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4x4 experiences: the good and the bad

By John Rooth, 05 Apr 2016 Opinion

4x4 experiences: the good and the bad

Some of the best experiences are often the most dangerous. Roothy recounts a few times he battled with mother nature.

There are certain situations that forge friendships more than everyday life ever can.

With a season of LowRange now finished, I guess it’s time to reflect on some of those situations – especially because I’m down here at the Mudflats Hotel all on my own...

During the last year or so, the LowRange team travelled all over the country, making the DVDs you’ve been getting with the recent editions of 4X4 Australia. Off-roading has been a way of life for me for many years, and it never ceases to be about the most fun you can have without blowing a thong – with a few serious moments thrown in, too.

Coffee break in miloKent and I take time out for one of Glen’s specially brewed ‘uber coffees’, using Milo’s tailgate to shelter from the wind and rain.

One of these more serious moments was experienced on a trip last year when we spent a night in gale force winds, tucked in to the ferns behind the cliffs north of Shelburne Bay. We had set up in relative calm, with few hints of the sleepless night to come. But before midnight, the winds picked up and ripped through awnings, blowing rain straight through zips.

I woke up wet in a tangle of awning, thankful for the Leatherman tool I always tuck under the pillow. I usually have it in case Kenno zip-ties my zippers closed, but this time I needed it to get out of a mess of fabric. The poles had twisted like pretzels and one was belting around, waiting to take out any Rooth silly enough not to grab it from behind.

Price you pay for comfortThe price Glen pays for carrying so much comfort on the back of the 79 is that the rear axle hugs the ground, launching the front skywards whenever there’s a decent dip in the track.

After I tucked away what was left of the awning, my swag stayed tight, and dry inside, though there might have been a puddle of rain under it!

In the morning, I could see our camera team – Melanie and Gav – coping with a roof topper that was whipping up and down. Kenno’s hard-floor camper was facing away from the wind and was somewhat protected, because it had a load on his roof rack, but he still had to ‘shorten canvas’ to stop the poles bending more than they had already.

Crocodile suit GlenAll dressed up in his crocodile suit, Glen had a big surprise for Kenno, who had been quietly wading in the pools.

Yet, a couple of days later we were trolling around in the sunlit pools at Indian Head, laughing like nongs. We’d beaten old Mother Nature again, albeit with some awning casualties.

A month or so later, we nearly lost three vehicles on a wild beach in the Gulf after forging a track through country that had never been driven before. The tide, after not shifting for more than 24 hours, decided to rip in at about a metre an hour. The beach turned to puddled mud and we fought like demons to get our trucks to higher ground – especially the heavy and almost-new 79.

Towing the camperTowing the camper put Kenno behind the game when we were crossing some salt flats in the middle of a stinking-hot Gulf day. 

What was the result? As usual, hardship meant an even closer bond and some harder partying the next time we got to safety. This is, after all, what adventuring is all about. You expect some hardship on an adventure and, as long as you survive, it’s the stuff that makes the trip memorable. I feel sorry for folks who never take risks – they miss out not only on the more remote parts of our brilliant country, but also on the stuff of life itself.