybody got set up for lunch, and wondered around the shed and surrounding areas. We ate a couple of sanga’s and some instant soup for lunch (that’ll be hit number three on the ‘what not to eat’ list), before packing up for the drive out. At this point I was EXSTATIC! Clarissa relinquished control of the might GU, and I was finally allowed to drive – I could even feel the hair starting to grow back on the thumb mark on the top of my head! (You should have heard the comments she made when she was proof reading this article for me!)

It was about this time that the indiscretions of the morning started to hit home. Several times Clarissa and I looked at each other and then uttered the “Oh, I’m so sorry” words. Burp… oh excuse me, fart. “Oh dear – excuse me”. Damn you Faysey and your stinking snag rolls. Hmm… and I’m guessing Maccas didn’t help either! We discussed this at length in the truck, and then concluded that pizza for dinner would be a bad idea – we landed on toasted cheese sangas and water for dinner (I lie, Clarissa says we had a glass of wine).

Heading on after lunch we made our way across Wolemi National Park and into Howes Valley before popping out on to the Putty Road for a short distance. We spent a short time on the tar before turning off on to Howes trail, in Yengo National Park. Sitting at the back of the convoy on the down side of a hill, on a blind corner in a 100 km\hour zone proved pretty interesting for Bev, Clarissa and I. “Hustle along guys… not feeling very comfortable here” comes across the radio from Bev. After a few tense moments, we finally made in on to the trail and into the National Park.

Howes Trail was a bit of fun, and included a couple of creek crossings. We pulled up mid-afternoon at Kings Cross rock formations. The beautiful sandstone formations where nicely highlighted by the afternoon sun, and the younger (and more spritely) among us took the opportunity to climb up and check them out.

The sun was making its way well in to the east by now, and there was a storm mustering on the horizon. Everyone was keen to make it to Finchley lookout to see the sunset. We jumped back in the trucks, and hit the dirt.

It was 5:30pm when we pulled into the car park at Finchley, and we piled out of the trucks and headed up the stairs – much to the dismay of the couple who had arrived ahead of us and no doubt were very impressed at having such a romantic spot all to themselves, until we all turned up. What a magnificent view it was. The storm encroaching from the east, combined with the setting sun made for an amazing view. Cameras and phones where clicking all around, as the previously un-disturbed couple slipped quietly away.

As the sun set we were quickly plunged into darkness, and the high beams and driving lights came out. We made our way down from Finchley Lookout and back towards the pub at Wollemi where many hours before we had started our trip. Several creek crossing along the road provided plenty of opportunity to wash the dust off the trucks, but in reality this really just helped to spread the dirt and muck around.

At this point Faye and TC offered everybody the option to have dinner at the pub, or head off. Several said their goodbyes and headed for the car park where everyone had originally assembled, while the others headed for the pub. We still had several hours back to Sydney, so Clarissa and I pulled in, aired up and headed south.

We’ve wanted to drive from the Putty Road across Yengo and back to Wollemi for quite some time. It was really nice to finally take it on. As usual, Faye and TC put on a great trip. We had a ball and are sure everyone else did too!

Glenn and Clarissa