4x4 tips - Africaraw
Mud sucks! This photo summarises the worst experience we have had in our travels. The river Kwai in Moremi in Botswana had flooded that year. Leaving Savuti I followed the path along the river but soon this changed into muddy tracks and then small pools. I followed sound advice and first walked the pools to feel how firm the ground was. This technique always worries me and I walk worrying about what depth of water crocodiles prefer and what lurks in the surrounding grass. My wife and I travel alone and so its an extra bit scary. I misjudged the size of a pool which around the bend became a small lake with submerged trees. I panicked and instead of reversing back tried to do a tight circle and ended up bogged down in black cotton mud. Even in low gear 4x4, and front and rear differentials locked we did not move. Marianne reminded me about an article she had read that I must not turn of the engine or water would be sucked into the pistons. So with the engine running slowly on the manual choke I climbed out. Mud clawed at every part of the underbody, and digging with a shovel didnt seem to help. Raising the car first in the front and then the rear with an éxhaust jack (green balloon under rear bumper bottom left) allowed me to place our rubber floor mats as well as long rubber sand ladders under the wheels. But no movement and I learnt that these helpful aids in sand are useless in the wet when tyres just slip. I then tried chopping down small trees to get logs of wood to place under the wheels. They were too small and all I did was lose my sandals and collect thorns of submerged acacia trees in my feet. The thorns also punctured the exhaust jack in 6 places, but luckily holes were small and air leaks insignificant. After trying unsuccesfully for 3 hours I used our satellite phone to call in help. 4 gamerangers arrived with builder's scaffolding planks, and two hours later, after much digging and pushing by all of us, the senior game warden forcefully drove the car through 80 meters of mud and water out onto the path. In summary, don't go into water, and if you must then check for water in your front and rear differentials as soon as possible afterwards. Essential to buy or hire a satellite telephone. We use the Iridium system, which has worked well. The phone is expensive and you have to renew airtime yearly, but it is an essential tool to get help for sick cars and ill people, especially if you travel alone in deserted places. The reception can be disturbed by tall trees and buildings. We have not bought a winch, and it would not have helped as there were no large nearby trees firmly anchored into the mud. probably of more value when two or more cars travelling in convoy. We have now replaced the exhaust jack with a Hilift jack; the reasons for this will be discussed later