Monday, June 24, 2013

Trip Report - Abercrombie River National Park

Held together with Duct Tape, the 1984 Toyota Land Cruiser 60-series, fitted with the 4.0L diesel engine, had clocked over 700,000km.
Toyota Land Cruiser 60-Series
Its leaf suspension flexed as it kept pace with a new Jeep Rubicon mounted on 35” mud terrain tyres as we traced fire Trails around NSW Central tablelands Abercrombie River National Park.  Gazetted in 1994, this park protects the largest intact patch of open forest in the area and offered us an exciting weekend away traveling the steep fire trails and exploring the various campsites.

Our group included two Land Cruisers – an old 60-series, and slightly younger 80-Series - both powered by diesel engines.  The two newest vehicles in the fleet included a Jeep Rubicon, neatly kitted with many accessories and a Nissan Navara double cab.
My 1996 Land Rover Discovery, in its unmodified factory condition,  felt tiny compared to the other vehicles and was the only automatic on the trip.
80-Series, Navara, Rubicon & 60-Series
Departing Sydney on a Friday evening after work involves patience as you attempt to leave the boundaries of the city.
Gibraltar Rocks
Our destination for the evening was a state forest and a bush campsite named Gibraltar Rocks.  We arrived around 9pm, having meandered through the state forest as the GPS guided us to our destination.  After a very chilly sleep, the morning sunrise lazily brightened the crisp air whilst the valley was shrouded in fog.  The only noise was birdsong.

A quick packup and we were on the road for the final drive to the Abercrombie National Park via Jenolan Caves.
Entering from the Eastern side of the Park, we traced our digital footprint using the Memory-Map Android application and the NSW Topographical 25k maps.  The firetrails in the area had interesting names – “Felled Timber” ; “Little Bald Hill” ; "Brass Walls”.  The campsites, “Silent Creek”, “The Beach” and “The Sink” enticed us to visit each one.

Abercombie NP is well known for its steep ascents and descents, plus being limited to dry weather only.  As a result of the gradients, our travel time was slow which meant that the journey time to our Saturday evening campsite took over 4hours to travel the 29km in the park - excluding time for lunch and track negotiation.
Photo courtesy of D&R 

Land Rover Discovery - Ascending Brass Walls Fire  Trail
Photographs don't do justice to the gradients.  The hills steep enough to keep the passengers focused and the drivers motivated to select the right gear for the terrain.

There are a number of campsites scattered around the park. Our destination on Saturday was the Silent Creek campsite.  This is a large grassed campsite parallel to the creek (which was flowing but is named Silent Creek for often looking dry).
Silent Creek Campsite, Abercrombie NP
We were the only campers, and probably the only people camping in the whole of the national park due to the cold weather forecast.  Our camping setup differed per vehicle: pop-up tents, a rooftop tent, inflatable mattress in a vehicle and a stand-up dome tent.  One thing which was in common: we all had good sleeping bags to keep the Southern Hemisphere winter at bay.

It did not take long for the fire to be roaring, flames lifting to the stars and the sound of content conversation echoing around.

On Day-2 (Sunday) we visited two alternative campsites, namely, The Beach and The Sink.
For our group, Silent Creek was the best option for us compared to the other campsites we visited.
The Beach campsite consisted of river pebbles and followed the banks of the river.
The Beach Campsite
The Sink, named after a fisherman erected an old sink to clean fish, is a small area of grass next to the river bank.  This site is ideal for a small group. It's worth noting that you need to be self sufficient with enough water, food and fire wood for a few days as the campsites are rustic and only offer non-flush toilets and fire pits.
The Sink, Abercrombie NP
Back to the route and the driving conditions...
The fire trails are in very good condition with good traction in dry weather and plenty of warnings that certain trails are dry weather only.

D&R, the owners of the 80-Series, gave me my first opportunity to drive this well renown Land Cruiser.  Fitted with an after-market Turbo, the 4.2L Diesel engine offered a nice balance between torque and acceleration. This early 80-Series has an open centre differential which was lockable in 4High (push button) and automatically locked in Low Range.  Engaging the clutch, the engine would idle comfortable along in Low 2nd gear allowing me to select a route of least resistance as we climbed hill after hill.

H&N have been driving Jeep's for years and are wizards at explaining all the finer aftermarket modifications that are available.  No track in the Abercrombie NP was a challenge for this vehicle.

We all know the rules - if you see water covering the trail that you are traveling on, it is worth stopping the vehicle and testing the depth of the water.  In the case below, we knew that we would be recovered if the water proved too deep - which it did, bottoming out the Discovery.
I am not adverse to getting stuck as it gives me the option to practice my vehicle recovery skills and to add an element of adventure to the trail.

Recovery was swift as the Nissan Navara was fitted with a 12,000lbs winch.  We used a couple of d-shackles and a Snatch Block to assist with the recovery.  Within a few minutes the Discovery was pulled out backwards and an alternative route around the water hole was followed. (Additional reading: Basic Guide to Winching)

Photo courtesy of D&R
There were a number of small streams to cross - all of which normally had a major decent followed by the shallow water crossing and a slow careful grind up hill afterwards.

We spotted quite a few kangaroo's and Wallabies with a highlight being a Wombat and a drove of feral pigs (of which there are over 23million in Australia!).

We were very aware that most of the tracks were Dry Weather only so when a light drizzle rain started whilst having lunch, we quickly packing our gear and enjoyed a damp last few Km's on the Link Fire Trail.

Interested in following our route? You can download the GPS tracks from Dropbox:
Day 1 & Day 2 (GPX).  Be sure to allow yourself a full day to complete the first part of the trail.  Day 2 offers quicker travel times.

A final thanks to my fellow 'Winter Camping' enthusiasts for making the weekend enjoyable.

Last Thoughts:

Abercrombie River National Park was a nice surprise.  It surpassed my driving expectations with its gradients which left me pleasantly surprised.  
Two vehicles used Memory-Map on a Google Nexus 7 (inbuilt GPS) and Apple Ipad (external GPS) as the primary navigation device.  The NSW 25K topographical maps were detailed and accurate.
As expected, there was no mobile coverage.
I used 4x4 Earth as a starting point for the tracks so as to get an understanding of the various routes.
My Land Rover Discovery 300Tdi averaged 13.07L/100km of which 60km (around the park) was spent in low range.

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