MY mates and I travel all over the east coast of Australia chasing extraordinary tracks. Coming from all up and down the east coast, the crew met in Yalwal, NSW to spend some time out on the tracks before hosting a charity 4WD event over the weekend.
The 4by 4Charity event was held to raise money to support the BTS foundation – an organisation that supports emergency services personnel through mental health challenges.
Preparation for this trip was a logistical nightmare for everyone involved, with issues including everything from permits to insurance, prizes, spare parts, travel time and full-blown engine rebuilds, and that’s where we will start.
Paul Ilievski, a Wollongong local who runs Jetn Fabrication was the main co-ordinator for this epic event. However, just 17 days before the trip was due to start, disaster struck. Paul had recently bought a TD42T Ford Maverick from a lovely old couple with a dirty little secret.
This Maverick, with its pristine body, had been hydro-locked before being sold to Paul. While out scouting the tracks with some locals, Paul’s Mav threw a rod out of the block. Devastated but determined to make the best of a bad situation, Paul decided to take his annual leave and rebuild what later became known as ‘Monster’.
Paul managed to source a new TD42T engine and sent it to Grauls Mechanical for a full rebuild with ceramic-coated pistons and a mean custom turbo setup. In the meantime, Paul turned his once standard Mav into a beast.
With brand-new suspension and tyres, Monster was now sitting on 35s with a 6” lift and 12”-travel shocks in the front and 14” shocks in the rear. This thing was simply mean and Paul even managed to find time to build custom bar work and respray the car.
While Paul was building his custom truck, the Brisbane crew was sourcing spares and fixing pre-existing gremlins before making the 14-hour trip south. Just two days before leaving, my D22 Navara started to suffer electrical issues. You would be amazed what speaker wires shorting on the body can do to a car. I will never forget the shock when the car shorted and completely turned off at 100km/h while driving on the highway.
The problem was fixed in no time though and we were soon ready for our trip down. The cars were packed and we were off, loaded up with spare diff assemblies, CVs, steering components and a workshop worth of tools.
We knew this would be one epic adventure. Finally, we reached our campgrounds and boy, was it worth the wait! Calymea Campground is located on the Shoalhaven River just outside of Nowra and it was our little slice of paradise for the week.
Soon enough, camp was all set up and we were ready to hit the tracks. Over the next week we drove a number of the iconic tracks in the area including Monkey Gum, Tree Root Loop, Power Lines, Flexy Track, Rock Garden and the Monster even took on the Waterfall.
Tree Root Loop onto Monkey Gum was my favourite but the Rock Garden was also one epic challenge. Being the kind of person who can’t turn down a challenge and refuses to admit defeat, on the first day I decided to follow Monster up the most challenging line possible.
I’ll admit, at this stage I had all the gear but limited experience driving challenging tracks. With some guidance from a friend who passed on knowledge that had been passed down to her, I quickly learnt how to let the ute do all the hard work.
This new knowledge allowed me to just crawl along most of the tracks with featherweight throttle adjustments to climb over challenges and avoid significant damage. As we entered the Tree Root Loop we soon discovered what we were in for.
It was obvious this track had not been driven in a very long time – cue the chainsaws and axes. In the midst of winching a fallen tree out of the way, we managed to knock over another, and Paul’s freshly painted truck received its first battle scars.
Finishing this scenic track, we moved on to Monkey Gum, a track famous for its truck-swallowing ruts right from the bottom to the very top. After some hectic wheel lifts and exhilarating driving, we reached the Monkey Gum lookout.
Up the old makeshift ladder we went to reach the top of this incredible rock formation. It’s not hard to imagine the awe of the first person privileged to experience this view. It was simply stunning.
On the Friday afternoon, the surrounding campsites started to fill up and soon enough our massive fire pit became the central meeting point for the families and other supporters of the charity event.
On the Saturday morning, we met everyone at the Wombat Flats campground. It wasn’t until this point that we understood the full extent of the turnout, with over 50 cars in attendance. Due to the sheer size of the group, we split up for the day based on driving level – with some cars heading to beginner’s tracks and those who wanted to push the limits striking out for the challenging tracks.
We headed for the challenging tracks for an epic day filled with mud, ruts and many breakages. Come nightfall, everyone made their way back to their own camps for dinner before returning to our camp for a night of sharing stories from the day over a few drinks. After an early morning wake-up call, we met back at Wombat Flats campground.
The local member from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party attended to show his support and give a talk on the work the party is doing to keep the tracks open. We finished the event by raffling a number of prizes including recovery gear and winches, with all proceeds donated to the BTS charity.
I learnt two main things during this trip. First, allow the car to do its job and don’t be afraid to stall. Second, do not buy essential components based purely on the best price. Do your research and buy a product that won’t leave you stranded in the bush!
For expert advice and all the best gear at incredible prices, contact Flexible 4WD Solutions on 0401 221 596 or find us on Facebook.