Words: Michael Borg
Pics: Matt Fehlberg
Time to rug up and hit the road to Oberon in search of the white stuff.
Frozen fingers, foggy breath and a runny nose are exactly what you can expect if you go camping in the middle of winter. How do I know this? Well, somebody, for some reason, thought it would be a great idea to leave the comfort of two roaring fireplaces at home in order to go searching for some snow. Then he thought it would be a great idea to actually set up the camper and camp in the fluffy white stuff.
With reports of a cold front making its way just west of the Blue Mountains, NSW, myself and Matty (our beaut blonde photographer) had the Troopy packed and loaded up with the Cub Kamparoo Brumby in no time.
The reason for this spur-of-the-moment trip was simple – I reckon driving in snow is one of the single best experiences you can have with your clothes on! Plus, Matty reckons he’s never had the opportunity to shoot an average looking bloke like me in the snow. So, the mission for this trip was simple – find snow, and drive the hell out of it.
Now, in all honesty, we left the trip just a tad late. Coming up through Katoomba, the snow had already melted, so we made our way over to the crispy cold air of Oberon. On the way, you’ll spot signs to Oberon Dam, which I’ve driven past a million times previously and never stopped. But with adventure and exploration on my mind, it was time to drop in and see exactly what it had to offer. And, boy, am I glad we did.
Just on sunset, the colours and mood of this area were really something else. Large boulders are scattered everywhere in an almost organised mess, and the water was as calm as calm can be. The only problem – it’s fully fenced off so you won’t get your car in there. On the bright side, the dam is boat-friendly and full of fish, so bring your tinny and a bottle of luck.
From there, it was time to find a camp. We ended up backtracking a few kays to a secret little spot I discovered a while back. It’s a reserve that sits on the Fish River, a tributary of Oberon Dam. To get there, turn off Duckmaloi Road on to Karawina Drive and follow it to the right all the way to the river. When you’re towing a camper trailer, the descent to the actual river bank is best tackled in low range, especially if it’s raining. When you get to the bottom, you’ll find the campsites are scattered right along the fresh but freezing cold stream.
Firewood’s plentiful up the top, and it’s a nice quiet spot – during the week, anyway. So with an absolutely cracking fire going, a feed of pies stuffed with onion, cheese, bacon and sauce, it was time to hit the hay and get some shut-eye for the day of adventure ahead.
THE NEXT LEG
From the crystal clear waters of Fish River, it was time to continue the search for white gold. We hit the road and headed towards Jenolan Caves, which is just a few clicks out of the way and well worth the effort.
Jenolan Caves is definitely a must-see destination if you’re exploring this area. Granted, it’s a bit of a touristy post these days. There’s a truck-tonne of different tours, accommodation, dining and facilities available. While it’s not your typical offroad adventure, the limestone caves have been called the most impressive in the country for a reason, and they’re estimated to date back at least 340 million years. If you’re up for a challenge, try taking an adventure caving tour: there’s a Legends, Mysteries and Ghosts tour for those who don’t scare too easily. Make sure you check out Blue Lake, which is one of the most magical things you’ll ever see, and keep an eye out for the platypus, which calls the area home.
With no snow in sight at Jenolan Caves, it was time to head further up the mountains towards the town of Oberon. The majority of Oberon is 1000m above sea level, which should just be high enough to welcome the last few drabs of snow. We wound our way up through the hills and, if I’m totally honest, things weren’t looking too good. Just when I thought it was game over, I spotted a body of water on the side of the road and, low and behold, there was snow right around it. The dam itself had a thick layer of ice on it, too.
Finally we had found the elusive white stuff; the only problem being there weren’t any tracks to explore. After a few happy snaps, we were back on the road, with plenty of optimism. As we rolled through Oberon, the streets were lined with thick blankets of snow, and the tracks leading out were exactly what we were after. We’d done it! Finally, after waiting a few years, it was time to lock in the hubs and explore some snowy tracks.
I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing like it. The second your wheels make first contact with snow, you’ll feel like a baby taking its first steps – it’s that much of a thrill. You’ll slip and slide as you try to find your feet, all while a feeling of pure exhilaration starts to take over. I can honestly say, out of all the different terrains I’ve tackled, snow driving dead-set tops the chart. After all, there’s nothing more rewarding or more satisfying than ploughing your way through a terrain that makes you feel like you’re on a completely different planet.
Now, it must be said, we weren’t going in blind here. We only drove tracks that had clearly been driven by others so we could see where we were going and knew there weren’t any obstacles lying under the snow. So the next time you head off on a weekend adventure, why not set yourself a bit of a challenge? It’s a sure-fire way to add a bit more excitement to your trip!