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Mataura Headwaters: September 30, 2023

Trip report by Kevin. Photos from Andras, Anton, Keith, Dave P, Kevin. Check out the Club’s Facebook page for more photos and some video clips from the trip.

Wow, what a great trip –certainly a lot more “interesting” (challenging) than planned due to a storm and flood the week before in the Mataura River valley. Rainfall and river levels were back to normal so the trip went ahead and we were prepared to turn back if we couldn’t find a path through.

Light snow was falling as 17 intrepid off-road adventurers in 8 trucks gathered at the Fairlight station, aired down then set off with the promise of weather improving during the day. After the farm paddock we got a sense of the extent of Mother Nature’s landscaping on the track at the first hazard!

The track was deceptively easy through to the uphill forest track and a great photo spot.

The flood had removed much of the ‘normal’ track so we had to pick a new path in many sections. Some drop-offs into the river and the exit bank were steeper and a lot of loose boulders.

Cade tested a traditional crossing but found the opposite bank was just too loose to climb and a deep hole in the river stopped access to an easier exit. We found a suitable crossing then headed on to the known awkward gully crossing – which was now way beyond awkward!

The banks on both sides had been washed away, large boulders were in the middle of the crossing and the exit bank was steeper with many boulders in the way. This could have been a ‘turn back’ moment, but no, there were plenty of willing volunteers for an impromptu working bee to make the crossing passable.

Kevin was the ‘lucky’ first in line to test the modified path – with a predictable outcome requiring a winch recovery. A sturdy fence post in the distance needed a winch extension strap, tree protector, an equaliser strap and a few soft shackles to reach the winch rope.

The first truck became the winch point for Dave then Keith. Between each recovery more work was done on the bank so the rest of the group then got through without winching. Great teamwork from everyone to get the group through with only minimal battle wounds inflicted being a cracked plastic bumper and revised shape (improvements?) for two exhaust tail-pipes.

Then it was on to Cowshed Hut for a later-than-planned lunch and for those planning to use the loo, some disappointment to see it had been blown over by the recent storm! Some of the group were seen heading into secluded spots – perhaps looking for some shade!

After lunch we reviewed the time and decided to forego the Robert Creek section and head back to the Kingston Flyer Café and Bar for a debrief. A bit more fun was had as we headed back.

The trip back was still interesting and no more recoveries required. New members Dave and Fiona showed off their skills and the very capable ‘Toyrado’. Dave has built this himself using a Landcruiser chassis, Isuzu engine and gearbox and a Holden Colorado body. A very impressive off-roader.

Overall a great trip. Unfortunately all the fun on the way in took too much time so we’ll have to wait for another day to tack on the Robert Creek section.

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