We had brushed up on our local facts, tried our hands at some simple to more challenging sand driving, and now, we we're ready to tackle the final boss.
This 20-kilometre section of rocks, mud, and bog holes is rated as “very difficult” by the Tasmanian Park and Wildlife service. As mentioned previously, it had taken the team, on a previous occasion, over eight hours to cover the ground in poor weather.
And by poor, I mean they experienced sleet, rain, hail, and sunshine, all in a span of eight hours.
The course takes you between Granville Harbour and Trial Harbour, through the Mt Heemskirk regional reserve. Once again, as expected, the view is graceful. You can just hear the waves crashing against the shoreline; if you make your way through the slight scrub for a quick listen. Due to the previous day’s rain, there was an epic, gushing waterfall underneath the wooden entry bridge, which made for a good photo op.
All in all, it was looking great.
For today’s adventure, we had been rotated into a blue Isuzu D-Max 4x4, LS-T trim, crew cab. It had been nicely decorated with a front bar, spotlights, snorkel and big mud flaps. The other MU-Xs remained in convoy; the change was just a simple vehicle swap, not a sign that they would be out of their depth here.
They would too, join us on the adventure, alongside the eight customer couples who were rearing to go. We once again aired down to that same recommended climate-calibrated 25psi for 18-inch wheels, and set off. On a side note, Isuzu mentioned, in hotter areas, that 20psi can also work as a good starting point for a car retaining the standard 18-inch wheels. They also recommended starting with around 18-20psi if you’re using aftermarket 16- or 17-inch wheels in these conditions.
We kicked off with climbing a rock-riddled path up the initial peak. David, fearless leader, as those who have been paying attention have come to know him, was on the mic: “Left, left, straight, straight, follow this line, slower, now right, and hug the bank,” et cetera.
He was piling on the kilometres, running between the convoy as it slowly progressed through the track. A man with stamina as wild as the terrain, he did not let up all day, ensuring that everyone had his attention fairly. The last thing he wanted was for someone to pop a tyre or tear apart a half shaft. Access to a tow isn’t really a thing out in the Climies. If you break it, you must fix it, and drive it out.
After some initial rock work, came the mud. Thick, sticky, deep trenches of the stuff. Again, with some good assistance from the wider team, we navigated this with ease. Until we saw what was next.
We were greeted with a rather large, ominous puddle, flanked to the left by the worst mud we’d seen all day. After a quick wade-out with a highly-calibrated scientific instrument, the mighty depth-test stick, it did not look good. Right on call however, another mob appeared, four in tow, rocking three modified Patrols and one nasty sounding V8 LandCruiser.
They were willing to be the guinea pigs and test out the terrain. “Sure”, we obliged.
First attempt saw a Patrol end up stuck in the middle of the puddle, with the tide line indicating that the steering wheel was getting wet. The next car tried the left track and got pretty glued in, too.
The other two recovered their friends, had another crack with a little more gusto, and got through. “Cheerio” they said, over the UHF.
“Right” said David, who was determined to get us across to explore the rest of the track. It’s a one-way-in, one-way-out scenario, so if this kicked us out, we’d have to stop play for the day. A quick stomp around, followed by “everyone, give me your Maxtrax. All of them”, motivated us all to realise – we’re carrying on!
And for those who don’t know, Maxtrax are plastic rectangles of studded faux terrain that you can lay down for a bit of extra traction.
The puddle was not happening. The solution was to build a sort-of makeshift road, to the far left, around where the previous Patrol had carved up. We quickly observed that there was a lot of murky water hiding underneath what seemed like solid ground. One misstep in the bush saw your boot disappear two feet into the ground, and quickly fill up with mud.
The media, after an Isuzu rep got through, were to be first.
First car, through no issue. Us, in the second car, not so lucky. After initially making it up the hill, getting through the sloppy stuff left of the bog, and monstering through the shrub, our second makeshift Maxtrax road gave way on us, initially at the front right, then the rear left.
We were stuck.
David, a customer who'd paid to attend the trip, and the rest of the Isuzu team, were barking orders at us. We were to rock the car forward, then back, then forward, then back, then one more time forward on the hope it gripped-up on the Maxtrax. After trying this a few times, we were getting nowhere. The front right track kept skipping out. It seemed futile. We had been attempting the recovery for, give-or-take, 15 minutes by this time. The team was knee deep in sludge.
“Snatch strap,” someone said.
“No”, said David. “let’s give it one more go first”.
With this newfound strength, and some weight over the back, we managed to do the what we initially feared impossible – power the D-Max right out of the trap, alone. This was hugely educational for me, as I hung out the window analysing every step, sucking up as much information as I could.
It taught me that with some calmness, smarts, and a good understanding of what the car is doing, you can get out of a tricky situation without having to be pulled out. This takeaway was big for a newbie off-roader like me. I too hope, that people reading this, can also learn a little.
One by one, with an even-more solid understanding of the terrain, we got all-eight other cars through without a pinch. We continued on our merry way enjoying the view, discussing what just happened with each other. Getting stuck somewhat boosted morale. It brought us closer together and helped forge a greater camaraderie amongst the troop.
Bear in mind, that at this point we had now covered just one of the 20 kilometres for the day.
However, after making it through another half kilometre, we were faced with terrain that was just too dangerous. At the bottom of the hill, we could see our four newly-minted friends, stopped, with a bonnet up.
We sent the drone down on a reconnaissance mission to assess the terrain. Not convinced, we went for a walk down the hill. I could see the pain in David’s face. He had been looking forward to getting us all through the track. It has been the talk of the week. This epic culmination of four-wheel drive gnarliness to inspire our own future endeavours.
The trip to end all trips. Barbeque fodder for months to come.
He ummed, then ahhed, then decided to call it off.
Everyone understood. I could tell he was disappointed. It seems the track had been torn apart over the holiday period, comparing it to when the Isuzu team were last here in October. No one wants to damage a serious component, or worse, put their pride and joy on its side.
We sat down, chin-wagged a new plan of attack; and ate a sandwich against a view that just wouldn’t let up. Perched on rocks, and right on cue; we witnessed the sun come out to illuminate the descent as far as the ocean.
No one cared that we had to turn around after 1.5 kilometres of navigating. We had a good time. The conversation was flowing. Everyone was just happy to have tried their best at one of Australia’s beautiful and more-challenging tracks.
We got out of there with no issue, with great pace. We were well-seasoned by this point, marinated in knowledge that empowered us to fly through it.
The rest of the day was beach driving, up to where the river meets the sea, to fish off the sand. I could think of worse places to be. Stuck on Climies with no hope of getting out springs to mind.
The capability of Isuzu's trucks exceeded my expectations. All three just-off-the-showroom-floor examples returned from the trip, driving as they did on day one. No funny noises. No weird wobbles. Nothing.
Isuzu has something really good on its hands here. The unity it creates, the people involved, and just the simple fact of how it’s run, is special. No other car brand in Australia offers such a comprehensive set or programs for their customers. To be frank, I’m not quite sure why.
It is something that I’d urge you to experience if you can. CarAdvice would like to thank Isuzu and the team for extending the invitation to attend.