Grey nomad Peter Mills has just returned from a six-month tour of northern Australia … but the hugely successful trip nearly had a terrible sting in the tale.
Peter and his wife were heading back to Canberra just as the quarantine rules were relaxing. and they planned to end to their adventures with a relaxing drive along the Snowy Mountains Highway from Tumut to Cooma, and a final camp at Three Mile Dam in Koscuiszko National Park.
As they left Tumut towing their narrow-body AOR Matrix caravan with a 4WD Mazda BT50, they were feeling pretty good … but that didn’t last long. They headed up the Talbingo Hill to Black Perry Lookout, which Peter says rises about 600 metres vertically over around eight kilometres and has approximately a dozen hairpin bends.
And that’s where things got scary.
“At this time, and for the next several years due to Snowy 2.0 construction, there may be 50 to 100 truck movements on the narrow section of road seven days a week,” said Peter. “Many of these trucks are ‘truck and dog trailer’ or B-Double trailer trucks and, when descending this hill, most are empty, are familiar with the road, and moving at what I consider a speed where the drivers are generally unable to maintain the rear trailer wheels within their side of the road.”
Peter said he was climbing the hill pretty slowly in second or third gear at the time.
“We were forced off the road running surface into deep rocky gutters by trucks with rear trailers well (30-50cm) over the double centre line on two hairpin bends,” he said. “It was not possible to see the trucks coming in advance of four or five seconds due to their speed and the vertical rock walls on the inside of the hairpin bends.”
There was apparently barely space for the Mills’s narrow-body caravan to pass the trucks. Thankfully though, their All Terrain tyres could ‘ride out’ the steep and deep gutter next to the rock wall.
“There was no time to stop,” Peter said. “The awning on the caravan only just missed the rock wall, and the rear trailers of the two descending trucks narrowly missed the driver’s side.”
He is now warning other grey nomads that this road is extremely dangerous for full-width caravans, and that many trucks will be using this section of road for some time to come.
“If my caravan was full width we would have been hit by the truck or banged into the rock walls,” writes Peter. “Be very wary driving the Snowy Mountains Highway for the next few years.”