About two hours outside of Sydney at an undisclosed location lies a world of its own. Constantly moving with the winds and water, these 32 km's of sand dunes make up the longest stretch in the southern hemisphere. These truly awe-inspiring dunes reach heights of over 40 meters with slopes up to 60 degrees to form an otherworldly landscape stretching as far as the eye can see.
Photo by by Eliana Arian
The micro-adventure began on a sunny Friday morning. After spending hours on sealed road trying to get out of town, we stopped to buy a permit and let out tire pressure. I was with a seasoned British 4-wheel driver who was really hyping up the place, but I was a tad skeptical and entirely unprepared for the forthcoming sight.
Who says girls in dresses can't fix things?
We drove around a forested bend, and trees parted to reveal a sea of sand as my heart fluttered with excitement - the hype was right. As if the dunes were not enough, the beach also has remnants of history deposited over the millennia, including ancient Aboriginal shells, numerous shipwrecks, and entire remote fishing village made out of tin...
The gravity of buying a four wheel drive vehicule before knowing how to drive it was sinking in...Having never driven a 4x4, let alone driven in sand dunes, I was worried this endeavor might be as successful as my first attempt at dog sledding. We drove up and down the beach though steep dunes while I white knuckled the Jesus bar and Lord Laszlo held his own. Next up it was my turn. Cautious and far less experienced than my British friend, I took to the dunes. With hours of patient encouragement, my confidence was boosted and I learned what Laszlo was made of. In no time, my inner 4x4 driver blossomed and I was doing doughnuts...
Someone once described remote 4x4'ing was the closest feeling one could get to offshore sailing while still being on land. I never understood this analogy until this very moment. Driving amongst the dunes with no obligation to roads and lights, but rather guided by incoming tide, soft sand, drifts, respect for the limited vegetation holding the dunes together, and my vehicle's engines, I felt freedom I had never experienced on land. With the windows down and the wind whipping my hair back, all while consciously trying to keep my REV's consistent, I finally understood what they had been talking about all along - and I was hooked...
As I began to feel more comfortable, I was determined to get bogged to make sure I knew how to do it in a higher stakes environment in the future. Naturally, being the new 4x4 diva I am, I asked to get stuck somewhere with a limited incline, and preferably in the shade. Before I knew it I was bogged, the tires spun round and round in the soft sand, and I was purposefully stuck. Excited, I jumped on top of the roof-rack, grabbed my recovery straps and shovel, and started to dig. I refused help of any kind, determined to get myself out, and in less than 10 minutes we were freed.
As the evening drew to a close, we headed towards the water, parked just beyond the high-water mark and jumped in for a swim (only to later to learn there is a resident population of great whites that call the coast home, oops!) We cracked open beers and sat on the roof-rack watching the waves roll in and other 4x4's drive by. Aboriginal law forbids camping on the beach so we left for the night.
But before I knew it, it was 5am and I heard the British man exclaiming my name: "SOPHIE WAKE UP!" My eyes jolted open, thinking there was fire or venomous animal/insect nearby (since Australia is rife with those...) Instead of being awoken to news of an emergency, I heard a voice, as enthusiastic as a five-year old on Christmas morning, "Let's go watch the sunrise, I'll make you tea on the beach...you are only young once!" Half awake and confused if I was still dreaming, I said yes, only to walk outside and find it cloudy and raining (definitely not dreaming now). As we got to the beach, the rain and clouds began to part. The handsome British man prepared coffee and oatmeal, and we watched the beautiful sunrise send streaks of orange and pink through the sky over the breaking waves - the perfect start to another day 4x4'ing in the sand dunes.
Edited by, Eliana Arian