Thursday, February 2, 2012

Australian Adventure: Log 3

Camping on the beach in my converted Toyota Landcruiser, I was up at 3 AM to hopefully find that the emergency services crews had cleared the three separate flooded sections of the highway. To my excitement, I breezed through with no issues; however, one of the crews told me that the highway was still flooded several hundred kilometers up, and that I may want to try an inland route if I had any hope of making Brisbane. However, they said it with a chuckle, making me think my chances were slim at best. Stopping off at another Information outlet, I picked up a local map and planed my route. From Kyogle I would make my way north to the Lindesay Mountain pass in hopes that it was high enough ground to stay uncovered on my way to Beaudesert. However, as I left the town, the rain was falling harder than I’ve ever seen rain fall and more of the landscape was under water than not.

It didn’t take long to find a familiar sight; traffic signes, caution signs and a roadway that sank into the murky depths of the flooded low lands. However, this time there were no Emergency Services Crew standing guard, and measuring the roadside indicators, I knew that this body of water was only about a foot deep, even if it was travelling across the road with some velocity. With the speed of the water, I nosed in much more cautiously this time, not worried about depth, but of the possibility that the road surface was washed away underneath. After a good 15-minutes and several hundred meters of water crossed, I was on the far shore and shooting north once again.

 This was a situation that would show itself two more times as I crossed the water logged low-lands, however, my wary disposition turned positive as I left the farmlands and began to lift up into the lushest green tropical rain forest I’d ever seen. Massive tall standing eucalyptus and Gum trees where surrounded by shorter fern trees with a forest floor packed full of yet even more ferns. The gentile winding country road was already quite pleasant working its way through the hills before the forest, however, once in the forest, the nature of the road changed quite radically.

With the rain pouring down, the Lindesay road began to jerk and kick its way through the thick undergrowth. Long open bends quickly turned to sharp narrow bursts that wound up into the mountains, the forest spilling out over the road with the weight of the water pouring down. However, that cruel bitch, Mother Nature, wasn’t done with me yet. About 20-kilometres up the road, a large pile of red mud had obscured the roadway in front of me. This time, 4-Low was locked in and the increased ride height saw me not only safely over the 100-meters of dirt in front of me, but another nasty washout shortly down the road.

As I began to descend down the East side, the rain began to become more and more violent, and having been through this situation for the last few days, I knew that I was now in a race with the water to get down to the lowest point. Before I knew it, the tropical rain forest was being replaced with open meadows as the road continued to wind just a viciously down through the undulating and hilly topography, however, still lined with several layers of trees to keep the corners blind. What wasn’t blind anymore were the rather serious drop-offs that now lined the left side of the road. With no barriers to save me if I locked up a wheel, my slow speeds in the 4x4 allowed me to momentarily look away from the road, and straight down a 200-metre drop. All of a sudden, this road, race with Mother Nature and situation just got a lot more serious.

Finally I broke out of the trees and into the meadows, although I was still racing the water down the mountain. Great rivers of water were now flowing across the roadway and undermining the side edges. I soon came to a bridge signed “Tamrookum Creek bridge #7.” Having crossed over several bridges before, I was hoping that these numbers would be going up, however I was not very surprised to find “Tamrookum Creek bridge #6” only a short distance down the road. The race was on for “Tamrookum Creek bridge #1” as that will likely be the lowest in the rapidly flattening out terrain, and the most likely to be covered by flood waters. The suspense built as my fears were coming true, each bridge was getting a little lower to the ground, the water getting a little higher as the countdown continued.

Finally I rounded a sharp corner, spraying water to both sides of the road, to find that “Tamrookum Creek bridge #1” was still over the water, at least just as I rocketed over top, crossing the finishing line. I had felt like I had just won a long distance marathon with mother nature, and I really couldn’t ask for a better battle ground for the fight to take place. Despite not having a machine that would give me the greatest driving pleasure on such a road, I never would have found it if it wasn’t for the fording and off-road abilities of my Britz 4WD camper. Thank goodness I did have it, as this was one of the most epic roads I’ve driven yet.

The pressure was off, and I could now meander my way to Brisbane, only a short, and finally dry, 150-kilometres. I arrived at my destination, the home of Marks nephew… kinda… inlaw, who has graciously put up the team. Both Mark and mechanic Craig, my fellow ground crew member are waiting, and they even have the vehicle that we will be traveling in around Australia, a beat up old Nissan Patrol. After three days on the road, I finally get a well-earned shower, and can finally relax as we wait for Glen, the fourth team member who wasn’t so lucky getting through the washed out mess I had just endured.

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