Six days on Fraser 4×4 beach driving experience – Ngkala Rocks

Day 2 / 6 Ngkala Rocks.
When the going gets tough! We lost two hours!!

There was a buzz after our first day’s travels. Today was about taking the crew through the infamous Ngkala Rocks, all the way to Sandy Cape.

 

We started with a fantastic BBQ breakfast, taking time to enjoy the moment. We had a plan. The last time we were at the Sandy Point, it was mesmerising, turning the corner was like turning into a different part of the world. The waters were smooth, flat and the ocean was rough and messy.

The contrast was astounding.

As per normal, everything was based around tides and tide management. Each day, it moves another 45m later, so this can always be used to your advantage.

Our goal was to get to Ngkala Rocks by 8am, which we came close to achieving. But when we got there, chaos!  It is the only word to describe it.

Cars lined up, no one going anywhere, and people all standing looking up the track. No matter how you looked at it, it wasn’t looking good.

When I got there, it was worse than that. Three cars, two Land Cruisers and one Hilux, all down to the chassis.

It got worse, a concoction of snatch straps, ropes were connecting all three cars, via the Tow balls.

OMG!

Then I came to realise they were all from the same group, oh they had a story, about stopping to help the caravan, but nothing sat right or looked right.

As I started to coordinate the recovery, someone had to take control, there people everywhere, standing around spectating, offering their opinions and no one actually doing anything. If we were not careful, we were going to lose half the day here.

Seriously! look at the concoction of straps, three vehicles tethered to a caravan, all via tow balls and non compliant tie down points.
It was impressive, one family blocking the entire track

At low tide, it is often possible to drive around the rocks, time the ocean swell and it could and would have been their problem, but today was not one of those days. Just as the sand was high at Rainbow, making passage as simple as a Sunday drive ( I wont say on the motorway, as more often than not, they are so congested, that it is easier to pass a kidney stone than another car)

Here, the sands were low, God taketh and he giveth, in this case, the water meant the entire idea was out the window. The driver of the lead car that was bogged, Hilux, we will call him. When I stepped in he stated “I think I know what I am doing”

 

There is nothing glamourous about being stuck.
All the gear, yet was using his Tow ball to snatch
Heroes have winches
Why they were stuck. Ropes have different stretch & yeild properties
One by one we recovered and cleared the track

“If you knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t be destroying dozens of peoples day” was my response, just the fact that the snatch strap concoction was around his tow ball, on each vehicle, only connected to the tie down point of the cruiser, told me no one knew what they were doing. Everything was wrong about this situation.

Then it hit me …….

This group, decided to connect all three vehicles together to tow the caravan through the passage. I found out they had been there since 7am. As soon as the mass of the caravan hit soft sand, it pulled the three vehicles down to the chassis and they had no chance of moving anything.

Now the idea had merit, but look at the concoction of ropes, snatch straps, kinetic straps and rope, each one, has a different yield point, each one operates differently, this idea only ever had one outcome. 

One by one, we got the vehicles moving and moved them to the side to create a track.

Then we coordinated with each side to clear the north side first and then the southside could go.

The reason for this was to ensure everyone in front of us was prepared and would not get stuck as well, I still had our group to get through and I wanted to ensure delays were minimized, as they say, the show must go on.

More chaos, more drama. No wonder everyone gets bogged at Ngkyala.

Whilst the North crew was getting through, I organised everyone to drop their tyres to 10psi and get ready.

Only no one did…. They were too busy watching. Instead of being able to lead all the cars through and clear
the backlog, we had people turning tyre deflation into a career at the base. A simple exercise was taking what felt like eternity.

 

Too top it off, I realised people were jumping the queue, so
we put an end to that as well. 

The last car in this group, stopped halfway to pick up his partner, causing a 2 hour traffic jam, all over again. 

Preparation is key. Tyre pressure, gears, revs = Plan!

As I got our crew through, it was testimony to good technique and something as simple as tyre pressures. Captain Russel Coight as Pauly became affectionately known, in a stock standard Colorado ute, powered through, up and over Ngkalya on his first attempt, out of everyone in our crew, he was the one I was most worried about, simply due to a lack of ground clearance.

Russel Coight (Pauly) impressed, Following directions, the Colorado embarrassed a lot credentialled 4x4
The Ranger, lifted, with big tyres, was unstoppable.

The fear was that he could get beached in the soft sand as the sand dragged under the chassis and crossmember creating more and more resistance. But he nailed it.

However, Russel, in his stock standard Colorado, with no ground clearance, actually it sat so low in the front it looked like it was praying to Mecca, did it in one go!

With no modifications in any way, Russel charged through this same passage, without a hint of trouble, yet here was a Landcruiser, all the gear and no idea, moving as fluidly as a border crossing policy.

Then, for no reason, all activity stopped again!

 

Let me put this into perspective, I was getting a bit direct (as I do when the pressure is on and the job needs to be done) and wanted to know what the latest hold up was.  A bystander, who stood by the entire time without even assisting, said it was the bogans from Logan stuck again.

$#%*! me, I thought as I charged back up to see who was blocking the track now.

What I saw in itself was impressive, A Landcruiser, all the gear, two teams of blokes one either side with tracks, tracks under the wheels, 4×4 pops out, tracks back under as it sinks to the chassis, rinse and repeat, it was actually quite cool to watch as they worked their way up the Ngkyala Track.

It would have been far easier to put it into 4X4, that is my theory, as it was only digging in at the rear!

One last guy to walk through and as he was off and over successfully, I ran to my trusty Discovery and determined that no one else would queue jump, and I was off, only to see on the top, the previous bloke, bogged to the chassis. His young fella as his co-driver and chaos was about to be assured again.It was like time stopped.

Do I stop? All the reasons why not to stop ……. time,

1.       Keep our crew on schedule,

2.       I have already done my part, over 1.5 hrs community service for everyone else,

3.       I should just keep going, there are others, they can help.

What if it was me………… Plans Change. …Never leave a man behind is a favourite term for good reasons. One day, it maybe you that needs rescueing
Snatch recoveries are an important part of knowledge of any 4X4 skill and knowledge set. Ensure you always have your own recovery equipment

So, I picked the hardest sand to stop. As I was getting the snatch straps, shackles and kit, he was so thankful. Turned out, the group that were queue jumping, the last one decided to stop and pick up his wife, on a blind bend about to go up a dune, as she was taking pictures. Meaning old mate, had no choice to stop to avoid him. As soon as he tried to move, down to the chassis.

The first attempt nearly succeeded, however it didnt. A team sprung into action due to all the 4×4 now bank up behind. A winch out for the two of us and qQuick thinking by the crew that was there, three bodies pushed and that was the difference between getting stuck again and getting enough momentum to get back on the sand. The sand was literally that soft. 

Now there was no excuse for this, everyone was being drilled before first gear was even selected. Personally drilled, (even people were asking members of our crew – Who is this guy?!!)

The act of stopping in the middle of the Ngkalya Rocks pass, was as selfish as the people who tried to link three 4×4 vehicles together, to tow their caravan through, destroying it for everyone.

I am simply pointing this out, as there is etiquette, or should be.

What I see as the main problem when it comes to all these, I got bogged at Inskip or where ever videos, and the problem with the perception of people who drive on the beach, enjoying the 4WD beach driving and camping adventures, is that it is just how inadequate our driver training and licencing system is. That people who are allowed to teach themselves how to drive, all believe they are above average, they have no interest in improving their driving, in learning new skills and developing planning and situational awareness into their driving.

For that, everyone suffers.

The guys in the Landcruiser, working so hard they would make the winner of Tough Mudder look slack, should not have had to do any of that. The only reason they did, they did not do something they should have.

Ten Lessons to be learned for all players when 4WD on the beaches and soft sand.

  1. Communication, really, you should have at the very least a quality handheld radio, fully charged, before you even leave.
    1. A CB/ UHF radio.
    2. Get everyone on the same channel.
  2. Work as a team, one person in the high point to coordinate all players and keep it flowing safely. Not people flying off blind.
    1. Establish a Team Leader.
    2. Establish a point of communication, someone to delegate and keep everyone working as a team, in the same direction.
    3. Keeping the workplace safe is about everyone working together, not a million different directions.
    4. Seeing people pulling of towballs, using tow points and other unsafe behaviours. Stop everything immediately.
    5. People get killed with this ignorance and that is all it is. It is always the innocent people too.
    6. Team leader taking responsibility, includes ensuring safety and best practice is followed, regardless of upsetting everyone. Get it done once, right and safe.
  3. Lower your tyre pressures before you line up for your turn to go, be prepared. As the sand was so soft and messed up, I got everyone to drop to 10psi. No second chances here. The problem though, people would rather spectate, than actually coordinate and be ready.
  4. Momentum is king. Get it whilst the sand is firm, stay on top of the sand, with use of throttle and appropriate speed and keep going, people have feet, legs and we could all use some exercise, let them walk. Do not stop. In this case it took the guys behind us over an additional couple of hours to clear the new back log, all due to someone wanting to stop pick up his partner and not thinking.
  5. If a bog-standard Colorado can do it, no one has any excuses.
  6. Teamwork, yes, I had a winch, tracks, and a lot of recovery equipment, but that one action of people jumping in to push, saved us all a lot of work and effort.
  7. Establish safe margins;
    1. Get the spectators away, double the distance of the snatches, etc and keep them that distance away if things are not going to plan
    2. Use dampener mats where possible, non-negotiable when winching for example.
  8. Keep turning your traction control off, as cars are becoming more technical, you have to be smart to turn all of these systems off, otherwise, when you need power the most, the system cuts engine power, bogging the car and you are done. Every time you turn your car off, the system resets. So every time you turn the car on, you have to repeat the procedure.
    1. The Colorado, the DSC switch had to be held for nine seconds
    2. The Ranger kept turning itself back on 
    3. The Toyota had to be in low range. 
  9. Have a spotter, who can see everything, that communicates with both sides. 
  10. Do a course to learn how to Use Your Recovery Equipement properly.

Four pages in and we have still only travelled 1 hour into our second day of adventure.

The negative out of all of this is our day is dictated by tides, as we still have to get back and at high tide, you have to be careful as you plot your way to the point. We made it all the way up to the point and drove to find the perfect place to stop.

Fed got his Kite surfing kit out, BBQ lunch was being prepared and whilst some were exploring their youthful selves and sand surfing down the sand cliffs, others were swimming in the ocean.

Then, you would not believe it….

Turtles started swimming through, it was majestic, amazing, breathtaking and a dozen other words that I would need a thesaurus to define. If you ever wanted one reason to do these trips, this is it, from whales breaching to turtles doing their thing, and you are part of their environment,

You see, Rob, being natures man, is swimming with the Turtles, in absolute awe of their incredible nature of, when a turtle sticks its head up and sees Rob.

The exchange between them was hilarious, the turtle sees Rob, Rob gets excited, Turtle gets startled, turtle swims off, Rob, over excited at the experience, is like a kid in a lolly shop.

sharing in the wonder of the moment, memories that last a lifetime.

It was here Rob earned his nickname Michelangelo, after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It didnt matter how many times Russel (Pauly) said, Luke, I am your father, the dad joke never got old.

Captain Budgie, as Sean is now known and his nemis, Russel Coight, comparing core strength and Ab workouts. 

The entire experience was as surreal as I have ever experienced.

With losing a lot of time this morning, I can hear you say it………………

Plans Change……………

We decided to depart and spend the afternoon at the Champaign pools. Tide would be high, the experience at its best. So that was our plan.

We trecked back, passing people who were behind us in the morning melee, that is how much of everyone’s day was lost, due to a few peoples actions.

Everyone stopped, gave a debrief, thanking each other for assistance and advising of what lay ahead.

We got back to Ngkyala Rocks and it was still happening, people that had been waiting since I cleared the backlog that morning, were still waiting and we were at 3pm.

Sean, now referred to as Captain Budgie,(who ironically wears budgie smugglers with Turtle prints on them) ran to a high point to direct traffic. Clear communications and we had a pathway through, our trip back was substantially less dramatic than the trip across.

 

Now our destination for our afternoon wind down was the champaign pools.

Hi tide is amazing in the Champaign pools, as the water builds out at sea and bubbles and froths over the rocks into the bowl in which you are swimming / sitting.

These naturally formed rock pools create a collection of shallow, sandy swimming holes right on the edge of the ocean with a stellar view of its surroundings.

With each wave, the pools are renewed with water, creating a jacuzzi-like feeling as seafoam fizzes around you for a feeling that gives this unique sought-after destination its name. While the Champagne waters cause delight with each wave, visitors should keep an eye out large waves! They sweep into the pool periodically, and can sometimes catch people unawares, even bringing fish in with them. During low tide, the pools are much calmer and create the perfect place to soak in the salt water and enjoy the sound of the ocean.

Home time ensued as the weather started cooling off, it had  been a big day and the fire pit complete with Camp fire oven was calling. Blue Horizon on Orchid Beach, was a sensational name for this 

Tonight, we were having pulled pork and pulled chicken in wraps, with our own sauces and marinades made up. Veges were baked, sweet potato and corn cobs, wrapped in aluminium foil and place in the fire pit as well.

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