DRIVE 4 Life has been running fun-filled fundraising 4x4 trips for more than 10 years now, and the recent trip in the Victorian High Country was no exception.
40 4x4s set off from the alpine hamlet of Harrietville for a week of mountain adventures and great camping in some of Australia’s most spectacular terrain.
Before you go thinking that a convoy of 40 four-wheel drives sounds painful, D4L breaks its numbers up into group of six or seven vehicles, each led by a group leader and tail-end Charlie, and the groups head out in different directions using different tracks each day. There is also a group for people with camper trailers, who set up in Talbotville for the week and set out for day trips from there.
At times through the week, two or three groups might meet up to camp together at areas where space permits. This boosts the social aspect of the tour, as tall and true tales are shared around the campfire at night. Many people on D4L trips are novice 4WDers, so the wide-eyed stories of conquering steep tracks and wide river crossings each night are always entertaining. It’s interesting to see the confidence of the drivers grow as the week goes on and they benefit from the knowledge of the group leaders.
The experience of the group leaders and organisers was tested this year, with fires in the Dargo and Crooked River areas meaning the planned routes had to be changed at short notice. D4L’s Chris Bates got out his maps and route notes from previous trips to reroute the groups and keep them away from the fires and out of harm’s way.
Some iconic locations the groups visited this year included Craig’s Hut (and other High Country mountain huts), Mount Blue Rag (with its stunning 360-degree panoramic views), Lake Cobbler, Wonnangatta Station and Talbotville valley. The fires weren’t enough to keep a few groups from stopping at the famous Dargo Pub for a beer or bite to eat when they passed through. In fact, aside from the DSE information, you wouldn’t have known there were fires nearby, but the fires did prevent us from driving the always impressive Billy Goat Bluff.
Rain was more of a problem, as slippery tracks forced a few groups off their planned routes to seek tracks better-suited to the vehicles and experience of their drivers. Some groups ventured as far away as Woods Point and Licola in search of dry conditions and, in some cases, a dry bed.
Heavy storms hit the mountains on the first night out and campers and their gear got soaked, but the storms weren’t enough to deter the good spirts of those on tour and it added to the adventure. Winches were sometimes pulled out to get up slippery hills or pull vehicles back on track, while other 4x4s had no troubles.
The sun finally came out blazing on the last day and many of the groups detoured via Mount Blue Rag on their way back to Harrietville. They were rewarded with amazing views from above the clouds that lay in the lower valleys. The drive in and out of Blue Rag is always spectacular and should be on the agenda of everyone’s High Country adventures.
As always, the D4L tour concluded with a big night at the Harrietville Snowline Hotel, with great food, live music and a few cold bevvies.
The speeches were informal but included talks from David Dennis and Scott Taylor about how money raised by Drive 4 Life has improved the lives of their families who have dependents needing special care. This really brought home the fact that this wasn’t just about having a great time in a 4x4 in an amazing location, but raising money for a good cause.
With the money donated by those on the 2017 tour, Drive 4 Life has now sent more than $870,000 to Northcott Disability Services to help young people with disabilities and special needs. Participants in the tour donate $1000 per vehicle (tax deductible) direct to Northcott for their place on the trip, and the running costs for the event are covered by long-time partners ARB 4x4 Accessories, Cooper Tires and IGA Supermarkets.
Plans are already afoot to return to Harrietville in the High Country during the first quarter of 2018. Hopefully the weather and fires will be kinder to us next time, but, regardless, it’s sure to be a great trip for all who make it.
For more details and to express interest in attending, take a look at the Drive 4 Life website at: www.drive4life.com.au.