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2016 Southern Cross Rally Festival - Day 4
Corryong to Gundagai

The Southern Cross Rally Festival is not about outright performance or reproducing the old event from the 1960s and 70s. It is about giving people with an interest in the sport a chance to take part in an event which uses some parts of old-time rallying (navigation and  route charted stages, or example) and for old-timers to reminisce about past exploits and glories. Sometimes it appears that the real competition is to tell the tallest stories. Another aspect of the event is that it gives participants the opportunity to drive over roads used in rallies in the past, although they must be driven at legal speeds, and to see some magnificent scenery and attractions that competitors in a traditional rally are too busy to look at.

The fourth day of the event was an excellent example of this. The roads were excellent and took the crews past some beautiful scenery in the south of NSW near the snow country while still being challenging to drive. Because speed isn't what matters there was time to stop, admire and photograph historical sites as well as nature. The first of these was the Southern Cloud Memorial Lookout just north of Tumbarumba. Quoting from the memorial's web site:

The crash of the Southern Cloud on 21 March 1931 was Australia`s first commercial air disaster.

The Lookout commemorates the pilot, co-pilot and all six passengers who were lost when the aircraft crashed, and also acknowledges the changes made to Australian aviation laws due to the accident. The Tooma Road lookout offers panoramic views of the Maragle Valley and pinpoints the exact crash site of the Southern Cloud.

Event officials including the sweep and recovery vehicles (nobody had had to be "recovered" so far but the possibility has to be considered) stopped at the lookout to discuss strategies and to look across the valley to the highest mountains in Australia.

Speed might not be important in this event, but that refers to outright speed. After leaving the lookout crews (and officials) were asked to drive over a rally stage at a constant average speed, arriving at the end of the stage a certain specified number of minutes after starting out. Winning isn't important in an event like this so I will modestly refrain from saying which car came closest to the target time. (Thanks probably should go to the several electronic aids including cruise control, plus a guide issued after breakfast which showed how much distance should have been covered after every minute of driving.)

Spectator control is always a concern at rallies, and this event is no exception. Unfortunately, when using country roads it is not always possible to make sure that all the spectators stay back behind the fences so drivers have to be careful in case the road becomes impassible.

Another historic site came next - the Adelong Falls Gold Mill Ruins. We weren't in a hurry but it was disappointing that we didn't have the time to explore this site, because it is a fascinating part of Australia's mining history. To quote the site's web site:

The Adelong Gold Rush began in 1852 with the discovery of alluvial gold at upper Adelong. The Adelong gold field was declared in 1855 and reef gold was discovered in 1857 in the hills above Adelong .The Reef ore was processed in the ore crushing mills along the creek. The biggest and most important of these mills was the Reefer ore crushing machine built by Scotsmen William Wilson and William Ritchie, which remains for all visitors to view from the platform or wander through to interpret how reef ore was processed.

This mill processed ore from miners from Adelong and the wider district and ceased operation in 1915.

Lunch was at Tumut, where the officials and competitors were joined by Ken Smith, who had been a navigator in many Southern Cross Rallies, occupying the seat next to such luminaries as Bob Holden.

There was another maintained average speed stage after lunch. This was a bit longer and required some navigation as well as clock and speedo watching. Rauno Aaltonen was driving the John Cooper Works Mini and his navigator seemed to get him very lost because they arrived at the end control via a dirt road out of a forest rather than on the bitumen road that everyone else used.

On the way to the finish there were more problems with livestock that wanted to get too close to the action, but after a good barking at by a couple of dogs they finally got back behind the fence and everyone was able to safely and happily get to the end of the day at Gundagai where, as usual at the end of any rally, people complained about the instructions and said why they would have done a lot better except for [insert various excuses here]. It is encouraging to see that with all the changes to rallying over the years the traditional excuses are still produced on a regular basis.

But everyone had a good time, enjoyed the day thoroughly and is looking forward to Day 5.

Copyright © 2016- Peter Bowditch

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