TRIP REPORT FOR FEBRUARY 22-23, 2003
Friday, February 21:
This was our inaugural trip. Although we were planning on leaving Sydney at 1800 hours, we didn't actually leave until around 1930 hours. Traffic conditions for those coming along to join us were quite heavy, and the weather didn't help peak-hour at all. Still, we finally managed to get away and head off down the M5. We had a smooth journey up to Maitland, where we dropped in to Gillian's place at 2230 to have a "driver reviver" break at the play party she had organised. The break was welcomed, as were the drinks and nibblies, and we stayed for around 45 minutes before continuing north to Muswellbrook. Passing through Muswellbrook and Scone, we took the turn-off on the New England Highway that would take us inland and up into the mountains.
The drive up into the lower mountains was uneventful in spite of the pouring rain, until we were about 10km or so from the first homestead, where the (public) road was blocked by a fallen tree branch. Although the branch wasn't overly thick, it was so flexible due to it being green and soaked, that there was no way it was going to break off, so I got out the chainsaw and baptised it on the spot (I had only bought it the week before, for occasions just such as this) and we were soon on our way again. Before too long, we were at the front gate of the first homestead, which marked the starting point of our foray into the upper mountains. This was where the driving was going to get really steep. The fun was about to begin.
On this particular weekend, BDSM stood for Bloody Deep, Slippery Mud. We passed through the 4 or so properties to get to the lower plain at around 0300 hours without any real dramas (of course, the lucky volunteers who were assigned gate-opening/closing duty might beg to differ) but this was only about 2km of the 8km total track. Once we got onto the lower plain, things got interesting. For now, the rain had basically stopped for a while and all we had was the occasional, barely-perceptible sprinkle for a few minutes when it did rain. This made things a lot easier, which was a good thing, as it was enough fun without getting drenched as well! The track up to this 2km point was basically grass, and although slightly slippery, offered no real problems. The next kilometre was a little trickier with a little bit of mud mixed in with the grass, but still not really a challenge. The final 5km though, turned to real slush and mud. The next two hours were not boring. We were travelling in two 60-series Land Cruisers; one was mine, the other had come up from Canberra and was towing a trailer. At this final gate, 2km from the front gate of the first homestead, I aired down, and we kept a buffer zone of around 200 metres between our vehicles as I tried my luck at going up the track. Progress was slow and steady, but on one occasion, my passengers had to get out and walk up ahead of the 4x4 (being beside or behind the truck is dangerous, as it's too easy to go sideways or backwards, which I did a fair bit, and hit someone) as their extra weight was causing me to stop moving forward - traction was so minimal. This stuff was extremely slippery, and sticky. You know that kind of clay-based soil that you step into and when you lift your foot, it's10kg heavier? Where you try to scrape it off the bottom of your shoes, and it's so thick and heavy, you need a shovel? It was that sort of mud. And we're trying to go uphill on that stuff, in a fully-laden 2-tonne truck, at three in the morning, in pitch-black conditions. God, I LOVE FOUR-WHEEL DRIVING!!
After my passengers got out, I managed to carve a path and go a little farther up, by about 50 metres. They got back in, and we continued, with the other 4x4 following about 200m behind. He had to be very careful as the trailer was large and could take on a mind of its own if due care wasn't exercised. It took us about an hour to travel that 1km and then we came to the point where the grass/mud mix gave way to just mud. I had to get my passengers out again and made several attempts to get up the hill. At this point, not only did the ground turn to pure mud, but the gradient also had a distinct change in it. The steep climb for the final 500 or so metres of altitude had begun. We were leaving the lower plains for the mountain proper.
This was now heavier going. No matter what I tried, I couldn't get through one particular stretch of track, around 150m or so. I really wished I had diff locks, but I didn't (neither did the other truck) so I got around the problem section by carving out a new track higher up on the grassy banks that ran alongside. This worked, until of course we had to go back onto the track proper, at which point the gradient got a lot steeper, and that was that. It was obvious we weren't going any farther, at least for a while. The general consensus was that we'd see what the conditions turned to be like after daybreak, and hopefully the ground would have dried out enough to allow us to continue. I drove back down about 200m to where the other vehicle was, and we started to set up camp for the night. It was now around 0430 hours, and time to get some sleep. We finally settled down at around 0500 hours. The silence was awesome; all you could hear was the rustle of the grass in the light breeze, the occasional patter of the rain on the ground, one of our party making the other Land Cruiser sway sideways as he was sleeping in the back seat, snoring loudly enough to scare the local wildlife away, and the sound of sheer horror as my sub realised that she couldn't escape from the 4x4 when I (accidentally of course) dropped long, silent, but deadly, farts in my sleep, because there was nowhere else to go - the other 4x4 and tents were occupied. God, I LOVE FOUR-WHEEL DRIVING!!
Saturday, February 22:
Dawn arrived in spectacular fashion. The rolling hills were shrouded in majestic, thick, fog, and I went back to sleep and woke again at 0800. The air was clean and still (until I opened the door of my 4x4, causing it to depressurise, whereupon the fumes settled on the ground and quickly killed every living creature in the soil for a radius of 10 metres around the truck; this location has been stored in the GPS as "Ground Zero" for future reference) and I decided to go out and walk around a bit. I think everybody else was still asleep at that stage, but wasn't sure. The other Land Cruiser was still swaying, so either he was still asleep, or involved in a threesome with the couple sleeping in the trailer tent attached to the towbar behind. I didn't want to know. I had work to do.
I went back up the track on foot, having a look at where I had managed to get to a few hours earlier. The track was a real mess - churned-up mud and rocks lay strewn everywhere. Of course, this wasn't a great surprise, but I had spoken to the owner on the day before we were due to leave and discussed the conditions and the likelihood of just this sort of thing happening, but he said he'd give his OK if we were still determined to have a go. After seeing what the track looked like in daylight, it was obvious why it had been impassible earlier. The slope was too steep for any real progress to be made when it was wet. We had come through in December when we were originally checking the property out and it was dry then - going up to the top was no effort at all, as there was plenty of grip. This time, it was time to find a workaround. I walked along the grassy slopes and found an alternative path, that wasn't as steep, and was grass instead of mud. The only problem with this was that there was a narrow section that ran right alongside the original track, and there was a rather thick branch from a fallen tree getting in the way, so off I went back to the camp site to fetch the chainsaw.
Cutting the branch was a bit of work and required multiple cuts, but I finally got through it and hauled it out of the way. It was damned heavy. It was now 0830 - I think the sound of the saw may *just* have been audible to the camp site below, because soon afterwards, I saw some movement amongst the tents. Just as I had finished moving the tree branch out of the way, I heard the faint sound of a motor coming from farther up the track. About 5 minutes later, the owner and his partner appeared on a quad, towing a small trailer behind them. We exchanged hellos and it turned out they had just barely managed to get up to the house yesterday, before it had started to rain, and told me that it was very messy up there, and that the best course of action would be to take what we needed for the day, climb on board the trailer, and taxi up to the house: we'd come back and fetch the trucks the following day, after the track had dried out. Now, this sounded like wise advice, but God, I LOVE FOUR-WHEEL DRIVING!! So I thought I'd see if I could make it up the track anyway, while some of the others did the dismount-and-trailer-ride thing. Watching the quad go up the track, it was spinning its wheels profusely, and I wondered how much fun I'd have in something that weighed 10 times as much.
Much to my surprise, I actually managed to get to the top. It was all slip and slide, mud was thumping in big clumps, and the only thing that made it possible was sheer momentum. We couldn't contact the other 4x4 still waiting on the lower plain (the hills got in the way of radio communications), so after unpacking mine, I went back with another in our group, down the mountain. The idea was for the Canberra crew to unhitch their trailer, take what they needed on board, and follow me up. If I needed to, I'd snatch strap them over the boggier bits.
The trailer was unhitched, we were all set to go, and then... bad news: the diesel wouldn't start! Try as we might, we couldn't get it to go, although it would happily spin over. After some trouble-shooting, we determined that we had no glow plugs - bummer. It was now lunchtime and we had been going at this for a couple of hours, so we left the diesel where it was and started our way back up to the top, and would resolve what to do about it later in the day. On the way up the trail we came to a bend, where the trailer from the quad had been unhitched and left, because it got bogged. Just ahead of that, one of our group spotted what appeared to be a white, rectangular bit of plastic, in the middle of the track. This turned out to be the lid from an esky, belonging to said member of our group, and it was obvious that his sub (who had gone part-way up to the house in the back of the trailer, lying on some hay and covered by my tarp to keep the copious amounts of mud at bay, and then back-seated it the rest of the way up on the quad) had lost it there. We collected the esky lid, and then I decided to have some fun when we turned up at the house, the Canberra crew with us, their supplies with us, but minus their truck. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. We were greeted as I pulled up outside the front verandah, and the four of us got out. I was going to put on a sombre expression to start things off, but my work had already been cut out for me by what was asked of me next, so it saved me some time.
My sub looked at me and asked, "Where's the truck?"
I think our mistake was when we pushed The Plan into Stage Two:
I think it was at this point, where we all just stared at each other, that they finally realised they had been had, and believe me, there's nothing scarier than subbies on the war path.
After checking each glow plug, we had the feeling that there were no shorted plugs, and put the bus bar back and took a lead from the battery straight onto the bus bar, in order to fire them up. The motor fired into life (yay!) and we were off. Just in time, too, as we could see rain coming and I didn't want us to go up the track while it was pouring. We finally got the diesel up to the house at around 1530 hours. Piece of cake, really.
This 2000-acre station is remote, and I mean REMOTE, and covered in heavy forest (semi-rain forest in places). There is a large American barn on the land, which was the main play space, but there are also several kilometres of dirt track to walk/drive along (or even take your sub along naked for a nice walk on a leash), virgin (ooh!) forest to explore, old timber worker's sheds, etc. There are also horses (the four-legged kind) and other animals such as wombats, rabbits, pigs, cows, goats, wallabies and kangaroos in abundance.
There is nothing around you but bush. Outdoor play is limitless, and there's a ready supply of cut timber out near the sheds to build things like a St Andrews Cross or a rack if you're that way inclined with a chainsaw. Noise is not a problem as there are no neighbours within earshot, eyeshot, or any other kind of shot.
To give you an idea of how far the station is off the beaten track, there's no mobile phone coverage even though you're at the top of a 1299m mountain plateau (I think you can just barely get a connection by standing in one corner and pointing your antenna into a tail wind but we didn't have any luck today) so you can bet you won't be interrupted by the ringing of a phone.
For now we had the house, the barn, and a fireplace. We sat around socialising and at around 1830 hours started the BBQs going. While we were entertained with guitar and song, we relaxed with beer, sangria, and soft drinks, while delicious fare such as onions, potato, steaks, sausages, meat patties, garlic octopus, sweet chilli octopus, chicken breasts, marinated chicken wings, vegetarian patties, bacon and eggs, tandoori chicken winglets, and BBQ chicken winglets were sizzling away on the BBQs outside, the smells wafting across the patio. Supplementing all this were items such as cheese, pickles, biccies, dip, pecan and custard Danish, salads, chickpea salad etc. We really know how to rough it out in the bush.
I think at this stage, I had better introduce you to one of the locals. His name is JR; we first met him when we came up to the property in December of 2002, when we were checking it out to see if it was suitable for the inaugural 4WD BDSM Getaway! Weekend tour. JR has been hand-raised, and thinks he's a dog. He certainly doesn't think he's a goat. JR likes his alcohol. While we were sitting by the fireplace back in December, his owners gave him some beer. This took place on the rear patio area. After partaking of his liquid gold, we watched him for a bit. He clambered up and down on a pile of firewood for a while, and then he climbed into a nearby blue plastic box, which was about 1m long and wide, and perhaps 600mm high. All four legs were in the box, and he just stood there. After a few seconds, he started swaying. After swaying for about half a minute, JR and the box went over the edge of the patio as one unit. *Clunk*. Poor old JR had fallen about a metre. The patio was now deserted. After about 20 seconds, this head popped up, and one wobbly goat shook itself and clambered back up onto the patio. I think JR needs the 12-step program. He's friendly enough, perhaps a little too friendly, if you know what I mean. When we had the BBQs going, I had to take him over to the barn and lock him in there (dragging a goat by the horns can be a little difficult when they don't want to go) as it was proving impossible for anyone to get any cooking done. I let him out after a couple of hours of solitary, and my, how his attitude had changed... quiet and obedient. We're going to put a sign up on the barn later and open a Training School For Recalcitrant Subbies. We stand to make a fortune. And by the way, no, JR does not have a licence to drive a quad. He has to turn 16 first. Before that though, we're going to get him to see a sex therapist, as he has no interest in any of the wild goats that roam around the property. There were plenty of female goats nearby one morning, and he just ignored them. We're currently petitioning the government to subsidise Viagra for goats. Stay tuned, we'll keep you posted on developments on this important social issue.
Although it had been a bit of an adventure getting up here, it's all part of the experience, and everyone felt better after having relaxed for a bit. Dinner was most enjoyable, and the socialising and entertainment continued until around 2200 hours, when it was time to head off to the barn for the play party. The weather had been varied during the day, to say the least, but it was quite surprising when we stepped out into the night to be greeted by the thickest fog I've seen for a long time. There's no power connection to the outside world, but there was a generator, and the barn had its own internal and external lighting. The effect of the light shining into the fog was quite surreal. Playing in a barn made quite a change from the normal suburban house setup. Tall cross-beams, high roof.... need we say more?
After the play party was over, it was time to head back into the house for a wind-down in front of the fireplace. Everyone fell asleep quickly, that night. Not a mouse stirred, not even a chainsaw.
Sunday, February 23:
It had been raining all night, and it looked like the rain was going to stay the day. This didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves, though, as we spent the morning in discussion about various aspects of BDSM (Q: What is sub drop? A: That's when the branch holding the chain snaps, and they plummet to the ground, head first) around the fireplace. After lunch, we went looking around a bit in the 4x4 while everybody else stayed inside. Wimps! It was too wet to play outside though, so after looking around for a while, we went back to the house. It was nearly time to pack up for the trip home. The Canberra crew left at around 1400 hours, and we left a couple of hours later. The rain had become an intermittent light drizzle, and the trip down the mountain was a little slippery, but uneventful.
When we got back onto the public road, we stopped awhile to air up the tyres for the highway. This job is made easier if subbies don't get the idea that they can get out of control. As his Mistress had a sore back, I did her a favour by chasing after the cheeky bugger with a big stick. It's amazing how fast they can run when their self-preservation instinct kicks in. We aired up and headed for home.
The drive back home passed through some beautiful countryside, and we finally got home (after taking our time and a lengthy dinner at Blackhills Roadhouse) at 0130 hours. Everyone had enjoyed themselves, and even with the fun of trying to get up to the top of a slippery mountain, nobody regretted taking the plunge (that's a figure of speech, folks). Damage to vehicles was minimal; I need to panel beat the bash plate beneath my gearbox as it's been bent up like a banana by a very large, very solid rock somewhere. Ouch.
We all enjoyed our weekend, as did our hosts.
As Arnie said, "Ve'll be back!"