<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT"%> ROCKCRAWLER.com - Day Fifteen of The Isuzu Challenge
Isuzu Challenge
Day 15 - Completing the Isuzu Challenge.

Isuzu Challenge 2003We 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 and 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 their
 vehicle from the river).

Isuzu Challenge 2003Isuzu Challenge 2003

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.

Isuzu Challenge 2003Isuzu Challenge 2003

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.

At 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.

Isuzu Challenge 2003Isuzu Challenge 2003

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, the friendships - all of them will remain ours for life.

Photographer : Gerry Avramovich


©2003 Rockcrawler 4x4 and Off-Road Magazine. All Rights Reserved