The plan would consist of a 4 day drive, several different campsite locations with history stops, time to take in the views and other attractions, but most of all meeting other forumites. Dedicated local 4wders and campers Kev ( woolgoolgaoffroad) and Justin ( Ranger2452), gave up their time to organise such an event recently where some 18 4wds turned up at Coffs Harbour to explore the surrounding hinterland. They were surprised when people travelled from as far as Canberra, Sydney, Ulladulla and even from north of Brisbane as well as a host of locals. The plan was simple, be self sufficient for 4 days with food, fuel, stick to dirt roads with minimal tar, camp at a different location each night, have a sense of adventure and expect to meet other similar enthusiasts.
The call was made to include camper trailers on this run, so we decided to break the crowd into 2 groups. Those with camper trailers and those without. Some slept in their 4wds, others had tent setups and a few even swaged it. Friday night we had a meet and greet BBQ where a local butcher supplied the meat for us all, this was a great ice breaker as most of us had never met except through the forum. With around 30 people at the BBq it was soon evident that fun times were to be had. It was a fine and sunny Saturday when we met at the local TJM store at Coffs Harbour, with the temperatures expected to hover around the 28' mark it was going to be a great trip. After the usual ''official talk'' on Saturday morning the groups soon departed with the 4wds leaving some 10 mins before the camper trailer crew, this would allow the 4wds not to get held up to much by the trailers, yet we would all meet for lunch at the same location and see the same sights.
The first part of the forum run unfortunately ran through the hustle and bustle of Coffs Harbour before heading westward. With a short run into the hills we were soon blessed with country roads passing through farms hidden amounts tall timbered valleys. As we passed through what locals call Orara Valley the chatter on the radio was alive and well with some history points thrown in to keep the interest alive. Soon we passed throughout he locality of Dairyville which lies on the outskirts of Bindary National Park. This park is alive and well with old growth forest gums towering over pristine rainforest pockets where ferns and palms are looking for any source of light they can find. This forest hasn't been logged for some half a century and it shows. A steep up hill run of several kilometres snaking its way through the rainforest saw a diverse change in the growth and had most cars looking for 4wd as the track wound its way upward to some 700 metres above sea level before reaching the cool climate of the Coffs Hinterland.
Just weeks before Coffs Harbour hosted a round of the world rally cars and with some 100 cars competing the roads up here had been swept clean, ensuring a greater than normal level of dust, creating a few gaps between cars to ensure safety. Soon the groups met for morning tea where we discovered and explore the old Village of Cascade. Cascade was one of 11 stops along the old Dorrigo to Glenreagh railway line. where timber, passengers and even livestock all bordered the old steam trains. There is remnants of the old case mill here where local timber was gathered to make ammo boxes for the diggers in WW11, and it was the location for a film back in the 60' before a fire swept through. Heading further along from here the groups headed into the Nymboi- Bindary National Park where our first night camp would be. Passing through thick rainforest pockets then emerging into pine plantations gave for some great sights. T
he roads through here are camper trailer friendly but seeing as camp was just a hour away we settled into a nice safe speed as we kept a lookout for the old red cedar stumps and other points of interest. Just before camp we regrouped to explore an old loggers camp, where the old fellas dragged the huge lumps of timber out of the bush using a central pole of some 90 feet high. This main pole had to be greased daily by the old shimmer up the pole method carrying a bucket of grease- no OH & S back then !!.. This was a great spot to stretch the legs with a 1km walk to check out the other highlights that included some huge Tallowood trees that are around 900 years old, an old narrow gauge timber rail bridge and the old loggers platforms.
National Parks have done a great job here by putting in a formed track along with information plaques to let us imagine just how tough life was then. Fortunatly our first camp was some 10 km further on so with an early camp, it was lunch, set up camp and relax beside the might Nymboida River as it rumbled past our camp flowing towards the coast. With plenty of grass for the kids to play and the availability to have a fire meant most campers were sorted for the night. Recent flooding in the area had cut down the camp sites by half but with a bit of juggling we soon got all tents, campers and swags set up. Something we didn't count on was an afternoon thunderstorm that left its mark with a good dousing of rain for several hours- this wasn't in the plan !!. At least the dust would be gone.
Day 2 saw us wake to ominous dark skies, so with a camp pack up and departure time by 9am, we soon left before anymore downpours. Todays adventure would lead us further west some 80 km towards the Guy Fawkes wilderness area, but with several river crossings, steep uphill rainforest sections and weaving our way up towards a height of 1300 metres above sea level it would be a great day. Leaving camp we were soon faced with a fast river crossing that led to an uphill steep section covered in leaf litter that created a few traction problems with the back few 4wds towing trailers, nothing that a couple of smart recoveries fixed. Our morning saw us wind and weave through thick dense scrub and rainforest. The biggest thing we noticed here that there was nearly no lantana to give us any curry- just soft tree ferns encroaching the tracks, defiantly a nice change. Soon we emerged further west in the Clouds Creek State Forest were pine plantations seemed to go for ever. The roads through here were in pretty good condition considering the plantations had not been logged for some time, giving us some great views on the high ridges as we crossed crossed our way through.
Unfortunatly joy turned to disappointment when we had to traverse some 20 km of tar towards the next turn. Our morning tea stop was a little roadside servo where chocolate deprived travellers soon filled their pockets for a sugar hit, the store owner sold out of hot food as the temperature dropped significantly with an approaching storm. Chatting to some other travellers they advised us that the storm was hail induced, so with that advice our group disbarred from our stop towards our next camp, with several others heading back to the coast. A quick diversion through the village of Dundurribin saw our group jump onto the Chealundi Trail which would lead us to our next camp. This trail defiantly gives you the feel of isolation as there is no phone coverage, minimal traffic and has ever changing weather conditions. The Chealundi Trail leads you through farmlands, several small gum plantations before heading up into the hills. The roads aren't too bad out here so it wasn't a problem with the campers or for the single vehicles. As we passed through several State Forests and Nature reserves it was evident that a recent fire has cleaned up several gullies on both sides of the trail, this will give life in the way of the native trees reseeding at the end of summer and allowing a fire break in case of the inevitable happening with a fire outbreak. The vegetation out here changes with every rise and fall, some sections we were passing thick timbered forests, vine infested rainforest's then cleared areas where cattle watched our convoy roll past.
Our morning tea stop was Vista Lookout, some 1300 metres above sea level where on a clear day you can see foreverkm. Yet today was a day where you struggled to see 100 feet down the road as the fog had rolled in, yet this gave an eerie feeling as you looked through the trees- sometimes thats just how it works. Our camp destination we were heading towards was the Chealundi Camping area some 20 km down the trail, but with this heavy fog we soon moved the convoy along. With a left turn down towards our campsite we decided to check out the Misty Creek Lookout located on the western side of the ridge and were given uninterrupted views across the deep gorges below as far west as we could see. Seems like the fog was hugging the coast side of the ridge, which was fine by us. Arriving early again, the routine was have a feed, set up camp, and kick back wandering from camp to camp. The great thing about this camp area is that there are several formed walks around the camp area. One of the walking trails leads you down to Chealundi Falls where the water plummets down some several hundred metres below, the few that ventured out here on this 15 min walk were graced with some great views. Our second camp was graced with a little nightly rain, yet this added to the ambience of the campfires scattered throughout the camping area.
Theres nothing like the pitter patter of rain on the top of a camper, and with last nights rain it gave us all an early night which meant an early rise for our 9 am departure. Not a hard today, simply wind tour way back up to the main trail, head down to the old gold mine town of Dalmortin and head to the next camp. Several stops along the way gave us a chance to check out other lookouts, Hamburger Rock ( trust me !!), and the ever changing vegetation. Seems funny that that as we peaked at a high of 1377 metres asl, the tall palms gave way to huge granite boulders that littered the bush, some were as big as a house !!. With a drive of some 30 km we soon found our way down to the old Dalmorton township where an early lunch was on the agenda. Dalmorton is situated on the old Cobb and Co route that linked Grafton and Glen Innes until the mid 1960's. National Parks have setup information boards and fenced off the remaining few structures that still stand, letting them rest in peace, yet allowing us travellers to view them. Just nearby there is a hand cut tunnel in which a few of us explored, it is still possible to drive through here and actually see some markings on the roof that date back to the 1880's. The great thing about this forum run was that there would be minimal travelling times where we could set up in a different location each afternoon- today would be no different.
After our regroup breaking up into 2 groups we soon headed along the Boyd River giving great views with the river snaking its way throughout the mountains. Water levels were a bit low, but there was still enough flow to cause a few rapids and let the Shags air their wings on the rocks above. A member of the run Dan from Grafton, had a few stops to show us along the way which included an old cemetery and some markings in a tree that dated back to the early 1880's. We were essentially heading towards The Nymboida Canoe centre, where with 100 acres it lies dead smack on the banks of a man made river where the water flows from an old power station. Here we were blessed with grassy sites, hot showers and flushing toilets. For a few that were game, the water soon enticed us for a mid afternoon swim that washed the dust away and gave a feeling of being alive- defiantly invigorating. Another feature of this run was that even though there was a different camping location each night- the distance between them all would be minimal, and today was no different with around 90 km travelled today it was another relaxing afternoon. Heading into the evening the options were varied from camp oven meals to a quick drive down the road to eat at a local pub owned by the infamous Russell Crowe, another great night where topics varied from camp fire to camp fire, yet tonite was different in the fact that we had stars !!.
The last day of any trip is always sombre yet today we still had some distance of around 100 km to travel before hitting the coastal strip. Waking up to sunny blue skies is always a joy and makes for breaking a little more enjoyable. Several of the travellers decided to break away this morning as commitments forced them to head home. The remaining crew of around 10 vehicles headed on the black top for a quick stint before heading into the Nymboi- Binderay National Park. This park is essentially an old growth forest with tall stands of Blackbutt, Ironbark and other species. Heading coastward we traversed gullies that were infested with vines, strangling anything that stood still for too long and large areas of Lantana. Todays dedicated lunch spot was Glenreagh where we enjoyed the shady picnic area beside the Orara River. Yours truly copped the only puncture for the trip when a stick pierced the side wall of a mud tyre in the car park. After lunch we headed towards our final leg of the journey - The Woolgoolga Ridge Trail.
This trail follows the cliff line towering several hundred metres high giving some great views westward from where our adventure had been. Around 30km in length there defiantly were times where most 4wds needed to engage low range, with sandstone steps, ruts and even several creek crossings had our tyres working overtime. The first 10 km saw us climb to the top of this trail before levelling out, but for everything that goes up, it needs to come back down. We knew we were getting closer to the coast as there were glimpses of the pacific ocean through the trees and even the vegetation was changing. Several challenging hillclimbs were encountered, one aptly named 'Widowmaker", where only one punter decided to tackle this monster hill.
With only kilometres left to go we eased further down the trail towards the coast before regrouping at a local park for our last formal chat. It had been a great several days away with lots of great forumites and their families who all shared a passion for what we do. The Coffs coast has many idealic locations and this showed just how far we didn't have to travel to enjoy a different camping location every night, visit some great points of interest and have a little history lesson thrown in for all to enjoy.