Off-road on the Old Le Bons Bay Track: January 19, 2023
Old Le Bons track is probably the most challenging public track available in the Christchurch and Banks Peninsula area. After the recent bad weather it is very rutted from runoff. Would recommend 33” plus tyres and a winch when wet. …
… during winter, your vehicle will need mud tyres. … A winch would be a good safety measure. In summer all terrains would be fine.
August 28, 2022
Boulder blocking the track. So bike access only. Boulder is located about 3/4 of the way up the track, limited turn around space for a 4wd.
October 04, 2022
Update, boulder has been shifted. As of 15/01/23 passable by 4wd …
To date, by far our most challenging off-road adventure.
Not so much as a single photo taken by one of us to show you what we were up against. Our water bottles, which hold a litre, were, just like us in the end: totally drained! Lunch (which we had with us), postponed till we got out the other side at three o’clock; instead of food, feeding off adrenaline.
Tunnel vision – literal, figurative and everything in between! The instant we tentatively placed the Jimny’s aired down 15″ all-terrain tyres on the track, June and I started to suffer from tunnel vision, by definition: “A vision defect where objects cannot be seen unless they are near the centre of the visual field.” It didn’t help that several stretches of the narrow track had bush either side that formed a canopy overhead and made you feel like you were going into tunnels anyway.
Ruts seemingly endless and many deeper than the Jimny’s clearance, and sharp-edged boulders aplenty. We found ourselves incapable of doing anything other than focus on how we were going to surmount the next set of obstacles that were right in front of our noses. Obviously, we’re not going to be invited to join the macho brigade anytime soon; here’s an endearing quote I came across from a guy called ‘Al’ on one of New Zealand’s 4wd forums: “Try them with 2-3 feet of snow on them and let’s see how big ya balls are.”
I hadn’t come across Ben’s first-hand observation that the track was “as of 15/01/23 passable by 4wd” before we set off, so we had no way of knowing whether we’d have to turn back at some stage. We noted along the way places where it would have been possible, at a pinch, to turn around, but they were few and far between – chances were I’d have to do a considerable stretch in reverse to get to one.
However, we both knew that what we really wanted was to “knock the bastard off” – our very own little Everest! Is that a bit sad, or what? So. we’d take note of a feasible area for turning around as we got to it but carry on regardless.
My main fear was that we’d get stuck beyond remedy. Either straddling deep wheel ruts with the chassis sitting squarely on a plateau of earth and the wheels spinning futiley (210mm of ground clearance is not too crash hot for an off-roader), or mechanical damage caused by a boulder that sickeningly, on four separate sections of the track, slammed into one or other metallic part of the undercarriage. One got a shine on it from hitting, etching into and denting a guard I’d recently put on to protect the vulnerable radius arm mounts.
My main fear was laced with speculation as to who would come to our rescue and how on earth would they extricate us from the mess we’d got ourselves into! And as I’ve said to you previously, when you rely on just the one vehicle to do absolutely everything – on-road (including towing a trailer or teardrop camper), on our hilly ten-acre block, and off-road – you can’t afford to have it out of action for any length of time. And speaking of ‘afford’, imagine what they’d charge to rescue us.
I did have recovery gear: shovel, recovery tracks (x2), hammer, and a handsaw (for branches that stuck out too far or a log across the track). I used the shovel to reduce the height of a ridge I needed to get across to reach the negotiable left side of the track. June took heart in knowing that I’d have our portable winch and recovery straps on board as well. Unbeknown to her I’d left them at home because I was sure I wouldn’t need them. Through successfully, I fessed up!
As it turned out, I didn’t need to use any other gear except the portable compressor for airing up the tyres once we got out and onto the Summit Road. Perhaps you’ll let me get away with thinking of myself as a “weekend warrior” from now on, despite the gleam of our lime green Jimny still reminding you of “the shinies”? (See Jimny Fever: Part 1)
Not that June had much time to dwell on these things. She spent most of her time in front of the Jimny, helping to determine the best line to take (actually, there was seldom a choice). One thing about staying in low ratio 1st gear the entire time, there was less chance I’d run her over!
The melodrama playing out in her hand and arm gesticulations and facial grimaces were not sufficiently distracting for me to veer totally off the line she had chosen. Understandably, she got alarmed whenever I misjudged things and started to climb a bank at the side of the track or got bounced sideways by a boulder and ended up with a wheel or two suspended mid-air above a deep rut.
Even in a predicament like that the Jimny didn’t miss a beat, transferring torque from the wheels with little or no traction to the ones on the diagonal that were gripping the terrain well. Excuse the personification, but I like to think of it as a team of three that got us to the other end and out onto the Summit Road: Graham, Jimny and June. (Of course not in any particular order of importance!)
Out the other side with the car and ourselves not much the worse for wear, we mellowed out with a mid-afternoon picnic lunch, Sauvignon Blanc and a snooze, followed by a two hour walk in the Peninsula’s Hinewai Nature Reserve. Then it was back to our campsite at the Akaroa Top 10 Holiday Park – back to our comfort zone, a mere 1.5 km from where we’d definitely left the zone earlier in the day!
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.