There have been many times that I’ve totally and utterly just stuffed up while 4WDing. I zigged when I should have zagged, ran out of talent, or simply didn’t pay enough attention. The end results have been embarrassing at times, a pain in the bum at others, and sometimes a real disappointment given I should have known better. However, each and every stuff up has been a lesson. Although, it would seem I'm something of a hard learner.
At sixteen years old I was working in the Goldfields for a small mining company during school holidays. While having a blast driving the mine ute around the bush, I spotted an old waste ore mound. Only ten feet tall but very steep, I decided to try and drive over it. I got exactly one vehicle length before realising it was way too steep. I had no chance! Of course, I hadn't counted on the tow ball getting jammed behind the vehicle. I couldn't go up, I couldn't go back, and with no shovel to dig the rock-hard earth away I was faced with one long, embarrassing walk.
One time while I was embarked on a solo trout fishing mission on a large dam in WA, I decided to have a play in a large mud puddle while moving fishing locations. I eased the front of my SWB petrol GQ Patrol into the hole which promptly gave way causing the 4WD to land on its chassis. With the front wheels hanging in the hole, going forward wasn't possible and the lack of traction at the rear meant reversing wasn't working either. Once again, I was faced with one long and embarrassing walk to find help.
Heading home after a surf on a well-used bush track, I decided to take a shortcut down an overgrown fire trail. It was so overgrown that the previous winter’s storms had brought down a huge Marri Tree. Given I figured I could conquer anything by this stage, I eased the front wheels over the trunk only to roll the massive log over as the 4WD see-sawed on the chassis. No matter how much frustrated right boot I gave the 4WD, I wasn't going anywhere. I was stuck on a tree! That was one of the longest, most frustrating recoveries I have ever undertaken. Needless to say, I now look at all fallen logs with a great deal of caution before driving over them.
Then there was that time I decided to take a shortcut back to our mining camp by skirting around the edge of a salt lake, rather than follow the track the long way around. Of course, I wasn’t stupid enough to cross the lake but figured going around it would be fine. It was, until I lost concentration and crossed a small finger of lake, no more than a few metres. I should have noticed the dark-coloured surface indicating moisture, but I didn’t and next minute I was chassis deep. Having busted through the salty crust, the black mud below was not letting my ute go. We lost half a day of production trying to get the vehicle out.
Another time, we had just finished filming, this time in the Yalwal region of NSW. It was after dark and the entire crew were keen to get back for a couple of well-earned beers. The track out was an easy D-grade track with the odd bog hole. Our guide had warned all of us to be wary of these as some were particularly deep. He knew the track well and was giving instructions as he went through each hole, advising us to go straight through or hang left or right. It turns out that I wasn’t paying enough attention and on a huge bog hole that I should have edged around on the right, I went left. I was a strong breeze away from rolling it, as half my 4WD went into an abyss and the other stayed on dry land. Luckily, the camera car was behind me and could pull me out backwards. My advice to take away from this is to always follow instructions from the locals.
Finally, perhaps my most famous stuff up, the day I put Shorty on its side…on flat ground. I hadn’t driven the old bus for near on 6 months and had only been off-road for maybe two minutes when I found myself needing to have a second crack at a minor obstacle. I reversed with left hand down to try a different line, not seeing the two meter drop off. The left hand side of the vehicle stayed high while the driver’s side followed the drop off. I landed on my side on flat ground, a complete stuff up. The end result was a lengthy recovery followed by needing to check the engine for oil ingression. Several hours of total embarrassment. However, the worst thing of all, I dented every driver’s side panel on what was a perfectly fresh body without a scratch thanks to extensive body work that had just been completed weeks before.
Yep, pretty disappointed at myself.
If you spend enough time in a 4WD there will come that moment where you hang your head and wonder what just went wrong. My hope for you is that it’s nothing more than a hiccup and that you are not a repeat offender…like some people.
Have you got stories of when you’re 4WDing has gone awry? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.