Bravehearts – beware!

In the world of 4x4s we do not always have someone on hand to help if we overdo the “brave” part. In fact, disaster is often the result.

On our recent trip to Angola we camped at Raphael’s, a most beautiful private bay in a very remote area. Fishing was not very good and we decided to move to a more promising area – where the ocean was much deeper, close to the beach. The slope of this beach was steeper than normal and the sand was very loose. We hoped to find the big fish there.

Two vehicles went ahead to check if fishing would be better in the deeper water. I drove in front and when the level section above the high water mark became too narrow for comfort, I stopped, took out the fishing gear, and tested the water for fish.

My friend, Allan Tree, was much braver and drove about 300m farther along this section, to a point where there was very little turning space. This was where disaster struck.

The beach was very steep, and the sand very soft. When he reversed to turn, the vehicle’s wheels started spinning in the loose sand. He went a bit forward in the direction of the sea and tried again, but the 4×4 refused to reverse up the bank.

So, with no way out up the beach, Allan decided to go forward, onto the wet patch closer to the water, where the sand is normally much firmer. But the tide was coming in and the wet section was too narrow and the sand too loose, and his 4×4 bogged down. Comprehensively so. It was lying on its belly, sucked in by the wet sand, and the spinning wheels made zero difference. The waves were breaking against the side of the vehicle. Trouble wasn’t brewing anymore? it had arrived.

Allan is not the panicky type, so he called me on the two-way radio. I used a kinetic rope and hooked it up, being careful not to go too close to the water.

In desperation, I reversed as close to his vehicle as possible. With the rear differential locked, and the tyres deflated as low as they could possibly go, I hooked second gear low-range and accelerated like a dragster on the quarter-mile.

The rope tightened and stretched to its maximum? but it only resulted in bouncing my vehicle a good two metres back – the stuck 4×4 remained very firmly stuck.

I realised the situation was now dire. A hefty insurance claim was in the making, but that was only half the problem. Allan (and whatever gear we could salvage) still had to get back to Johannesburg, and that was 3000km away.

By that stage even the “not-to-worry” Allan started perspiring profusely, as the reality of the situation sank in. But he kept the vehicle’s engine running as the air intake was away from the water. Waves were, by then, breaking over the bonnet.

I grabbed the two-way radio and called for assistance. Our other tour friends were at leisure on the beach, some distance away, and I was just hoping that someone would hear my cries for help. Fortunately one lady was close to a vehicle and its radio? and heard my frantic voice.

She rounded up the rescue party, and in no time a fleet of 4x4s were racing to our aid.

Soon, three different winches were tugging at Allan’s 4×4 while he kept the wheels spinning. We could, by that stage, hear the engine’s fan connecting with the water in the engine bay, when the waves broke over it.

Then? the vehicle started to move! It slowly lifted out of its sandy grave. The winch power eventually brought him all the way to safe, dry sand.

Allan was soaked? not with sea water, but with perspiration!

It was so, so close. Allan just escaped having to hitch a ride home.

Then it was time for the aftercare part. The sand in the brake drums and universal joints caused a squeaking noise and the emergency flashers started flashing by themselves? but at least Allan was mobile.

He admitted that the only thing this 4×4 was good for after this experience was to serve as a deposit on a brand new 4×4 – one that would not rust as easily.