Monday, November 4, 2013

Trip Report: Olney & Watagan State Forest

The white Toyota Hilux ute, powered by the 3.0TD 1KZ-TE engine, fitted with Cooper Discoverer STT Mud terrains and driven by an enthusiastic Central Coast 4wd member lead our small convoy of Toyota's and one lone Land Rover Discovery towards the Olney and Watagan State Forest.
Unlike previous weekend trips, we had no plan (which is very unusual for me!).  Little did we know what awaited...

The New South Wales State Forests (Olney & Watagan) are actively harvested for timber, some sections dating back 150 years. Impressively, forest management has encouraged recreational use (4wding, Trail riding, hiking and camping) and as a result of this, have won a number Gold awards from the Hunter Central coast tourism.

I received a txt message a few days before the weekend:
"There has been a bit of rain, so some old clothes/shoes would be good."

The Central Coast State Forests are notorious. Forums warn drivers that the fire roads are tough and vehicles should be fitted with lift kits, mud tyres, winches and ideally should be a trophy truck rather than an overland prepped Discovery.

The dust drifted lazily as I followed the Toyota's along the various fire trails. The Memory-Map app displayed the detailed 25K NSW topographical map and kept a GPX log of our route as we bounced our way around trails with names like Yambo Forest Road, Jiffy Pot Road and Gills Point road. Names that referred to a past that is hidden deep in the timber industry.
Sawpit Road
Chatter on UHF CH10 echoed through the Discovery's interior... the driving was relaxed, the pace easy and the banter on Ch10 amusing. The notorious Watagan State Forest was yet to reveal itself.

"The fun now begins' chirped the Oricom UHF radio.

The Olney State Forest road mimicked the roads of Central Africa, not Australia. Sun baked mud held the light brown muddy waters at bay and prevented it from escaping down the hill.
Four tracks, with dried mud banks, provided a discussion point on the way through...

Our plan was to get one of the vehicles with mud terrean tyres through the water, which would then allow us to pull the Discovery and the Prado through.

 The Land Cruiser 80-Series would be the last vehicle through just in case a rear recovery was required.
Slightly muddy after the 1st attempt
Three recoveries later... It was a tough call to make - do we continue to attempt the current route, or do we call it quits and do a u-turn?
Memory Map - NSW Topographical
The map shows where we opted to do a u-Turn and bypassed the track. The new track was easier but still required sufficient ground clearance. The Discovery, running on standard 235/70x16s constantly ploughed diff ruts and at one point required the use of the sand tracks and even a tug up the last hill.
Waiting for the Toyota 'Tug Boat'
Energy levels were running low and time running out... It was time to find a campsite, build a fire and get the evening meal prepared.

Dwarfed by large slash pine trees, our campsite, aptly named, The Pines camping area, provided a sheltered spot under the hot sun. The campsite was clean with new drop toilets.

Dinner for the night was a roast leg of lamb prepared on the Cobb camp oven.

Fresh coffee was on the breakfast order...

The attempted water crossing had affected the basic electrics on the Hilux and as a result, a push was required to get the engine started.  Thankfully the Hilux had a manual gearbox.  I need to do a more research on how to start an automatic when the start motor fails and a push start is not an option.

Attempting repairs
Our trip away might only have been 'one night only' but it had its fair share of adventure, good scenery and chirpy company.

Here are my closing thoughts on Olney and Watagan State Forest:

  • Be prepared with the usual food, water & reliable vehicle.  
  • Mobile Signals strength varies considerably.
  • Watch for trail motorbikes
  • The 25K NSW Topographical map is very accurate
  • Large wildlife is limited (we did not see one roo, possum or wombat)
  • The driving is exciting.  Keep a track log of your route and explore the various trails