With 4x4 outback cred comes great adventure! It also comes with a degree of experience and responsibility.
When we purchased Max, our Patrol, it was well equipped and had everything we needed. We bought a few extras, like a set of Maxtrax, to aid our 4x4 adventuring. However, what we gained in equipment, we lacked in experience. We had researched some of the 4x4 tracks and were keen to get our outback cred. Many of the tracks were long and remote, others were shorter and more travelled. We newbies needed to find the right track for our first 4x4 adventure.
While in Esperance/Alexander Bay, we debated a few choices. Choice 1: Drive 171 km of the Balladonia Track up to the Nullabor. Choice 2: Turn south off the Nullabor on a 66 km 4x4 track followed by 130 km of beach driving along the old Eyre Telegraph line. Choice 3: Backtrack 400 km through Esperance up to the Nullabor and do no 4x4 driving. Our inexperience and desire for adventure agreed that Choice 1 was the way to go.
We left our beachside camp about 9 am and headed for the Balladonia Track. We were ready and excited for our first track drive. We had more than enough gas. We had all the equipment. We had our awesome Patrol. What more did we need?
We started down the track. The corrugations and soft sand was manageable, all was going well until we got to the dunes. The red unsealed* road was gone and in its place was a white sand dune track. At this unexpected segue was another warning sign.
My husband began to air down the tires. Me? I stared down the track. I wish I could tell you my stare was one of pure confidence that I would conquer that track. It wasn't. I wish I could tell you the look on my face was of pure joy at the adventure we were about to undertake. It wasn't. I stared down that track in a total state of disbelief, disappointment, and growing anxiety. It was clear the track at some point had been driven, but....Did we have enough gas? We've never driven in this type of sand, how are we suppose to drive this? Could we manage on our own? Were we even on the right road? The road is dunes not unsealed, the HEMA map is wrong! No one knows we're here! What if...? OMG, we're going to die out here in the desert! My anxiety was set to high - no - catastrophic. Scott gently and humorously tried reassure my anxiety riddled questions. I was beyond convincing.
In the end, we agreed to leave the track and re-air the tires for bitumen driving. Thus began the 400 km roundtrip up and around to the Nullabor. Driving across the Nullabor, we passed the north start/end of the Balladonia Track, the place we were suppose to drive out and celebrate our first track drive. My heart sank a little. Then we saw it. The sign. The sign that said the Balladonia Track was closed. Closed. My heart felt a sense of relief, I felt free of any regret for forcing us not to attempt the drive. In the end, I'm glad my anxiety was turned up to high. I'm glad we decided not to push on and drive the 5+ hours on the Balladonia. I'm glad our inexperience made us turn around.
Sometimes the road not taken is the wisest choice and makes all the difference.
*Unsealed road is equivalent to a gravel/dirt road in Canada. Unsealed roads have lots of corrugations, pot holes, and some soft areas. Many travellers will air down to make driving the corrugations easier.
**Since then, we've done a lot of beach driving and some river crossings to claim 4x4 driving cred. We've learned that Max can drive through anything.