SES to rescue as bush-bashers bog
EVERYTHING that goes down cannot always go up.
Such was the case for a group of Grafton 4WD lovers who went for a blast through the Candole State Forest on Saturday afternoon following heavy rain overnight.
Indeed, it was the rain and the promise of muddy tracks that made the adventure so attractive for the group of nine adults and four children aged 4, 8, 13 and 15, travelling in three vehicles.
Among the group was Sean Taylor, driving a Nissan Patrol and Russell Keedle, driving one of two Holden Jackaroos.
The group, communicating via two-way radio, questioned crossing one particular creek bed, but Russell urged them on with confidence, and the crossing, including a steep entry to the creek bed, was made without a problem.
After a couple more hours of bush bashing in the Tucabia and Sandon Bluff area, the group returned to the tricky creek bed only to discover it was a tidal creek and there was water flowing where there had previously been mud.
“We were hoping to be home by midnight – we’d packed dinner for the kids and took blankets, but when we saw the creek we knew this wasn’t going to happen,” Russell said.
The group waited till 3am for the tide to drop and Sean decided to go first, considering his Patrol was fitted with mud-terrain tyres and a winch.
“I got across the riverbed part but I couldn’t get up the embankment,” he said. “I tried about five or six times, but on the last time I bounced to the side and my back wheel and diff got stuck in a hole.
“I tried to use the winch but it decided it didn’t want to work.”
The group also tried to free the Patrol with a ratchet strap, but to no avail.
With no phone reception and phone batteries dead or low, three of the men, including Dean, Liam Firth and Andrew Diskon decided to head off with all the group’s phones to find reception and then help.
“We took the torches and started walking ... it was four hours till we got service at the top of a hill.”
Sean said he called the SES who organised a recovery.
“We told them where we were, but all three of us fell asleep while we were waiting – it would have been about half an hour and they pulled up beside us and beeped the horn.
“They were really worried about us but we were fine, just tired.”
The men caught rides among the three SES vehicles, from Grafton and Ulmarra, and they all headed back to the rest of the group.
With the tide still rising, the SES’s winch failed. “It seemed to be the place for it,” said Dean.
But the Patrol was eventually snatched out of the mud with an SES strap and the other two vehicles were assisted by the SES at another crossing further upriver.
“The kids loved it, they slept in the car and there was never any danger,” Russell said. “Basically we were just hanging for coffee.”