I live right in the heart of Melbourne city, and it’s where I belong. I love its people, its taste and its soul. Every morning here is a new beginning. I never thought a day would arise that I leave the city boundaries, hop into a 4WD and wind my way up a 1200m mountain in search of snow. But since beginning working at ARB, the walls I placed around my life have completely smashed open. This fantastic land of ours has so much more to offer than just concrete jungles. There’s a whole world out there waiting to be admired.
A 4WD gives people an all access key to the wonders of the world. ARB has taught me about all the breathtaking destinations hidden within Australia. They’re past the asphalt roads, up the steep inclines and down the narrow, unforgiving tracks, to where the sand meets the sea and where the stars shine free. Itching to get out and go, one frosty Friday morning ARB finally gave me that key.
I write about my first 4WD journey in the hope that I inspire people like me to venture further than the walls they have placed around themselves. To take a day out of their busy schedules and appreciate the environment, after all, the riches it holds are far more valuable than the money we earn.
My vehicle for the day is the 2016 Ford Everest, decked out in an arsenal of ARB equipment. I hoist myself up to the steering wheel and, as daunting as it all is, when the engine starts and the conversation begins to flow, a sense of calm blankets my flittering nerves and a smile grows across my face. Let’s do this!
We begin along Warburton Woods-Point Road. To our left is the Yarra River, it disappears and then reappears at every turn, dancing with us, crisscrossing downwards as we wind higher. We cruise past McMahons Creek and the Reefton Pub, then up towards Cumberland Junction.
So far I’ve felt confident with the drive. The road is a little bumpy but the Nitrocharger Sport shocks are soaking it up nicely. And then, at 700m up and 1 hour in, white powder starts plaguing the sea of green. Snow! Of course, we all immediately jump out and take some snaps – how exciting!
Only another 5 minutes and things are getting slippery as ice covers the roads. With my heart beating faster, I grip the steering wheel tighter and pull my body straighter. All I can focus on is that next turn. I start channelling all my faith into the wheels below, ‘please don’t lose grip’ I chant.
We pull over as I am told we need to lower the tyre pressure. The less air pressure within the tyre, the more contact it has on the ground to grip it. Not only is this a crucial safety feature, as soon as I get behind the wheel I can feel the difference. The improved comfortable ride; it’s not bouncing as much when surfaces get rough, or sliding when they get slippery.
At 900m we reach Big River Camp and the white overtakes the green. Big drops of snow beat down on my windscreen. The snow is so fresh there are no other tyre marks on the road and the ones we make, disappear behind us.
Cruising along a well maintained track, the crew decide it’s time for me to do some more ‘serious’ 4WDing. I don’t like the sound of this. We veer off to the right, to a much steeper incline. Although everything is covered in snow, the feeling in my gut tells me the easier track is the one on the left.
I feel like I’m driving blind trying to read the snow-covered tracks. I spin my wheel hard to the left and then hard to the right. My heart accelerates and my knuckles are white gripping tight on the wheel. I put the brakes on and I am advised it’s time to lower the tyre pressure again. Knees deep in snow, we drop the psi down to 18. (It’s worth me pointing out that I had an experienced driver alongside me, I wouldn’t recommend doing this alone).
At 1200m we find a wood logging area, a perfect space to set up a campfire and have some lunch. We begin to unpack. With my back turned, hands filled with firewood, I feel a blow to my back, followed by snow flying in all directions around me. A snowball fight erupts. It’s everyone for themselves as snowballs are thrown at every angle.
At cease-fire we finish unpacking the Everest and get the campfire going. It’s -1°c and I need to change my socks. When losing a snowball fight, wet clothes is your casualty. We cook baked-bean toasties, roast marshmallows, and share stories over hot cuppas around the campfire. I can get used to this.
Up here, the term ‘winter wonderland’ gets a whole new meaning – it becomes real. As I stand here, in the Big River State Forest, with the tall Gum Trees drooping down, and the white mountains swallowing the horizon, I realise how insignificant I really am to this world. The snow falls heavier now, and unlike rain, the heavier it falls the quieter everything becomes. There are no birds chirping, no curious animals rustling and even the whistling of the wind is faint. It’s almost as if the snow comes through and silences the secrets of the woods.
As time ticks by the snow falls heavier. With not many more hours of daylight, we pack up and head home. The whole experience, from start to finish was a sensation. As I turn off the ignition and the humming of the Everest lays to rest, I head inside, to my warm Melbourne apartment. I sink into the couch and my body is thankful. My shoulders relax back, my spine unstiffens, my legs and feet are no longer at the hand of the road. But my eyes, now used to such beauty, my ears, now used to such peaceful silence, and my lungs, now used to such purity, aren’t as thankful that this day is over. All I can do is promise them, there will be a next time.