Bogged 1977 -2015

Bogged……..That is just what it means. No forward movement!

On our first date all those years ago I bogged the Morris Isis on Casuarina Beach and Judith and I spent an hour digging it out and putting anything we could scavenge from the beach, under the wheels. We then let the tyres down a tad and managed to drive out of trouble.

As Judith recalls, “I should have seen the writing on the wall.”

Over the years of living in Northern Australia and traipsing around the bush in four-wheel drives, and when the monsoon rains are active, one tends to get in to all kinds of strife.

Memorable Bogs
(in no particular order)

Bog 1

On a sunny afternoon we were wending our way out of Barramundi Gorge in a convoy of twelve vehicles. Ours was the ninth vehicle, in the convoy, all from the Suzuki Club in Darwin. We had been on a day run from our campsite on the upper reaches of the South Alligator River and we were returning along the track that we had made.

As we crossed the Barramundi Creek once again and drove up the embankment to the higher side of the creek, the whole of the embankment gave way suddenly. We were directly above the earth slide when this happened and as in slow motion our little Suzuki 2 door Hardtop, toppled over on to its roof and sank into the waters of the creek.

Both Judith and I were wearing our seatbelts and as the car sank into the water I unclipped mine and grabbed at Judith’s to unclip it as well. I took a deep breath as by now we were under water with water streaming in through the windows. I grabbed Judith by the hair and manhandled her out of the driver’s side window past me and out of the car. Willing hands on the other side were there within seconds to help her. By now the car started to right itself a bit and I was able to slide out of the window as well, and breathe fresh air. The car bobbed on its side in the water with just part of the roof showing. My first concern was for Judith who was extremely traumatised by this event. A cup of warm sugar tea soon had her calm again. Then we had to see to the recovery of the Suzuki.

Everything inside the car was wet. Water had entered into the radios and everything else we had inside the car. After winching the car on a to dry land we took the spark plugs out to blow any water that may have entered the engine cavity by cranking the engine. We checked the oil sump and luckily there was no water in it. The engine started and after a while we were mobile again. We had to take the drain plugs out of the floor pan and excess water drained out.

The little car made it back home and went on many trips after that day.

Bog 2

Kevin called me up and said, “Why don’t you come along?” The Toyota Club were going camping at Depot Creek Falls on the Saturday night. I had been in there on other occasions and knew the area and Kevin was glad to have us along.

Depot Creek crosses the Stuart Highway a few kilometres south of the Hayes Creek Pub. It is a wet-season creek, which runs into the Douglas River. On its way it tumbles over a series of rapids and over a long flat rock. At the height of its flood one can sit on the rock and slide down it for about 10 metres before dropping down into a large pool. In the dry season there is only a trickle of water seeping out from beneath the rocks.

When we got to the turn off a wall of 2 metre high spear grass was there to meet us. Kevin was the trip leader for the day and was about to set off in the wrong direction when I chipped in over the radio that it would be prudent to go another way. Kevin, in front of all his club members suddenly appointed me trip leader and I did not even belong to the club!

This time around we had a Toyota Bundera. It was quite versatile in the bush with a limited slip differential. I had a PTO winch fitted as well. It was however, the top of the range model, dressed in silver duco with green flashings, chrome bulbar and a sunroof and it was soon to get some scratched duco.

We set off pushing the tall grass down and driving blind, following the contour lines, my compass bearing and a bit of intuition. Fallen trees, old logs and hidden rocks blocked our way from time to time. I headed in the general direction of the falls. Another member of the convoy was into Bush Orienteering, and volunteered to run ahead looking for the best track to take. This helped. At one stage a side mirror was knocked off its perch on the door of our vehicle and Judith got quite annoyed with me as we had only recently purchased it.

Slowly but surely we inched our way along the ridge and then dropping down the valley towards the falls. There did not seem to be an ideal shady camping place and Kevin and I drove on a bit further amongst the paperbarks. We instructed everyone to wait, albeit in the sun.

Very soon both our vehicles had sunk in the soft mud and were resting on the chassis rails. Another club member had followed us in and had become bogged as well. He found a tree to anchor off but then his winch short-circuited and burnt out. Profanities streamed over the airwaves as this bloke blamed me for his predicament. Kevin managed to extricate himself and then pulled the other vehicle out and they promptly drove off, leaving us on to fend for ourselves.

I ran the winch cable out to a young tree but it soon let go and toppled over. Then I tried another, and another, and another. I saw this sizeable tree, which was within reach and wrapped the tree protector around it and started winching. It looked like we were on a winner this time. Meanwhile I had trampled the mud around the vehicle into mush. It was oozing over the side steps and ever time one opened the door, the mud was pushed aside. The winch cable was creaking from the strain. All of a sudden I saw this large tree come toppling over towards us. For a brief moment I thought that it was going fall on our truck but it fell to the side only metres away. Some of the branches however came down resting on the engine hood. Judith grabbed the floor mats and put them under the scratching tree limbs. We had to think of another strategy. I found a large tree within the cable reach but at right angles to the truck. Once we had the cable and snatch block attached we slowly winched the truck around and after almost two hours we were back on firm ground.

The club had set up camp and the blokes were having a few beers when Judith sailed into them and told them what a bunch of cowards they were by not coming to help us. We set up camp away from the club, as it was the only place left. That night the campfire was quiet and in the morning the club members packed up and left without so much as to say goodbye. Bastards!

We spent the day by a small wet season waterfall and while Judith painted I scraped the mud out from under the truck and did some other minor repair jobs. Later in the day the wind changed and I heard vehicles struggling under load. I put my boots on and went for a walk. I found the club about one kilometre from our campsite, trying to winch up this hill. They had taken a wrong line and were winching the vehicles at an angle up a hill. In four hours they had progressed one and a half kilometres. I laughed and went back to camp.

The following morning we packed up and drove out of the valley. At the top I noticed wheel tracks heading east and knowing that this would leads to a swampy area I made new tracks along a ridge and within half an hour we were back at the Stuart Highway.

The club had made the tracks to the east and had ventured in to the swamp. It was Tuesday before they arrived back in Darwin!

Bog 3

We had been at a function of a Sunday morning but I had to attend a 4×4 event at the same time. Judith said that she would catch a taxi home and I gave her the keys, keeping just the ignition key of the Suzuki, forgetting that the rear door had a separate key just in case I needed something from it.

I arrived at my destination around midday and settled in for a few quiet beers with my mates. The afternoon wore on and when it came time to leave I realised that I would be way over the limit to drive home. There were no mobile phones in those days and I did want to drive on a public road and I decided to drive down the power line track, which would bring me out within walking distance of my home.

Now it was the wet season and the tracks were a tad soggy. I set off down the track, which was only about 5 kilometres in length. At first I was on a ridge and higher ground but the track soon meandered down a hill and on to the flat. The ground was pretty wet and very soon the mighty Suzuki was bogged down to its chassis. No worries, I thought, I will winch off one of the pylons. I got out of the car after taking my shoes and socks off. I freed up the winch spool and ran the cable out. It came to within two metres of the nearest pylon. Bugger!!!

Ahhh !! I will get the extension cable in the back of the car. No!!!! I haven’t got the key. Bugger!!!

I proceeded to hook the cable and the tree protector to pandanus trees in close proximity to me but after pulling about 6 of them out of the ground, roots and all, I gave up. By this time it was dark and late. I was covered in mud. I put my socks and shoes on again and started the long walk back to civilisation. I walked about three kilometres to the BP Servo. There I had only 50c in my pocket to make a call on the Gold Phone. I rang my mate Mal, told him my story briefly, asked for help and asked him to ring Judith.

Half an hour later, Mal arrived in his very well set up Jackeroo. Taking one look at me and the state I was in and predicament
I had gotten myself in to he could not stop laughing. But he kept saying as we sloshed through the muddy tracks,

“But where is your car?”

“Just a bit further on, mate,” I replied

We finally found the car and Mal reversed a fair way back to give his winch maximum pulling power to get the Suzuki mobile again.

I arrived home at 9.30pm, very tired!!!

Bog 4

“Lets go and look at the sunset on Redcliffs Beach,” said I flippantly.

We drove down the road towards Broome Wharf and then turned down a gravel road to the beach. I stopped to drop the tyres pressures of the 35�s down to 15psi and inched the F100 Long Wheel Base XLT down the dune and on to the beach. The tyre pressures were holding up well and we cruised up the beach until we could go no further. There we had a few beers and some wine coolers and watched the sun go down.

Time to get off the beach before it gets dark, thought I.

To get up the track I had made I had to swing the truck in a limited space, to the left, complete a thirty metre run, and then get up and over a sloping 90 metre sand dune. We were about half way up the dune when there was a loud noise emanating from the front wheels of the truck. A loud bang followed and with the back wheels spinning they dug right into the dune. On inspection it seemed that something has broken in the left had freewheeling hub, which prevented it from engaging. Now we only had two-wheel drive!

I then made a bad mistake by reversing down the dune again to get a run up and over the dune. I dropped the tyre pressures down to 8psi. The tyres were bulging at the sides, and careful not to spin a tyre off the rims, I tried a run up the dune. This time I only made it a quarter of the way up. I backed down again. Then I have it a little more revs but still only managed to get the truck to quarter of the way up the dune.

Now it was a winch job. Trouble was there were no trees in sight and only low heath type scrub on the dune fringes. It was time to bury the spare wheel.

It took from 7pm to 1.30am in the morning to bury the spare wheel six times and winch off it with a Tirfor Handwinch! I slogged and sweated in the cool night air until I thought that every muscle in my body was going to tear apart. As we got closer to the crest of the dune I encouraged Judith to try slipping the clutch a bit to gain a few metres at a time but to no avail. The just as I was getting to the end of my tether we got some traction and I yelled “Go! Go! Go!” And with that Judith drove past me, over the winch cable, the winch, and the buried spare wheel, to the safety of firm ground. Our torch batteries were running low but we managed to find all the cable and shackles in the dark, dig the spare wheel out and throw everything on the back of the Ute.

We fell into bed at 2am dead tired and slept for 12 hours.

I sold the Tirfor the following day and two days after that I traded the F100 in on a two-wheel drive Ford Courier Ute at Port Hedland.

I lost 5 kilos in weight during the winching operation.

Bog 5

We were having a few quiet beers at the pub at Gregory Downs and chatting to a stuttering, D..D..D..D..Davoe, the publican. A wet season storm came and went. The local copper from Burketown was also having a beer and when it started raining he said goodbye and left in a hurry. Nobody said much else even though they knew we were heading north to Burketown. The storm passed and eventually we said cheers and left on our way north.

We had a job lined up at Escott Station just out of Burketown where they were setting up a tourist venture and we were due there the next day. We were driving an old ’77 Nissan G60 three speed and towing and 18 foot Millard Caravan.

It was only a light storm that had passed over. We sloshed down the road through the fresh puddles of water and some small rivulets of water running over the road. Then we hit the black soil as we approached a cattlegrid. The back of the Nissan slewed sideways and we jack-knifed into the grid. I got out and inspected for damage but we had not hit anything and we were OK except for being in a jack-knifed position in the middle of the grid. I got out of the truck and engaged the front hubs, got back in the cabin, put the truck into low range and eased onward to straighten the rig out.

We continued on our journey driving through along a very wet black soil road. Then I started to feel the truck slow down and we saw that we were picking up the mud with the wheels. By that time it was too late for the van and all four wheels were stationary packed solid with mud. We got out of the truck and mud caked on to our thongs. We had to discard them and very soon we had mud between our toes as we were trying to scrape the mud away from under the wheel arches of the caravan. It was a hopeless situation and we progressed only a few hundred metres when we had all the wheels clear before becoming bogged again.

It was time to stop trying. We cleaned ourselves as best we could and sat there in the middle of the road in the caravan and played Yahtzee till the sun went down. Then we cooked some tucker and slept like babes.

The next morning it was still too wet to do anything so we just lazed around. At mid morning we heard a vehicle approaching and it was the postie doing his run from Burketown to Mount Isa in a Troopcarrier. He had undersized tyres on the Troopy and the clinging mud just fell off when too much accumulated on the tyres. He stopped for a chat and said that the road should dry out if we get a clear day.

We waited. Sure enough, after some hours and bright sunshine the road dried off and we were able to drive away with dry mud peeling off the wheels like sheets of newspaper.

Posted in 4x4 Travel Stories.