Planning your 4×4 trip is essential – not only concerning your destination, accommodation and stop-over points along the way. The likely weather conditions are also an important consideration. Francois Rossouw tells of a hard-earned lesson from an occasion a few years back when, days after heavy rains, Mother Nature got the upper hand.
We don’t go to Baviaanskloof during the rainy season. It can take up to six hours to cover the 190km from the Kouga Dam to Willowmore, and this year, there was plenty of rain just before our scheduled trip with a tour
group. To make sure that the water crossings were safe to traverse, I travelled the route the day before we met our group at the Tuinskloof Lodge, where we explored the beautiful natural area and observed the game on the farm.
On the Sunday, we followed the scenic route through the kloof. What I didn’t realise, however, was that rain water from the Karoo takes a few days to reach Baviaanskloof on its way to the ocean. When we reached the first of 20 river crossings, a 4×4 coming the other way assured us that the crossings were okay, so we carried on. At one of the crossings, however, water suddenly came up over the bonnet, and I quickly warned the rest of the convoy to take it slowly.
When the streams became muddy, I realised that it was water reaching the kloof from well upstream, quite long after the rains had fallen inland. Still, we pushed on. Then I discovered that the build-up of stones and
debris was damming up at narrow points in the stream, making the crossings deeper than anticipated.
At one crossing, several of the 4x4s in the convoy followed me a bit too closely. The wave formed by my vehicle caused the depth of water around them to vary considerably, making it harder for them to cross. As more
and more vehicles came through, the wave caused by the turbulence got bigger and bigger. Finally, Charles Engelbrecht came through in his Volkswagen Touareg. The wave went right over his bonnet and into the air cleaner. I got onto the two-way radio immediately, shouting for him to switch off the engine, but it was too late. He was stuck deep in the water, halfway through Baviaanskloof.
A crafty recovery
We tied all of our tow-ropes together, so that the towing vehicle could stay out of the deep water and off the loose stones. After we got the Touareg out, we tried to dry the inlet manifold, but when the 3,0 litre V6
diesel engine refused to turn, I realised that this was a job for the experts. The rest of the group learned from the experience, and increased the gap between their vehicles when they came through the crossing. All the
vehicles finally got across, but we realised that we wouldn’t be able to tow the automatic Touareg. So we consulted the handbook. It showed us what mode to put the gear selection in, and stated that we could tow the Touareg
for 80km at around 40 km/h. So off we went with the Touareg behind me, to a guest house from where Charles could phone his insurance company.
The Engelbrechts stayed there for the night, while the rest of us carried on. Santam Insurance collected the 4×4 the next day, and the couple were picked up by their son.
The insurance assessors opened up the engine and, when they saw the water inside, decided to replace it with a brand new one. They weren’t prepared to take a chance with possible bent connecting rods, and the subsequent damage that could cause.
When I got home, I decided to check my own vehicle. We drained the diff and the gearbox oils, and found them to be badly polluted with water. The differentials were hot, and when they were cooled down by the water, the air inside also cooled down, causing a vacuum that sucked the water into the gears. My lesson from this experience? Simply stay away from deep water!
Words and photo: Francois Rossouw