Adelaide Jeep Club, South Australia
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Saunders Gorge . Come and Try weekend. October 2011. Words and photos by Darren S.

Saunders Gorge Come and Try Trip - October 2011

The Come and Try Trips are held to encourage new members to the club and to allow less experienced members of the club to test theirs’, and their machine’s, limits in a more controlled environment.

See Roger's video of this trip on youtube HERE

The October Trip was held at the Saunders Gorge Sanctuary in the Adelaide Hills and it had been decided that this event would meet on the afternoon of the Saturday to allow potential new members with weekend commitments the opportunity to attend. The majority of attending Club Members had elected to travel up as individuals on the Friday evening in order to be able to camp the two nights at the Sanctuary. And so it was that the President and Secretary were at the 1st up bound truck park on the SE Freeway to greet the potential new members to the club.

The turnout was quite promising with a variety of Jeeps including a TJ, some JKs, Cherokee’s, and Grand Cherokees of varying vintages. There was even this funny looking Nissan thing. In total there were 8 vehicles piloted by; Darren and Peta Smith, Alex and Sue Macmillan, Peter Wadey, Ken and Sharon Arnold, Roger Wilkinson (ably assisted by Drew Peterson), Tom Wildy, David And Cathy Davies and, finally Brad & Alicia Davies. It’s good to see that the vast majority of these are now financial members of the club.

The trip to the Sanctuary was uneventful, although, once the President realised we were travelling through Woodside there was a rapid consensus gained to make a side trip to Melba’s Chocolate Factory. Using the opportunity to stock up on goodies for the coming night the convoy soon continued the journey to camp. One vehicle was almost left behind as they had been side tracked by the nearby cheese shop. Tail End Charlie easily identified this and advised the Trip Leader allowing the absent vehicle to rejoin the convoy. Once the convoy was back together the journey to the sanctuary was completed without further mishap.

Upon arrival at Saunders Gorge we made a quick trip to the caretaker before joining the previous night’s arrivals down at Camp Site 1. As there were some 17 vehicles in total the Adelaide Jeep Club was spread between Camp Sites 1 & 2. The new arrivals immediately set to erecting their shelter for the night. It is always interesting to see the different options people take with everything from Hard and Soft Floor Campers on display to a couple of odd balls sleeping under the stars and all types of tents in between. As the sun was soon to set a quick meeting was held to determine the order of play for tomorrow.

It was decided that rather than have two groups on the Sunday one group would tackle the 4WD track that afternoon. Again the majority of the Friday arrivals elected to complete this trip along with one or two of the new comers. The remainder of us returned to setting up our camps and then gathered around the campfire to await the return of the first trip.

As the first trip returned thoughts turned to our belly’s and the various camp ovens, BBQ plates, and Dream Pots were dragged out to satiate the inner hunger demons. It was again interesting to note the various cooking options chosen. At one point a certain PR Officer from an anonymous other club (cough . . Drew . . . Cough . . . Muddy Pigs) was seen to waste some perfectly good Penfolds Club Port marinating some cheap supermarket steak. With our bellies full we all snuggled in around the campfire, under a clear night sky, to discuss the deeper mysteries of life or perhaps some of us just talked some $h!t. As our eyelids dictated we drifted off to our individual beds for some well earned rest.

Despite an unhappy child during the night the camp awoke well rested to a clear spring day, breakfast and a nice beverage of choice. A late checkout meant that we did not need to break camp before the second group attempted the 4WD track around the sanctuary. Both David Munday and Philip Johns had elected to travel up on the Sunday to complete only the track and with their arrival everyone was gathered together for a group photo. Group Two then headed off for a Trip Briefing and to start the track. Group Two consisted a good range of vehicles, including a highly modified TJ, a number of JK Wranglers and Grand Cherokees', along with a Patrol and Dave's Disco. A range of expertise was on display as well with everything from people new to 4WDing, those seeking to learn the capabilities of a new vehicle, and some older hands.

The track starts tamely enough meandering through the flats before arriving at the first obstacle; a short sharp climb out of a creek bed with an easy alternative off to the left. Most opted to tackle the obstacle, with only the two Grand Cherokees going around. It was here that the difference in independently sprung vehicles and knowing the correct traction control settings. Both vehicles struggled to make it back across the edge of the track, due to a lack of suspension articulation. As the owners began to learn the Terrain Response settings they were able conquer much harder obstacles further around the track.

The rest of the trip was uneventful apart from the tearing of a tyre sidewall on a particularly interesting descent. Due to the nature of the untrue it could not be repaired in place and the precarious position on the track prevented the tyre from being changed. Thanks to the efforts of Drew in guiding the vehicle down no damage was caused to the rim and the tyre was changed once at the bottom. This also proved to be an opportune moment for our lunch break before continuing on the track.

We spent the remainder of the trip enjoying the views, getting to know each other and our vehicles, and stopping frequently to take photographs. With no further problems along the track we arrived back at camp for a group photo and to continue the pack up before we headed our separate ways home.

A successful conclusion to an enjoyable trip, day, and weekend for all.