4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - DEAN MEL­LOR

PEO­PLE are nat­u­rally com­pet­i­tive, so it’s lit­tle won­der that, like ex­plor­ers of old, four-wheel driv­ers tend to lay claim to find­ing things first, cross­ing things first, climb­ing things first and de­scend­ing into things first.

The only thing I ever did first when four­wheel driv­ing was to be part of a team that busted through the scrub in the Gulf of Car­pen­taria and re­dis­cov­ered one of Car­ruthers and Wells’ 1886 mile mark­ers, but all credit for that ex­pe­ri­ence must go to Ron Moon, who did all the plan­ning for the trip and led the ex­pe­di­tion.

Of course, if a ‘do­ing it first’ achieve­ment is out of the ques­tion, then you can al­ways lay claim to some­thing else, such as trav­el­ling the far­thest, climb­ing the high­est or de­scend­ing the deep­est depths.

Now, I’ve done some pretty big trips in my time, but I’m cer­tain a three-day drive from Mount Isa to Syd­ney or a an­other three-day run from Syd­ney to Perth is not nearly as far as many of you lot have trav­elled (although, the drive south was in a De­fender and the drive west was in a Fron­tera, so both seemed much far­ther than they were). The long­est I’ve gone with­out see­ing an­other ve­hi­cle off-road is a week or so along the Madi­gan Line in the Simpson Desert. But when it comes to four-wheel driv­ing at al­ti­tude, I’ll def­i­nitely have a few of you licked.

How does a short-of-breath 4500m sound? Yep, at this al­ti­tude, breath­ing can be a bit of a task, es­pe­cially if you’ve driven to these lofty heights in a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time, not al­low­ing your body to ac­cli­ma­tise. And so it was back in 2006, when I started feel­ing quite dizzy af­ter vis­it­ing San Vi­cente, Bo­livia, a town of 104 hardy souls who live at an al­ti­tude of 4502m. So dizzy, in fact, that I had to hand over the keys of the Rangie I was driv­ing to cur­rent 4X4 Ed­i­tor Matt Raudonikis and slip into the rel­a­tive safety of the pas­sen­ger’s seat.

The in­ter­est­ing thing about San Vi­cente is that it’s sup­pos­edly where Butch Cas­sidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in 1908; although, on hear­ing this, Wil­liam A Pinker­ton dis­missed it as ‘fake news’ and the Pinker­ton De­tec­tive Agency never called off its search for the two out­laws.

San Vi­cente truly is an in­hos­pitable place, with the high al­ti­tude, strong winds, bar­ren land­scape and sub-zero temperatures com­bin­ing to make it some­what less than com­fort­able; it’s lit­tle won­der it has such a mod­est pop­u­la­tion. I kept a close eye on the al­time­ter as we left town, count­ing down the me­tres as we re­turned to a more palat­able sub-4000m.

I’m sure that some of you can lay claim to hav­ing driven higher than 4500m. Ac­cord­ing to that won­der­ful source of all things true, Wikipedia, there are sev­eral driv­able roads that run through passes higher than 5500m, most of which are be­tween In­dia and Ti­bet. But if you’ve not four-wheeled out­side of Aus­tralia, you’re at least 2500m shy of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a se­ri­ously high-al­ti­tude track.

As for driv­ing at low al­ti­tudes, I’ve gone just about as deep as you can go on land. In 2007, I joined a few mates on a drive through Death Val­ley in Cal­i­for­nia. At its low­est point, Death Val­ley drops to an im­pres­sive 86m be­low sea level.

“Wait!” I here you say. “I’ve driven lower than that.” Well hang on. So have I. Back in 2000, I drove down near the shores of the Dead Sea in Jor­dan at an al­ti­tude of 430m be­low sea level. As the Dead Sea De­pres­sion is the low­est place on earth, I’m pretty cer­tain no one has driven a four-wheel drive lower than I have … at least on land.

The Rangie in Bo­livia.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.