My mate Scotty is brother to my other mate
The Captain Champ. Scotty is an ex dirt biker, he’s been coming out with us touring and camping, and after a short drive of my Land Cruiser along The Border Track last year. He decided a 4x4 of his own was in his future.
So he started cranking the hours at work and looking at 4x4's. Disco’s, Prado’s, Nissans were all in the mix. I urged him not to focus too much on any model but just to try to buy something that had been well looked after. Better to have a well maintained school bus, rather than something with a few dodgy mods that someone had already flogged the life out of. Especially when looking at the more accesible end of the market. You can then modify with what you require. It helped that Champ and I were singing the same tune, and that’s exactly what he bought.
A school run 1995 Mitsubishi Pajero. Making that 3 Mitsi’s in my circle of 4x4 owning friends. It’s only issue was an overdrive that didn’t want to overdrive. Champ just wired in a switch to bypass whatever was wrong with the factory set up, and she was good to go. Being in the industry they also tracked down the workshop that had looked after the rig, and found a very good service history with water pumps, timing belts, etc. Just what you want on a $3500 4x4. A set of 16 inch alloys, Bridgestone mud terrain tyres, give the front torsion bars a tweak to level out the ride height (a lift kit is currently on it’s way), a quick paint of the faded roof. Scotty reckons he is $6k into it, he now has a 4x4 capable of tacking most terrain he is likely to encounter in SA. Plus, it runs well, the engine is quiet, it presents well. Only thing left was to get some dirt under those tractor tyres.
We have a more involved 4x4 weekend upcoming. So for now it was just head out to the Adelaide Plains, and now we have had some hotter and drier weather, plus having two vehicles, have a crack as some of the trails that defeated me last time.
With the weather looking more like February in the UK than February in Australia, we headed out.
I was actually out here again a couple of weekends ago, I got through one of the tracks that was too wet the first time, but another, after much deliberation and walking I just decided was too risky as a solo vehicle. That decision, would turn out to be correct. I truly believe you have to push the envelope, otherwise you never grow in skills and experience. However conversely, you have to draw on those skills and experience to be able to say ‘it’s not worth the risk’.
I was also running new boots, BFG KO2's. I knew we would get some claggy sandy/mud, which is the main area I found the KO’s fell down. Let’s see how the new version goes.
We drove out to the first beach on road pressures, no worries. This is the one I had got through a few weeks ago and the water levels were significantly more down since then.
Of course, where there is tide, there is always danger...
Down the second track, this is the one I bailed at last time, it’s like a sandy salt pan. I could still see my tyre prints where the back end of the Cruiser had dug in as I eventually pulled the u-turn.
Still, now less water, and crucially a second vehicle it was time to push through. One vehicle (me) a hundered metres or so at a time. Stop somewhere firm, arm out of the window, other vehicle moves up to that spot.
It was hard to stand/walk, I was actually kicking off my sandals in the truck and drving barefoot. I didn’t want to be slipping off the pedals now.
This was the surface. AT’s or MT’s, same result.
After the first relay we were both sliding around like Ken Block, time to knock 20psi out of those shiny new tyres. Scotty had actually been through here on the dirt bike “when you get stuck, it doesn’t get any harder the further you go down” great. Time to have this at the ready.
I gave the boys a quick briefing on how to do a controlled, and hopefully safe snatch recovery.
[I had already sussed out the recovery points on the Pajero so I knew that was good. Then just one driver in each vehicle, anyone else way off to the side, obviously if something lets go it tends to head straight for one of the vehicles. Then just drive normally on the first pull, that normally deploys enough energy into the strap to pop out the stranded vehicle. If it’s proper stuck you’ll need to hit it increasingly hard until you free the stuck truck, especially if the pulling vehicle is struggling for traction. You’ll know when the limit is reached as the towing vehicle will be wrenched back quite hard. At that point it is probably time for a re-think.
I’ve only really hard to hit a snatch recovery really hard once, The Accountant (who else!) had got the his Range Rover bogged up to the doors, his ‘traction’ waffle boards had just disappeard into the gloop beneath. I got him out with my Rangie eventually, but I was definitely taking more of a run up and putting more into that strap than was comfortable.
Another one I did with mates new to 4wding involved 3 straps linked together. I had to take out all the rated shackles they had joined the straps together with (you can just loop the straps through each other, less potential flying objects). I kept telling them to stand further back and they looked at me like I was mental.
Especially popular in Australia. I always think a bit of a pause is good before executing a snatch recovery, people die unnecessarily with this recovery method. It is an easy go to, it’s quick and effective, but that is only because of the forces involved. If you are particiapting in one make sure you have control of everyone around.
Not to say they don’t have their place. Ironically, especially when time is a factor, a sinking vehicle or tidal places (you’ll notice it is what A4A pull out as soon as time is a factor). I keep a brand new ARB 8 ton for that occasion, for others, where time can be taken, the old used one will suffice.]
Anyway, in the end we were fine. The surface was still soft in parts but had dried out enough to get through no problems.
It’s funny, it all looked the same on top, some places were hard others you would feel the truck sink a bit and great clods of mud would come flying up.
Again we just relayed across.
Short sticky sections I tend to hit with a bit of momentum, but this I took slowly, incase I suddenly hit a really soft patch, I didn’t want to be embedded further than necessary.
What’s up Champ?
Both tyres were actually shedding sandy mud pretty effectively, once we got past the really sticky stuff at the start.
So the line between mud terrain tyre and all terrain tyre is blurred with this new generation of AT’s in my opinion. I asked Scotty how the noise was cruising at 100km/h on the way up here, window down, noticeable, window up, no issue. These BFG’s were no noisier than my last set, which is to say I don’t notice any noise (but I am deaf in one ear, so probably not the best judge of these things!). Scotty said he did notice some braking and turning issues once bolting these on, but approx 1 inch tall tread blocks and 1 inch gaps between them might do that... Aired down to 20 psi, they seemed to deal with this stuff equally well.
We meandered on, Champ taking over the controls of the 105, through more bits of scrub and sand.
Eventually coming out at the back of the shack community of Thompsons Beach.
The final part of the trail is barriered (to stop traffic from Thompsons Beach), we were expecting this and so just turned round and followed our fresh tracks back out.
Now knowing the surface of the salt pan didn’t hide any nasty suprises, we had a bit more Ken Block fun on the way out.
Back out to the main dirtroad we hung a hard right for one more beach visit.
I was hoping there would still be some decent puddles on the way out to the beach, wash off some of that mud. I gave Scotty the ‘foot down’ sign, he was as cautious as a mother with a new baby.
Rightyho, it’s on me then!
Back out to Port Prime.
This is still here.
In fact there was more rubbish here than last time we came. Makes me want to get a trailer and drag it all out. Just so people can dump stuff again? Makes me sad...
Anyway, Scotty’s bargain basement Paj was looking good on the sand.
So. We were contemplating crossing this tidal inlet and driving up the beach as a sort of round trip back to the highway. I didn’t take any good photos at the time but here is one from earlier.
Champ was all keen to give it a go, which was big of him considering he didn’t own either of the vehicles. He was thinking the wider but shallower mouth to this inlet, which we walked.
‘See it’s pretty firm here” next step, his foot plunged into sea water. So it was the deeper but narrower section. I wasn’t keen, I was doubting the Pajero’s abilty to yank out the Land Cruiser if it got properly stuck, which would mean sending Scotty in first. This area is tidal, the sea is a long way out at this point, but the various sea-claimed wrecks showed that there had been many moments of folly on this coast.
“Remember when we went to watch Harry Brown?” I asked Champ. “We are at that point aren’t we?” he replied. I was referencing an afternoon where we had had a great time, and then it all went a bit pear shaped after a slight miscalculation in the confidence/risk/skills department (neither of us). Which ended up with my Range Rover skull-dragging a very broken RenaultSport Megane down the road before the cops showed up.
We back tracked out the way we came.
So, by the way. The ‘off-season’ is done. Standby...