Narrywoolan*

This year was my fifth Castlemaine and each one has left an indelible impression of not only probably the best and most varied range of Lancias that gather anywhere (apart from Turin 2006) but also of the extraordinary depth of hospitality that the Australian Lancia Register (ALR) extends to the attendees, and the overseas visitors in particular.


As a long-term devotee of the Aprilia I had come to know fellow owners Andrew Cox and Noel Macwhirter through Noel’s website and his postings under the BlueSky nom- de- plume on the LMC Internet forum. This in turn led to my very generously being offered the opportunity to drive Andrews car” Stainless Stephen” to Castlemaine for the rally both in 2011 and this year. Andrew is one of those lucky people who have a Lambda and an Aprilia to choose from!


Also this year I was very fortunate to be invited by Noel to join him for the follow on Alpine Tour to Canberra and back.

Reports of the weekend and the tour have already been published in the ALR newsletter (which I believe can be accessed from the LMC library) and Noel has launched an excellent series of photos and a report on this website so I will try to restrict these ramblings to my personal highlights, and contrasts with European events.


What is perhaps the most striking thing are the distances that people are prepared to travel. In particular those from Western Australia have to drive trailer or put their cars on the train to cover the 2000 odd miles just to get to Castlemaine.  Brisbane is about 1000 miles and Sydney on the doorstep at a mere 600!! (I think most of the participants here would be a bit puzzled by the distance element in the perennial debate about the venue for the LMC AGM in the UK). However this observation has to be considered alongside the fact that the traffic density is very much lower here, at least once away from the main cities.


The fabled reputation of the Castlemaine event draws people from around the world as well as from across Australia. For 2013 there were 17 from overseas, including Gerald, John Millham, Pat Ure and myself from the UK, plus ex-pat Dave Baker who now lives in Portugal.


As well as the journeys undertaken to get to the Rally the Tour itself involved quite significant driving distances. Over the six days the total was well over 1000 miles.


The variety of Lancias was also pretty impressive, the official entry list comprising: 1 Tri-Kappa, 7 Lambdas, 2 Aprilias, 4 Aurelias, 3 Flaminias, 1 Appia, 3 Flavias, 7 Fulvias and 3 Betas.

 

Day 1 of the tour started after lunch with the rest of the rally group at the Big Hill Winery and was a gentle opener of 150 miles. Noel was generous and trusting enough to let me share the driving and I covered the first stretch to a small motor museum at Shepparton. It was sadly lacking any Lancias! Continuing northwards we arrived at our motel at Yarrawonga by 5.30, having followed Joe Wilson in his Aprilia for much of the way.


Day 2, the longest at 260 miles, took us from Yarrawonga to Cooma. This included a beautiful scenic drive from Albury over the Bethanga Bridge, skirting the edge of Lake Hume and following the Murray River valley where I was enjoying being at the wheel of the very willing Aprilia through the many twists and turns. The lunch stop at Tintaldra was also memorable for the fabulous buffet that was laid on there and the sight of all the Lancias parked on the road side- notable because at most of the other stops the cars were spread over larger areas so did not have quite the same impact. This scene was well captured by Noel's photos.


From here I resumed navigation duties as we proceeded over the Snowy Mountains via Cabramurra, Australia’s highest town at 1488 meters to the Marlborough motel at Cooma. (Note however that when I say navigation we're not into " Measham" territory with spot heights and tulips on a 1 inch 0S map! Typically there might be a distance of 10 to 20 miles between junctions that require any sort of decision to be made). There was however some major descending and climbing to be done particularly over an 8 mile section of tight bends into and out of the Tumut River Valley in the Kosciusko National Park. It is a testament to Noels preparation (E.g. read his piece on his web site about his trials and tribulations to get a good radiator), as well as to the wonderful built-in driving characteristics, that Aprilia 1070 was always such a pleasure to drive through this sort of terrain. And indeed similar sentiments were to be heard from all the other drivers after this days’ driving.


There were various other sights to be seen along the way, identified for us by Russell Meehan’s excellent route instructions, such as the crash site and wreckage of an aircraft, The Southern Cross, that went missing in 1931 and the wreckage from which was only discovered in 1958, and the remains of one of a number of Bailey bridges that were erected over the Tumut river, but the overwhelming sentiment was what a superb day of Lancia driving it had been.

 

For me, as an engineer, the highlight of Day 3 was a visit to the Snowy Mountains Discovery Centre just outside Cooma on our way into Canberra. The Centre tells the story of the construction of the system of dams that were built for storing and controlling the rain fall from the mountains into the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers for irrigation purposes and using the latent energy to power a number of hydroelectric generating stations. When we had a tour of the Murray One Hydro Station on our return journey it was interesting to learn that irrigation was the primary consideration for the water management and power generation was secondary.


Day 4 at Canberra did not feature strongly in terms of Lancia activity but did provide interesting insights into Australia's capital city. The road layout, like a sort of dartboard with the parliament building at the centre, makes it almost impossible for a visitor to navigate at all intuitively. I suppose it does serve to convince us old stagers who are still clinging to our paper maps that the sat-nav is the only way forward, provided it is up to date of course!

   Visits to Lanyon Homestead and the satellite tracking station at Tidbinbilla provided reminders of how the countryside was before Canberra city was conceived and how Australia continues to look to the future.

 

We spent two nights at the Rydges hotel and then as we started back towards home on Day 5 a night at the Rydges Horizons resort at Jindabyne. From here the Aprilia happily bounded up past the snow line for us to check the view above the ski resort at Charlottes Pass. ---and have a snowball fight, the element of surprise being the key to success!!  One of our few moments of concern about the car occurred on the way back down from the top. The rear brakes began to vibrate unpleasantly when used hard. When we checked after parking for the night there was some looseness of the off-side drum on its spline but we could not do much about it apart from making sure all the drive shaft flange bolts were tight.


Overnight temperatures were predicted to drop below zero at Jindabyne prompting some drivers to consider varyingly drastic strategies to avoid frost damage to blocks or radiators etc. It is of course not the norm to run with antifreeze here and indeed it is seen as nothing less than poison to allow it near a Lambda cylinder head! Hence they were wrapped up or in at least one case drained despite the parking being under cover. For some one used to English winters and being unable or unwilling to afford anti-freeze for many years it seemed a bit paranoid---but of course better safe than sorry.

CASTLEMAINE  &  ALPINE TOUR 2013 -    A UK PERSPECTIVE


by Ben Courage


To me the name Castlemaine has always conjured up a vision a sort of Utopian gathering of cars and owners with limitless enthusiasm for the magic of Lancia. I guess as a UK LMC member this stems from the dispatches of the early explorers to this far away Mecca, notably one of our venerable vice presidents, Gerald Batt.


To be a part of this gathering became a reality for me when my daughter and her family moved to Melbourne in 1998 and this provided me with a base here and an irresistible reason to visit.

Day 6 was another serious driving day as we motored back through the Snowy Mountains along the Alpine Way. I don't think there were many takers for the optional ski chair lift ride at Thredbo as it was still decidedly chilly! 

Thankfully the brake judder problem did not return to a significant extent as we negotiated the climbs and descents past evocative names such as "Dead Horse Gap" and "Leather Barrel Creek" and drove back across the Murray into Victoria and a second excellent lunch at Tintaldra.


After a further 93 miles (requiring a total of only 8 route instructions!) we reached the Blazing Stump Motel at Wodonga for the next night stop and where dinner had been arranged for the whole group. This was the sixth such group meal in addition to 5 lunches and dinners at Castlemaine which obviously contributes massively towards the social aspect of the rally and tour such that even the most withdrawn or shyest amongst us get to make lots of new contacts. And of course we can always be sure of some common ground for discussion and debate!

For the final drive on Day 6 we headed back to the more traditional tourist areas of wineries and eateries around Beechworth and then a choice of routes via Myrrhee or Whitfield to Mansfield.


First stop for the day was at the Australian Army Museum just as we were leaving Wodonga.  This is extremely well set out and covers a wide range of exhibits of social and scientific interest as well as the military hardware and including a great range of vehicles---although again, not surprisingly, no Lancias.


An hour or so later as we approached Beechworth we diverted for a short scenic tour and history "sound bite" relating to the gold mining activity that was prevalent in the area. To quote Russell Meehan's excellent tour guide notes the "Golden Shoes Monument" at the turnoff to the "Gorge Scenic Drive" was elected to commemorate the occasion in 1855 when David Cameron (an ancestor do you suppose?!), a candidate in the first Parliamentary elections who had the miners support rode a horse shod with golden shoes from here into Beechworth at the head of a large procession of miners.  One assumes he was elected!


After lunch in Beechworth we were further reminded of the significance of gold in the area by a visit to the ruins of a gigantic (2000+ tons) floating dredge at, would you believe, a village called Eldorado. It was certainly no El Dorado for the workers toiling in shifts day and night against the background noise of the bucket chain, clawing its way along the stream bed and which it was said could be heard over 10 miles away. It's motors consumed one third of the whole state's electricity supply. It sifted out a total of 70,664 oz. of gold and 1383 tons of tin and operated between 1936 and 1954.


By this stage with about 1000 miles under the Aprilia's wheels since we left Castlemaine I think Noel was getting the scent of home, and not wanting to push our luck, so I could not persuade him to take the unsealed gravel road option (via a ford!) to get to the dredge. However I did not argue regarding his choice not to take the steep and windy route option back to Mansfield via Whitfield with the "rough and corrugated" track to Powers Lookout .We chose the easier option via Myrrhee.


We cruised into the "Old Convent motel" at Mansfield feeling very relaxed and pleased with ourselves only to learn we had missed perhaps the best views of the tour at the "Lookout" However we had enjoyed a feast of beautiful countryside throughout the tour so we really did not have any regrets. And Noel still had to get back to his home at Venus Bay another 200 miles or so away on the other side of Melbourne the following day.


After the Final dinner at the motel with the beer and wine flowing freely there were heartfelt rousing cheers for the efforts put in by all those involved in the organisation and most of all for the good Aussie Bloke who for our benefit and pleasure had conquered the Snowy Mountains, Cool and Tall, Russell Meehan.