Sunday, March 16, 2008

The final installment of the Wonnangatta.

Over night was another chilly night, just perfect for lying back and starting at the stars. And there is certainly no shortage of them. But we had places to be, and so at dawn we were up and at ‘em again. A breakfast of baked bean toasties in the fire got us going again, some of us were a bit more sluggish than others, but we all agreed we could go a bit more sleep! Pack was a pretty simple affair with only swags and a bit of table action to go, and we were out of there at a pretty reasonable time.

Ben and his hilux had bought something to our attention earlier that we had glossed over as we didn’t want to have to deal with the problem. He’d made it to the Wonnangatta Valley, from Melbourne, without refueling. That meant that now he had a quarter tank, and had to get out. In the valley, its best to look at things in hours, and the climbs and descents on a map don’t give you accurate kilometer readings, so its safe to say we had hours to go. As it turned out, about 5 before we hit a servo. So it was gently gently on the throttle and we hoped like hell we made it. Contingencies included siphoning out of mine, or just a flat out tow, so we weren’t totally stuffed, but it was nervous times for many hours. But you know what, with a tank we assumed was 55 litres, we managed to cram 58 litres when we got to the servo in Mansfield…! So it was low baby, real low!

Anyway, it wouldn’t be an Epix without some drama, so we decided that was that, and away we went. Zeka Spur track was a good way to start the day, and a hell of a climb. Any hard asses wanting to prove a point, you are welcome to this track! I’m not sure it would even make a good descent!? Up and up and up she went, and by the time we had reached the Howitt Plains Road, we were pretty well into it. The sway bar that had come off my truck, and was now assisting the ‘lux with weight distribution, had made a huge difference, and now the big truck was easily walking up some of the steeper rocky tracks. Ben and Nat were sucking huge amounts of dust all day, something I am not envious of, but they made it through with barely a whimper.

The inner trial rider in Ben was too much, and he had to get out (maybe it was just the velvet ride of his truck that made him do it) and run all over this enormous rock field. The lower photo shows him atop the large rock, giving you an idea of the scale of this thing!

Lunch was called for Howitt Hut, and we pulled out the leftovers and had a cookup and a coffee. Kangabangers were the best use of skippy I’ve seen in a while, and tasty!! So whilst we were cooking and chatting away, my truck let out an almighty woosh and continued to leak something at high pressure. Thinking it was a tire, we were all ‘alarmed’ shall we say, as well as ‘surprised’ (in reality, we all s$#t ourselves, this thing went OFF!) and then worked out that it was a blanked-off air line letting go on my truck under pressure. Out came the tradies, tools in hand, and Nat fixed it up best he could in a jiffy.

It wasn’t the only time it blew out either- along the highway at about 90km/h, it let go again, and that definitely sounded like a tyre. Again, lucky us. So its on the list to get fixed…

We saw some funny sights along the way, mostly to do with other trucks, the people contained within and even saw a Honda Accord sitting at the Howiutt Car Park. That would have been a long slow drive, and I don’t care how much of a butcher you are! Being mindful of the fuel and dust situation, we managed to creek out little convoy all the way out to Sheepyard Flats, the site of the first Epix, and by then we’d had a sniff of home and were away! Ben’s fuel gauge just continued to drop, and drop and still the unbreakable hilux plodded on! Amazing!!

Quite thankfully we made it to Mansfield, fueled up and made contact with the outside world…

And in another few hours we made it home…!! And that, kids, is the end of our latest Epix. With 440 photos to sort, videos to make, bikes to service, gear to clean and ‘administrative tasks’ to attend to, work is never done, but the reason that we enjoy these rides so much is we can get away from all that. Riding a bike is ultimately a simple, pure exercise (ignoring the technology and equipment) and doing it in an environment like the Wonnangatta and its surrounds is quite honestly brilliant! We hope that you’ve enjoyed, just a little, seeing what we can get up to, and we hope that you too will be encouraged to get out there and ride your bike for the same very reasons you started – because its fun!