Easter 2016 Road Trip Day 2
Day Two, Saturday 27th March 2016 – Mary’s View to The Blowhole via Carrai State Forest & Boonanghi State Forest.
I got up before sunrise on Saturday morning, grabbed the camera & walked up to the lookout to capture the sunrise. The weather was mild, just a little cloud to the east & no sign of rain. After taking a few snaps of the mist hanging over the mountains I headed back to camp for breakfast & to pack up camp.
Saturday would only involve around 100 km of travelling, plenty of time to have a look around. The Carrai Plateau was once the traditional home of Thunggutti people & has several sacred & ceremonial sites. I had heard about an area that had been used as a ceremonial Bora Ring, for sacred initiations. I had seen a photograph of the site on Google Earth & managed to get the GPS co-ordinates. Checking the maps, several roads could be seen near the site.
We headed off about 8:00 am back down Warrick Rd to Carrai Rd. There was a loop road around the plateau marked on the maps so we went for a drive to check it out. We found a trail that looked like a shortcut but it lead to a locked gate several kilometres in. Back onto Carrai Rd heading north we came to a gate onto private property so we turned around & headed back to Daisy Plains huts.
Turning north onto Mines Rd at the huts, we headed for the Bora site. Unfortunately we had to stop at Felters Creek, as there were bollards across the road. There were supposed to be some old mines just passed the creek, so we walked a little way but only saw a few pieces of old machinery. To get to the Bora ground would be a good 5 km hike so we headed back to the vehicles & back to the huts.
Heading the 20 km south back along Carrai Rd to Kookaburra (31.01.418S 152.20.303E) we headed northeast along a winding road through the tall timber, stopping at McCoy’s Lookout (31.01.133S 152.20.512E) for an early lunch. The road from here descends from around 950 meters into the Macleay Valley, joining the Willi Willi Rd (30.55.813S 152.27.630) at 138 meters above sea level after 22 km.
Turning right onto Willi Willi Rd we travelled 32 km through open farm country along the Macleay River to the junction with the Dungay Creek Road (31.04.184S 152.41.965E) turning right continuing on for 5.5 km to Boonanghi Forest Road (31.04.184S 152.41.965S). After turning right, we headed into the forest to find our campsite at the Blowhole. It was around 2:00 pm by this time & we were looking forward to a relaxing afternoon around camp. Things don’t always go to plan it seems.
After following Boonanghi Forest Rd for 8 km, we came to our first obstacle, an old log bridge had collapsed (31.04.192S 152.36.738E) barring our way. With no other way ahead we backtracked a couple of kilometres to another track heading south then north towards our planned camp. This track ended at a locked gate at the forest boundary. Turning around we went back to a track heading north to another road along a ridgeline that would take us towards the Blowhole. This unnamed track (31.04.081S 152.37.052E) was only 1200 meters long but climbed 350 meters in height with some very steep sections, 2nd gear low range was needed & took 10 minutes to climb.
I went up first & then gave Cris & Brenda a call on the two way to come on up. We had joined Kullatine Rd (31.03.082S 152.37.301) along the ridgeline that wound it’s way along a narrow road using second & third in low range with steep drop offs either side & contours across the track. We reached Boonanghi Trig (31.02.531S 152.34.412E) at 649 meters ASL after around 8 km & decided to stop to consider our options as there were not many turn around points along the track.
It was around 4:00 pm when we had checked the maps & decided to carry on as it was less than 5 km to the campsite. I was in the lead & was less than 500 meters from the trig when the track dropped away very quickly. I was about 100 meters down when the hill became even steeper & looked to continue straight down with nowhere to turn around, so I had no choice to keep going. The surface of the track was very loose gravel so reversing back up from a standing start was out of the question.
I hit the bottom after about 200 meters at a junction & we had a discussion over the two way about what to do next, I did not think that I would be able to get back up. I knew that the road leading north went nowhere on the map & the track heading south to the campsite was heavily overgrown, it would take days to clear the way down. I don’t know why Cris decided to come down to were I was, I think in hindsight it would have been better for him to have stayed at the top.
With daylight fading we had no choice but to have a go at getting back up. Cris went first as he had the more aggressive tread pattern on his tyres. He hit the base in 2nd low range at 3000 rpm. About a minute later he called over the radio that he was up, quickly followed by a NO I`M NOT!.
I had been waiting at the bottom, my first thought were that’s it, were stuck here. Then Cris came on the radio to say he had made it, he thought he was at the top when he called, but was only half way, a huge sigh of relief from me I can tell you! Next it was my turn. 2nd gear low range, hit around 3000 rpm & held it there.
After a bit of wheel slip I got a bit of traction, swerving around a few fallen tree branches. The first 100 meters over, the second 100 a bit steeper, I eventually made it to the top. I was quite surprised that I had made it up without too much trouble & had gained a little bit more confidence in what my Patrol could do, even on a mild ATV tyre.
We decided to bail out of finding this elusive campsite & headed back the way we came. Nearing the end of the track we got talking on the radio. Were we going to let this beat us or was there another way in?. Several years ago we had tried to access this site via another road further along Dungay Creek Rd, but were stopped at a gate with No Trespassing & Private Road signs. It was starting to get late, around 6:00 pm, but we decided to have a look. After getting some directions from some people on their way back from the Blowhole we decided to at least have one last attempt.
The farmers down the track we had tried to use years before had posted the signs illegally, so the road was now open. The directions that we had got were as follows.
Through the gate, follow the road, turn right at the Monkey, turn right at the Yellow Arrow, turn right at the Green Whistle!. Seemed a bit strange at the time but it turned out to be spot on. It was nearly dark by then, but it was only 10 km along the track, so off we went.
It was well & truly dark when we found the Monkey (stuffed monkey at a junction) turned right, Yellow Arrow, turned right, got to the Green Whistle ( large toy whistle hanging in a tree) turned right & started to drive down a narrow rutted track tight between the trees. About 100 meters down Cris stopped & got out with the torch. I followed him down to find the drop into the creek was very steep & deeply rutted.
After a discussion it was decided that we were not going to make it back up without a winch. It had also started to rain lightly. It would have been only another 200 meters to the campsite. We turned around & headed back to the main road in defeat. At least Cris got to try out his new 180 watt LED driving lights & it was a bit of fun 4wding at night!
With no idea were we where going to camp that night, we headed into Kempsey, 25 km away, stopping at KFC for a feed & to talk about our options. It was around 9:15 pm by then. The only place I knew about to camp that was close was an area near Crescent Head on the coast, 20 km away, so we decided to head there. We were lucky to find enough room to camp when we arrived at 10:00 pm.
We had travelled for over 12 hours that day, only covering about 250 km in distance, all dirt road apart from the last 15 km of tar, but it will be a day we will long remember. We hit the bed at around 11:00 pm, went to sleep to the sounds of the waves crashing onto the beach, another adventure lined up for the next day………..