Easter 2016 Road Trip Days 3 & 4
Day Three, Sunday 27th March 2016 – Hat Head National Park to Thora via Taylor’s Arm & The Pub with no Beer, Jacob’s Ladder & Mt Killiekranke.
Sunrise over Belmore Lagoon was spectacular on Sunday morning, a good sign I hoped for the day to come. We packed up the Rooftop Campers, had some brekkie & headed back to Kempsey to get some fuel. The days plan was to head to The Pub With No Beer at Taylor’s Arm, via Collombatti. Heading out the Armidale – Kempsey Rd, turning right at Frederickton Rd (31.03.528S 152.48.086E) & then left onto Chain of Ponds Rd (31.01.433S 152.48.574E) for 10 km, then left onto the Collombatti Rd. 8 km further on the road veered to the left at an intersection with a little used track. (30.54.504S 152.44.443E)
At the time the track I was following seemed to be the one that had the most use but the pre-planned route on the GPS had turned right. Unsure which way to go, we followed the more used road. If I had of had a more detailed map up on the GPS I would have seen that the unused track lead to Taylor’s Arm Rd, the one we should be on.
The track we followed for around 2.5 km, slowly became steep, winding & narrow. I called Cris on the radio & asked him to hang back a bit & I kept going. The track became very rutted & steep rather quickly but I pressed on. In hindsight I should have stopped then, but it would have been impossible to turn around or reverse back, so I just had to put the foot down & hope for the best.
I don’t know how I made it to the top, the washout had become pretty deep, with large rocks & tree roots sticking out everywhere. One tree root stepped straight up about 400 millimetres on the right hand side at the top of a steep grade. After a lot of hard knocks & been thrown around inside the cab I finally emerged onto a clearing with a Trig station. This turned out to be Collombatti Lookout (30.52.465S 152.42.891E)
I radioed Cris & advised him how bad the last 100 meters or so the track was, telling him it wasn’t worth possibly damaging his vehicle, but leaving the final decision to him. At that time a couple of dirt bikes came passed Cris, so he asked how to get onto Taylor’s Arm Rd . With directions he headed off, I would continue down what turned out to be a lot better road than the way in, joining back onto Taylor’s Arm Rd at the junction with Greenhills Rd (30.51.979S 152.44.065E) after about 3 km. Here I waited for Cris & Brenda, who turned up 10 minutes later.
Back on track again after that little adventure, it took a while for the adrenaline rush to subside. We followed Greenhills Rd for 15 km till the road became a different Taylor’s Arm Rd (30.48.316S 152.42.290E). This one runs from Macksville out to Taylor’s Arm, just to confuse things. The Pub With No Beer was just 9 km away, it was nearing midday, so we were back on schedule.
They had a band & bistro planned at the pub, so there was a lot of the locals already gathered there when we arrived. We were lucky to get a park right in front of the large sign outside the pub, just the right spot for photo with the vehicles in the frame.
This old pub is famous for being in the song of the same name by country music singer, Slim Dusty back in the 1970`s. He grew up not far from there at Nulla Nulla. A lot of history connected with the building, the walls lined with old images of the timber cutters with huge logs on drays dragged by bullocks & pieces of hardware from the era. I don’t drink beer, but I decided to have one seeing as it is such an iconic location & I think I needed one to settle the nerves for the next difficult section of track………….Jacob’s Ladder.
We didn’t stay for a meal, the queue was rather long & we still had a long way to go to the nights campsite. Heading east on Taylor’s Arm Rd, we turned left onto Kosekai Rd (30.43.682S 152.46.834E) for the climb up to Kosekai Lookout in Dunggir National Park. We’ve learned that the roads in this area get very steep very quickly. The pub was only 38 meters ASL, the lookout was at 840 meters ASL, a pretty steep climb in just over 20 km. After climbing up for around 10 km, constantly changing from 3rd back to 2nd over & over my engine temps started to rise.
I called Cris on the radio, he was a kilometre or so ahead of me to tell him my temps were going up with no downhill sections to cool of. He came back to say that he was getting a bit sick & tired of the narrow winding roads & was feeling a bit of vertigo with the steep drops beside the track. We made the call to turn around at that point, stopping on a rare flat area to have some lunch and talk about the rest of the trip.
We did not have a campsite organised for that night anyway, so we needed to find one. This was around 2:00 pm. I new of a free camping area on the Nambucca River just outside Macksville, so we headed there in the hope that it wasn’t full of holiday campers. Should have known better, it was absolutely packed when we arrived around 3:00 pm. The next option was Roses Park at Thora, about 15 km west of Bellingen on the Waterfall Way.
So we joined the holiday traffic heading north along the Pacific Highway, turned onto Waterfall Way & arrived at Roses Park (30.25.573S 152.46.787E) on the Bellinger River around 4:30 pm. We were surprised to find only several campers & a motor home there. We set up camp just in time, the park soon filling up with other travellers. After dinner & a few drinks, we crashed for the night.
Although we did not get to check out Jacob’s Ladder, Kosekai or Killiekranke lookouts, we were pretty content with the day’s travel. We had done just 212 km for the day, but the constantly winding roads made it feel a lot longer. So far we had travelled 792 km on the trip over some pretty rough & steep terrain & we were feeling a bit fatigued.
Day Four, Monday 28th March 2016 – Thora to Home via Dorrigo, New England & Cunnawarra National Parks, Point Lookout, Styx River Forest & Armidale.
We were up before sunrise, had breakfast & packed up camp by 8:00 am. The weather was clear, a nice sunny day. Most of Monday’s travel would be on the highway, a nice easy drive. We headed west up the Waterfall Way to Dorrigo National Park & the Rainforest Centre there. I had driven past many times, so we took the opportunity to stop & check out a waterfall in the rainforest. It took us nearly an hour to hike down the track to the falls but it was well worth it.
Crystal Falls drops 10 meters down an escarpment through the rainforest, you can get a great view from the suspension bridge or walk along the track a bit further to actually walk behind the waterfall. After taking a few photos we headed back up to the car park. The next stop would be Point Lookout in the New England National Park, east of Armidale. The lookout is 1562 meters ASL & overlooks the mountains & valleys we had just travelled through over the last three days.
After lunch at the lookout we headed south on Styx River Rd to Beech Lookout (30.31.157S 152.21.245E) that looks east over the ranges back towards Mary’s View & the Carrai Plateau. Then it was 25 km along Styx River Rd to the Kempsey – Armidale Rd (30.37.224S 152.11.261E ) heading east for 20 km, rejoining the Waterfall Way then on to Armidale, arriving there around 3:00 pm. This is were I left my travelling companions, Cris & Brenda who were heading south & I had to continue west for another 130 km to home.
Reaching home around 5:00 pm, the trip meter had just clicked over 1100 km. The Patrol had performed well apart from getting warm on several of the hill climbs. Fuel consumption had averaged out at around 11.5 litres per 100 km`s, pretty happy with that with the weight of the Roof-topper, Fridge, extra fuel, water & other gear.
All up a great trip with good company. Even though we did not do all of the planned trip it was still a very enjoyable four days. Weather was great, little rain, plenty of blue sky. The dust was the only complaint, It will take days to clean the Patrol & the other gear. Also happy that neither of us had any problems with the vehicles, both still going strong at the end of the trip.
I will have go back & have a look at the area around Kosekai Lookout, Jacobs Ladder & Mt Killiekrankie another day. The only setback was not being able to get to the Blowhole. After all the attempts to get to this location it seems that it was not meant to be.
After making it up that last section of track to Collombatti Lookout, I have gained a lot more respect for what my Patrol can do, but also learned that it would be advisable to walk an unknown track before attempting it. Getting stuck in an area like that would not be good, or worse still, breaking something & not being able to make it home.
Maybe I will invest in that winch after all……………………
Thanks for dropping by………see you on a track somewhere