Easter 2016 Road Trip Day 1
The best laid plans don’t always work out, even after weeks of researching, certain events conspire to throw things into disarray, but sometimes that can make a trip more interesting when exploring the unknown.
After several weeks of planing, a four day, 1000 km round trip around the New England High Country east of Walcha & the Gorge country around Armidale, NSW, taking in New England, Werrikimbe, Willi Willi, Carrai Plateau, Dunggir & Dorrigo National Parks along with numerous State Forests was finalised. The first day of the trip we had done before, the next couple of days would be into the unknown.
Friday nights camp would be at Mary’s View Lookout in Carrai National Park. This is a very remote area, at least a four hour drive to the nearest town, but well worth the effort for the spectacular views.
We had tried to get to a waterfall called the Blowhole, in Boonanghi State Forest, west of Kempsey, several years before, but we had problems finding the way in so this was the planned overnight stay on Saturday.
Sunday’s drive included a stop at The Pub With No Beer (from the Slim Dusty song) at Taylor’s Arm for lunch. Then up to Kosekai Lookout in Dunggir NP, onto a section of track called Jacob’s Ladder. It is said that this section is so steep motorbikes have trouble getting up it, it would be interesting to see how we went. Sunday nights camp would be where ever we ended up.
Monday would be home via Dorrigo, Ebor & then Point Lookout in New England NP, down Styx River Forest Rd to the old Kempsey – Armidale Rd. At Armidale we would part ways, Cris & Brenda heading south home & I would be heading west.
The weapons of choice for the trip was my 2005 GUIV 3.0L ST Patrol Wagon & my good friends Cris & Brenda in their 2010 D44 Navara Dual Cab. Both are equipped with ARB Rooftop Campers & OME 2 inch lifts. I’m running Mickey Thompson STZ`s, Maxxis Bighorns on the Navara, both on standard rims, neither of us has a winch.
We have travelled on many trips together in the last 5 years, so we know each other’s capabilities. Were more into 4WD touring than full on off-roading, but that was about to change on this trip…………
Day One, Friday the 26th March 2016 – Home to Mary’s View via Werrikimbe, Willi Willi, Carrai & Oxley Wild Rivers National Parks. 13 hours – 328 km`s
With the Patrol packed & fuelled the night before, I left home at 5:30 on Friday morning & travelled the 130 km`s to Bendemeer to meet up with Cris & Brenda at 8:00 am. After a quick coffee we hit the Oxley Highway for the 50 km trip east to Walcha, the last town for the next three days. With the last of supplies loaded it was back on the highway for the final 54 km`s of tar.
The weather was fine with a clear blue sky as we turned north at the Kangaroo Flat Rd (31. 16.987S 151.58.646E) & followed it for 18 km, turning right onto Mooraback Rd (31.11.921S 152.06.718E) for a further 6.6 km to the junction with Cobcroft Rd (31.10.151S 152.09.777E) at the Werrikimbe National Park eastern boundary. Turning left, we continued on another 5 km to the turnoff to the Mooraback Campground (31.09.332S 152.12.036E) in Werrikimbe national Park. Here we drove down to the campsite for morning tea. Back to Mooraback Rd heading north for 6.8 km to the end of Mooraback Rd where it becomes Racecourse Trail (31.06.629S 152.13.405E). Keeping to the right at the intersection with Youdales Trail, the road becomes a little rougher & narrows down, we were averaging around 35 km per hour for this part of the trip.
At around 16 km we turned north onto Spokes Trail (31.07.670S 152.19.532E). If you are looking for a campsite, Brushy Mountain in Werrikimbe National Park is about 5 km to the east of this intersection. Continuing up Spokes Trail for 4 km we came to Hoppy’s Lookout (31.06.762S 152.20.300E) were we stopped for lunch after taking in the views from the lookout just 200 meters along the walking track.
Spokes Trail is a rough cobblestone track, so at the lookout I decided to reduce my tyre pressures by 10 PSI, this made a huge difference to the comfort of the ride. We were averaging around 30 kph on this trail as it wound it’s way along the boundaries between Oxley Wild Rivers & Willi Willi National Parks through Subtropical Rainforest at an altitude of around 1000 meters.
18 km further north from Hoppy’s we arrived at the old forestry site of Kookaburra (31.01.459S 152.20.256E). Once a small village was located here around a Sawmill that processed the prized Red Cedar that covers the steep mountainsides. Not much remains now, the old Kookaburra School & Forestry HQ buildings are still standing. The clearing around these building is ideal for an overnight camp.
Hidden in the bush just to the east are the remains of the Sawmill. A huge cast iron flywheel about 12 feet high still stands on it’s concrete mountings (31.01.465S 152.20.062E). A few other relics, old saw blades & pipes can be seen laying around.
At Kookaburra, Spokes Trail joins Carrai Rd (31.01.418S 152.20.303E). Here we turned west to head to Daisy Plains on the Carrai Plateau. 4.5 km along on the left of the road is Kunderang Lookout (31.01.281S 152.01.781E). There is not much room to turn around at the lookout, so if towing a camper it might be better to walk the 200 meters to the lookout. 10 km past the lookout is the old McMillan’s Homestead, perched on a clearing overlooking the valleys below. This site is on private property, so we only stopped to take a few photos before moving on.
Heading north along Carrai Road, the track winds its way up to another old forestry site at Daisy Plains along the western boundary of Carrai National Park. Daisy Plains Huts (30.54.217S 152.17.414E) is a free campsite in Carrai National Park, 21 km from Kookaburra. There is a bunk house with 5 single rooms & 1 double room, a kitchen hut, shower hut, a single hut & toilet. There is also plenty of level areas for camper trailers & tents. This campsite is completely free to use but the buildings are usually occupied during the holidays. No bookings, so first in, first served. Surprisingly they were empty when we arrived.
After having a quick smoko break we continued to our overnight camp at Mary’s View (30.50.894S 152.10.304E).The lookout is named after Mary Cochrane, one of the early settlers in the area whose family owned Carrai Station for which the park is named.
Travelling along Carrai Rd for 9km we came to Warrick Rd (30.52.512S 152.13.219E) were we turned left for the final 7 km to the lookout. At the end of the track there is a small parking area with just enough level ground to park & set up the rooftop campers.
We arrived at the camp at around 6:30 pm. 13 hours of travel including stops. Around 230 km of tar & 98 km of rough winding dirt tracks. The country was looking very dry, the dust at times was as thick as fog. We had travelled to this spot 5 years before. At that time it had rained the whole trip & the mountains were covered in cloud & fog, so it great to be able to enjoy the scenery once the dust had settled.
We had just enough time to wander up the 100 meters to the lookout just as the sun was setting. The viewing area is at just over 1000 meters above sea level & the Macleay River valley is nearly straight down, 800 meters below.
Back at the camp it was time for dinner, Steak & vegies, followed by marshmallows cooked over the fire & a few drinks. For a bit of entertainment, Cris got the Didgeridoo out, he was a bit out of practice but soon the haunting sound was echoing though the valleys. The weather had been great all day but clouded over just before sunset but still no rain. We hit the bunks around 10:30 as we had a big day ahead, travelling to an area we had never been into before.
If we had of known what we were in for the next day I think we would have gone to bed a little earlier……………………