arrive to cross the Jardin River and meet a family who
tried to cross the 160m-wide stretch of water yesterday.
But their vehicle is in front of us. Its hood is below
the water and the trunk is flooded. It is not an encouraging
sight. Nevertheless, Izik Mini - the convoy's 4x4 expert
feels sure we will
triumph and cross the river successfully.
For four and a half years
no one has crossed the Jardin in a vehicle
and while I am standing there, in front of that wide
river, I understand that the word "challenge" has
a meaning I have not encountered before.
The people who will drive our vehicles are
the most experienced in
our group - their aim is to complete the crossing the fastest
safest way possible.
Izik Mini says: "A vehicle
that crosses correctly should complete the crossing within
20 seconds. A vehicle that stays in one place will be
flooded in half a minute."
It's clear that we must not,
absolutely must not, stop. Thankfully our boat arrives and anchors in
the middle of the river to
put cables and Warn Winches in place - these will be attached to the first
vehicle so it can cross the river safely. As it reaches the other side
our applause surprises the family sitting on the bank (later on we rescue
vehicle from the river).
One by one our vehicles are connected to
the cable and driven across the river. Now it's my turn.
I am crossing the river sitting next to Yud, the representative
of Isuzu - Thailand who is excited to be driving the D-Max.
Even though my role is to calm Yud and operate the wipers,
the amount of adrenaline running around our bodies is amazing.
As we plough into the river water surges over the roof.
Through the windows we see just water - it's like we are
in a submarine. I am praying for the TJM snorkels that
allow us to drive in deep water.
One by one the vehicles
cross the river. And anyone who lingers too long in the
water soon finds their feet get wet as the river quickly
penetrates the tape-sealed doors. And then, as the
last Isuzu Trooper crosses the river, there is trouble.
The driver goes too fast causing the safety cable to slacken
and tangle around the vehicle's axle.
Unable to be driven, the water drags it
into a thicket of bushes and trees until it rests by the
bank. Its snorkel is broken, the front window shattered
and the axle damaged. It sure did not look good - but, yet again, the
team of mechanics don't let us down. One hour later I am driving the
damaged Trooper. It still had a broken window but thanks
to some welding work it was at least drivable again.
last, we reach the final point of the journey: the most
northern point of the Australian continent - the Tip
of Cape York.
We walk a few hundred meters along the beach to reach
the absolute tip.
The whole group is quiet as we each reflect
on the trials and fun we have all experienced during the journey.
Tomorrow we start our way south to Sydney and from there,
home. As we watch our last sunset in Australia by the beach
we decide there's only one way to describe this place, it
is "The End of the World".
Champagne bottles are
opened, touching speeches are given and we sit together
in front of a tranquil bay. There are tears in the
eyes of some of the participants. After a journey of more
than 4700km, the Isuzu Challenge 2003 is complete.
The journey is over. The experience, the wonderful moments,
friendships - all of them will remain ours for life.
: Gerry Avramovich