One of the main motivations for our offroad and overlanding exploits is to reconnect a story with a place, to stand at location of some notable (or infamous) event and be able to picture the scene unfold. This was reinforced as I wandered through the distorted remains of a crashed WW2 Liberator aircraft on a rainy afternoon, imagining how the plane might have appeared out of the low hanging cloud, unable to ascend over the rugged mountain side on which I was standing…
But before we get to that part of the story, we need to rewind a little.
Regular followers of the blog will know that I’ve been on a palliative immunotherapy program for a while now, with monthly treatments. Unfortunately we learnt that the drug is losing effectiveness so they’ve swung me onto a chemotherapy drug that is administered 3 weeks out of every 4, not great news as we roll into Christmas 2020. The chemo drug also requires some heavy pre meds which knock me around a bit so it effectively takes me off line for a full day each treatment. As you can imagine this is lousy for us on a number of fronts – in terms of the Travelling Two it means we’ll need to change some of our touring plans to fit into 6 day or 13 day blocks, in between chemo sessions.
Back to the blog. We had arranged for both our Mums to join us for Christmas in Brisbane which was great, a chance for them to spend time together and a rare chance to get most of the family in one place. Afterwards I ran my Mum back home to Rockhampton and caught up with family and friends while in my old home town. This also gave me an excuse to head out to Kroombit Tops National Park, a place on my destinations list for many years but which always seemed too out of the way to work into travel plans.
To make the trip more interesting I chose to head into the park from the western side using the Razorback Track. No trailers are allowed on the track, another reason to head out on this solo trip rather than as part of a Travelling Two tour with the trailer hitched.
The drive into Kroombit Tops was steep and windy, particularly in the early stages when negotiating sharp gullies and around trees, but it would be okay with a decent trailer and I’m sure the X3 would get through fine, at least in the dry. There are however some steep shaley climbs and clay sections that would be very interesting in the wet, even with a capable vehicle. I saw a couple of fairly standard 4WDs on the climb up and they were doing okay, needing a run up at a few places, but the big 200 Series crawled up fine with the rear e-locker engaged and a bit of wheel lift up front that was controlled by the traction control without need to bring in the front locker. Nearing the top is a great clearing with spectacular views across the Callide Valley, and a great place for lunch.
Rain started falling as I finished the climb, so my timing was definitely on point. Even a little rain made for interesting driving on a couple of off camber clay sections, needing a bit of inertia to ensure I didn’t stop halfway which would have seen me reversing back down a long slippery slope because there was nothing substantial to winch from.
After checking out the Razorback campground (which is very small and sloping) I continued straight on the 20km track to the Beautiful Betsy crash site, hoping to see it before heavier rain set in. The loop road into back of the National Park was getting very greasy in places where clay silt had washed onto the surface, so it seems that top of the park had been getting rain for some time, and the road demanded that I was very conscious of keeping a moderate speed and applying the brakes cautiously.
Tracks in to the bomber crash site are well sign posted and the last section of the track has been corduroyed with timber planks to avoid erosion, making for an easy climb. There is a good sized car park, which was empty so the weather must have kept visitors away.
Walking into the crash site was already feeling eerie, with the sound of rain and the occasional louder plop of water falling from a tree canopy onto the ground, and my boots crunching along the gravel path. The dripping rain, low clouds and sombre feeling of the place were certainly adding drama to my visit. Sometimes when you visit a WW2 historical location all you see are a few pieces of bare concrete or twisted steel so it is a surprise when you find just how much of the original aeroplane is strewn through the forest. All four engines, wing sections and most of the tail are sitting in the forest of ironbark trees where they lay after being wrenched from the plane as it tore apart upon impact into the hillside.
Its amazing that the crash site went undiscovered for 49 years, only found in 1994 when a park ranger noticed the glint of metal after a fire went through the area. The remote hill top crash site is well beyond towns or properties and would have only seen the occasional shepherd or ringer up until the area was declared a National Park.
When you reach the bomber site there are a number of information boards that retell the story of Beautiful Betsy. Rather than me try to paraphrase the information I’ll post the boards below, there is also information at this link.