Victorian High Country Hell - The GQ Patrol's First 4wd Trip
As I am a 4wd virgin and my partner is (a mad keen 4wd fishing and camping junkie) he convinced me to buy a 4wd. A mate of mine had his up for sale with a few mods and accessories already aboard so I jumped at the chance to get my very own 1986 GQ patrol.
‘She’ needed a little work done to her for roadworthy but once that was all sorted I could not wait to get her out on the open road.
We had decided that a trip to Melbourne to see my other half’s family for Christmas was on the cards (it was also my very first long distance trip with my own little family.) Not to mention my very first trip that could involve dirt roads, bog holes, ruts and steep drop offs). On the journey down to Melbourne we took the Hume highway. It was quite a long trip especially with a 6yr old and a 1 year old in the back but the DVD player seemed to keep them amused and the pile of movies.
There were a few issues with the’ mighty q’ like pressure building in the top radiator hose so the car was constantly getting a little too warm for my liking (lucky hubby is mechanically minded) or I would have been buggered, then 90km out of Melbourne the GQ somehow let an electrical gremlin hitch a ride with us! Well this gremlin was a cheeky little gremlin, we had wires pulled out, we disconnected our LED lights strips in the back, and we pulled apart the ignition switch-talk about drama.
So we finally gave in and gave hubby’s younger brother a call he is a qualified mechanic. He drove the hour and a half to get to us to have the same issue? We were clueless, needless to say being that it was dark and very late, I cracked it at the boys who wanted to tow it home and told them to get a tow truck as I had children and I was getting very frustrated. One of the boys giggled and replied’ no worries’ and as he dropped his hands on top of the engine bay we heard the click again from the electrical issue.
Turns out it was just a loose clip near the battery terminal so we dodged up the ignition (had to start it with a screw driver) and headed to our destination. The next morning we headed into town to do a few things, pulled up at our first stop and that top radiator hose just let go and there was coolant gushing everywhere. So off to the local parts shop to fix that…
A few days later we headed out to Wombat State Forest for the day. It was fun. A little scary at times and dusty but I had a blast and we went with 3 other vehicles the one thing I will remember about this trip is the mud hole. You had to enter it a little to get to the chicken track which everybody did and I thought we were going to too expect darling hubby crawled in then as soon as he got to where the chicken track started he decided to give her the ‘berries’ and he took on the puddle needless to say it went THUD as the bull bar dug into the bottom of the puddle but I will give him credit we did get through it even if the puddle ended up in the car with us.
My two small children were giggling! Time for the trip home. At10.30 am on Thursday we started back home. What adventures waited for us this time on our journey? My car runs on gas as well as petrol but we did this trip all on gas economical? What fun. We decided to take the scenic route home and we had our hema paper map of the Victorian high country with us so we started our journey home via the Great Alpine Road.
I’m not sure how far along the road we were but we saw a beautiful little stream off to the side with a little bridge that led across to the information center. We were going to stop but there were a few people there so we drove up a bit to turn around. Suddenly my eyes lit up a little. ‘Hey honey… we are on a dirt road, want to follow it for a little while,’ so we checked our map and it didn’t seem to go for too long and it brought us out to the Great Alpine road again.
Hubby left the decision up to me. So I said,’ what the hell.’ The track was called Collins road Well wasn’t that a fun little 5hr trip that we were not prepared for. We had drinks but not much, I was unfamiliar with what I was doing so I was nervous and on edge.
Every 20m or so there was an obstacle like a fallen tree to remove or go round or lift up, the track ended up dividing and we drove down one that seem to take forever only to be cut off by a massive fallen tree so we had to turn round again, steep drop offs that scare the daylights out of me specially whilst my kiddy’s were in the car. Needless to say it was fun but was an unexpected long detour on our trip home even if my 6yr old was watching a 4wd action dvd about the Victorian high country whilst we were in the thick of it.
Finally got out of the track we had taken around 6pm then we drove to the next town to air up and get gas but everything was closed. We have a crappy little air compressor that was a hand me down but it did the job. We decided to drive on thinking that the next town would have something open but we were wrong everything was closed!
We were down to our red light on the gas tank and we had started to climb Mount Hotham, talk about scary I hate mountains especially when its dark and I didn’t even know it was Mount Hotham.. Ian (hubby) thought we wouldn’t even make it to the mountain and was reluctant to start climbing as by this stage the car was losing its go and the gas was starting to cough and splutter. We kept going.
I was like a stunned rabbit caught in headlights, I was that stiff with fear I could not let go of the door , all the while watching the red light on the gas indicator as well as having my loving partner tell me about the views on either side and the sheer drop offs etc. On the decent of the mountain we basically coasted the 4wd down, motor running to keep the steering and brakes on but honestly it felt like we were flying down the mountain.
I could not see anything except those orange beacon things they put there instead of guard rails. I never knew I could get that scared I was almost in tears. It’s like parking at the ocean at night and hearing the waves but not seeing them. How are you supposed to know when a tidal wave is upon you, anyway enough of me being a girly girl, we finally made it to the town after MT Hotham only to realize everything was shut and they didn’t even have LPG so we had to coast my poor GQ another 20 odd km to a town called Bright.
They had a servo that had LPG but again being so late at night it was closed. So we pulled up right next to the bowser and that is where we slept for the night. Poor kids had to sleep in their car seats as we didn’t own any camping gear as yet. The next morning at 630am we gassed up and headed home with the intention of only stopping for toilet and fuel breaks. But of course being the GQ’s first big trip there was going to be hiccups.
We blew a hole in the exhaust right under the where you change the gears ( what else can go wrong) although I didn’t mind it as it made my rig sound like big red, my partner informed me that it needed to be fixed upon further inspection. (This was where I stood on my fishing rod and broke the handle as darling hubby had placed the rods on the ground to lift the bonnet, I did not notice them and I broke mine. (Devastated).
So into Canberra we go at 3:40pm on Friday well the exhaust shops are shut and apparently nothing is open on Saturday so quick thinking partner of mine heads for auto barn to grab muffler putty then on to Bunning’s for some little sheets of steel and some hose clamps. (Credit to Roothy and his bush mechanics) luckily I have family in Canberra so we crashed there the night whilst we waited for the muffler putty to set.
A much more relaxed night than the previous one. Saturday morning 10am we are off again. Luckily this time nothing occurred on the final stretch except for the toilet breaks and fuel and kids who by this time had had enough and were screaming .
We finally arrived home to Brisbane in Queensland Sunday morning 3am, unpacked the car and went to bed. Yes if you are asking we died!
As much as this sounds like the trip from hell I quite enjoyed myself spending time with my family getting to know my first 4wd and exploring what this great country had to offer for the first time. The only thing I would change is to accumulate more of the essential items like a tent or swag a winch bar and winch, cooking gear and recovery gear. And most of all a shower. Being cooped up in the car with three boys is as gross as it sounds!
- Jessica Griffin