I turned the engine of the Beast off and climbed out of the cabin. I’d just completed the water crossing to reach the two men I was called to rescue. Half way across the river I’d run over a large rock which had lifted the Beast and could easily have sent me off kilter and down the river if a surge of water had hit me at that time. I assumed that was exactly what had happened to the Mitsubishi Pajero I was going to need to pull out of the water, but I decided to let the men tell me that in their own words.
Hey here’s an interesting side note. Do you know an anagram of Mitsubishi is Mi-Shiti-Bus? And when you see some of those hire vans that come up from the city panted in graffiti like art with stupid immature slogans on them you’ll realise that maybe they named the company wrong all those years ago.
Here’s another bug bear of mine and don’t get me wrong I like some of the vans with artwork showing band logos and funny characters but hiring out vans with slogan’s like “Your daughter is inside, NAKED.” and “If it’s got tits or tyres sooner or later you’re going to have problems.” just doesn’t seem funny to me. I like to think I have a good sense of humour but the public roads aren’t the place for such statements.
Anyway where was I? Oh yeah out of the Beast and waiting for an explanation.
The two men, Gary and Jarrod, were both stocky blokes, looking like they were having a good time exploring the outback and well prepared for what they were doing. They both wore the quintessential aussie flannelette shirt, with the sleeves rolled up because it was hot, faded jeans to stop themselves getting burnt, Blundstones on their feet and Akubra hats, each one well worn and almost moulded to it’s owners head. These guys were about as aussie as it gets, do I need to remind you we don’t all look like Crocodile Dundee again?
Not that it’s a definitive sign of success but the Pajero was well set up with all the gear needed for traversing the aussie outback and the registration plates said they came from Victoria, home of the high country, some of the best four wheel driving in the country. I was hopeful all that meant these guys weren’t as bogan like as their flannos might have indicated!
Gary started the story, not that he needed to defend what they were doing or why they were where they were but he started with a little background which did go some ways to confirming my thoughts that these guys were just a couple of guys enjoying the Aussie outback and not the sort I was going to have problems with. When it came to the story about how the Pajero ended up where it did again my theories were confirmed. They’d been crossing the river, having walked it both ways, and when their front tyre rose up and over the rock the water just pushed them sideways that they were passengers until the vehicle wedged itself on the rock.
Once they realised the rock had them stuck Jarrod climbed out the passenger window and waded his way around the vehicle, he didn’t waste time looking for a way out he simply grabbed the winch cable and got Gary to free spool it until he could find something to secure it too. Once the Pajero was secure they then got onto dry land and began assessing the situation.
Because the depth of the river down stream didn’t vary greatly and their rig was set up so well there was every chance that if they could have gotten off the rock they could have driven themselves out of the water but they decided to be smart, ignore their pride and call for help. That’s a commendable thing to do and more people should realise such things when they get stuck.
With the stories all told we still had an hour or so of daylight left, I knew I’d be sleeping in the Beast overnight but there was no point wasting daylight, dinner could be cooked in the dark, pulling a vehicle out was a job I preferred to do in the daylight and if all went well I could have the Pajero on dry land before dark leaving us both free to go on our way the following morning.
The whole time we been talking I’d also been assessing the situation, thinking about how best to recover the four wheel drive. Every rescue has an element of risk and this one was no different but if I prepared things right most of the risk would be to the four wheel drive and not humans. I wasn’t going to deliberately risk damage to the four wheel drive but it was always a possibility especially the way it was sitting on the rock, dragging it off like I was going to have to do did have the potential to break things.
The one thing I had worked out early on was that to do this rescue there was no avoiding the fact that I was going to get wet, I had no choice. I had a pair of neoprene waders in the Beast, they were good quality and comfortable for short periods, I might still get wet but at least my warmth would be regulated as the warmth of the day disappeared.
Not only was I going to get wet so was the Beast, ok that’s not a huge deal she’s a tough old girl and a bit of water wont stop her but I was going to have to park in the water not just drive through it. Had the angles been better I would have tried to pull the Pajero using my winch from the dry ramp on the opposite side of the river but no matter where I parked the Beast there was no straight line, I had no choice but to be in the water.
I went through my plans with Gary and Jarrod, they claimed there was enough cable left on their own winch to ensure the Pajero remained secured to the tree while we dragged it off the rock, possibly even enough to act as security until we got it to the rear of the Beast, I trusted their judgement. After everything was outlined I gave Gary and Jarrod the choice of which jobs they wanted. Gary chose to stand on dry land, act as a spotter and be ready to unhook the Pajero’s winch when needed, while Jarrod chose to stand at the waters edge and be a spotter from the opposite side and use the remote to operate the Pajero’s winch. We all knew the risks involved with winches and dampers would be used but we’d still all stand out of way as much as we could in case cables did break.
I got into my waders before moving the Beast into position, they were comfortable but I’m glad I didn’t have to drive too far in them. This time when I entered the water I did it at a crawl so slow even the snail would over take me. It was difficult to tell exactly where the large rock was but I had no intention of hitting it again and going as slow as I did meant I would feel it before the front of my vehicle rose and it was too late.
I missed the rock with both the front and the back wheels and when I edged up onto the ramp on the north western side of the river I stopped the Beast and reversed, at an angle, into a position so that my winch had a straight line to the front of the Pajero.
The three of us then spent the next ten minutes pulling out my winch cable, securing it to the Pajero, draping dampeners over both winch cables, and securing everything. The slack was taken out of my winch cable but no pressure was applied. When everything was in place I did a final check to make sure we were prepared.
“Are you guys ready?” I asked.
Previous Desert Rescue story here.