It was time to get away. After a very strange and home-focused 2020, we’ve been determined to have a more active and travel-focused 2021. Come February and after a very big birthday party, we were definitely in the mood to get out of Canberra for at least a night.
We decided on McIntyres Campground in Brindabella National Park, just west of Canberra. This is a four-wheel drive only campsite a short distance away from Flea Creek, which we’ve been to a few times.
We set off on Saturday morning. Packing up the van went so smoothly that we were both convinced we’d forgotten something crucial, but it turns out we hadn’t forgotten anything. For just an overnight trip, and with a bumpy road ahead, we tried to pack pretty light and ended up not needing to use the roofracks this time. The new setup without the original built in kitchen gives a lot more options in storing the big heavy items like our tent. We even had room for a new table and bench combo we’d bought recently. You can’t have too many flat raised surfaces while camping.
We aired down a few PSI when Brindabella Road turns to dirt to lessen the impact of the corrugations. They were pretty bad compared with previous trips, probably due to all the recent rain.
At ‘Piccadilly Circus’ we turned off into Two Sticks Road and headed down towards Mt Corree. Ollie of course fell asleep as soon as we hit the dirt – he’s very good at sleeping through rough roads and corrugations. We let down a few more PSI as well as we headed further in as the roads get pretty rocky and torn up in places. We turned off onto Mt Corree Summit Road and headed up the hill.
The van did very well over some tight and rocky turns on this track and we got to the summit without too much bother. The ABS light did come on and then turned itself off later, so that was probably just a loose connection to a sensor. The van also overflowed a tiny bit of coolant at the top of the hill, but the temp gauge didn’t move at all the entire trip so nothing unusual there.
After some great photos on top of Mt Corree, we got back in the van and backed up to head back down the hill. We spoke with some motorcycle owners just as we were leaving – they’d had a Delica in the past and regretted selling it recently. Back down the hill in low range 1 & 2 the entire time. At the bottom of the road, just past the Corree Campground, we turned right and continued down Two Sticks Road before turning onto the much rougher Baldy Range Trail.
For those that don’t know the area, in the Brindabellas there is usually a distinct difference between Roads and Tracks/Trails. Roads are almost always in much better condition and are easier to drive on, while Tracks or Trails are quite rough and often not maintained. This is usually true across Australian national parks and state forests, but there are definitely many exceptions, particularly for places that don’t have the fire trails graded regularly.
Dingi Dingi Ridge Trail was next, which rates as one of the funniest names to hear the Google Maps lady say. This is a pretty fun track with lots of hills and rocky areas, but nothing that would make things too dangerous or difficult for new drivers. At the end of this Trail we arrived on Webbs Ridge Trail for only 200m until turning off onto Waterfall Trail. My recommendation is not to do Waterfall unless you’ve got a bit of experience with offroading, as it is a very steep, rutted and often technical track. A lift and some underbody protection are recommended, and careful tyre placement is necessary on most of the hills (up and down). Going down this trail is actually not too bad, but remember you’ll need to travel back up eventually. I wouldn’t attempt this track in the wet at all without a winch or friend to help spot, but in the dry it’s not too bad by yourself.
On the way down this trail we caught up with a group of 4 Landcruisers and a Ford Everest. We’re not quite sure why they were going so slow, but they were incredibly painful to be caught behind them heading down the mountain. We’d been on the road for 2 hours now in pretty hot weather, and these guys were stopping us from finding a camp and jumping in the river.
After Waterfall Trail, we turned right onto McIntyres Trail and head all the way down to the campsite. Lowells Flat Campground is off this trail and we’ll head down that way to check it out at a later date. Once we got to the bottom we did the usual slow driveby of all the campsites to see which one would be suit us. We found one on the river that wasn’t too far from a toilet and set up our little campsite.
The campground is quite large, apparently there are over 30 sites. There was only 6 or so sites filled when we were there, probably due to the difficult track to get there. There’s a lot of grass, the toilets were clean and stocked and the river runs the length of the campsite.
There’s a bit of a drop to get to the water though, so we found the path with the slope for Ollie. After setting up and having a late lunch, we headed down to the river and experienced some very cold, clear and clean mountain water. The river is the Goodradigbee, which is actually the same river that we swim in when camping at Wee Jasper.
We enjoyed some beers and sparkling wine in the sun just sitting in the river. Ollie amused himself by being a crane, which involved transporting rocks from the bottom of the river to a slightly different place at the bottom of the river.
Around 3.30pm the shadows started covering the entire river and it got a bit too cold for us, so we walked back up to the campsite and enjoyed the quiet afternoon. The remoteness of this campsite means there is not a lot of traffic through the grounds, which is big contrast to Wee Jasper. We checked out the small Hut that is stationed at the entrance to the campsite. It’s not particular interesting, particularly as it has been rebuilt several times over the years so the actual hut itself is only a few years old. The graffiti was fun to read though, and Ollie enjoyed exploring the small ‘house’.
A quick walk up and down the campsite before dinner was next, saying hi to fellow campers with Ollie in tow. Dinner was simple hamburgers, which were much easier to make now that we have more than one table. We’d brought a bag of firewood and for once we were able to get a fire going nice and quickly. Ollie got into his PJs and then laid in bed for a while watching a movie on my phone. He doesn’t mind falling asleep in new locations, but he hates when something unusual or interesting is happening that he’s not involved in. FOMO. But he got to sleep okay on his little camp mat in between myself and Rosie.
As for us, we stayed up until 10pm watching the fire, drinking red wine and listening to the night. There was a tiny bit of rain, but that just cooled things down and was more refreshing than anything. That night, Rosie got pushed off her sleeping mat by Ollie and ended up sleeping on the floor of the tent. I’m sure there was a number of other places she could have slept, but that’s where she ended up.
That morning we actually got a little sleep in, with Ollie not waking up until 7.30am. At 8am we left the tent and started getting breakfast together – wraps with bacon, egg, haloumi, rocket, tomato and peri peri mayo. It was just a little too cold for a swim in the morning, so we packed up the van and started the long climb out of the valley back towards Canberra. Google Maps says that the route is only 83.3km to our house, but takes about 2hr and 5 minutes. That sounds about right.
The track out of the campground had only one difficult obstacle that took a few attempts. It was too steep to get out of the car to take a video or photos, but it was a hard left hairpin into a deeply rutted and rocky climb. We ended up having a few attempts and then trying a completely different line on the right hand side which went quite well. That morning we had heard other vehicles in the distance coming to a stop and having multiple attempts at an obstacle – I would guess this was the same one. The rest of the climb out is very rocky and technical and required low range 1 & 2 the entire time, but very rewarding and interesting if 4wding is your hobby of choice. We got stuck behind a ute towards the top of Waterfall Trail, but he was going faster than the crew the day before so it wasn’t too bad.
As soon as we hit Dingi Dingi and Two Sticks, Ollie fell asleep. He loves the rough paths to sleep on, but he wasn’t a big fan of the more extreme driving that we did. He loved calling out ‘Up Up UP!’ and ‘Down Down DOWN’ on the whoops though. On the way home we stopped at Casuarina Sands for a quick stretch and snack.
We got back home around 1pm and started unpacking, after feeding the needy little cat. All up we’d had a brilliant weekend away without too much fuss or hassle. The 4wding parts were (for me) quite fun, but they can drag on after a while.
Boring technical stuff.
All up, the van performed incredibly well on some of the harder and more technical tracks we’ve tried in it. The front approach angle of the van has been raised only a little with the bigger tyres and suspension, but I didn’t have any problems with clearance on any of the tracks. The aftermarket underbody protection did get used, but that’s paid for itself already several times over. Google ‘T0me bashplate’ if you’d like one of your own. The Toyo tyres were let down only to 30 PSI and that seemed enough given the dry conditions. They’ve performed very well over the years on sand and dirt. We only did a half tank of fuel for this trip, which considering the actual driving was only 160km is sadly on par with our highway driving! The rear platform with its tiedown points for gear inside the van continue to work well even on steep angles.
The ABS light coming on after vibrations will need to be looked at eventually, though it has fixed itself now (magic self-repairing van). There is a definite noisy squeak coming from the rear wheel carrier over corrugations that I can’t seem to trace and fix just yet. That entire carrier needs to be looked at for fatigue eventually though as it’s gone through a hard life on the back of the van. It might need some additional bracing for the tyre/jerry can combo that’s mounted on it currently.