2018 ARB ELDEE EASTER FES­TI­VAL, NSW

4WD EN­THU­SI­ASTS FROM ALL OVER AUS­TRALIA DE­SCENDED ON ELDEE STA­TION IN THE SPECTACULAR BAR­RIER RANGES, TO TRY AND NAB A SHARE OF THE ARB ELDEE EASTER FES­TI­VAL’S $25K BOOTY.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS DEAN MEL­LOR PHO­TOS OFFROAD IM­AGES

THE ARB Eldee Easter Fes­ti­val has been a pop­u­lar event with four-wheel driv­ers for a num­ber of years and, while there are some tough com­pe­ti­tion stages and some very keen com­peti­tors, there’s a heavy em­pha­sis on this be­ing a fun week­end es­cape for the whole fam­ily.

Thanks to this event, Eldee Sta­tion has been teem­ing with kids over the past eight Easter week­ends, with plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer to keep the lit­tle’uns en­ter­tained while the not-so lit­tle’uns get down to the se­ri­ous busi­ness of off-road com­pe­ti­tion. But rather than forg­ing life­long ri­val­ries, this event has a habit of cul­ti­vat­ing life­long friend­ships. No won­der so many 4x4 en­thu­si­asts and their fam­i­lies come back year af­ter year.

“The whole fo­cus this year was the fact it’s a kids and fam­ily event … it’s all about the kids,” was the first com­ment made by Ian Berry af­ter it had been an­nounced he and his son were the win­ners of the ARB Eldee Easter Fes­ti­val 2018.

Boot­ing his wife out of his 100 Se­ries Land Cruiser this year, Ian was com­pet­ing with his (ad­mit­tedly full-size) son Ash, the duo tak­ing out four of the 11 stages in the ARB Eldee Easter Fes­ti­val 2018.

Ian has ac­tu­ally won the event a cou­ple of times in the past, hav­ing a 100 per cent at­ten­dance record at Eldee Sta­tion since the event’s in­cep­tion, but com­pet­ing with his son Ash was a novelty.

Ash was ec­static. “This year’s event was heaps bet­ter than last,” he ex­claimed, “be­cause we won!

“I can’t be­lieve we won the Blind Man’s Run ... I can’t be­lieve he lis­tened to me,” Ash said of his old man.

Ian and Ash were up against 23 other teams, all of whom suc­cess­fully made it to the fin­ish line af­ter two days of fun, ad­ven­ture and ex­cite­ment on one of out­back NSW’S most iconic prop­er­ties, nes­tled in the spectacular Bar­rier Ranges.

There were plenty of chal­leng­ing driv­ing stages in 2018, with events in­clud­ing the Club 4x4 Back and Forth, the Rhino Rack Paddy Melon Chal­lenge, the ARB Mini Dakar, the Cooper Tires Mo­tokhana, the ARB Thorn­leigh Stump Up, the ARB Pen­rith Sheep­yard Shenani­gans, the Ori­com All Ter­rain Chal­lenge and the Blind Man’s Run.

The Club 4x4 Back and Forth is a timed stage in which com­peti­tors must re­verse into a marked box, drive for­wards into an­other box, re­verse again and then exit the course. Con­ducted in soft riverbed sand, it’s a dusty and de­mand­ing af­fair that’s a true test of the driver’s skill ... and the co-driver’s pa­tience.

As its name sug­gests, the ARB Mini Dakar is a timed run through a bunted course over soft sand, around bushes and in and out of steep creek banks. Many teams found a steady-asyou-go ap­proach worked best, but not Ja­son Pink, a farmer from Boort in Vic­to­ria. Ja­son punted his Ford Ranger through the course with his wife Jess urg­ing him on. “Ja­son’s driv­ing was a bit slow for my lik­ing,” she laughed, de­spite their three-year-old daugh­ter Mil­lie look­ing a bit ter­ri­fied in the back seat.

Bro­ken Hill lo­cals Danielle Marsh and Brad Hill said their kids Luke (10) and Lucy (2) loved the Mini Dakar … and their four­month-old twins Alexan­der and Ge­or­gia slept through the whole thing in the back seat!

The Blind Man’s Run is al­ways an event favourite, with the blind­folded driv­ers re­ly­ing en­tirely on their co-driv­ers to di­rect them through the course. In the past this event has al­most ended in di­vorce for some teams. Steve Wol­ski ad­mit­ted he was “a bit ner­vous” be­fore tack­ling the Blind Man’s Run due to hit­ting a stump last year. “It’s still got a bat­tle scar on it,” he said of his other­wise un­marked Toy­ota FJ Cruiser. His co-driver Shelby Cooper was also ner­vous, but the pair made it through un­scathed this year.

The Paddy Melon Chal­lenge is a test of pre­ci­sion driv­ing and teamwork, as the co-driv­ers have to reach out of the win­dow to place paddy mel­ons on top of poles, then col­lect them on a sec­ond run be­fore throw­ing them into a bucket. Brad Wil­son said the tight course was tough due to the size of his 79 Se­ries Land Cruiser Dou­ble Cab. “It was in­ter­est­ing,” he said, “be­cause the Cruiser is such a big rig.” But his co-driver Qona de­scribed the course as “the funnest yet”!

One of the fastest stages of the Fes­ti­val is the Cooper Tires Mo­tokhana, with teams driv­ing up a steep bank to exit the creek bed, steer­ing around a se­ries of poles and then fin­ish­ing back in the creek bed.

Neale and Judy Postleth­waite hit the course hard in their Volk­swa­gen Amarok, peel­ing a tyre off a rim. While it didn’t

af­fect their time on the course, they did miss their next timed stage while chang­ing the tyre, miss­ing out on some valu­able points. Re­gard­less, a pos­i­tive Neale de­scribed the course as dusty but fun; although, Judy said that be­ing a pas­sen­ger was a lit­tle “scary”.

Rob Bau­mann from the Barossa Val­ley ran the course in his Nis­san D40 Navara with his six-year-old nav­i­ga­tor, Alana. “It was awe­some,” he said. “I’m still trem­bling from it.” Rob’s other daugh­ter, eight-year-old Holly, shared the co-driv­ing du­ties with her sis­ter on some of the other event stages.

Rob com­peted in last year’s Eldee Easter Event with his wife Amanda, but she sadly passed away in Oc­to­ber last year af­ter a bat­tle with can­cer.

“The kids have taken mum’s spot, so to speak,” ex­plained Rob. “Eldee was a big thing for mum, so they wanted to make sure they came back and did it right for her.”

The pace of the event was dropped down a gear or two on Satur­day af­ter­noon as com­peti­tors lined up for the ARB Thorn­leigh Stump Up, in which they had to idle up on to a small post with their front right tyre, stop, re­verse off, then re­peat the process with their front left tyre. “The trick is to look where you’re go­ing,” ad­vised Martin Cat­tanach dryly. His wife Vicky was a lit­tle more forth­com­ing, sug­gest­ing it wasn’t too hard to see the posts ... at least when she hung out the win­dow.

The next event was the HEMA Out­back Map Nav­i­ga­tion Chal­lenge, which in­volved teams nav­i­gat­ing their way around Eldee Sta­tion and look­ing for clues to com­plete a puz­zle. This was fol­lowed by the ARB Bro­ken Hill Swag Roll and Set Up, in which two mem­bers of each team set up a swag, jumped into it, got out of it and packed it away again, all while be­ing heck­led by fel­low com­peti­tors.

At the end of the day, event host Stephen Sch­midt led com­peti­tors across the Mundi Mundi Plains and high into the Bar­rier Ranges for a mouth-wa­ter­ing bar­be­cue meal atop the aptly named Sun­set Hill.

Easter Sun­day kicked off at 8am with the Eldee Sta­tion Easter Egg Hunt. Once the kids had filled their bas­kets with choco­late, com­peti­tors headed out past the shear­ing shed to line up for the de­mand­ing ARB Pen­rith Sheep­yard Shenani­gans. This stage is an­other thrilling test of teamwork, with two ve­hi­cles

com­pet­ing side by side on par­al­lel cour­ses. The co-driver has to climb in and out of the ve­hi­cle to open and close sheep­yard gates, while the driver sim­ply has to make it through the course with­out hit­ting any­thing.

First up were farm­ers Ja­son and Jess Pink with daugh­ter Mil­lie, in their Ford Ranger, who were up against Matthew and Michelle Ap­pleby with kids Lau­ren and Jack, in a Toy­ota Prado. Jess was co-driver for the course and she felt they went well, but said the gates weren’t easy. “The chains were stiff and they wound up on them­selves,” she said. In the other ve­hi­cle, Michelle also had a few is­sues with the gates. Once the dust had set­tled it was the Prado that had come home first ... by a whisker.

The Sheep­yard Shenani­gans was cer­tainly not an easy chal­lenge, es­pe­cially for the co-driv­ers. Ash Berry looked shat­tered af­ter his run, say­ing, “I’m stuffed! My chest is still hurt­ing. It’s the most run­ning I’ve done since this chal­lenge last year.” It was a lot eas­ier from the driver’s seat, with Ash’s old man Ian Berry laugh­ing, “I went bloody great! We did a very good time ... it’s a fun day.”

The fi­nal driv­ing stage of the Fes­ti­val was the Ori­com All Ter­rain Chal­lenge. Many were keen to recce the course but were called back for a driver’s brief­ing. Event MC, David Brick­hill, warned them to take it easy as the course was full of rocks, soft sand and deep wa­ter. He also re­minded com­peti­tors that many of them had more than 1000km to cover to get home. But with just 1000 points sep­a­rat­ing the top 10, and with 300 points up for grabs in this fi­nal driv­ing stage, there was sure to be plenty of ac­tion.

David and Chris Skin­ner, last year’s run­ners-up, were the first to start. Af­ter the hit­ting the ini­tial wa­ter sec­tion in Eldee Creek, their Toy­ota 4Run­ner looked as though it was about to stall. They kept it run­ning, but lost valu­able time. “We were go­ing well un­til to­day, but that wa­ter re­ally slowed us down,” Chris said.

Kurt John­ston reck­oned the All Ter­rain Chal­lenge was one of the tough­est events of the fes­ti­val. “Man, that is rough out the back, but it was a lot of fun,” he beamed.

Many com­peti­tors threw cau­tion to the wind and pow­ered through the tough course, spray­ing wa­ter high into the air and lift­ing wheels as they ex­ited the fi­nal rise. De­spite two days of hard-fought ac­tion there had been no se­ri­ous me­chan­i­cal is­sues or dam­age to re­port, and 24 teams out of 24 com­pleted the event.

Teams headed back to the Eldee Sta­tion homestead for the af­ter­noon’s kid-fo­cused ac­tiv­i­ties, which in­cluded a jump­ing cas­tle, the chal­leng­ing Hobby HQ Re­mote Con­trol Car Mini Rally and the Shi­mano Sharp Shooter cast­ing event.

Later that af­ter­noon it was time to an­nounce the win­ners, and the Eldee Sta­tion veran­dah groaned un­der the weight of the prizes which in­cluded ARB fridges, swags, In­ten­sity LED lights and air com­pres­sors, Ori­com ra­dios, Rhino-rack gear, Hema packs, Hobby HQ re­mote-con­trol rock crawlers and much more.

Most comp rigs are close to stan­dard, but Wade and Sarah El­lis’s GQ is a bit spe­cial. 4

1 2 3 1. Kids love Eldee Sta­tion’s rust­ing relics. 2. Hobby GQ Re­mote Con­trol Rally is al­ways a win­ner. 3. A bar­be­cue on Sun­set Hill. 4. Lin­ing up a post for the Paddy Melon Chal­lenge.

Main. Ian and Ash Berry were 2018’s out­right win­ners. 1. Don’t be fooled, Blind Man’s Run of­ten ends in tears. 2. Eldee Sta­tion is set in the spectacular Bar­rier Ranges. 3. The Paddy Melon Chal­lenge is hard work for co-driv­ers.

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