Picnic by the River

01 June 2024 / Words by Rod Nicholas. Photos by Rod Nicholas and Lili Chi

Saturday 25 May 2024

Canberra had been showing off her best autumn clothes for a week or two, and as Saturday dawned fresh and foggy—later to burn off to a bright, sunny day—I knew we had hit an almost perfect day for a picnic by the Cotter River.

Of course, it wouldn’t be sensible to have a picnic without having a bit of a drive first. So we gathered at Daughters at Hall for a little pre-run pick-me-up, and a briefing. By the time we were ready to start there were 21 enthusiastic members and an unknown number of MX-5s (unknown because I forgot to count them …). We were to pick up another couple and another car at the picnic site—Peter & Annemie were securing the best spot on the river for us.

The pre-run chats, the recaffeination and the briefing over, we headed out, making a turn on to the Barton Highway and heading on to Yass.


Convenor Rod briefs those who were interested

Our convoy stretched out for almost two kilometres down the road, so I took the first opportunity I could after the first—and only—turn into Yass to pull over and regroup. I watched the cars roll up behind, one by one, and as the last car came into view, I proceeded a short distance into Yass. Once again, I pulled over to regroup. I walked down the growing line of MX-5s, as the Tail-End-Charlie strode purposefully up to join me. ‘We lost three cars turning into Yass’ he said. ‘They missed the turnoff, one after the other.’  ‘What, the only turnoff into Yass? The one that’s signposted for two kilometres?’ I was astonished—surely this was a first.

No radios, so I quickly got on the mobile. Calls not answered. Answered calls not understood. A misdial or two. Phone tag. All the fun in the world! We finally got into contact with the Lost Ones, and waited while they caught us up, dispatching one member of our group to a prominent spot down the road to flag them down. The wait provided another chance for a chinwag. Some while later we were all back together—a moment’s distraction lead to one of the cars driving past the turnoff, and a couple of others just followed in convoy. The rest is history.

Meanwhile, Peter & Annemie were at the picnic site wondering where we were. I messaged them advising of the delay, but to no avail—there is next to no mobile coverage all that way out in the bush (sarcastic note intended—the Cotter Dam, where we were picnicking, is all of 15 km out of the city!).

Back on the road again, everyone accounted for, we had about an hour ahead of us, through some lovely scenery. We journeyed for a while along the Wee Jasper Road, through the countryside, and down the winding stretch into the Murrumbidgee Valley where we crossed the river on the Teamas Bridge. The bridge—the third crossing to the Wee Jasper side of the Burrunjuck Dam (the other two were washed away in floods)—is a sturdy steel span construction some 200 metres long, and was opened in 1931, built at a cost just shy of £61,000. Happily, the two spots of torn-up bitumen that had previously marred this length of road had been repaired (more or less) and caused us no concern.


Teamas Bridge

Chucking another of the infrequent runs on this run, we headed back towards Canberra along Mountain Creek Road. This is one of my favourite roads and usually allows some highly enjoyable driving. Today’s run was hampered a little by more traffic than we usually encounter, almost all loaded 4WDs heading towards Wee Jasper and its camping and fishing spots.

By the time we got to the Cotter River for our picnic, Peter & Annemie had had their lunch and were getting ready to pack up and go home! They had turned up super early to beat the rush for the best spots, forgetting that it was a long weekend in Canberra and half the town had gone down the coast. We had the place almost to ourselves. 

Discussion ensued, as it always does on a Chapter event. There was considerable wonder expressed regarding the ingenuity of our members and their capacity to surprise. Still, missing first turn of a run has to be a record!

A short while later, with bellies full, I got out the games. By unanimous choice a tournament of ‘Battle Blocks’ (a cheap knock-off of Finska) commenced; two teams, involving almost everyone. The rules were sorted (more or less), and the game began! Plenty of laughs, plenty of dodgy throws, no arguments with the referee, and no tantrums! No one got hit in the head by an errant throw, and we learned how to count. It was a lot of fun.


Rhys demonstrates his style

We had a great day. The run was good fun, and everyone who was on the road got to the end in one piece. The picnic was tasty, the cakes and treats were shared, and the laughs were plentiful. And I have a feeling we will see Battle Blocks again.

Thanks to all for joining us, especially Peter & Annemie for securing our prime location, and Adrian and Annemie for helping us out  with the games rules.

For anyone who is interested, the Google Maps reference for our run from Hall/Yass/Mountain Creek Road/Cotter is https://maps.app.goo.gl/r3SemwtRqYh6Ndiq6

Rod Nicholas

There are a heap more great photos on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/mx5canberra) taken by Lili Chi. Thanks Lili!