Landcruiser 4WD

OTT – a driver’s perspective

When the river crossings of the Old Telegraph Track are mentioned, there are hushed tones and furtive glances for 4 WD killers, Nolans Creek, The Gunshot.  I don’t recall Palm Creek hitting the headlines as a terroriser, but for our first intro to the OTT it got all our attention!

A small encampment of spectators have taken residence near the entrance.  I walk with the group to survey the route, a steep slippery mudslide into a dirty brown knee deep creek.  A 90 degree left turn then 90 degrees right to line up with the exit run.  I glance up the bank, a muddy rutted and washed out ramp about as high as a two storey suburban house.  My heart sinks.

I notice a battle scarred cruiser’s driver changing his tyre pressures.  “What are you using?”  “18 and 22”, he calls back and noticing my surprise adds “But only because I’m fully loaded, it would be lower otherwise”.  I sprint back and lower mine.  

Max is first to go, skidding down the approach, along the creek bed then gunning the big V8 until 10 m from the top.  The familiar sound of tyres spinning with no traction echoes around the creek

Not for the last time my Gemini twin asks “Why exactly are you doing this?” 

The electric winch whines and Max has reached the summit.

My turn arrives.  Low 3, I hear advised.  The cruiser slithers down the bank into the creek and I line up with the exit after a brief boat impression along the creek.

“Oh hell”, I utter as I see first hand the route I have to take.  “Hold on”.  And off we go, bucking and jumping, ascending with bone jarring leaps every few metres.  I hear a scream, followed by soft sobbing.  My passenger leans over, pats my arm comfortingly and says “Don’t worry, it’s nearly over.”

A last sickening thud and the windscreen fills with sky as the front rears up and over the lip of the escarpment, leaving terra firma briefly and all four wheels return to the ground well clear of the exit.

As a trainee pilot, I don’t remember a more a dramatic landing.

  I slide out of the driver’s seat my legs shaking, striding back to the exit and the clapping spectator who grins and advises that our side awning almost replaced his moustache as the cruiser made its final jump to the top.  I smile.  “No seriously, my son has it on video”.

“It’s awesome” he says “I swear you shaved the old man’s moustache and just missed that tree by millimetres.”  

I watch the video, the shaking of my legs returns.

Max strolls over, cigarette in hand and grins.  “We made it”.  I laugh nervously.  Max adds, “These cruisers go anywhere”.  He puffs his cigarette again.  “Next time though I think we should use 4WD.”

I hear his gravelly chuckle as he saunters back to his mount.
Written by Richard

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