After three years’ of the doing the Shitbox Rally (SBR), in support of the Cancer Council, my Desert Assault Van (DAV) had received a bit too much TLC and money lavished on it to be considered a Shitbox any longer.
If I wanted to continue doing this type of event supporting a charity then I had to either find a different car, or do a different event. I have become very attached to DAV (in fact was very attached to it from the outset), so took the latter course. While there are numerous bush charity drives around these days, supporting a wide range of charities, I decided to go back to where it all started for me, and do the Camp Quality esCarpade.
After signing up for this year’s Camp Quality esCarpade (the name changed around ten years ago) I found out that it was actually the 25th running of the event – even more reason to be involved.
So, the Mini was painted yellow, thanks to Autostyle Paint & Panel Repairs in Cheltenham, to match the RACV corporate logos emblazoned across the car.
Thanks to the generosity of RACV and our other terrific sponsors, we raised a little under $15,000 – our best result yet – while the event itself raised around $1.2million, which will go directly toward helping children through their cancer journey and their families.
After my co-pilot for this year’s event, Craig Illing (who was also generous through his business Kingston Cars), had sorted out a few minor defects with the car (detailed in the previous four issues), we headed for Batemans Bay – via the coast route and a quick visit to the local paper in Bairnsdale to gee up a bit of publicity for the event.
We breezed through final scruitineering on the Saturday, enjoyed getting to know the other entrants at the welcome dinner that night, then gathered for an early breakfast at the Mogo Zoo, just south of Batemans Bay, for the start of the esCarpade.
On the event, the Mini covered around 2,500 mostly trouble-free kilometres, around 70% of which was on dirt roads, over seven days to finish at Griffith in NSW on Saturday.
As is the nature of the event, we didn’t take a direct route, but travelled via Jindabyne, Lakes Entrance, Phillip Island, Ballarat and Deniliquin. Five days were spent in Victoria and the route covered an amazing array of roads, from the twisty mountain passes of the Snowy Mountains to the flat straight stretches on the Hay Plain.
One particular highlight was the section from Jindabyne to Delegate, along the Barry Way (opened only three days earlier, after serious flood damage), then up McKillops Bridge Road. The scenery was spectacular, conjuring memories of Banjo Patterson as we wound our way along the once mighty and now recuperating Snowy River.
There was still plenty of mud on low-lying stretches, particularly right at the border into Victoria – in fact while concentrating on getting through the very slippery and muddy corner, we completely missed seeing the sign welcoming us into our home state, and didn’t realise we had crossed the border until some time later.
Another highlight was undoubtedly the Grand Ridge Road, through the Strzelecki Ranges in Gippsland, north of Foster. The section we drove was all dirt, very narrow in parts, with warnings for logging trucks, and incredible views out over Wilson’s Promontory, southern Gippsland and out to Bass Straight.
Craig 2 had been navigating (very skillfully, I might add) up to this point, but after an unscheduled stop he took over the driving duties. Within the first five minutes of navigating I had taken us down the wrong road, which turned out to be a very rough logging track that terminated in the logging camp. We beat a hasty retreat, and promptly almost ran into a logging truck coming the other way. Judging by the driver’s eyes widening to the size of dinner plates, I’m sure the last thing he expected to see on that road was a yellow Mini Van in full rally regalia.
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The BMC Experience Issue 20. Jan-Mar 2017 Magazine
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