The 2016 FJ Cruiser National Summit was based at Bow Bridge, which is located between Walpole and Denmark, and we arrived there the day before the event officially started. Quite a few other Summit attendees, some of whom had also travelled from eastern Australia, also arrived early and it was great to renew some acquaintances and meet other FJ Cruiser owners in person for the first time.
The event was held over four days and the weather at Bow Bridge was mostly cold, wet and windy with occasional hail storms and several periods of very heavy rain thrown in for good measure. That said, it didn’t stop any of the attendees from having a great time or enjoying each other’s company. There were almost forty FJ Cruisers in attendance and, with the vehicle having been sold in thirteen colours (twelve of which were represented at the Summit), there was a kaleidoscope of colour whenever groups of FJs headed out and about.
On the first day, and after a morning tea stop in nearby Pemberton, thirty FJ Cruisers all headed for Yeagarup Dunes in the D’Entrecasteaux National Park for a bit of sand driving and, as the sand was both deep and very soft, we were advised by Richard (a very knowledgeable 4WD driving instructor who, along with his family, joined us for the weekend) to reduce the tyre pressure to 8 PSI. Even though we hadn’t previously driven our FJ Cruiser with the tyre pressure this low we, along with almost all the other Summit attendees, were willing to accept the wisdom of local knowledge and experience.
As it turned out we were all delayed by about 10-15 minutes while Richard offered assistance to some other 4WD drivers ahead of us who had become bogged in the soft sand while trying to drive up the first dune – not only did they have the tyre pressure in their vehicles too high but they were not willing to accept Richard’s advice. In addition, their repeated failed attempts resulted in the long, uphill sandy track becoming a series of very large, long corrugations and by the time we drove up the dune it was like driving over about two dozen wombats in each wheel track. (Note: no animals were harmed in the ascent of the dune!)
Richard’s advice regarding the tyre pressure and techniques to use for driving up the dune were spot on and I managed to get our FJ Cruiser all the way to the top on my first attempt! While most FJ Cruiser drivers also got all the way to the top on their first attempt some of them needed several attempts and they usually only succeeded after further reducing their tyre pressure. (Ironically none of the people Richard had initially tried to help had made it to the top of the dune and collectively our group gave their family and friends lots of opportunities to take photos/videos of how to drive up the sand dune!). Once everyone had made it to the top of the dune we lined up in a horseshoe shape for a group photo and while most of us had to contend with taking a photo from ground level there was also a drone being used to take some great overhead photos.
We them headed to Yeagarup Beach where it was hoped we would be able to cross the mouth of the Warren River and take the Warren Beach Track/Lewis Road route on our return journey but unfortunately the water was too deep and we had to return along the same route. Fortunately it was just as fun – and still a little bit challenging – in the opposite direction!
The following day we took part in a smaller group drive to nearby Denmark for coffee – the long and scenic way! Gavin, our trip leader, was great and even though he was familiar with the route there was a bit of a surprise in store for all of us – as a result of the recent heavy rain the water level in the Kent River (which we had planned to cross) was higher than expected and some fallen trees/branches were blocking most of the exit point on the opposite bank. Fortunately Gavin and Austin, another FJ Cruiser owner, came up with a plan to get both of their vehicles to the other side while at the same time ensuring this was done safely – they connected a snatch trap between their vehicles so that if either of them encountered a problem while crossing the river the other one could help them out. Fortunately the water wasn’t too deep or flowing too quickly and the base of the crossing was firm and even so we all made it to the other side without incident (unless of course you take into account the fact the Gavin lost his personalised and rather expensive numberplate off the front of his car when he drove back across the river to where the rest of were still waiting).
After stopping in Denmark for a late morning tea/early lunch break we continued on to visit Elephant Rocks and Elephant Cove in the William Bay National Park. As the name suggests, Elephant Rocks – which is a natural collection of enormous, oval shaped boulders – looks just like a herd of elephants standing in the shallow waters. After everyone had returned to camp, and following a great presentation by Richard in relation to 4WD suspension, an auction of donated items was held to raise funds for the Starlight Foundation and there was some very spirited bidding on quite a few items! (We found out later that, in conjunction with raffle ticket sales, the Summit raised more than $7,000 for the Starlight Foundation. The average ‘wish’ at Starlight comes in at around $6,500 and as James, one of the Summit organisers said, it means a lot that collectively we were able to provide an entire wish plus some!).
There were also some organised drives the following day – which was also the last day of the Summit – but Ron an I opted for a quiet day cruising around the region on our own – we visited Denmark again for coffee (the cafe we really wanted to visit was not open the previous day because it was a public holiday) and a wander through the shops before stopping at a nearby meadery on our way back to camp (we didn’t sample any mead but we did buy an ice-cream).
All in all it was a great event that was very well organised and attended – the only thing that would have made it better was if the weather has been warm and dry!
Photos taken by Ron and I
Photos by Ashley and James
Video of river crossing created using burst photos
Videos taken by Ron using his GoPro
YouTube videos taken by other Summit attendees