Pristine beaches. Amazing 4WD tracks. Picture perfect destinations. A full support crew. Incredible people, great entertainment and all to support an amazing cause; children in need!
What's this? - The Variety WA 4WD Challenge!
Variety – the Children’s Charity of WA help support thousands of WA kids who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs by giving practical equipment, programs and experiences to help them overcome the obstacles they face. This can range from an iPad to help a child living with Autism, to vehicle modifications for children with physical disability to travel safely in the family car, modified bicycles, wheelchairs, scholarships, camps and much more.
They host a huge range of fundraising events throughout the year, and pride themselves on making the lives of thousands of children in Western Australia easier and more fulfilling. From the Variety Bash and 4WD Challenge through to fundraising Balls and lunches, the Home Lottery and Carols by Candlelight, Variety WA have a busy schedule of events.
What's the Variety WA 4WD Challenge?
Each year Variety WA hold a 4WD Challenge, exploring some of the most spectacular parts of Western Australia, but done with a flair that the participants have come to love and expect. This year, the Variety WA 4WD Challenge started in Dongara and ended in Dirk Hartog Island, one of Western Australia's most remote and stunning coastal destinations.
For 2017, the grant child was Karter, an amazing 4 year old boy who lives with cerebral palsy and global development delay. Variety WA has granted a vehicle modification to Karter’s family van to allow for wheelchair access. This enables Karter and his beautiful family to travel to and from appointments in his wheelchair, and throughout the community.
2017 - Dongara to Dirk Hartog Island
Starting 4 hours north of Perth, the 2017 4WD Challenge kicked off with a vibrant evening at the Priory Hotel in Dongara. The next day, the rain made for an interesting trip along some gravel tracks out to Coalseam National Park, and ending at Hutt River Province. Who'd have known there's a micro nation inside of Australia itself?! They even have their own passports and currency! A medieval night complete with a re-enactment by the Twin River Guard provided for many laughs.
Port Gregory was next on the agenda, with an amazing morning tea put on by the Caravan Park, followed by some incredible 4WD tracks in between Port Gregory and Wagoe Station. With sand dunes, mud flats, beach driving and world class views, everyone had a blast. The afternoon continued on with a quad bike tour at Wagoe Station, and then onto Kalbarri for a night at the Palm Resort.
With a breakfast at Kalbarri Primary school followed with a crazy hat show, we pushed north through the Murchison House Station and along the river, cutting back towards the coast to White's Camp, and then following the vermin proof fence out to the highway. With a quick stop for fuel, we pushed on to Nanga Bay Resort and ate an amazing seafood dinner.
Next morning we headed out towards the most western point of Australia; Steep Point. On the way though, we called in at Useless Loop; a closed mining town for a fantastic lunch and another kids show for the 27 children at the primary school. With a stop at the blowholes on the way into Steep Point and an incredible beach side camp, everyone had a fantastic day.
Next morning, the barge ferried 25 vehicles across to Dirk Hartog Island, where we were welcomed to an island paradise with tropical, live entertainment. The last 3 days were spent exploring one of the most untouched places in Western Australia. We spent a full day travelling around the Island, with the last day a free for all; those who wanted to go fishing did, and those who just wanted to soak up the incredible beach out the front of the homestead lazed around. It's truly a remarkable part of the world at Dirk Hartog Island.
With 16 participant vehicles and 9 support vehicles, I could see a logistical nightmare waiting to happen. To my absolute surprise and delight, everything ran like clockwork! The way everything just fell into place is a huge credit to the planning effort put in place for each event.
What makes the Variety 4WD Challenge so amazing?
Going to the Variety WA 4WD Challenge, I really had no idea what to expect. I have to say, I was completely baffled by the whole event, particularly by how well it ran, and the service provided. I've never seen a 4WD trip done with so many boxes ticked. Not only is the trip planned and driven several times leading up the event to factor in any changing conditions, its all step by step noted down on route notes that the participants get each day. There's a team that leave before everyone each day to lay out pink tape and arrows on the track to follow, and a team that follows behind everyone and collects the tape, and ensures everyone arrives at their destination without any dramas.
The paperwork for National parks, 4WD track permits and accommodation is all taken care of, meaning you have more time to sit around and soak up the incredible locations.
Mechanics, a doctor and delicious food
There are several mechanics on the trip, who are there to support the entire crew should something go wrong, and it often does in remote areas! On the way up to Dongara, we received a phone call saying a water pump had failed on a 6.5L Chev motor in a Nissan Patrol. A water pump and coolant was sourced, and the mechanics worked for several hours stripping the front of the engine to pull the pump off and replace it, and get going again. We aren't talking about replacing a simple Vee belt here; this is serious mechanical work that would cost a small fortune in a workshop, and these guys take it in their stride in the middle of the bush with limited parts and tools.
Several tyres were punctured, a crank seal replaced, and alternator cable repaired along with various noises diagnosed and loose bolts kept in check. At one stage, an axle broke and parts were sourced, picked up and replaced without any delay to the trip! These mechanics are some of the best in the business and they volunteer their time, tools and smile the whole way through.
A qualified doctor comes along for the whole trip, and is available by satellite phone any time of day, should something go wrong.
Good food will make or break a trip. Just because there is some camping involved doesn't mean the food was ordinary. In fact, it is nothing short of incredible for how remote the trip is, with the Chef's doing an absolutely amazing job. From ribs to crayfish and everything in between, everyone enjoyed fantastic food, and those with specific requirements were well looked after too.
Even with great service and world class locations, a trip like this is only a massive success with the culmination of great people. Participants come from far and wide, and its all one big family. Everyone is friendly, happy to share a laugh and willing to provide some great entertainment.
The volunteers and Variety people that go on the trip and make it happen are amazing too. There are no limits; they just do what ever is necessary to make the trip happen efficiently and smoothly.
Incredible locations and 4WDing
These 4WD Challenges go to some of the best places Western Australia has to offer. Even if you have your own 4WD, some of the destinations are beyond what most people would go to as they are either too remote, or too difficult to get into without the planning and infrastructure that Variety has access to. The 4WD trip from Port Gregory to Wagoe Station through the dunes, across the salt flats and along the beach is one I'll remember for a long time to come, and there wouldn't be too many people that have done it.
From there, we entered the Shark Bay world heritage area to enjoy Nanga Station, Steep Point and Dirk Hartog. These are some of the most amazing places in Australia. Dirk Hartog Island in particular has pristine beach after beach, an amazing homestead looking over the crystal clear water and the best part is its limited visitor numbers, and 4WD access only!
Being backed up by a group of well organised and well trained 4WDers is a dream come true for those who haven't done much behind the wheel of a 4WD. Whether you are a seasoned 4WD owner or you've just hopped behind the wheel, you'll have no issues and have a great time in the process.
I'd not be doing these events justice if I didn't mention the evening entertainment. From live performances through to the fines sessions, themed costume nights, performances and sundowners, Variety WA sure know how to entertain.
Raising money for children
Above and beyond anything else, the event exists to raise money for children in need, and there's nothing more heart-warming than that. We live in a world where charities operate left right and centre, but Variety is different in many, many ways. This year some $190,000 was raised, which is a massive achievement, and will go a long way to children in need.
How can you get involved?
Variety WA are always on the lookout for new participants who want to make a difference to the lives of Australian children, and have a great time whilst doing so. The cost for 2017 was an entry fee of $270 plus $1760 food and entertainment levy. Returning 4WD's have to raise $8000, and new 4WD's $6000.
The fundraising side of things is all well and truly supported by Variety WA, and they assist you in several different pathways to raise the money required for the trip.
2018 Variety WA 4WD Challenge
Next year's Variety WA 4WD Challenge is going to be bigger and better than before. With the location currently being decided, you'll have to wait to find out, but I guarantee its going to be an amazing part of WA. If you'd like to get involved, head to www.variety.org.au/wa/ and sign up. You'll have a blast, and make a massive difference in the process.