Australia, as I’ve said before, is a large and rugged land that is hard, or downright impossible to traverse in normal cars. Because of this, there are plenty of places in every major city or the suburbs that sell Four-Wheel drive cars, and there’s plenty of veterans that can teach you to drive them.
Like the other major cities, Sydney is a short distance from some of the best rugged and wild 4WD tracks in the country, such as in the Blue Mountains, less than two hours from the heart of the city. Near the Zig Zag Railway, a popular tourist destination, is one of these great locations, and is also where Jimmy and Nick Mannell, some of the drivers and veterans of Mannell Motor take some of their customers on their customer drive days, which is quite popular in its own right. The point of the customer drive days is for the veteran and experienced Four-Wheel Drivers of Mannell Motors to show off the capabilities of the cars to the less-experienced customers who are interested in purchasing one of these cars, as well as to teach them how to handle the large capable vehicle.
The reason for Mannell Motor to us the landscape around the Zig Zag Railway is that while it provides a challenge and excellent educational area it is not as difficult or dangerous as other parts of the Blue Mountains or Australia in general; as well, the Zig Zag Railway and the surrounding landscape is close to Sydney, allowing for simple and quick travel. The group starts off on some easy tracks around the Clarence and Glow-worm tunnels before moving onto the harder experiences such as steep climbs, rock (wedges or ledges) and rough moguls, all the while safe under Jimmy and Nick’s experienced eyes.
When it comes time for the drivers to take control and learn to handle the off-road vehicles the veterans give great advice on how to handle the cars such as idling rather than gunning or giving just enough revs to get the wheels over parts of the track that would give the driver trouble, as well as they, are making the new drivers calm and comfortable with the cars as to avoid the driver panicking and damage the cars or anyone inside or outside of the vehicle.
When traveling safety is a key thing to remember. At all times make sure you know where everyone is or where they are heading. If you’re traveling with a group with more 4WD’s than one, an important thing to ensure is that no one gets lost, and one way to do this is by following a procedure or plan agreed upon before setting out on your drive. Make sure that if you’re making a turn or changing directions that you can see the person behind you and ahead of you at all times and that they can see you, and that you have a form of communication device to speak between all the cars. Pack something other than a phone as you may find yourself lacking in service, so radios are a good bet. When traversing the landscape, it’s important to take it slow, one at a time and that no one is in danger of being hurt or killed by staying well back from any vehicles and not in their way. Another way to ensure the safety of the group while attempting to climb paths, tracks and hills is to have a member or several members standing at the top of the obstacle, out of the way of the vehicle of course, and communicate the best ways up the obstacle as well as when to wait and when to proceed.
You don’t only have to keep in mind the safety of yourself, your group and your vehicles when tackling the rugged paths, tracks, and hills, you have to be careful how you’re going up them. If you’re too reckless or impatient, or not experienced in 4WD driving you could damage the paths, especially the softer sections, making it harder or even impossible to traverse them and even getting yourself seriously stuck. Always remember to keep your wheel spin as low as possible, and watch out for big holes or dips in the road. Modern 4WD’s mostly carry traction control, which allows the car to move uphill with less wheel spin and less damage to the road, while cars with lockers should engage them early to avoid, again, damaging the road.
Roads, paths, and tracks are easy to traverse, most of the time, as they are made of dirt, gravel or small rocks that give plenty of grip to car tires. Some large rocks or surfaces made entirely out of rocks are not so easy, particularly the smooth ones. While they are traversable depending on the angle of the surface and how much traction your tires can get it may be better to not attempt, or give up trying to climb the rock and find a better way around.
There are many similar landscapes, terrains and places in Australia that, even in the biggest mightiest 4WD you’re just not going to climb. But that’s ok because Australia is a big place, which means there’s plenty of other places to go and conquer in your mighty vehicle. Just remember to be safe, when traveling in a group be aware of where everyone is, and take it slow, or else you’re might miss the beautiful scenery as your trying to drive up that hill.
Video created by On The Dirt – http://www.4wdguys.com.au