Lake Tyrrell Scenic Tour
The Sea Lake Off Road Club organised a scenic tour of the famous Lake Tyrrell Off Road track on Saturday, September 23.
The club was overwhelmed with interest in the trek around
Victoria’s largest salt lake with people coming from Melbourne, Colac, Bendigo,
Ballarat, Swan Hill, Mildura, Horsham and places in between.
A bus seating 20, driven by Club President and Race Director Gordon Bailey, filled quickly when news of the tour got out and over 30 tag-along vehicles joined in.
Briefing was held at the familiar ‘chook shed’ at 8.30 a.m., a place fondly remembered by off-road scrutineer Col Marston. "We must have put a thousand cars and bikes through here," he said.
The tour joined the race track at the ‘corduroy’ or ‘stoney crossing’ and stopped at ‘Site One’ – a former salt mining site – for a walk out onto the glistening salt lake.
Then, winding their way around the picturesque west side of
Lake Tyrrell, with its meandering, sandy, tree lined vistas, the group stopped
at ‘Site Three’ for morning tea.
Site Three, is Cheetham Salt’s operation which produces 100,000 tonnes of salt each year. Site manager Terry Elliott explained how the salt is produced and its many uses.
Several B-double transport loads of salt leave the site seven days a week, most of which are used in chemical production in Melbourne. The company also produces pool salt and salt for various food and pet food industries.
Lunch at Box Clump, the half way point, was well catered for
and the two toilets on a tandem trailer came in handy.
The change in scenery and landscape was obvious as the tour headed down the east side of the lake.
The flat, wind-swept terrain with saltbush interspersed with native purple ‘pigface’ out in flower, and the numerous islands on the lake, home to seagull rookeries.
High, lightly vegetated hills on the eastern side provided excellent vantage points to see the expanse of the lake with its changing hues.
The tour had made excellent time on the recently graded track and George (Gordon) wasn’t mucking about in the bus.
The valley in the back of Hannig’s drew a few breaths. The club once used the natural amphitheatre for club events.
A detour at the back of Stewart’s property featured a wedgetailed eagle’s nest, then it was onto the home straight.
A tour of the track wouldn’t be complete without a run over
the jump, the infamous ‘bog hole’ has long since been by-passed and even the bus
handled the jump, but not quite at race speed.
There always has to be one, this time it was Jake! Well done Jake on getting bogged in Nigel’s ute. But alas, he wasn’t the only one, Byrnsey also succumbed to the slippery sand.
The day culminated with the unveiling of a memorial in the
Recreation Reserve honouring past winners and the founder of the event, Frank
Frank gave an account of how the event came to be, the track he pioneered, his liaisons with landowners, councillors and bureaucrats, and the involvement of local clubs, all of which contributed to make the event a success; a success that continues to this day.
From its heyday with 290 cars and 260 bikes to the present day with high tech machinery that can circumnavigate the lake in just over 40 minutes, the lake remains constant. A place of awe, heartbreak and supreme happiness, and that was just today.
|• Frank Coad
pictured with the black marble monument in the Sea Lake Recreation
Reserve. The monument was made possible with donations from local
residents, Advance Sea Lake Inc., the Sea Lake Off Road Club and the
cooperation of Wilson Memorials, Ballarat.
It lists previous winners of the race along with organising clubs and directors of the event. A brief history of the event and an excerpt from an early edition of the Australian Off Road Yearbook are also included.