Weather can change a very mild 4×4 route into something really exciting. Sometimes conditions get so bad that routes are closed completely and you have to make other plans. Francois tells of a trip that went ahead.
Sudden changes in the weather can make life difficult on a 4×4 trip. The real trouble comes when you discover halfway into the route that it has been washed away, and it’s too late to change your plans. This is when team spirit becomes the most important factor in your expedition. If everybody works together, you will be surprised how quickly an “impossible” road can be made driveable again.
I was recently on a seven-day 4×4 expedition through the Transkei involving 22 vehicles. Just a week before the trip was due to start, the heavens opened and more than 200mm of rain fell in one day. This caused havoc, and many roads and bridges were washed away.
Of course, this sort of thing may be good news to 4×4 lovers, since we then don’t have to look for exciting places to drive. It’s all there – on the existing roads!
On one long downhill stretch in a beautiful natural forest, the road was washed away quite badly, but the lead vehicle managed to straddle the ruts and made it all the way down. Then Tjaard Venter ventured down in his Land Cruiser 200, but it was just that little bit too wide to fit in between the ruts and it slipped into the wash-away area. Suddenly the Cruiser was flat on its belly, with all four wheels in the ditches.
It was too far to pull the vehicle all the way down the hill, so Willem de Beer, who was just behind Tjaart, tried to pull him backwards, but the two-and-a-half ton Cruiser was too heavy. It would not move at all.
All the strong men in the convoy were called to bring their spades to help. The ditch was filled with gravel on one side and logs were packed into the other, but the big problem was to get the vehicle out of the position in which it was stuck.
The ditches were closed as much as possible in front of the wheels, and everybody pushed the vehicle to the right hand side at the same time as the towing vehicle pulled it forward, but the Cruiser just would not move.
Then we tried a snatch rope and jerked the Cruiser forward with a bit more enthusiasm. This moved it just enough to get the wheels onto the filling material we had put into the ruts and the belly lifted just enough to get the 4×4 going. Everybody pushed the vehicle to one side to prevent it from falling back into the ruts, and slowly Tjaart drove it out.
Now the other 20 vehicles had to cross the same section, but all the willing hands modified the wash-away in no time, so that we did not have any more trouble on this section.
As we moved farther along our route, the roads became even worse, but the experience on that first section had made us cautious, and we examined the road and rebuilt it where necessary before we got more vehicles stuck.
The big lesson was on the type of equipment you need in such circumstances. Of course, you always need a spade on 4×4 trips. A spade, snatch rope, tyre pump and gauge are absolutely not negotiable. They have to be in the 4×4 at all times.
I have often noted that there are always a few clever men who want to give advice and instructions if a recovery has to be done. I always decide who must be in control, and ask the rest to keep quiet. Then the drivers won’t get confused and can stay as relaxed as possible.