Smooth-run­ning char­ity event tack­les SA’S South­ern Flin­ders Ranges.


ACAMPFIRE in the mil­lion-star ho­tel, a good meal and com­fort­able bed, like-minded trav­ellers for com­pany, and an­other day ahead of good tour­ing on rarely trav­elled tracks. Sound like a grand idea? Of course it does.

While some folk have nearly as much fun re­search­ing and plan­ning the route, there are plenty of oth­ers who’d rather pack up and drive with­out the has­sle of or­gan­is­ing per­mits, work­ing out fuel stops, and en­sur­ing a big group trav­els har­mo­niously. Not to men­tion set­ting up and pulling down overnight camp­sites, dig­ging la­trine holes, cook­ing meals after a tir­ing day, and at­tend­ing to rigs that re­quire ur­gent bush me­chan­ics.

On bal­ance, the highs of a trip away far out­weigh the lows, but there is a bet­ter way to or­gan­ise it: get some­one else to do all the hard work. Join­ing a 4WD club means you can de­pend on a trip leader to do the heavy lift­ing of plan­ning a get­away, but you’d need a fully catered taga­long tour to take care of some of the other has­sles. Even then, chances are you’ll be asked to help with all the chores, as the crew will be a small group to keep costs down.

There is a third al­ter­na­tive: the Va­ri­ety 4WD Bash, a char­ity mo­tor­ing event that raises money for chil­dren in need. The 2017 Va­ri­ety get­away in­cluded 880km of travel in seven days through the South­ern Flin­ders, with only about 40km on bi­tu­men. The route passed from Port Pirie to Spear Creek, Horse­shoe Top End, down through the Clare Val­ley to Marra­bel, and fin­ished up in the Barossa Val­ley. It was

de­signed to test the lim­its of a stan­dard 4WD and pro­vide even ex­pe­ri­enced 4Wders with some chal­leng­ing sec­tions. New­bies need not be con­cerned, though, with trip lead­ers pro­vid­ing ex­pert coach­ing when re­quired and planned work­arounds for the tougher ter­rain.

There’s no need to mod­ify your four­bie to tackle a Va­ri­ety trek, but the one strict re­quire­ment is that strong all-ter­rain tyres be fit­ted. The event not only trav­els with a mo­bile tyre sup­port ve­hi­cle to fix and re­pair dam­aged tyres and keep your ve­hi­cle mo­bile, but also a fully equipped mo­bile work­shop to tackle any me­chan­i­cal is­sues that may arise, in­clud­ing deal­ing with dam­age from en­coun­ters with un­for­tu­nate ’roos.

The amaz­ing lev­els of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and sup­port the of­fi­cials bring to a Va­ri­ety Bash make it a smooth ad­ven­ture and en­able the con­voy to travel through normally in­ac­ces­si­ble ter­rain. Gavin Gil­lett of Sum­mit ex­pe­di­tions said, “What re­ally im­pressed me was how well the or­gan­is­ers man­aged the tricky tracks. With 55 cars, I would have de­lib­er­ately low­ered the dif­fi­culty of the tracks to en­sure we didn’t have mas­sive de­lays. I break up my tours to 10 or 15 cars per trip leader and spread the load on the track­ri­ety is so well-or­gan­ised they can send all 55 cars down the same track with­out bot­tle­neck­ing, with­out dis­turb­ing other track users. And when there is a re­cov­ery of some kind to be made, they are very quick at get­ting the con­voy mov­ing again. I think the long­est we were ever de­layed might have been one hour for the whole trip.”

All of this sen­si­ble busi­ness acu­men and pro­fes­sion­al­ism means Va­ri­ety has the cred­i­bil­ity to gain ac­cess to ar­eas that a sin­gle tourer, or even a well-or­gan­ised club, sim­ply couldn’t drive through. For this trip, Va­ri­ety worked with SA Water, SA Na­tional Parks and Forestry SA, as well as pri­vate land own­ers, re­sult­ing in plenty of tracks that had rarely seen a tyre, let alone a con­voy, be­fore.

Guests tra­versed the rocky slopes of Spear Creek Sta­tion and ex­pe­ri­enced spec­tac­u­lar views as they scram­bled up Mount Hor­rocks, stop­ping for an ice cream at a spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­fall hid­den away on pri­vate prop­erty. The unique route through Mam­bray Creek to Hor­rocks Pass along locked fire tracks pro­vided a once-in-a-life­time op­por­tu­nity to en­joy breath­tak­ing views across the Spencer Gulf.

So, the Va­ri­ety Bash en­tails unique ter­rain and a welle­quipped con­voy, but what else makes it an ideal camp­ing trip? Firstly, let’s deal with the camp set-up. Not only is the camp­site fully set up by the ser­vice teams, who erect huge mar­quee tents and ar­range din­ing ta­bles and chairs, but it’s

com­plete with mo­bile off-road trail­ers with hot-water show­ers and flush­ing toi­lets.

Ev­ery night kicked off with a com­pli­men­tary happy hour of drinks pro­vided by spon­sors, fol­lowed by gourmet food pre­pared by ex­pert chefs – think cray­fish, oys­ters, gi­ant prawns and suc­cu­lent 600g rib-eye steaks. Given guests were sim­i­larly well fed at break­fast and lunch – as well as morn­ing and af­ter­noon tea – it’s a good thing most nights in­cluded danc­ing to the live tunes of John O’dea, An­to­nio Vil­lano and Kate Lara. Side-split­ting laugh­ter, thanks to com­edy acts like the cheeky Mikey D, also helped burn off calo­ries.

It’s no won­der plenty of guests are re­peat of­fend­ers – some had even par­tic­i­pated in up to 20 sim­i­lar events! En­tire fam­i­lies get in­volved, and mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions come along with two goals: to have a great time and to raise as much money as pos­si­­ri­ety does plenty of work to make fundrais­ing as easy as pos­si­ble: they or­gan­ise an army of vol­un­teers to act as the ser­vice teams to man­age camp­sites; most of the pro­fes­sional folk do­nate their time and ex­per­tise; spon­sors pro­vide food and drinks; and landown­ers, like Jim and Terese Con­nell of Horse­hoe Top End, do­nate the us­age of their prop­erty for camp­sites.

Auc­tions of­fer ev­ery­thing from wine, he­li­copter rides and lux­ury hol­i­days, to a card­board tube turned into a “didgeri­doo” and signed by all par­tic­i­pants. When the Barossa/gawler His­toric Car Clubs chauf­feured ev­ery­one to a fi­nal din­ner, it was an­nounced this year’s event raised $577,000 (net) for chil­dren in need – the sec­ond high­est amount in the event’s 23-year history.

A bird’s eye view of the con­voy trav­el­ling through Port Pirie.

The long haul across the Nullar­bor.

Film crew get­ting into po­si­tion.

Jagged rocks tested driver skills and a rig’s rub­ber. Even the tougher cross­ings were tack­led, de­spite the 55-car con­voy.

The South­ern Flin­ders Ranges are home to ex­tra­or­di­nary views.

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