Trip 55 – Moondyne Country

Trip Leader: Stephen Kalyniuk

Location: Avon River Hills and Valley

Participants: 8 Members cars , 3 Visitors cars.

Meeting place: Gingers Roadhouse, Great Northern Hwy. 8.45 for 9am start.

Members and visitors enjoyed this trip though farmland, forest and wilderness reputed to be the hideout areas of Joseph Bolitho Johns AKA “Moondyne Joe”, the infamous WA bush ranger in the 1860s.

The convoy set off after a briefing by Stephen, with Pat acting as Tail End Charlie. The start was delayed very slightly to allow emergency vehicles dealing with the hot weather and a bushfire in nearby Bullsbrook to access great Northern Hwy without having to overtake us all.

Following a pleasant drive enjoying the countryside and wildlife along Chittering Rd, Smiths Rd and Fraser Rd, some radio chat about visibility, dirty cars and what time we could expect a morning tea break, we left the bitumen at Wilson Rd. to start the off road fun.

The gravel track was dry, dusty, and included some corrugations, fallen trees and wash out areas to wake up Sunday morning drivers.

At the gated area on top of a steep descent the group stopped to engage low range gears. While Peter Cole slipped and slid down the first section on foot to act as photographer, a very fit looking and nimble runner jogged up the way, followed by (presumably) his back up vehicle. Once the way was clear we set off allowing plenty of space and time between cars. Negotiating the ruts and bumps on the way down proved to be a fairly challenging and a slow exercise over some quite tricky areas, with some largish rocks, a couple of quite narrow areas and the gradient all adding interest.

All made it safely to the morning tea break near the valley bottom, the river and railway track.

Visitors and regulars alike had enjoyed the experience, with some now expressing concern about how to get back up.

Conversation ranged from driving tips, introductions between those who hadn’t met before, stories from other trips, and the animals spotted during the morning. The ponies, cattle, donkey, sheep, hens etc. were seen by most, but the snake was spotted only by a few!
Getting back up to the track over the same terrain was also tricky. Apparently nearly slipping into ruts and rising anxiety levels led to the use of colourful language in some cars!

A short distance from the top of the slope was the walking track to the area of ‘cattle trap and holding pens’ built by Moondyne Joe.
The track was quite overgrown so there was a quick “tick check” before moving on.

We travelled via Julimar Rd back to the bitumen, and onward to the lunch stop at a park with good facilities on the outskirt of Toodyay. The nearby railway line provided trainspotting opportunities while everyone enjoyed food and drink under shady trees. Topics of conversation here included: the condition of the Holland Track for Easter, suitable camping equipment for off road areas, more talk about snakes and how to avoid them, how to download apps for maps, installation of Oziexplorer on a variety of devices, and other stories of trips and travels.

A stop at the old Newcastle Gaol and Police stables continued the local history theme, before resuming the journey to Avon Valley National Park along sections of sealed and gravel road. Into the park Peter moved to the front of the convoy, “just to get ahead of the dust”, some said, and led the way to Bald Hill, and the short walk to the spectacular view from the lookout point. (The ladies decided it might not be politically correct to discuss how fit and nimble the aforementioned runner was at this point).

Driving back over corrugated track led to some discussion about suitable tyre pressure and speeds; though visibility through the dust prevented trying out the higher speed theory…!

Trip notes: Tony F and Flo.

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