It’s been over 5 years since our visit to the Limestone Coast to drive the network of sandy tracks that hug the rocky headlands around Beachport.
In previous years we’d piloted our trusty Patrol throughout the dunes, but this year it would be different. The stubby gearshift to control the four wheel drive hardware has given way to electronics, replaced by buttons and dials in our Ranger Raptor. But would this new technology cut the mustard?
Each Australia Day Long Weekend 4WD Clubs across the southern states converge on the area, keen to explore the perilously soft sandy beaches and narrow inland tracks. And while that in itself sounds like a recipe for chaos, somehow they all manage to co-exist.
It was our second trip in our new Tvan Zenith and we were keen to spend a few more nights reacquainting ourselves with this amazing compact off roader.
Accompanied by the 4WD Adventurers Club, we’d scored a cruisy weekend. Simply roll up to the caravan park, setup, greet other club members, and pick some trips aligned with our skill level; the organisers and trip leaders take care of the rest! Sweet.
Piloting our new vehicle, we choose a trip from Beachport to Robe of medium difficulty on the first day. Like other members, we’ve done this event many times before, although in another vehicle many years ago. So, we were fully expecting to get bogged at some stage.
Like riding a bike, its easy pickings, travelling along in high range, the suspension soaking up everything in its path. With an auto transmission and turbo diesel engine, it’s more like point and shoot, making light work of any low-speed situation. Often, it’s a case of good judgement, picking the right amount of momentum to ease over a dune, not knowing where the track will veer over the crest.
Back behind the dunes on the inland tracks, the progress is much slower and it’s helpful to hold the auto down in first gear to stop it shifting backward and forward. Some dunes are very lumpy at the base making it difficult to gain momentum, bumping you off-line if you give it too much juice.
Other inclines have wallowed out holes in the wheel tracks caused by spinning tyres in areas of low traction. With holes in diagonal wheel tracks, it causes the vehicle to rock from side to side, good for a milkshake, but less so for passenger comfort.
Satisfied with our progress, we pick a harder trip on the Sunday, travelling from Carpenters Rocks to Beachport. The sand is much softer on this leg and we’re down to 10psi, yet the Raptor is handling it with ease. On the four-wheel drive selector, the Sand Mode is particularly impressive, providing a sharper throttle response and turning off traction control, which can limit momentum.
Monday, we spend exploring the Beachport Conservation Park around Lake George. It’s a refreshing break after an action-packed couple of days dune driving.
For more information on the 4WD Adventurers Club go to http://4wdadventurers.org/