Tuesday, 14 January 2014

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night. (I always wanted to start a story with that!) But it was really a dark night, at least. And it was raining. And there was a little lightning. So, yeah, a dark and stormy night it was on Jan 5, 2014.
My phone rang. I was not expecting any call. It was Alvin. He sells Fords for a living, and drives a Mitsubishi Triton. Why would he call me on this dark ... evening?
I pressed the green phone icon. "Hello?"
Alvin asked where I was and, before I could answer, launched into an excited stream of words that I could barely make out.
"Calm down, Alvin, I'm at home ... Bau, now tell me, slowly, what's going on."
The short version, he was also in Bau, at his wife's kampung, about 35 kilometres from my home. He had driven into a rubber estate to explore around 4pm, then decided to turn around when it started raining.
The track had become slippery very quickly, his Triton slipped off the track on its left side, coming to rest against a rubber tree. That tree propped up the truck and probably saved it from tumbling down the slope.
He needed rescuing. I was the nearest person he could contact who had a mission-ready 4X4, my trusty Borneo Safari veteran Land Rover Defender 110 HCPU (Hi-Capacity Pick-Up).

Not the best photo ever, but I was on a rescue mission, not a photo safari.

The game was afoot. Grabbed appropriate shoes, raincoat, hat (I did say it was a stormy night, didn't I) torch, straps, shackles, checked that remote control for the Warn 8274 was in the car, all good to go.
With the benefit of hindsight, should have also grabbed the handy VHF radio to go with the car-mounted mobile set, and extra torches. But I didn't. Managed without but would have been easier with.
Also, made a phone call to another buddy, Chai Yew Foo, to let him know what was happening. This was Plan B, always good to have back-up. He "rogered" and said he and his Landy Double Cab (DCPU) would be on standby. A quick post on Facebook mobile would also alert the local 4X4 community in case more help was needed later.
Road being wet and everything being dark, I drove cautiously and got to the Kg Stass junction about 45 minutes later, met up with Alvin and went to see about rescuing his stricken truck.
It was not that far from the main road, less than a kilometre.
After descending a mild slope to get to the site where the Triton was leaning against a tree, I hooked up the winch to his front recovery point and began reeling the plasma rope in.
No good, it only pulled my Defender down towards his truck.
Unhooked rope, drove in a little further and managed a tricky three-point turn and then tried to climb back up the slope.
The rain had turned the surface of the clay trail into a slick grease-like layer. There was no traction to be had, even on GT Radial Komodo MTs, which had proven quite competent in most other conditions.
A ditch running diagonally across the track ruled out a run-up to build up momentum for a charge up.
So, the plan evolved into a winch-up for the Defender, using a longer (8-metre) strap to tie the Triton to the Landy's rear bumper.
After three cycles of winching and relocating anchor point, I was sure that Alvin would be able to drive up on his own since the Defender no longer needed winching, it could climb under its own power.
But, no joy, his tyres just spun uselessly while the Triton swayed side to side. It was really slippery, and footing was treacherous for humans as well.
Only then did it occur to me to ask Alvin; "What tyres are you using?"
ATs, came the reply from the darkness. Ahhhhhh so. All Terrain tyres, a highly optimistic name.
Around this point, I really rued forgetting to bring the extra radio. It would have made communication between Alvin and me a whole lot easier.
So, the winching continued until the two-car train reached level ground.
Tired, thirsty, wet and very muddy, we had made it. The phone rang again, and it was Foo and another buddy, Keith, asking where we were and how things were going. They were on their way to our location, about five minutes away.
We waved off the cavalry, all was well and made arrangements to meet up for celebratory drinks at Bau town, about 20km away, after a quick clean-up at the Petronas station nearby.
And so, all was well that ended well. Alvin is looking for better mud tyres.
Now, if you'll excuse me, my phone is ringing ...