BreakFast Club SE Corner Weekend
09 October 2019
BreakFast Club weekend events are a little bit Christmas Day when you’re an adult. You’re excited and looking forward to it, but you still lie in bed the night before wondering if you’ve done the preparation.
Did I prep the turkey stuffing?
Have I got a spare stubby holder to use as a gift in case Uncle Barry turns up?
What if Uncle Barry brings his pet ferret?
Is my temporary spare inflated?
Is my level of concentration up to this challenge?
Is my car set up properly?
Sometimes it’s the anticipation that can add to the enjoyment of the event. What you can count on as being a consistent feature of Breakfast Club events are great roads and great conversation. Whether or not you’re up to the challenge of either is entirely a matter for you.
The South East Corner weekend is one that the BreakFast Club has held in various iterations for a number of years. As a driver who’s been on a number of these events, it’s the sheer difference in landscape of this region which continues to amaze. After meeting in the sleepy coastal hamlet of Merimbula on Thursday evening, Friday morning gave way to a tremendous drive to breakfast at Bombala via Mt Darragh. The acreages and small farms of the villages of Lochiel and Wyndham give no clue that the tranquil seaside is twenty minutes away. After breakfast (and I should mention that Bombala Bakery is a must visit if you’re in town) we ventured across to Cann River via the Imlay Road. This logging road is a great layout although comprimised somewhat by some poorly cambered corners and a few logging trucks. Admittedly the drivers of these behemoths are highly skilled and often courteous enough to let us pass without any fuss. The strong aroma of pine is a constant companion through here, as is the stark contrast of thick pine forest followed by desolation as loggers cut a swathe through the land. I’m often curious as to what visitors from around the globe must think of our fast changing landscape. Barely hours pass on roads up and down the eastern seaboard before drivers are greeted with sea, scrub, sand & snow.
One thing I’m not curious about is the MX-5s ability as a Grand Tourer. I’m often used to being the elder statesman on Breakfast Club events with most participants owning a mixture of NCs and NDs compared to my 2001 NB8B. The road from Cann River to Delegate is one that combines arid farming land with gun barrel straight-aways and long, sweeping high speed bends. This was not the best exponent of the abilities of my car. Whilst my stiffened suspension, lightened flywheel and sticky rubber are at home on a tight mountain pass, my lack of torque in higher gears was exposed on this section and found me longing for a two-litre engine (along with a smattering of accoutrements like cruise control and Bluetooth). This section was a good opportunity to explore the upper reaches of high speed driving and served as an antonym for what was to come.
Country town charm is another feature of BreakFast Club weekend events and Delegate never fails to disappoint. Whether it’s a local kid on a bike marveling at an MX-5 to a weather-beaten mechanic regaling you with tales of his collection of Fords and Blitzwagons, rural Australia has a lot to teach the urban dweller who’s prepared to take the time to listen. A BreakFast Club favourite is of course the Delegate General Store, which serves hearty country fare with both speed and great conversation. This was good preparation for the onslaught of the Bonang Highway. A lot has been written previously regarding the lure of the Bonang, its legendary status among driving and riding circles well documented. It didn’t fail to disappoint, all 106 kilometres of twists and turns into Victoria. It really is something you should add to your bucket list. A word of warning though – recent heavy use by trucks has seen the 11km dirt section become very rough. It’s by no means impassable in an MX-5 but extreme caution is advised. The BreakFast Club is hopeful this will be repaired in the coming 12 months.
After the thrills of the Bonang, all drivers were relieved to cruise along the short transport section to Lakes Entrance. What greeted us was less than relieving. Gale force winds belted the river side haven, sending signs cartwheeling across the main road. Luckily for the weary drivers, the comforts of the Central Hotel were close at hand and perfect for a few pots of Victoria’s finest as well as being a fine vantage point to cheer on the Green Machine against Russell Crowe’s army.
The next day saw a wonderful early morning tour of the countryside hinterland incuding villages of Tambo, Buchan and Bruthen. These picturesque towns would make a lovely spot to stop sample some local produce if time permitted. Alas, there was work to do. Having invaded from the northern state, it was decided that a two pronged attack was required on the region’s roads. One group saddled up to attack the Bonang once more, whilst a second group led by yours truly set about exploring the coastal sector up to our accommodation at Eden. After breakfasting at Orbost we took to the quiet road towards Marlo and the secluded Cape Conran. The road in was deserted and a great opportunity to test man and machine on a true surface. Once at Cape Conran – what a view! This desolate camping spot is void of development and marries scrubby coastal vegetation with a rocky beach and outcrop, a perfect spot for a few impromptu photographs. With menacing skies above it was a true photographer’s delight, with landscape and lighting combining rarely for some great shots. Onward to Mallacoota we then forged. From the Princes Highway at Genoa, Mallacoota is a 23km drive along arguably the best road this region has to offer. The undulation, trustworthy surface and lack of local traffic all combined to provide one of the better driving stages of the weekend. Finally a section that showcased the strengths of my little old car. Keeping the engine firmly in the 4000-6000 rev range allowed my firmer suspension and softer tyre choice to shine. Roads like this really allow the nimble nature of older MX-5s to sparkle.
Mallacoota could easily by the subject of a TV miniseries. Like a Wandin Valley, Pearl Bay or Cooper’s Crossing, the hamlet has many charming attributes including glorious boat ramp foreshore, picturesque cycle way and fantastic bakery with friendly staff. With much regret, we turned west to leave Mallacoota, although this provided another opportunity to drive the brilliant Genoa-Mallacoota road again – in reverse! We converged with the other group who reported that the overnight shower of rain did much to improve the surface of the Bonang Highway. Our lodgings for the evening were in Eden, with the Fishing Club proving a haven to watch the Tigers massacre the Giants. Eden is a town in somewhat of a flux, although it’s rich whaling and fishing history will provide some interest to the passing traveler. Perhaps with further restoration and gentrification of the townships great buildings, the glory days may return to Eden once again.
With breakfast due in Cooma at around 9.30am, it was up early to sample the delights of Nethercote Rd and Myrtle Mountain. After a trip of highlights, this morning section put its hand up as a contender for the best section. Not far from Mt Darragh, Nethercote Rd shares a similar topography but is a much sharper challenge. Tighter turns, more flowing sections of road and a sparseness of traffic allow for a terrific morning strafe prior to breakfast. Myrtle Mountain is a glorious climb and descent amongst thickly wooded rainforest, a real paradise after the drought affected farmland experienced earlier in the morning. The sound of muffler enhanced exhaust notes reverberating off the vegetation truly arouses the senses.
The conclusion of the morning saw the group undertake the schlep along the Snowy Mountains Highway over Browns Mountain and into Cooma. This allowed time for some quiet reflection about the previous days of adventure. The route selected for this trip was an excellent combination of challenge and relaxation. It’s impossible to maintain maximum concentration for the whole weekend – meaning the cruisey highway sections and frequent rest stops were a welcome relief for drivers and passengers alike. As always the conversation and comraderie over meals was a joy – it’s part of the fabric of the Breakfast Club and more broadly speaks volumes about our club overall.
April will see the Breakfast Club return to Victoria for our annual Alpine Challenge. I for one cannot wait. I just need to get through Christmas.