Getting to know Bruce from Bylong Creek 4×4 Park was a blessing. You see, it’d been some time since I had been camping– yes, I know, you have to make time, but lately it’s been a little more difficult to balance home and work than usual. The decision to do it was exciting and immediately echoed by my daughters Victoria and Annabelle – two would-be pyromaniacs who couldn’t wait to see the stars and toast marshmallows again.
A relatively easy 3.5hr drive from Sydney, we took the scenic route through the mountains, stopping in Lithgow for a snack and last minute supplies. Swinging the GU’s nose to the right up Upper Bylong Road was the point where it all became more real and the kids swapped their iPads for the windows to check out the scenery. It’s pretty beautiful country up this way, the region flanked with rich farming land and a stone’s throw from some great wine country.
As Bruce had promised, passing through some gates and a short 15 minute drive had us at the entry to Bylong Creek 4X4 Park. Punching the pre-provided code into the combination lock had us entering this 800 acre veritable toy shop for 4×4 enthusiasts. What we immediately saw was the namesake of the property – Bylong Creek, to our left as soon as we drove in. Sadly, the creek is and has been decidedly dry for some time – eerily exposing the large smooth rocks at the bottom. I would love to see it with water running through as I think it would really add a special element to the experience.
Driving in and past the Delica owners club who were visiting for the weekend, we chose to set up camp at the upper campground. There are various campgrounds around the property with proximity to port-a-loo’s, but there is free camping anywhere you wish if that is your preference. On this trip we were also trying out our new Darche 350 Safari tent. As we were staying for the weekend, my preference was to have a free-standing setup rather than the go-to Hi-View 2 rooftop tent and annexe. This way we could go out and explore the various tracks around the property and the region without having to pack down.
Setting up this new tent was pretty easy, with an external frame that holds up the back half, and a super-simple extendable trigger-lock pole further towards the front giving you more than ample standing room and space for 2 adults and 2 wiggly little toddlers to sleep in comfort. I will say though that the optional “A-frame” for the front in lieu of the pole is something I will invest in to prevent the overnight contortionist moves required to avoid the pole. Mind you, Victoria has a penchant for sleeping horizontally when everyone is vertical, so she was contributory to this issue. We also had the awning and optional walls, which added a significant amount of undercover space at the entrance of the tent and a good spot to store items like shoes and camp chairs when we left the site.
Having setup the tent and sleeping arrangements, we jumped into the GU to go exploring. Bruce has created some amazing tracks and they range from mild to wild across the spectacular terrain. Each trail has a name and funnily enough, an item at the beginning of it. It’s a fact that if you can convince Bruce to clear a track on his property, he will name it after you! That’s one for the explorers!
With the little ones safely strapped into their seats, I wasn’t going to attempt anything nothing too crazy but more than enough to have the usual cheering and screaming from the back seats as we crawled down some gully’s and through some ruts that tested our Old Man Emu setup. When we saw the first drop on the windscreen we realised that we had left one of the large windows on the tent open, so we meandered back to our campsite. With the kids in the tent I got to setting up our Darche 270 awning for some extra shelter from the weather. As soon as I had strapped each side back to the roof basket it started – lightning, thunder and grape sized hail, not to mention the wind! After causing carnage across the 3 campsites around us it left as quickly as it came! Happy to report the awning, which didn’t have the recommended poles and tie-downs secured based on timing, held up like an absolute champ – a testament to the quality of the design. The tent also stood up to the test, but we didn’t want to tempt fate and removed the awning and walls overnight to prevent the wind from picking them up and causing strife.
Getting the fire going was hard work without fire-starters (you always forget something right?), but we got there eventually and the girls finally got their marshmallows. Mum and dad also took the opportunity to enjoy a tipple now that the 5 o’clock alcohol ban was lifted. A lot of people I have spoken too complained about the alcohol ban during the day – personally I like it. Breakfast beers are not really my cup of tea anymore and should never be mixed with the operation of machinery anyway, especially not when you have families around with kids and especially given some of the tracks on site. We encourage Bruce for the tough stance – even though he cops heaps for it.
Unzipping the front door to the tent in the morning revealed a beautiful clear sky and a breathtaking view of the rock escarpment that surrounds the property. The plan for Sunday was a day in town – and although there were many to choose from, Mudgee was the go for us this time around – an easy 1 hour drive from camp. Being lucky enough to wake up on my birthday and crawl out of a tent, then sample some great wine and food for a few hours with the family was a real treat – pretty sure this will now become an annual tradition! Despite the day it was, I had to give in and swap the motorcycle museum for some mini golf at Honey Haven where we sampled and picked up some local honey to take home.
Hitting the bitumen after the long weekend was with a commitment that once a month we would do a quick weekender like this – our next one is locked away for 2 weeks’ time at Newnes and none of us can wait! To anyone who hasn’t been to Bylong – check it out. It’s owned and run by a passionate and 4×4 mad family who are committed to giving you a great experience – the facilities and amenities are great and you could explore all day and not do the same track twice. There is a fantastic selection of grades with no pressure to have to try something you’re not comfortable with just to get to a destination on the other side.
Most importantly, it takes a bit of the brain work out – sometimes trying to decide where to go can be a challenge. A facility like Bylong Creek 4X4 Park provides it all in one place. Camping is about reducing stress after all right?