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Fruitlands to Bannockburn: January 20, 2024

Trip Report: Colin Goldthorpe

On this trip were Kevin as trip leader with Yvonne in his Prado, Belle with daughter Ruby and Dad Ron in the Classic Range Rover, Ross with sons Noah and Arlo and dog Luna in a SWB Toyota Cruiser, Soren and Jade with children Olivia and Alfred in their Prado, Mike with Boyd and Cilla in a Mitsubushi Challenger and Colin and Pippa at Tail-end Charlie in their SWB Safari.

In summary the trip took 7 hours 24 mins , covered 71 kms and reached an elevation of 1675 m.  We started at 9.20, after airing down and a briefing from Kevin, which included banter about the capabilities of Mitsubushi Challengers, the Mitsubishi climb up Symes Rd.  The first stop was very brief due to horizontal rain and hail at Obelisk Rock, in fact many of us did not get out of our trucks.  We then travelled along the Old Man Range to Hyde Rock to experience the spectacular views that this viewpoint affords, as the rain had kindly cleared up.  Ruby climbed to the top of a rock despite quite strong winds, to get an even better view than the rest of us.  The troops then mounted up after further photographs and followed our able leader along the Old Woman Range before heading down to the headwaters of the Fraser River for lunch where Luna entertained us by chasing various hares across the hillside.  Ruby found another rock to climb. 

With lunch over we climbed the hill to be confronted by a gate that someone had apparently tried to drive through without opening.  This took Soren and Kevin some time to open, involving a rock, removing the hasp, removal from the hinges and then reassembly afterwards.  Thank goodness Soren was a fencer in another life!  

With the weather continuing to improve the trip along the range gave great views of the back of the Remarkables and glimpses of the Nevis Valley.  Old Woman Hut came into view as another four vehicles coming from the Duffers Saddle end beat us to the hut.  After checking out the hut and having conversations with the other group we headed for the short cut up to Duffers Saddle.  The climb was dry but deeply rutted in places with the potential for wheels to become cross-axled.  This caused some difficulty for Belle in the Range Rover; however with persistence and possibly some coaching from Dad, she found the right line and then cruised up to the top.  The mud trap at the saddle was then attempted with everyone getting through.

Soren and his family left us at this point to take his little people back down the Nevis road and head for home while the rest of us continued on to Carricktown.  The track hadn’t improved since last time we were there and at one point the Challenger, on a narrow and deeply rutted section, decided it would try to swap ends with the back swinging out towards the drop off on the side of the track. Fortunately gravity came to the rescue and it came back into line.  The rest of the trip passed uneventfully and we enjoyed a convivial debrief at the Bannockburn Pub around 5 pm.  A successful trip, no damage or flat tyres and good company. 

The family aspect really added something to this trip, watching the four children enjoying the experience of 4WDing.  Ross’s boys loved driving through the mud and Noah a great job opening gates, while Soren and Jade’s children apparently added a white noise aspect to their parents’ trip due to their continuous chatter.

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