Sherwood Diary: The 4WD training course was a wonderful experience

Oops! Someone got badly bogged, but it wasn’t us.

We were quite stressed about doing this course worrying that we, as drivers, might not be up to it, and the fact that we have a motorhome on the back of our Hilux. Just getting there for 7.00 a.m. was stressful too as the meeting place was in Pindar about an hour’s drive north of us.

Anyway, we still thought we should go, especially as Glyn, our instructor, had seen a photo of our vehicle and had set up the half day of training in a place that was suitable for our vehicle with few low hanging branches on the track. Once there we had a second assessment of our Hilux as being a very capable vehicle, this time for four wheel driving.

The drive there turned out to be quite beautiful, becoming colder and more foggy as we went northwards. We arrived a bit early and had time to have some breakfast, toasties that Stephen had made the night before. I brought a thermos of hot water but didn’t actually use it as I wanted to concentrate. Glyn, our instructor, is ex-military and quite a character. He combined excellent teaching skills with anecdotes and silly Dad jokes and this made it fun, as well as feeling we were in safe hands.

We started out with some explanations of the types of 4WD vehicles and functions. There were three different vehicles with two drivers for each car, and Glyn knew the strengths and weaknesses of each, though he was overwhelmingly positive. He had some diagrams on the back of his vehicle and used a marker to point out the various features.

We would need to turn off a couple of features in our car which were for normal driving only.

The track for our training turned out to be a bit more challenging than he had anticipated, but that didn’t mean we had to go somewhere else, it just allowed for it to be a bit more intense. He was taking the other participants on a more challenging section in the afternoon.

We basically drove on a sandy track for about 3 kms (my estimate) in 4H, then drove back in low range 4WD so that we could feel the difference. We changed drivers half way through each section. There were some little rises and falls that were sandy and difficult to negotiate. Throughout we communicated via radio, again our car is well equipped with a 90 channel UHF radio.

It didn’t take long for the vehicle ahead of us to get bogged. Glyn actually made it worse by instructing the driver to do the things we shouldn’t do, which made it dig in deeper. So, we had a bit of recovery training as well, which wasn’t part of the original plan, but very interesting for us, especially as it wasn’t our vehicle that got bogged. The same vehicle got bogged on the way back, but the driver knew not to let it get in too deep and was able to quickly recover.

Another part of the training that we found very useful was learning how to turn around on the track. Bascially we drove forwards and to the left of the track, then reversed back as far as we could, then made the turn in one go. It doesn’t chew up the track either. We had a bit of firmer track for the turn, it would clearly be more tricky on a really narrow track and if you didn’t have relatively firm ground.

I think everyone, including us, was amazed at just how capable our Hilux is, despite having a habitation hub on the back. They found it quite scary to watch as we bobbled through the sandy tracks. It’s clear that we aren’t really aware of just how exteme the bobbling is because the car itself is much lower and that is where most of the weight is as well. We were concentrating so much on just driving through the sand, especially the second part where he encouraged us to divert from his vehicle tracks and make our own pathways. Although that was helpful in terms of avoiding some bushes on the track it of course increased the bumpiness of the ride.

We have watched videos of Sherwoods on dirt tracks and do know what it looks like. We were relieved that the vehicle does not actually feel as unstable as it looks.

We had instruction and demonstrations on how to let the air out of the tyres. When the vehicle ahead of us got bogged, Glyn actually took our tyre pressure down from 19psi to 14psi, just to make sure we could get through. And on our return, before going onto the highway he showed us how to use an air compressor to get the pressure up again. We now know the type of tyre deflator and air compressor to buy and can get them at a discounted price from BCF. The tyres looked awful once we were back on hard ground, but didn’t take long to reinflate.

We now feel much more prepared for our trip. Although we may not remember everything we also have our 4WD bible by Vic Widman and Glyn also said we have all we need to understand our vehicles in our normal vehicle handbooks. I read the handbook when we first got the Sherwood, but that was a long time ago.

Although we didn’t drive on a beach we now feel confident that we can get on and off a beach. One of the problems is that the tyres heat up and the PSI goes up, so that people often have difficulty with getting off a beach where they had no problems getting on. If you check your tyre pressure again you can see if you need to reduce the pressure.

Unfortunately we can’t recommend Western Wilderness 4WD courses due to the fact that Glyn and his wife are winding up the business to take early retirement. He is in the process of doing the last few courses. Otherwise, we definitely would recommend them.

Use a long handled spade and dig out some of the sand in front of where you need to work to allow you to get in underneath. Telescoping ones are available. Here one of the participants is using a mallet to get the max track partly under the rear wheel.

Note: old people, Stephen, myself and the father were exempted from having to help Glyn get this vehicle out. His view is that our age will automatically make people want to help us when we are out on the road. However, I think it’s normal for people to stop and help out other travellers. The cameraderie of the road.

We had brought some food for lunch with us, and once everyone else had headed of we drove to nearest beach. It turned out to be difficult to find an actual view of the ocean and we settled on being on the Minarie marina. We were able to have a rest after lunch, then commenced the long drive home.

I’ve included a couple of video clips in this post, but for some reason they are not showing up.

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