Sometimes things don't go to plan

There’s nothing like an unpredictable start to your trip to remind you to relax, improvise and embrace the challenges that are thrown your way.

Anyone near to Matt and I will know that we put a lot of time and energy (and money) into getting ready for our trip to the Cape. Keen to prove to Matt that the first leg was going to be just an epic as the offroad component, I’d spent ages trying to pick the best spots for our week-long journey to Cairns, where we would meet up with the rest of our convoy before heading north. Our first night was going to be a pretty spectacular spot, nestled high on the dunes of Byfield National Park, about an hour north of Rockhampton.

Leaving home before the sun rose on a quiet Sunday, we made great progress - tackling the nearly 8hr drive to Rockhampton by 2pm. We stopped, refuelled and kept on heading north, with Byfield in our sights. Turning into the entry track we could barely contain our excitement, mountains surrounded us and beyond them we knew lay endless sand dunes and the promise of a sunset by the ocean.

Gravel track turned to dirt, dirt turned to sand. We aired down to our usual tyre pressure, and continued on. “God this is soft” we said to one another as we made our way along the winding sandy track. Reaching the base of a small sandy hill, the car started to struggle. Then, nearing the mid-way point, we came to a dead stop. We knew our car was heavier than normal – loaded up with a months worth of clothes, cooking, cleaning and camping gear – but surely not enough to warrant this.

Matt reversed down a bit, tried again. Still nothing.

Again… Nope.

He dropped more air out of the tyres, getting to 16psi - fairly low as far as 4x4 tyres go. Still no luck.

Finally he tried to cross a bank to the other side of the track, the section people would use to come down rather than climb - success! It was hard going, but we reached the top. But, ahead of us lay another hill, and this one was a doozy.

Reaching the bottom of what we had determined was surely “Big Sandy” – Byfield’s infamous challenging dune - Matt accelerated hard, hoping to gain enough momentum to reach the top. After a metre, we were slowed to a crawl. Another few metres up our sleeve, we were both starting to get nervous. Our normally quite-powerful car, was barely moving, getting quite hot and we were travelling entirely alone. Scratching our heads Matt begun to suggest that maybe we’d need to turn around and find another spot for the night. Determined to see this through, I offered to climb on ahead on foot, and see how far the dunes went.

Clambering 20 metres further up all that could be seen was more and more sand dunes, the coast way out on the horizon – in short, too far for us to keep going. Disheartened by the realisation that day 1 of our journey was turning out to be a bit of a disaster (and wondering how many more days I had planned would turn out like this) I headed back to the car and we turned around.

Thankfully, climbing down the dune was a lot easier than attempting to summit it. We made it back to the nearest township, aired back up, and quickly hopped onto the tiniest bit of 3G we could find to determine a new place to camp, hopefully somewhere with a bit of water after working up a sweat in Byfield.

That night, we ended up in a caravan park in Yeppoon.

It definitely wasn’t the “rugged, pristine, off-the-beaten track” night I had planned in my head. I think I can probably count on one hand the amount of times we have opted to stay in a caravan park - we’re definitely more the type to prioritise privacy and nature over showers and amenities. But at that moment, we were grateful for a beachfront site, a twilight walk on the shore, a place to shower and fresh fish and chips.

Later that night we spent some time researching Byfield, thinking surely, SURELY we weren’t the only ones defeated. Apparently it’s a hard track for newbies - only the locals know that you have to lower your tyres to 10psi to climb the talcum-powder-soft hills. I guess we’ll just have to try again sometime. ;-)

We woke up the next morning and left Yeppoon, reminded that sometimes even when things don’t go as planned, you’ll always end up alright.


Brisbane-based lover of travel, off-roading, camping and photography.