Sawyers Valley Night Navigation

When:  Saturday 10th September 2005

Location: Sawyers Valley

Participants :
  • Team “A” Vehicle No 1 (Toyota Surf)
    • Driver: John S (Stampa)
    • Navigator: Steve G
  • Team “A” Vehicle No 2 (Pajero)
    • Driver: Diana
    • Navigator: Duncan
    • Supervisor: Frith
  • Team “B” Vehicle No 1 (Patrol)
    • Driver: Richard
    • Navigator: John K
  • Team “B” Vehicle No 2 (Pajero)
    • Driver: Martin
    • Navigator: John M (macca)
Team “A”
On – off  – on – off – ON!
Getting the teams together for the “Niva Night Nav” was like a traffic light!!
After many false starts, we assembled at the Lake Brockman Tourist Park next to the Logue Brook Dam in the Harvey region. The gents arrived first, and were set up and being very domesticated with their evening meals when we (Diana and children) arrived late afternoon. Having all checked our odometers on the assigned measured 10km route, we registered our 2 teams with the organizers, and received our vehicle numbers. We were Teams 9A and 9B of sixteen teams – 32 vehicles in total.
Looking around at the assembled parade of macho (mechanical) equipment, with the testosterone thick in the air, I wondered what on earth I thought I was doing!  We had a further hour prior to commencement of driving, and so we did some quick organization of beds and camping gear ready for our return later. Little did we know at this stage how much later that would be…..
We gathered at our allotted number traffic cone, and watched the teams of 2 vehicles per team set out at 2.5 minute intervals. There were 4 ‘loops’ and so effectively a new team followed 10 minutes after the preceding one on any given loop. The organizers were very clear that this was NOT a race, but a test of navigation and driving skills. There was no time limit, but the closing time was set for 06h30 on Sunday – 12 hours away from the start.
We started on Loop 2, with John in the lead and us following. The route took us “every which way, and more”, collecting paddle-pop sticks and designated information along the route. There were check-points where we were marked off, and where we could “buy” answers to the questions listed for that loop. These points were manned/womanned by the Maddington Rover Scouts, who appeared to be making a really fun time of a cold exercise, and by a group of very serious Army Cadets. There were also Niva Club vehicles overseeing difficult areas.
Besides the Rover’s party, there was other wild life on the tracks that night. We passed a “cute furry ball” – said Duncan, to be told by John and Steve who were behind us that it was an Echidna! There were also lots of ‘jumpers’ around, with many of these being very young in appearance and we saw a rabbit or two dashing across the road.
Some of the driving was on smooth wide gravel roads, and then there were the ‘tricky’ bits…..
Take a steep hill with a few awkwardly placed rocks with a slope to one side, add some thick mud and put a river down the middle for good measure – that was the challenge. I had been loaned a set of serious tyres by Paul, and so acquitted myself well on these obstacles. The macho man who had been following me with his spotties on full while being forced to read my “Women are born leaders …” sticker roared up after me, and got stuck! After much revving and yelling from all concerned, he managed to get through – he roared off and we had a good chuckle.
We were at a “geographically challenged” spot (lost) after a while on this loop, and so decided to use the GPS track to go back to the base. The organizers had said that “a GPS would not help” – how wrong they were! A strictly- timed 15minute break saw us back on track again, following the next loop, and so it went on. I led the second loop and evened the score by being lost – so we went back to base again. Our third loop was Number 4 – reported to be the most challenging one for the driver.
This we did well, and as we headed back to base at about 04h00, decided to head for bed. Frith had been tucked up and asleep on the back seat for most of the night – lucky girl!
We checked in with the marshal and John discovered that this last loop was only 21km long so we cancelled bed and headed out again after our 15 minute break. Time flies when you are having fun, and before we knew it, the sky was getting light in the east, and we shot into base on the dot of 06h30 – 12 hours after we had started. We were satisfied with our performance as we had answered all of the 4 sets of questions, and found most of the items and check-points.
On our return to camp, we found the other team tucked up and fast asleep. We all fell into our beds, and I was still unconscious when the rest of the party left – having said their farewells to a very tired, but awake, Duncan.
We look back (after some sleep) on a great experience – the support and friendship of fellow club members, the challenge of the road, the fun of seeing other as lost as we were.
The results will be available in about 3 weeks on the 4WD Association website, but even if we are not prize winners, we had a grand time and gained more valuable 4WD experience. Duncan has said that the calculations for every instruction required to factor in the variance were quite onerous, but I am sure we will do it again in two years time.
Sincerest thanks to all those involved, both on the day and with the planning and organization beforehand. It is special people such as you who make our Club a wonderful place to be.
Team “B”
We arrived at the Lake Brockman Tourist Park early on Saturday afternoon to set up camp. We were allocated a nice shady location for our group of 8 (4 vehicles) and soon had the trailers and tents set up, chairs out and a “mid strength” beer to drink in the sunshine. The week’s rain had moved over east leaving a fine but cold spring weekend ahead.
It wasn’t long before the caravan park was a hive of activity with a large variety of 4WDs with every conceivable attachment hanging off the roof racks and bull bars.
Following registration, we all gathered at 5:00pm for a briefing by the Niva Club on the do’s and dont’s for the night. Each team was given 100 points to start with, points were lost for each percentage over or under the circuit distance. Points were also lost for incorrect answers to quiz questions along the way.
We had a quick bite to eat before assembling the vehicles on the Logue Brook dam’s slip way. At 6:30pm, vehicles began moving off at 2 minutes intervals to the start line. Our 2 teams were 9th in line so it was around 7:00pm that we were given our first circuit instructions.  There were 4 circuits to be completed through the night; the “A” team were given a different starting circuit to our team.
With Richard in the lead for the first leg, we zeroed our speedometers and headed into the dark hills. We were on muddy tracks with plenty of puddles, navigating by the instructions given by distance and direction only. We soon came across the first challenge noted on the instructions as a bog hole. The track turned into a muddy quagmire with a soupy clay bog along the right side of the track. There were a few course marshals and other spectators at this location so it was obviously going to be a challenge. Richard hugged the left side of the track and went through without any difficulty. Thinking – it was that easy, I’ll just follow on through. I then realised the benefit of mud terrain tyres when my car (fitted with A/Ts) slid sideways into the sludge, wedging the car deep against the muddy embankment. After several attempts at reversing and driving forward I soon resigned to the fact that a recovery was needed.  My navigator John set about getting the recovery gear whilst I had to climb out the window with the side of the car deep in mud and the ground at window level. Richard reversed his Patrol and hooked up the snatch and bridle to the front of the Pajero. 
A slow tow was all that was needed to free me from the quagmire.
A quick damage assessment proved fruitless due to the amount of mud stuck to side of the car.  So we continued on into the night traversing what would be lovely bush land…if we could see it!
The occasional check points were manned (or womaned) by Army Cadets and Girl Guides, who offered to provide answers to the quiz questions that were part of each navigation leg. Of course the answers had to be purchased and points were deducted for bought answers. 
The Army Cadets had the right tactic; they took donations for the answers and also took additional donations not to mark the answers as being bought. We did not have to buy many answers as we had John K in our team who is a walking encyclopaedia. Diana occasionally appeared on the airwaves to provide her wealth of knowledge as well.
Upon returning to base, a 15 minute rest was compulsory, which was just enough time to have a cuppa and get moving again.
Richard and I took turns leading alternate circuits, ably navigated by the two Johns. During the second leg, I attempted to negotiate a very narrow pass between two fallen tree trunks. Turning too early, the left rear wheel arch caught one log causing some damage to the panel. Yet another war wound for the car.
Each circuit took just over 2 hours, and the most difficult one we encountered last. 
It included a steep climb up a hillside comprising of a very cut-up and muddy track with the odd large rock to hamper momentum. Although I was leading this circuit, Richard offered to go first up the hill as I was unsure whether my ground clearance was going to be sufficient to make it. Once again, Richard’s beast growled up the hill without too much difficulty. Once again, the Pajero bottomed out and the A/T tyres span hopelessly in the mud. Experience is worth a lot in these circumstances, as shown by Macca who had connected up the shackles and bridle to the car before I started up the hill. Upon getting stuck, it was then a simple process of hooking up to Richard with a snatch strap and getting towed over the obstacle.
We completed the navigation exercise at about 5:30am. By which time we were all pretty much exhausted. The “A” team had not returned at that stage, but were not far behind us, as we had passed them not long before returning to camp. We got into our sleeping bags before sunrise and it didn’t take long to join the chorus of snorers in the camp ground.
We all awoke about 9:00-9:30 (except the Veitchs) and had a hearty breakfast before packing up camp and heading home. Diana was still asleep as we drove off.  If she doesn’t turn up to the next meeting, she might still be there sleeping.
Overall, the “B” team did fairly well, not losing our way other than overshooting or taking a wrong turn both of which were quickly recognised and corrected. The results of the exercise will not be known for a couple of weeks and will be posted on the WA4WDA web site. Winning clubs will be presented with an award at a Delegates meeting.
A great time was had by all.

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