When I was 17, I decided to ride across Central Anatolia in Turkey on horseback, without ever having ridden a horse. I remember mum gently encouraging me to have a riding lesson before I went, but I told her I’d seen it on TV, so I’d be fine.
Wild By Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot by Sarah Marquis is out now. Next, traverse Ocean Beach to discover the best ways to drive on various types of damp sand.
Despite the rain overnight, it had pretty much ceased by 7:00am This was bringing back some joy to the faces of the Isuzu team, who were worried that poor weather could spoil things. We discussed the day’s plan of attack over a bite to eat, rounded up the team, and headed for the soft stuff.
The Henry Dunes start inland and travel as far as 15 kilometers along the coast. The Roaring 40s, as they’re commonly known, are due to mass amounts of warm air from the Equator making its way towards the poles.
As warm air is naturally elevated, it descends, quite angrily, where it marries up with the cooler stuff. The flow of air in this direction is nature’s way of keeping a lid on things, in an attempt to reduce temperature differences around the world.
As a result if this hot and cold mixing action, air flows down at roughly 30 degrees of latitude, known as the subtropical ridge. At this latitude, the slope of temperature change decreases greatly, and the air is naturally deflected, then influenced, by the Earth’s rotation.
This process sets up global wind patterns and is a very important, natural part of the weather system. Henry Dunes are a product of this, formed by savage winds blowing uninterrupted from South America.
Heights in the dunes can reach 30 meters, again commanding respect from those who may be basking in their glory. After this, we selected 4-Low, turned off all driving aids, and proceeded to enter the dunes.
As a side note, in an MU-X, you must select neutral, engage 4-L, wait for the driveling clunk, enter drive or the sequential shift mode (in an auto), then hold the ‘car doing skids’ button for a full seven seconds. For a first-timer, you’ll notice the wheel will begin to wander left to right underneath your hands.
My natural instinct, having owned and played with a few rear-wheel drive cars, was to channel my counter steer game. As our fearless leader David Wilson tells me, “if you apply big amounts of steering due to a delay in reaction, when it finally grips, it’ll send you the way the wheels are pointing”.
The sensation you’re experiencing is the tires just finding their way up and down the ridges of these newly created banks. If you’re the lead car however, it’ll just blaze a trail, requiring small adjustments, if any.
Just shy of entering the path to the dunes, a fork in the road presented itself. “Pick reverse, back it up as much as you can, give it everything in second gear, and steer to the right”.
I pushed it up as far as I could against the bank behind me, gained momentum, pointed it where I wanted to go, then pressed the pedal through the firewall and picked second gear. The upper-spec models are equipped with highway terrain tires and 18-inch wheels, which performed well on the sand, and all weekend, for that matter.
About to be superseded, it still makes for a decent tool of trade for those with weekend work that needs completing. The name of the game was to get up some pretty steep, soft hills, using maximum attack.
We had one example where a customer built up enough speed, kept into it for what they thought was long enough, however, lifted just before they could see over the hill. Just shy of sand, as far as the eye could see, was the subtle glitter of the ocean.
This whole experience was backed by 14 degrees of heat with clear blue skies, the sun shining, and the freshest of fresh winds passing us by. Once we’d covered the basics of dune bashing, we exited stage left, and headed for Ocean Beach.
Ocean Beach represents the longest stretch of sand in Tasmania, spanning more than 30 km, and is home to complex weather patterns thanks to that now-understood 40-degree location. The sheer ferocity with which it swells, and crashes, is unlike anything I’ve witnessed, given the relative calmness of its surroundings.
In particular, a Black-Shouldered Kite, with its piecing orange eyes, glances down as it disengages cruise control and descends into the shrubbery. The general rule of thumb is to keep things closest to the shoreline, where the sand is nice and firm.
Due to the low tide, we were able to do some side -swapping, exchanging the water's edge for the far-most bank where the sand was softer, to compare notes. We were asked to kick up a bit of sand for the camera, so a couple of left-right flicks were steadfastly and earnestly undertaken, appeasing the juvenile sides of our minds.
It’s very easy to go a bit too quick and fly over these, potentially causing thousands of dollars of damage to your vehicle. Ocean Beach is littered with pretty shells and colorful stones that are begging to be rifled through.