WE at Flexible 4WD Solutions truly hope you enjoyed your Easter as much as we did.
Easter 2018 was spent at the beloved Levuka 4×4 Park owned by Robert and Rosemary. Our attendance to their Easter event is starting to become a nice little tradition. With lush green grass, sloppy tracks, wood-fired pizza, helicopter rides, live music, a night run, prizes and epic fireworks shows, there is no place we’d rather be.
This year, though the weather leading up to the Easter weekend was beautiful, we had one day of constant rain on Thursday, which meant the tracks were extremely sloppy throughout the weekend. This year we were lucky enough to be approached by Glenn from Gold Coast Camping and Social 4WD Group to help out with marshalling for the night run.
Levuka 4×4 Park does not usually allow night driving due to the dangers of the activity and noise it causes for campers, however Robert and Rosemary make an exception during the Easter weekend.
The night run has a few basic rules: no carnage, everyone must be able to get involved and participants must stay within the group. To achieve this, Robert allows Gold Coast Camping and Social 4WD Group to co-ordinate and run the event.
This year Glenn stepped up to the plate and did an amazing job… except for getting lost on the track during the scouting run (sorry bro!). As a group, we all met on Friday afternoon with the intention of meeting each of the marshals and developing a plan for the run.
With the park at maximum capacity, facilitating 300 cars and about 800 attendees, expectations were that this year’s run would include over 100 cars. With so many participants, we needed to ensure all obstacles were passable and have recovery vehicles in place so we didn’t experience double-ups on the tracks.
We worked well together and explored a range of options for the direction of this run, but unfortunately due to the downpour the day before we were limited in what tracks were able to be driven by all participants, apparently even some of the marshals.
Once we had the tracks pretty much picked out, Willow from Off The Tracks experienced one of those butt-puckering moments.While driving through a steep, off-cambered T intersection, Willow was attempting to head straight through, however the slippery track had a different plan.
All we heard over the UHF was “Help, I think I need a quick snatch, quickly, I keep sliding!”
Willow had slipped down into the track on his right and was on the verge of sliding down an extremely steep track sideways in his brand-spanking-new 76 Series LandCruiser!
Thankfully he had enough traction to hold tight until the car was secured and recovered.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, we decided this section of track was unsuitable for the night run and cut the run short.
The following day, we all met again to redo the run and choose our checkpoints. Poor Glenn, our fearless group leader, managed to turn left instead of right at a Y intersection and got mildly lost. You can bet your bottom dollar he did not stop hearing about it throughout the rest of the trip.
Upon stopping as a group to wait for Glenn to return, one of the members called over the UHF that oil was all over the tracks and urged everyone to get out and check their vehicles. Sure enough, a Nissan Pathfinder had bashed in its oil sump on a rock and dropped all its oil.
With an oily version of a murder scene appearing, the car was towed back to camp – cue the trusty Milk Carton.
I don’t know if you have ever towed a broken vehicle through a completely packed campground, but it is actually pretty fun (not so much for the towed car!). With everyone looking on and wondering what happened, as the tow vehicle driver you simply get to smile and wave.
Later that night we ran the night run successfully, with no incidents reported.The night was topped off with a bonfire, live music, giveaways and the Bush Café. The joy in the air waking up on Easter Sunday was infectious.
This day had a five-year build-up.I have spent an extraordinarily large amount of time trying to convince my mother to sit in my car while I show her what my life is all about. The last time Mum decided to come in my car off-road was during my first-ever trip to Levuka 4×4 Park in my D22 Navara with minimal modifications.
Back then I drove the very simple tracks and even this was enough to scare Mum. After the recent passing of my father, I explained to Mum how much it would mean to me if she would give me the chance to show her the skills I have learnt and the knowledge I have obtained over the years.
Once mum arrived at the park for her day trip, she continued to worry about what she had got herself into – and probably for good reason! I spent a number of hours deciding where I wanted to take Mum within the park and developing a route that would ease her into the experience before challenging her trust while remaining in a safe space.
I have to say, I take my hat off to Mum as she did not complain once during the trip and I can promise you we drove up some hillclimbs that some of my mates are uncomfortable taking on. With some luck, we managed to park up behind a 79 Series LandCruiser with twin lockers.
The owner was struggling to complete a hillclimb that although steep was fairly straight forward – especially for a rig with lockers.
I told mum to watch this car struggling to drive the track before following it up in a single attempt without any hassles – boy did this make me smile! After a while, we made our way down to the Play Pen.
You may remember the Play Pen from my previous Levuka article, but for those who don’t, it is basically a gully full of mud with a number of rutted-out hillclimbs that are challenging due to the lack of traction.
We had a short play in the pen, which resulted in a few failed attempts at the hillclimbs and fairly violent sliding backwards down the tracks, which caused mum to call the adventure quits. What a shame, as this was right before we planned to venture down Rosemary’s Track!
First off, I’d like to say I am extremely glad my mother did not let me take her down this track. Additionally, I would like to note I have never seen this track as challenging as it was this Easter. After mum headed home, I convinced my cousin to join me on my quest to drive Rosemary’s Track, but much to my surprise I was unable to convince anyone else to join me.
So I ventured down Rosemary’s Track in blissful ignorance and full of confidence from completing this track without hassle a number of times in the past. Well, I made it less than 100m down the track and it took me two hours to make it back out the same 100m.
In my ignorance I did not walk the first section of the track, which is an S bend on an extremely steep hill. What I did not realise was that since the last time I completed the track, a new rut had formed.
When I turned down the second part of the S, the nose of the Milk Carton followed my path, however the rear end slipped into the ruts… violently and about 1.5m sideways. The Milk Carton hit the rut so hard that both Sammy and I thought we had written off the rear end on a tree.
After sliding almost 30m directly down the hill and dodging the really inconvenient tree situated in the middle of the track at the bottom of the hill, I was able to get out and assess the damage.
By this stage Sammy had radioed through to my cousin, firmly instructing him not to come down the track.
I quickly jumped out and was thankful to find that I had only torn the tyre completely off my rim – no biggie, right? When I looked back up the hill, I noticed a crowd emerging. Apparently the noise of hitting the rut was loud enough for spectators from up to 200m to hear it and come running to ensure we were safe.
With some very technical winching, we were able to align ourselves onto semi-flat, semi-stable ground to jack the car up and swap over the wheels. The mud at the bottom of the hill was so thick and sloppy that we had to use a shovel to dig the mud out of the rim before we could locate the nuts to remove the wheel.
After the tyre change, we continued winching for another hour and a half before we made it most of the way to the top of the hill. And then our winch started to make some gnarly metal on metal grinding sounds. Of course!
With light minutes from completely fading away and no one about with a winch to support us, we had only one choice: to push on. We used double line pulls to lessen the load on the winch and increase our chances of getting the car out before dark.
Double line pulls involve using a pulley block to run your winch line to a tree and back to the car, essentially halving the load on the winch – you’ve got to love physics.With the sounds getting worse and worse, our winch continued to power on and safely got us to the top.
I think it is about time we put a winch we endorse onto the Milk Carton – the old cheap winch that was already fitted when we bought the car has now well and truly earnt its keep. Time for a Carbon 12xp high-speed winch!
This winch has been developed in Australia, for Australia, with an IP67 rating, standard breather lines and an unbeatable warranty.We are definitely keen to get one of these bad boys hooked up to the Patrol.
Let us know if you are ready to step up your winching game too. All in all, Easter 2018 was one to remember.
Until next time, stay safe and get out to enjoy our beautiful country.