4X4

The conversation.

Hmmmm”.

“No.”

“We’ll be ok”.

“No!”

“It’s not that bad. Bit steep, but it won’t be a drama.”

“No way are you taking that vehicle up there!”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Why not? Because it’s dangerous! Because we don’t need to do it! Becau..”

“It’s not dangerous. It’ll be ok, we’ll be fin..”

“And what happens if we don’t make it all the way up? We’ll be STUCK! Look at that rock! It’s nearly vertical!”

“Well, that’s why we’ve got lots of recovery gear. Anyway, I’m sure the others are going to try it.”

“Oh, so just because they do it, you have to? Grow up! Why are men like this?”

“No, I’m going to do it because I want to, and because we can. It’s not that much of a problem. We can make it!”

“That’s what you said at Gembrook, and look what happened there!”

“Yes, well…”

“And that time in the Otways, and…”

“We’re still alive aren’t we?”

“That is not the point! This is just the same. Disaster waiting to happen. You have spent so much money on the vehicle, we’ve invested so much, we can’t risk it! Why do you always have to try these things? We should find another way.”

“There is no other way!”

“Well find one!”

“I’m not a bloody magician! I can’t magic things from nowhere! Anyway, it’s a long way back. At least let’s try it.”

“Oh, we try it and what if we roll?”

“Then we will be upside down.”

“Is that all you can say?”

“Hey, I’m not the broken record here. We won’t roll. Would you rather be outside the vehicle?”

“I’d rather you didn’t try it. It’s stupid, and you’re stupid for even thinking about it. I don’t know why we’re here anyway. You are going to cause expensive damage to the truck with this stupid stunt. Money down the drain. Don’t bring me on these trips again, I don’t care any more, go and play with your idiot mates. You love this truck more than you love me”.

“Well the truck doesn’t come up with stupid arguments and get over-emotional…”

“So I’m stupid and over-emotional now?”

“No…”

“GO ON THEN. FINE. JUST GO FOR IT. I’ll sit here in terror while my stupid husband throws this $30,000 dollar truck against a stupid rock face when his wife can’t even get a new 3-piece suite. I DON’T CARE ANY MORE!!!!!!”

The CB crackles into life.

“Mate. What’s happening?”

“Umm, just considering the best line. Give me a sec.”

“Rightho.”

“See, they’re waiting for us. I’m going to try it.”

A special type of silence permeates the cabin of the 4WD. The sort of silence that prevents dust ingress, hell, water ingress. You couldn’t cut it with a knife.

Now or never. Clutch down. Into gear.

“Haaang on.”

A final look at the line. Low range. Left foot bracing the body. Both hands on the wheel, thumbs out. Leaning forward for maximum visibility. Clutch up, engine at max-torque revs, buttocks clenched, prayers said.

Committed.

Up she goes. Hard left. Right. Going for the straddle…not too far each way, hope those $*$)^ tyres stay on the rim…it’s working, haven’t fallen in…don’t get cocky…now over the rut. Shit! Too much wheelspin! But she comes through!

The big rock looms. A little burst of momentum on the tiny ledge before it. Here’s the clearance problem…looks worse from the car…CRUNCH…the underbody protection earns its keep again. Scrabbling for grip, hard jink around the big washout…got to get close to that tree for the line, both wheels together over the tree root …ahhhhrgghh…and we’re there.

Parks the vehicle. Deep breath. Inward smile.

“Wasn’t too bad, was it?”

A Look.

“Would have been a lot easier if I’d had a locker, you know. We could have gone a lot more gently.”

Another Look, similar to the first, but more potent.

Everything green and growing around the vehicle simply gives up and wilts.

Reaches for the CB.

“Yeah mate. You’re all right to come up, we’re clear, but watch that rut before the big ledge. Have fun.”

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Robert Pepper

Automotive journalist, 4WD owner, driver trainer, author and photographer.