Hunter Weekend in Walcha
25 July 2017 / Article: Christine Cameron, Photos: Grant Webber, David Gazzard, Ian Nunn
The Hunter Chapter loves Christmas so much we celebrate it TWICE a year and this July 16 cars reveled in driving some great NSW country roads to enjoy the wintry but welcoming hospitality of Walcha. Competition was fiercely contested at Thornton McDonalds for best decked-out car with several sporting reindeer, decorated tree mats, flashing fairy lights, wreathes and baubles, and one even had 2 conspicuously large flashing baubles attached below the rear bumper (hmm, you can guess what they quickly became known as…)! The best hat competition was also very creative and gave the McDonalds employees much amusement when we lined up for coffees. Sadly, some proved impossible to drive in due to limiting visibility (notably the 2 angry birds heads) but many drivers sported their hats all the way to Walcha.
The run took us through Morpeth and Hinton over their beautiful old wooden bridges continuing through Clarencetown and Dungog and onto the Bucketts Way. Drivers and passengers alike noted that the state of Dungog’s roads has definitely not improved since their last visit and that perhaps square wheels could improve the ride so might be worth considering for their next visit. However, each car’s suspension coped admirably with the experience and the potholes were quickly forgotten in anticipation of morning tea at Gloucester.
Mother Nature put on spectacular weather for the day, but the cold weather got the better of some of the group and saw several cars pausing for pit stops along the way. Our arrival in Gloucester split the cars into a couple of groups to fill fuel tanks to the max as insurance for through passage to Walcha. That done, the smell of coffee lured Josh and Lindsay to do an advance reconnoitre of the town centre to find us a café and suitable parking only to be met by road-closed signs, a small city of market stalls and myriad pedestrians… So we retreated to the sportsground where the more enterprising members of the group bought coffee and snacks from the local football team’s canteen and those who had the foresight to plan ahead enjoyed coffee from their own thermos’s.
The run to lunch at Nundle took us through some beautiful country down Topdale then Ogunbil Roads, with a clear run on the downhill winding section being the highlight of the morning. Lunch at the picturesque Mount Misery Gold Mine Cafe was delicious and we very much enjoyed the historic atmosphere of the building and their country hospitality.
The afternoon run took us back up Ogunbil Road, but this time we had to share it with other vehicles. Back onto Thunderbolts Way and an enjoyable run through winter pastures dappled with afternoon light, past Walcha’s statuesque Langford homestead and into the Walcha Motel to meet up with our friends from the North Coast Chapter for a ‘carpark party’ followed by dinner. The motels’ carpark is ideally suited for an impromptu party, which continued until the rapidly decreasing temperature and the lure of Christmas Dinner took over.
Dressed in our Christmas finery and funny hats we enjoyed a hearty Christmas buffet followed by plum pudding and coffee, then run-leaders Grant and Helen announced the winners of the best-dressed car and the funny hat competitions and presented them with prizes. This was followed by a game of reindeer quoits to find a winner for 2 additional prizes. This game proved to be difficult for the contestants and as a result provided much entertainment to everyone else! On a sadder note, the North Coast Chapter have dedicated this weekend run to the memory of North Cost Chapter member Mike Walden-Brown who recently passed away. Wayne Lang said a few words about Mike and recognised how much he had loved being involved with the MX-5 club.
We retired to our rooms, each hoping that our roommate had remembered to turn on the air con before leaving for dinner as the overnight temperature was forecast to be -6 deg (and this indeed was correct as the ice on our windscreens the following morning was abundant proof).
The day started with drivers coaxing cold cars into operation and removing layers of ice from windscreens. Breakfast at the motel was followed by a farewell to our friends from the North Coast Chapter who were heading home by a different route. After refuelling of our cars we regrouped to start the day’s run.
But best laid plans can sometimes be defeated by the failure of the smallest mechanical part – in this case the ignition switch on one of the cars. Despite the technical knowledge and skills of the assembled MX-5 experts, without tools and spare parts, no fix could be found and the car was pushed into a nearby garage for later action. Fortunately, both driver and passenger were able to be hosted by 2 other vehicles and the run got underway only a little later than planned.
The run from Walcha to the Ginger’s Creek Roadhouse took us along the Oxley Highway through beautiful areas of National Park and Mountain scenery. The road is an iconic run for cars and motor bikes and while we did encounter some other vehicles (including semi-trailers and caravans), they all pulled over at the earliest opportunity for us and we had a great run through the tight corners and elevated sections.
After morning tea, the glorious winding road continued on, but the run was more impacted by other vehicles. However, refuelled by coffee, good humour prevailed and we made it back to the Pacific Highway with the group pretty much all together in a line. Grant’s run sheet said to ‘go through the many, many roundabouts’ on Harrington Road – and he was exactly right!
It was lunch with a killer view at the Harrington Bowling Club, before the we departed to make our own way home – most choosing the direct route down the M1 rather than the optional run down Wootton Way and Booral Road. Maybe next time.
Thanks to Grant & Helen for their excellent planning and organisation, and for imbuing a great sense of fun into the weekend. Thanks also to the members of the North Coast Chapter who organised a parallel trip to join us in Walcha. Roll on next Christmas!
More of Grants photos: HERE
More of Ians photos: HERE
More of Davids photos: HERE