We plan our camping for this week end around some 4WD training. We will be travelling around Australia over the next few years; and some of the driving will be on unsealed roads, tracks and beaches to get to the more remote places. So we decide to prepare ourselves by investing in a 4WD training course.
The 4WD training course is a two day exercise, conducted by Kevin from Australian 4WD and Advanced Driver Education.
The first day is the 4WD Bush Course, where the trainees are taken around progressively more challenging bush tracks on a dedicated training location at Kurwongbah north of Brisbane.
The second day is the 4WD Sand Course, which is conducted on the surf beach side of Bribie Island.
He and his team are the ‘go to’ people if you’re looking for the best 4WD training around the Brisbane region. Check out their website here – 4WD Training Brisbane.
Getting Accommodation Sorted
We book a bush campsite on a property called by the odd name of “Pluck a Duck Creek Camp” through YouCamp for the first night, which is close to the training ground for the 4WD Bush Course scheduled for Saturday 16th.
We learn that campsites on Bribie Island (where we need to camp ahead of the 4WD Sand Course on the Sunday) are scarce as the proverbial, due to a music festival on.
However, we manage to secure a site beforehand with Arc and Melody (their real names!) who manage Bellara Caravan Park.
The Journey North
As if leaving the Gold Coast to head north in peak hour traffic on a Friday afternoon isn’t bad enough, we come to a virtual halt in torrential rain on the Pacific Highway not even 30 minutes into our planned 2-hour journey.
Keith is driving whilst I locate the weather radar map that lands us in the centre of a storm cell. Keith is still driving three hours later when we finally leave the motorway and head west. The rain is unrelenting and we are straining to follow the road in complete darkness. I heave a sigh of relief as Lady Google announces that we “have reached your destination”!
Our Pluck-A-Duck hostess, Gerrie guides us to the front of a large house where she has prepared a meal for us and offers us the only level piece of ground at the top of her driveway. The patch prepared for us earlier near the creek is now under water. As the rain continues to pelt down over dinner, we make a unanimous decision to head for the nearest motel in Kallangur (thanks again to Google!).
4WD Training – Day 1
Saturday morning brings with it cloud and light rain as we make our way to the training ground, half expecting to find it empty; but there are 4WD vehicles lined up to begin the program, which is led by Kev and Trev (their real names).
Once the formalities, theory and demonstrations on “Betsy” their mechanical model are over, we are divided into two teams of five vehicles per team and directed to our first challenge of the day – a 15-25 degree incline that is gouged by deep ruts and looks very slippery.
With Kev guiding us, we progress to increasingly difficult terrain and take turns to navigate the carefully planned tracks in the bush, over creek crossings, through narrowed tree-lined tracks and pretty steep climbs. It has bucketed down the night before, making the tracks slippery and unpredictable. Even more of a challenge.
Our confidence grows as we learn to trust the true capability of the Jeep Wrangler to navigate each challenge with ease and control.
By the end of the day we have information overload and decide to head for Bribie Island rather than tackling Kev’s last (and most steep) challenge for the day.
We are shown our allocated a camping spot under wild fig trees at Bellara Caravan Park, drawing attention from the mostly permanent resident population. Older folk, who have made this their home and way of life.
After setting up camp, we head to Bribie’s Surf Life Saving Club for our evening meal before returning to our campsite for an early night. Thankfully the rain has eased up during the course of the day – a welcome relief in the light of warnings from the local grapevine that our site had gone under water the previous night.
4WD Training – Day 2
It is a hot and humid on the Sunday morning as we make our way to the much-anticipated beach driving course to join Trev and Kev and fellow trainees. Our team of 5 vehicles is briefed to follow Kev to the beach access road, which has been churned up, and looks pretty daunting.
After my bold enquiry about deflating the tyres is met with Kev’s emphatic dismissal, we engage the necessary gear and trail behind his vehicle in single file along the 3-4 km four-wheel drive track that will take us onto a pristine stretch of one of Bribie Island’s beaches.
Over the next three to four hours we are taken through our paces to navigate the mostly compacted beach sand along the shore line. Kev’s deliberate attempt to get each vehicle bogged in the soft sand closer to the dunes succeeds. A lone grey kangaroo watches from a safe distance, probably seen it all before.
The aim of the exercise is for us to learn safe and effective recovery techniques using purpose-built equipment such as Maxtrax and snatch straps. We finally get to try out our tyre-deflation device at Kev’s nod. Tyre pressures make a big difference to the traction of the vehicle on our return journey along the beach.
Here’s a short video of the two days.
After farewells, we head to the nearest service station at a slow pace to reinflate our tyres before enjoying a leisurely lunch form a spot overlooking Bribie’s popular and scenic Pumicestone Passage.
We return to the Surf Club at sunset to take in spectacular views over Moreton Bay, sipping leisurely on Mojitos as storms head across the bay to the south. Nice way to end the whole weekend with lights from distant shorelines and passing ships beginning to flicker in the dark.
There is no doubt in our mind about the capability of the Jeep Wrangler. On both days its performance off road and on the beach was exceptional. We’re not seasoned off-roaders; so with features such as ‘Downhill Assist’ making the whole exercise that much more manageable and enjoyable.
One of the great aspects of high quality training like this is all participants gain a solid understanding of the capabilities, and limitations, of themselves and their vehicles. Kev is about safety through knowledge and skills by delivering excellence in 4WD training.
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