From the first time I ever drove on a beach, I was hooked. Why on earth had I ever walked, lugging a beach bag / fishing rod / esky, when there is such a convenient alternative? As we drove down a secluded beach and set up the awning (so very handily attached to the side of the car), sat in a chair I had not carried, and sipped an icy cold beverage delivered straight from the fridge in the boot, I thought - Ha! This is the life - feet are for suckers. And so beach 4WDing soon became a bit of a fave pastime.
That said, we did have a few near misses in our early beach 4WDing adventures. Which were both terrifying – and highly valuable lessons.
At the beginning of our trip around Australia, we hit the coast of South Australia – because we had been told the beach and dune tracks between Beachport and Robe were some of the most amazing 4WDing in Australia. Having watched many a beach driving youtube clip in the lead up to our trip, we felt we were sufficiently expert to try out some real life sand action in our newly acquired Landcruiser. We were wrong about that.
Quite unwisely, we ventured out on our own – on a Tuesday morning – and had the entire Nora Creina track to ourselves. Not a soul in sight. It was spectacular – sunny and dune-y, sandy and fishy –– and for a lovely few hours we congratulated ourselves on our superb sand handling, and our isolated rugged beach discovering skills. Delighted as we were at how the day was panning out, when the tide started to come in we thought we should make tracks and get back to dry and stable land.
The dune track dropped back into the beach a bit further on. We saw some tyre marks leading towards a rocky outcrop at the very end of what we could see of the beach. Unable to decipher the 4WD map we’d been given at the info centre, we figured that must be where the 4WD track led.
Alas, this was most definitely NOT the 4WD track. And it most definitely WAS the ocean. An ocean that was getting closer and closer to our wheels that had stopped moving forward, and which were spinning deeper and deeper into the soft sand.
Much maxtrax, frantic digging and winches attached to rocks action ensued – but we were still stuck. The tide was getting closer and I had visions of our Landcruiser drifting out to sea and our adventure coming to an abrupt, sad, ocean-y end.
Eventually we called the insurance company (with the one bar of 3G we could get in patches), and were told, politely, that our ‘road-side assist’ covered, well, roads, and didn’t cover getting idiots out of trouble on the beach. Fair enough. But as luck would have it, they were quite used to getting calls from around those parts from other beach-bogged-boofheads, so they put us through to a local beach rescuing hero. “Superman” (psst – not his real name) turned up within 20 minutes and had a bit of a laugh at our predicament. He stood by the Landcruiser chuckling, saying we could drive out of this. We pointed out that if we could drive out of it, the ocean wouldn’t currently be two inches from our wheels.
In no rush whatsoever, Superman told us to let our tyres down to 12PSI (we had already reduced them to 17 PSI). With softer tyres we were finally able to get moving, with the waves hot on our heels. Phew. Superman charged us $50, which we were more than happy to fork over, for that friendly advice and a valuable lesson in beach driving. Thanks Superman – it was money well spent, and a lot cheaper than the uninsurable situation of fishing the car out from the bottom of the ocean.
We have since realised that if you’re into sand driving, then you get bogged. It’s inevitable. So we are resigned to this, we prepare for it, know what to do when it happens (most of the time) and our panic levels are now greatly reduced.
A few tips we’ve picked up in our sandy escapades:
*Tyre pressure (thanks Superman!) – let them down. And if you get stuck, let them down even further. This spreads the surface area of the tyre on the sand, which increases the grip and also helps to stop sinking.
*Start in low range especially on the softer sand. This helps with power if you’re stuck, and also gives you enough speed to ‘float’ over the sand.
*Don’t have recovery tracks? Get some!! Pronto! If you’re caught track-less, you may have to get your macgyver on and be creative - floor mats, flat stones, driftwood, tops of eskies, folded beach towels - any sort of track for your tyres to grip onto will help
*Know the tide – and skedaddle when it rises. Don’t end up as a youtube sensation for all the wrong reasons, with your pride and joy 4WD disappearing beneath the waves.
*Definitely come prepared with recovery gear - shovel, snatch straps, tracks, tyre deflator and compressor, UHF radio. But we have learnt (the hard way) that far and away the MOST important rescue equipment is … a mate in another 4WD. Don’t leave home without them.
Beach driving in a convoy means that if something goes wrong, there is someone there to help tow, pull, winch, push, dig, pat your back and tell you to take some deep breaths, or in the worst cases, drive out for help. All of which are far less enjoyable and far more stress-inducing if done on your lonesome.
With our mates in tow (sometimes literally) we have seen some stunning coastlines which we would have missed out on if we had stuck to the bitumen, car parks and walking paths. The red cliffs in the Kimberley, the wild Boranup track in Margaret River, the white dunes in Coffin Bay (SA), whale watching, blowholes, cliff fishing, wild waves and weather at Steep Point, end of the earth beach drive on Bruny Island (Tas)… to name just a few.
And really – what better way to enjoy Cable Beach than to pack a few drinks, nibbles, chairs – and not have to carry any of those things – as your trusty 4WD does all the hard work for you, leisurely taking you up the beach for a quiet spot to watch one of Australia’s most famous sunsets. Yep – this is the life.
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