This isn't exactly recent - but I arrived in the office at work one day to discover my workmate Chris was down (he's based in Victoria) and had his Hilux with him. Chris asked if there was anywhere close we could go exploring that evening (the evenings were long at this point).
We did a little brainstorming and found a road that headed inland from the town of Penguin. In fact, it's a fairly major road in Penguin, but on the map it eventually becomes a track. We figured it was worth a look, but would probably just be a gravel road.
As it wasn't a planned trip - after work I headed home to pick up Oscar and a few crucial bits of recovery gear and we headed out. If it had been planned I'd have been more prepared - in particular I'd have filled up before we headed out - I had about a quarter of a tank which I assumed would be ok (which it mostly was).
Oscar had been having issues starting. If he'd turn over, he's start fine - but often there would be a slight click and nothing. No attempt to turn over. Not the normal low battery wuurrrr wuurrr wurrrr - just nothing. It appeared to be battery related as adding the jumper pack was normally enough to get it going - but I hadn't been able to work out why. Had to use to the jump starter to get him running but assumed it would be ok after charging him for a while. I also grabbed my handheld UHFs as Chris didnt have one in his car.
Oscar hadn't had a lot of running since we got him back together after replacing the head gaskets. He is still down on power, and seems to heat up very quickly when climbing hills on the highway. I was a little nervous, but keen to see how he went. He got warm on the highway, but as long as I didnt push him too hard it was manageable.
So we headed up Ironcliffe Road. Its a good road for ages, then becomes gravel when you hit a forest reserve. That stays good for a while until you come to an area with a number of walks leading off it, and a road signposted as both a vehicle and walking track. That was the track the map showed as a through path. So we headed down.
Initially it was just more gravel, but eventually developed into a track with a lot of deep ruts and became quite technical.
You had to pick your lines to stay out of the ruts and hug the side of the track, and choose when was the best place to cross them. This involved quite a bit of Chris or I being out of the vehicles, guiding the other driver. Chris had done very little off-roading before, so as it got more challenging, I ended up outside while he drove both vehicles. I'd tell him where to steer and he drove it.
The ruts were getting worse and worse as we went. The bit I've got video of was a nasty little rut that we were eventually able to climb. Unfortunately the angle was great enough that Oscar's low petrol caused him to stall. The petrol in the tank all sloshed away from the pump. This in turn caused the battery issue to rear it's head - and he wouldn't start. So I was hanging in space balanced on pretty much just two wheels while Chis had to attach the jumper pack and we could restart him. Once he was running again, I was able to get just enough traction on one of the hanging wheels to drive up the bank.
But the next section of road proved to be even worse. We were on one side of a massive rut, which then cut across the road. The two choices were to REALLY hug the side of the track and try and get past that side, or cross the rut, which would have been pretty extreme. I'm not sure we'd have gotten through it without lockers - and both options had the real possibility of rolling a vehicle if you got it slightly wrong.
By this point it was not long off dark, and we had no idea what the track ahead would be like - so I made the call to turn around and head back. Chris wasn't keen on tackling the challenges we'd already been through in the dark - but they were better than potentially rolling a car.
By this time one of my handheld UHFs also went flat - so I could direct Chris when he was driving Oscar (Oscar has a UHF mounted in the car) but not when he was in his Hi-Lux. That was limited to hand gestures. Guiding him through the ruts was extra difficult the darker it got as we had to have headlights on - which meant I couldn't see his wheels when guiding from the front - but we progressed as best as we could.
We eventually made it out to the gravel road at around 10:30PM. Aside from stalling due to crazy angles and low fuel, and the battery issue - Oscar had done great. Didnt even think about overheating, when when working relatively hard. Seems to the issue with hills on the highway doesn't apply to low range work.
On the way home, and in the trips since, I've discovered that if you let him pick a speed and gear (technically you pick them, but based on what the engine wants) he'll climb things without overheating. As long as you aren't in a hurry. Still need to get that fixed.
The starting issue was probably a dying battery. It would read as over 12v, but perhaps didnt have the amps to even try and start. After I replaced the battery I haven't had the same reluctance to start (touch wood).
As far as Ironcliffe Road goes - I want to go back. If it hadn't been so late in the day (we started after work remember) I might have risked pushing on. Or if there had been at least one more experienced driver - but it was just me and Chris, and it was only his second time off-road.
With a little more preparation, an earlier start, and another driver who knows that they are doing - I'll be back. Chris will get an invite too if he's game.
I want a set of lockers!