Journey to Gondwana (Monga National Park near Braidwood)

We’d been looking forward to this trip away for some time, knowing what great trips Tony and Faye put on – and it was a long weekend to boot! It was a gorgeous morning as we met up at the McDonalds at Sutton Forrest around 8:00 am, with the usual early morning greetings and breakfast of assorted Macca’s fare. True to form, there is always a little twist with TC and Faye’s trips. Everyone was handed a little dinosaur to complete the “Gondwana” experience. Our Triceratops took pride of place in the centre console of the Patrol, coming out for the occasional photo opportunity during the trip.

IMG_5369 - Copy

Once everybody was fed and watered Tony gave us a brief rundown of the trip, before we headed off around 8:45 to meet up with the other half of the group at Braidwood. With TC & Faye up front, and Simon and Cheryl taking up position as Tail End Charlie, the trip from Sutton Forrest to Braidwood saw us take the back roads through some amazing countryside of lush grass and rolling green hills. Along the way there was a great deal of banter on the radio, and some negotiations over the free trade of firewood for coffee, and everyone in good spirits.

As we pulled in to Braidwood it was clear that quite a few people were out and about for the long weekend, with the local bakery doing a roaring trade. At this point everybody who needed fuel topped up their tanks, while others wandered around the town checking out the local shops. There was also some conversation between Simon and Chilly over who was best placed to slot in as Tail End Charlie for the rest of the trip. But after a few well-placed arguments, Chilly came out on top. TC provided us with a quick update and we then headed towards Monga National Park.


After a short drive we hit the dirt and aired down, before heading on to Dasyurus Picnic Area on the Mongarlowe River. This was a gorgeous spot where we all took in the pristine views of the river, and some had a quick bite to eat. This picnic area also marks to top of the Corn Trail, which is a challenging six-hour walk from the high point at the picnic area down into the bottom of the valley.  Also of note – the brand new toilets!

Next stop was Penance Grove, a shady forest glen dappled with sunlight and ancient rainforest.  Many of the plant species in this area date back millions of years, to the Gondwana era. There is a boardwalk here which skirts the edge of the area. It was built to bring attention to the vandalism which occurred several years ago, by a group of people who systematically went through taking the tops off the ferns – these attract quite a high price in Sydney. While the stumps of these ferns act as a reminder of the vandalism, the surrounding rainforest is remarkable.

After a day spent travelling through the beautiful rainforests and streams of Monga National Park, we finally pulled up around 4:00 pm to set up camp at Araluen nature reserve. As everybody got set up for the night some of the boys got on the end of their shovels to dig the ash from the bottom of the large rock and mud fire pit in the middle of the camp site. Before long the fire was going and happy hour had started. While the group settled in to have a few nibbles and drinks, Chilly set to work installing a “TV” in to the window of his Defender, explaining that he was really looking forward to watching the Grand Final. In typical Chilly form, it turned out that he’d actually broken the windows earlier in the week, and he was just replacing the glass.

The opportunity was taken to introduce some of the new members of the Club to the deeply held traditions, where new members are required to prepare a meal for the entire group and also provide drinks and nibbles service during the evening. Alan & Tracy saw right through this! There was also quite a bit of discussion about the merits of the legendary Biji-Barby which several of us had along on the trip, with Simon adding one to his list of essential camping items to pick up.

The next morning everybody was up early and ready to go, despite the transition to IMG_5380daylight savings. The relentless calls of the local bird life certainly helped raise everybody from their tents, and after breakfast we all piled in to the trucks and headed off. By now it was pretty obvious that this trip was going to be one of those that favoured those at the front of the convoy. With a large dust cloud forming above, door seals and snorkel filters were put to the test as we snaked our way through the National Park. We were second in the convoy, and can only imagine how bad it must have been up the back. There were some spectacular hill climbs in the area, with one particular climb pinning us all back in our seats during some of the steeper sections.  Woo Hoo!

We stopped for morning tea at a camp site called Dry Creek, which is clearly misnamed. The camp site runs for several hundred meters along the banks of the most amazingly beautiful creek any of us had ever seen. TC has originally planned to make this the first camp site for the trip, but decided against it because he had expected it to be overflowing with campers given what an amazing site it was and the fact it was a long weekend. Imagine his disappointment when we turned up to find only a single car set up at the camp. After some discussion with the campers, more salt was rubbed in to the wounds when they told us they’d had the place to themselves the night before! We will definitely be heading back there at some point.

After a little more driving through what can only be described as a trip through ancient forests of ferns and cycads, and hillsides literally covered in thick clusters of the different plants species, we stopped at yet another gorgeous river side picnic area for lunch. After everybody had eaten, Natalie and Chilly decided to take a swim – it was clear from the screams and splashing about that the water was quite cold. Several .22 calibre bullets and empty shell casing were also found on the ground here, an indication that shooting is actually allowed in the area.

Briefly entering back in to civilisation, we headed up along the Clyde River towards our final camp site for the trip. More chocking dust along the road, and the ever present challenge of on-coming traffic made for an interesting trip, with some spectacular views of the river (when you could see through the dust).

We finally pulled in to the camp site at Yadboro Flat camping area, which is on the upper reaches of the Clyde River. This is a huge flat camp site, and in no time everybody was set up. We soon had a fire going in a large gulley, sheltered out of the wind. The camp site and the river are lovely, however the single drop toilet left a lot to be desired, especially given the number of people camped in the area. Luckily there were lots of trees. The usual happy hour drinks and nibbles came out, and everybody enjoyed a quiet night around the fire.

The next morning Clarissa and I were up early and headed off for a “swim” in the river. To say it was cold is an understatement, and that combined with us not being able to find more that about a foot of water certainly made for a good laugh and a fresh start to the day. It wasn’t until we spoke to Chilly a little later that we realised we should have headed a little further downstream to where the water was considerably deeper.

Once everybody was fed and packed up, we headed out along the 2WD road from camp towards Milton. It’s likely this road was in worse condition than anything else we’d been on all weekend, and the constant flow of 2WD cars coming the other way made things interesting. After stopping to air up, we headed for town on the bitumen with some of the dust finally blowing off the trucks. Once into town, we stopped at the local bakery for lunch. It was doing a great trade. This was the final stop on the trip, with some folks deciding to make their own way home or back in to the forest for a few more nights camping. After fighting the traffic through Nowra, the rest of us headed home through Kangaroo Valley, taking in the spectacular views. As is always the way, the chatter and banter on the radio continued, until Clarissa and I said our goodbyes and stopped at the Fitzroy Falls to take in the spectacular views of the water cascading off the escarpment.

Once again, Tony and Faye put on an amazing trip! Well done you two, a great time was had by all.




Glenn and Clarissa