Big Valley and Quaalup Homestead

Trip Leader:  Martin Archer

When:  19th -29th November, 2008

Location: Big Valley Campsite, Margaret River WA


Karen and I arrived at Big Valley on the Wednesday Nov 19th, followed by several members on Thursday, with the remaining crowd on the Friday.
Paul got in early with a piston broke nomination, not turning up until late thinking that the “Lamb on a Spit’ dinner was on the Saturday night. We saved some food for the Ryan Family who had to set up in the dark with 40 others watching them do it. In previous years we had trouble with the lamb spit falling apart whilst it rotated for 5 hours. This time we came prepared with a length of metal gutter mesh that was wrapped around the spit to hold the body and legs tightly together. This turned out to have two benefits; the other being that it prevented impatient hands from tearing away sections of meat before it was completely cooked. 
Saturday we had 15 vehicles take off for the day trip. Karen and I had pre-tripped it on the Thursday and knew that the convoy was in for some rough roads ahead. The run took us through Rapids Conservation Park east of Margaret River and then along Adelaide Road which is essentially just a track. Adelaide Road forms part of the ‘Busso to Blackwood’ trip reported in an edition of the Western 4Wdriver magazine.
Several mud puddles and narrow tracks took us to our morning tea stop at Canebreak Pool. After which we headed for what was to be challenging water crossing at the start of Adelaide Road. We had pre-tripped this section, but it was from the opposite direction. However upon leading the convoy to the alternative end, we found that the track had been closed. So after a bit of a detour we eventually came back onto Adelaide Road, but had to miss the river crossing section.
We then found ourselves heading into a mud bath that was a couple of feet deep in very fine slippery clay. Karen and I decided not to try this section during the pre-trip because we were on our own. However, on the day with the encouragement of 14 other vehicles behind us, Karen got behind the wheel and gave it a shot. With one huge plop, she dropped the car off the decline into the mud and that’s were it stayed. Slight damage sustained to the rear step panel.
After some difficult digging and insertion of Guy’s Trax ramps, Karen shot forward in a blaze of gory. Bouncing down the track, not stopping for anyone. The rest of the convoy did an about turn and with a detour to nearby Sues Road and rejoined Karen and I at the next track cross road. Where’s Stamps when you need him? Some members decided to make use of the bitumen and head back to Big Valley.
The next section of Adelaide Road had a bit of mud climb which saw the Pajeros make it with ease. Although Jason’s Patrol made it look the easiest. Roger’s Disco had a little bit of trouble after losing it’s footing on a bump. It’s one of those hills, that unless you get the right line or are prepared to go at it like a barrel of monkeys, like George in his Navarra, it can prove more difficult than it really is. This lead to Paul deciding to show us all how his new TLC can do it with ease. Driving like a priest on his way to church, Paul slowly ambled up the hill, only to realize that slippery mud doesn’t discriminate against the type of vehicle you drive. The TLC commenced to do a slow motion sideways skid, wedging it between two insurmountable lumps. Several attempts at realigning the vehicle failed. Eventually, after ejecting one very unimpressed Matthew from the back seat, Paul relented and accepted a tow out from the other Paul’s Pajero. This was a cover shot in the making.
Syd and Pam and visitors Nigel and Chris wisely decided not to risk their vehicles on the hill and did an about turn and headed back to Big Valley. With only half the vehicles left in the convoy, we completed the planned route through the forest getting back to Big Valley just an hour and half over schedule.
There was still plenty of time to relax and have dinner before preparing for the evenings Red Faces acts. The afternoon also saw the arrival of Life Members Reg and Dot Hill, who due to Reg’s ill health were staying at a nearby holiday chalet. The evening was an hilarious event and I won’t go into detail here because it’s one of those situations were you had to be there to appreciate it.  Everybody had a heap of fun doing it. The winners for the evening were George and Linda Bickerdike who gave a dramatic poem rendition covering the trip so far.  (Click hear to read their Poem)
The next day several of us headed to Annie Brook flower and wine farm. There we did a bit of wine tasting, Guy and Wendy did a bit of shoplifting; mistakenly thinking each other had paid for the wine they took away with them.  Wendy rectified the misdemeanour by passing on the payment to Shelley at Big Valley who is the owner’s sister. Others went in other directions before all meeting at the Bootleg Brewery for lunch. After a hearty lunch and one or two drinks, some headed for the Chocolate factory to continue the bodily abuse.
Monday saw those left at big valley head home, whilst 6 vehicles headed for Bremer Bay to Join Peter and Denise at Quaalup Homestead. The Kingstons and Kings formed a right royal convoy of 2 and kept to the bitumen route to Bremer Bay, whilst the Archers, Lehmanns, Weldons and Keith took a shorter route along gravel roads which were unsuitable for the royal caravans. Heavy rain along the way kept speed down and made a big red mess over the campers and Jaycos. 
The rains caused eventful driving with several floodways and rivers overflowing. Tony stopped a shire ranger near the Stirling Ranges to report a tree fallen on the road. Our convoy was flagged down by a woman to advise us that the Pallinup River was overflowing the Chillinup Road bridge. We therefore took a detour deciding that taking the trailers through might be a bit risky.
Monday 24th November 2008
Margaret River to Quaalup: The Royal Convoy
Richard & Helen Kingston – trip leaders
John & Rosalie King – tail-end Charlie
Our little convoy left Big Valley in the rain at 7.30am and went via the blacktop on Rosa Glen Road, Mowen Road, Sues Road, Brockman Highway to Nannup.  About 30kms out of Nannup we came across a huge tree that had fallen right across both lanes of Brockman Highway.  Luckily we were able to creep past the obstruction on the gravel shoulder.  We reported the fallen tree to Nannup police and then briefly met up with Martin’s convoy who had taken a shortcut across the gravel Mowen Road from Big Valley to Nannup.  From here our small convoy headed across thru Bridgetown to Boyup Brook where we had mornos at 10.00am in a short break from the rain.
Off again via Kojonup then on towards Katanning – still raining.  Along here somewhere we came across a car on its roof in the roadside gutter – we stopped to offer assistance but the 4 women from the car already had help from a bearded road-worker.  No-one looked worse for the experience so we continued on to Katanning.  We stopped at the local Woolworths and found some Cowboy at the liquor store so stocked up. 
On the road again via Broomehill and Gnowangerup.  We stopped just the other side of Gnowangerup for lunch at 1.00pm.  At the turn-off towards Jerramungup at Chester Pass Road we were able to talk briefly via UHF to Martin’s convoy who had taken the gravel back roads.
Devil’s Creek Road into Quaalup was gravel and very wet so we collected quite a lot of mud on the front of the caravans getting to the homestead but we arrived all safe and sound at around 3.45pm to be greeted by Peter & Denise Belcher.  We proceeded to set up camp and were joined by Martin’s convoy a short time later. 
The rest of the afternoon was spent setting up camp, stoking up the fire, having happy hour, tea, supper and then off to bed because it started to rain again.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Rained on Monday night … and still raining this morning!
7 vehicles left Quaalup at 10.15am and headed out:
Martin & Karen – trip leaders
Guy & Wendy
Richard & Helen
Tony & Stella
Peter & Denise
John & Rosalie – tail end Charlie
We turned left from the homestead and took the back road to Bremer Bay about 20kms away.  The road is very slushy with lots of water running down the side gutters and forming ‘lakes’ covering the road.  A bit of a guessing game coz there was no telling how deep these lakes were until Martin had made it safely to the other side.  Also lots of slip sliding on the muddy roads much to Karen’s delight!!
At one spot at the bottom of a gully was a rather large puddle which looked quite deep.  Martin blazed the trail by going along the left side of it very slowly to avoid slipping down into it.  Several drivers let their tyres down slightly to make sure they didn’t get stuck in the mud.  Everyone made it thru without difficulty.  Then it was on thru more muddy, slushy tracks until we came to the east side of the Bremer River and crossed the nice hard sand at the river mouth into Bremer Bay. 
Late morning tea was at Short Beach, then it was off on another 4WD track to the Southern Ocean for a look-see around the Sparkling Island area.  We then drove on to Little Boat Harbour, then onto the squeaky sand at Blossoms Beach and ended up at Fisheries Beach for lunch in a little picnic area.  Just as we were finishing up lunch John noticed a tick crawling up his trousers and managed to kill it before it bit him.  However, Richard was not so lucky and had to have one removed from his leg.
Next stop was the Bremer Bay caravan park where we enquired about a group booking for Christmas 2009 and had a wander thru the park.  Then it was off to refuel and stock up on provisions and icecreams at the General Store.  Martin was talking to a local at the BP service station and he was amazed we had actually made it to Bremer Bay along the back road seeing it was so wet.
We took the longer and drier route back to Quaalup via Swamp Road without incident and stopped for wood gathering for the camp fire before reaching the homestead gate.
All home safe and sound at 4.40pm after a very interesting outing.
Richard & Helen Kingston

Wednesday 26 November 2008

We woke up this morning to rain on the roof of our caravan, in fact it had been raining all night. Thunder could be heard in the distance and before too long the sky darkened and the thunder and lightening engulfed us, followed by a downpour that quickly raised lakes of water all around the campground. By 10am it was still raining when 5 vehicle lined up behind Trip Leader Martin. We set off for the mouth of the Gairdner River. There was a lot of water on the track but we all managed to get through without too much difficulty. We came across a fisherman’s shack that we thought would be a good sheltered place for mornos but inside was not good and so we moved on. We proceeded to cross the bar at the mouth of the Gairdner River. The crossing was very rough and the Trip Leader suggested the females should ‘tighten their sports bras’. A drive along the other side of the river was not possible due to soft sand. An inspection of the beach on which it was planned we would drive on to House Beach found it was impassable. So we retraced our tracks to a so called road that would get us to the beach. This was where the fun began. To start with the Trip Leader had to get into some wheel ruts which he did with skill and determination. We all followed on. The mud was thick and slippery and water was deep. It would not be an exaggeration to say some of us were becoming apprehensive and one or two even ‘terrified’. When we saw the vehicle in front of us (driven by Richard and Helen) slip to one side of the track and the back rear wheel go down into the mud we did not believe we would make it. But we did, thanks to the To- – – a we drive, the advice of the co-pilot and of course the skill of the driver. The track was getting more and more difficult and Trip Leader Martin’ after no doubt consulting Karen, made the decision to ‘abort the trip.’ Fortunately there was a place where we could all turn around and retrace our tracks. We all made it back to the campsite safely and in good condition with a sense of having learned and achieved a lot about driving in difficult and challenging conditions. The afternoon saw us down on the riverbank fishing – at least throwing in the line. It was a very relaxing time after the morning trip. After spending an hour or so trying to entice a fish on to a hook we all returned to the campsite for a very pleasant ‘happy hour’.
John and Rosalie King

Thursday 29 Nov 08.                                                                                                                           We all headed off from Quaalup Homestead about 10.00am with Martin and Karen in the lead for another challenging day.  It was a bit cloudy to start but the sun did manage to come out and it got quite warm at times during the day.

Stage 1. We headed towards Doubtful Islands Road and down a track to House Beach.  After the substantial rain over the previous couple of days, there were a multitude of water crossings to test us all.  Martin and Karen had the brave task of being the first to tackle everything we did, going through the water, or take the chicken track,  usually also full of water. (Martin of course walked through them all first!)
House beach was a beautiful long beach, with Doubtful Islands to the right, a well set up fisherman’s shack on the shoreline (classed as a Commercial Fishing Area) and the path to the beach lined with enormous whale bones which at a quick glance you could easily just mistake to be rocks.  This was our stop for morning tea, with the sun shining and a spectacular sky overhead and a portion of a rainbow in the sky.  In the direction we came from the sky was black and we thought we were going to once again be rained on, but the wind was in our favour and blew it away from us.
Stage 2. All packed up again we headed down a very narrow and scratchy track, which obviously hadn’t been used for some time to cut across to Peppermint Beach.  Some clearing had to be done with Martin’s chainsaw for us to get through, but it was worth the effort.
Peppermint Beach was another long bay with glorious turquoise water.  We were the only ones there and the guys took the opportunity to get out the fishing rods, while the girls chilled out reading or just taking in the scenery.  After an hour or so with no luck catching any fish for dinner, we had lunch.  On inspection of his vehicle while at the beach, Keith discovered he had a broken coil spring in the rear of his vehicle, so a cautious trip back was required.
Around 3.00pm we left to head back to Bremer Bay via a track and then back onto the beach at James Cove.  The beach started to get a bit soft so the tyres were let down.  We carried on for a while and we then cut back onto a track running parallel to the beach.  It was a challenge to get off the beach, but everyone got through without too much heartache. 
This track went a short distance and then ran out so we had to head back onto the beach, but the approach was a bit steep for us to get down so a temporary track was taken for about 50 metres and then we could get back onto the beach down to the rivermouth and into Bremer Bay.
Once the tyres were pumped up, it was off to the General Store to replenish stocks if needed and a well earned ice cream.  We arrived back at Quaalup about 5.30pm for happy hour or two, watching videos of the last couple of days adventures and finishing off the evening with Chocolate Mud cake for Guy’s birthday.
Guy and Wendy

Friday  28 Nov 08.
Tony and Stella having another commitment packed up and left the station by nine am. Keith who needed a repair to a shock absorber left with them having made arrangements for a repair shop at Katanning to receive a spare part overnight.
The day was to start leisurely for the rest of the group. The weather was cloudy with patches of blue sky and so the group decided to do the Nature trail walk on the station. However after a few minutes the heavens opened yet again.
This didn’t deter the group who continued along the trail stopping to reflect at the lonely grave of Mary McGlade who died aged 18 from a chest complaint whilst her father was away herding the sheep flock. Two days later when he returned he made her a coffin from the homesteads kitchen shelves and buried her at the side of the track leading to Quaalup.
The tour continued with expressions of surprise and delight at the variety and attractiveness of the various flora. A lookout was climbed which gave great views of the surrounding bush and later the group stood quietly when they discovered a carpet python basking in the now shining sun after obviously having just killed and eaten its prey.
Back at camp it was mornos time accompanied by Karen’s scones and Helens muffins all freshly baked and enjoyed by all.
Suitably refreshed the group went on a short drive to the nearby Mount Maxwell where again there was a lookout which gave great views of the surrounding bush and right down to the coast where Bremer Bay could just be seen. For some reason after a series of still photos being taken the group broke into frenzied activity which included singing the Adams Family theme tune for the benefit of  Martin who was videoing the group.
Back to camp – lunch and chill out time. The weather had improved considerably and several Nanny Naps were enjoyed and a bit of tidying up for the trip home next day.
Happy hour ensued – which was probably the third happy hour of this relaxed day!
Evening meals were consumed followed by yet more culinary delights from the girls – the rest of the scones from Karen and a freshly baked apple crumble and custard from Helen.
The camp fire camaraderie was enjoyed by all as usual, with appreciation of the beautiful night sky. Finally all retired after what had been an enjoyable and relaxing final day of the trip.
Thanks to Martin and Karen for organising the whole trip.
Peter & Denise Belcher

Saturday November 29
It was decided that we would not travel in one convoy back to Perth. This allowed those who wanted a leisurely morning to take their time packing up without the pressure of others hurrying them along. Richard and Helen were the first to take off, followed about half an hour later by the Archers and Lehmanns. The Kings and Belchers got hooked up about mid-morning leaving Quaalup Homestead empty once again.
Upon our arrival at Quaalup I phoned the Senior Ranger for the area to let him know we were planning on traveling through the Fitzgerald River National Park and to seek his guidance. However, due to the bad weather conditions the park was closed for our entire stay. This is not uncommon as DEC is taking preventive measures to stop the distribution of dieback from wet vehicles. It was pleasing to hear though that the Ranger was well aware of our club’s volunteer work and would have otherwise granted us free entry to the park.

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