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2016 Southern Cross Rally Festival - Day 5
Gundagai to Jenolan Caves

Day five started with breakfast for the officials and competitors at the Gundagai Heritage Railway museum. Enormous thanks have to go to the Gundagai Lions Club for cooking up a hot breakfast for everyone and providing sandwiches and drinks to take away for lunch.


It is now almost possible the drive between Sydney and Melbourne without actually passing through a town at all by just driving at relatively high speed on a four-lane motorway. Some of the towns that have been bypassed and which Southern Cross Rally went through are still very large settlements like Yass which were a nightmare to drive through on the old Hume Highway. Others like Jugiong have reverted to charming little rural hamlets distinguished only by a very well-made Main Street which used to be part of one of the busiest roads in Australia. One of the pleasures of the Southern Cross Rally was to get off the motorways and to see the country as it used to be before getting there quickly became more important than having an interesting drive.

Getting to the location for lunch involve navigating using a map, and as usual almost everybody got lost. This time however it was not because all the navigators had forgotten their navigation skills but because someone who should be called a rude name had turned around the pointers on a roadside direction sign. With comments like "That turnoff to Grabben Gullen came up a bit early but that's where the sign points to" cars headed off into the never-never, only realising that they were actually lost on arriving at an intersection which was obviously not where anyone was supposed to be. Luckily there were some council workers nearby who were able to give directions (and who probably spent the rest of the day laughing at the experts who were supposed to know how to read maps).


Lunch was at the Albion Hotel in Grabben Gullen. The number of people in blue shirts indicating that they were officials of the event made it no secret that the Southern Cross Rally was in town. The hotel was obviously expecting a group of rally enthusiasts and even had a special section of the bar set aside for groups like this. Some say that when any significant collection of rally people is gathered together, the wind from the hot air and tall tales would be enough to drive one of the windfarms close to the hotel.

After lunch, cars passed through the towns of Crookwell and Taralga, with the latter being the last place where fuel would be available before the end of the event 110 km later. With no fuel available at Jenolan, crews who didn't leave Taralga with full tanks either had to take a 20 km detour via Oberon or last out the 170 km to Mount Victoria.

After leaving Taralga, competitors had another section where average speed had to be maintained. To add to the challenge, cars had to pass through a section of road works, complete with men with Stop/Go lollipop signs who delayed some of the cars randomly. This just added to the thrill of the chase, but as it wasn't a competitive event nobody was too concerned.

Observant people might have noticed the difference between the normal height of the Abercrombie River and the bridge across it and been thankful that the very heavy rains in the catchment area had ceased a few weeks before the Southern Cross Rally was due to pass this way.

Just before the descent to Jenolan Caves, cars passed a sign on Edith Road showing that that point on the road is 1,365 metres above sea level. This is only 235 metres lower than the Falls Creek ski resort where people had been trying out their driving skills only three days before. Australia is a very flat country. In addition, the vertical distance between this sign and Jenolan Caves is about half the height difference between Falls Creek and the town of Mount Beauty, but the driving distance is much less on a road that is less than half as  long and wide and has many more very sharp bends. There is a very good reason for the sign on Edith Road near Oberon warning drivers of certain vehicles that they need to find another way if they want to get to the Caves.

This is a video of the descent to Jenolan caves, recorded at another time. (Note about the quality - this was a test of a cheapish dash camera which obviously had a lot of difficulty changing exposure as the shadows from trees flickered.)

Final destination for the Southern Cross Rally Festival was Jenolan Caves, where everyone had a chance to stop moving, drink a beer or two (the event might have been more relaxing than a speed-based rally but the sport's zero BAC rules still prevented drinking at the lunch breaks) and tell stories about going up the wrong road occasionally.

The celebration continued in the excellent Caves House restaurant, where the consumption of some excellent local produce and wines was accompanied by discussion about how successful the event had been, how much fun everyone it had, and how everybody was looking forward to getting together next year and doing it all again.

Copyright © 2016- Peter Bowditch

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