The man behind the tours, Simmo, has been running Simmo’s Offroad Tours for 10 years. After moving from the hustle and bustle of the city 25 years ago with his family and moving on from the police force he hasn’t looked back and now thoroughly enjoys a much greener eco-friendly lifestyle here in the Central West.
Inspired by the relaxed environment and leaving behind most of the stresses in the world, Simmo started the business so that he can share the adventure of going off grid and experiencing what nature truly has to offer. Sometimes sitting on a rock by a river or stream is all you need to reset and maintain a healthy perspective. Simmo admits a touch of ‘Gold fever’ set-in too. His relaxed philosophy to life is evident for all to see and it definitely washes over you during the day.
Reflecting back on all the tours that he has guided over a decade, Simmo says each group arrives with a positive attitude, pumped up to find gold and have fun. Every tour is memorable; he mentions he has never had a bad tour!
I booked the Hill End Gold 4WD adventure which started at Bathurst Visitors centre. Simmo informs me that Day Trips including winery tours are the most popular with many destinations on offer.
For the overnight trips, cabin accomodation with softer beds are preferred over camping after long days in the vehicle.
In July you can head off on a 10-day Outback Safari to Lightening Ridge, Bourke and Louth. Enjoying the scenery along the way, mining underground for some opals and visiting a sheep farm are just some of the experiences you can expect to participate in. Simmo assures me all you require is your All-wheel drive or 4WD vehicle and you are good to go.
One of my fellow tour group buddies, Michelle says she is trying to declutter the house and “avoid buying more ‘stuff’ that doesn’t get used”. Michelle has decided to book more occasions for Father’s Day, Birthdays, Christmas etc, so her family has can treasure these memories in future.
I tend to feel the same and given this year has been so ordinary in so many ways, having a moment away from it all is the magic we sought to re-energise ourselves.
Given that this was a first for all of us, I’ll be honest and say that there were some butterflies floating in my tummy, however Simmo has this calming voice that immediately puts you at ease; like ‘I trust this guy with my life’ kind of feeling.
Our mid-sized Landrover Discovery Sport was just about the smallest vehicle in our convoy, although I trusted it was up to the challenge. Hubby dutifully read the owners manual not once but twice but we still felt pretty underdone.
We set off at 9:30am and arrived at around 10:15am in the quaint town of Sofala which is the oldest surviving gold town. A quick wee-stop (tip: go pee behind a tree as the toilet is best avoided) and then off towards the majestic Turon river. Bring some morning tea snacks you can enjoy in the car. Simmo told us more about the history of the area and gold rush period via our walkie talkies or CB radios. There were lots of opportunities on route to ask Simmo questions as well.
We knew we were at the starter’s gate when we all jumped out and deflated our tyres to 25 psi in preparation for some serious off-roading. We successfully traversed our way down a mightily steep hill and then within minutes we encountered our first river crossing. There was palpable excitement as the water cascaded up our windows and maybe the odd squeal. This was followed in quick succession with more river crossings and the most hairy and exciting moments were when we climbed out of the rivers and up the slippery banks. A few attempts were often needed and the odd Max Trax and tow rope were employed for the steeper banks. Our fellow adventurers loved helping us out and there was a such a strong community feeling. Everyone was only too happy to get out and help.
A break beside the river half way to learn how to pan for gold and then relax with a hearty pot stew that Simmo cooked up on the campfire was the perfect tonic after some feverish gold panning. The children on tour bonded by building as a team a river bridge and skimming stones.
We were all visibly excited to strike gold, though a half hour in and we realised what hard yakka it was. We successfully found five sparkly specs while others found twenty, so there is plenty of gold to be found!
My husband was behind the steering wheel and I was an extra set of eyes. After a few hooley dooley moments crossing the river Despite losing a $400 piece of plastic trim from our car we and our car basically remained unscathed. We are definitely keen to come back another time. However Simmo chuckled and said “Go home and read your manual a 3rd time!”
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