48OE Blog  
Dec 23

Written by: 48OE Admin
23/12/2012 16:18  RssIcon

Vultures circling are never a good sign. They have immense power in their claws and beaks and are designed to feed on carrion. In the search and rescue business they are often the first sign that we are getting close. This Saturday the vultures' eerie circling signalled dead ahead.

Adventurers generally fit into two groups: - those that listen to advice and act upon it and those that don’t. The trouble is that both groups appear on the surface to be the same and those that don’t take advice generally mistakenly believe that they do.

We operate in border territory and civilisation can be a long way away. As a result when a traveller calls in and says that he is heading out west into no-man’s land we are always nervous. We always give advice and point out impending weather and ground conditions. Vehicle preparation and training is also something we recommend but few listen. People react in different ways in a crisis and take life and death decisions not always in their own best interest.

The weather was in stark contrast to the drought earlier in the year. It was monsoon and had been raining for days. When he passed through in a well used Ford Ranger fully loaded we asked if he thought it was up to the job. We queried the tyres with heavy rain coming and said "read the ground before you drive over it, your life could depend on it".

It came as no surprise when over a very bad line we got the call. We were ready to go with all the rescue kit imaginable and naturally drove the kings of the 4x4 world - Land Rovers. We did not know his location only a vague description of the route taken. We were chancing it given the unremitting rain and floods but we knew we were his only chance.

It was late in the day when, through the field glasses, I spotted the circling birds - vast wingspans, being buffeted on the winds twisting and turning. It looked like something had caught their interest in the next valley. We pressed on and as we crested the ridge we could just make out the stricken vehicle but no sign of life. It took about thirty minutes to work our way down the escarpment all the time fearing the worst.

Just as we got close he suddenly popped out of a thicket - a crestfallen farmer waving his hands in joy. It was raining hard as he stood in front of us - bobble hat, Barbour and wellies crying “You’ve found me”.

He was a lucky man - we had found him. The back of his Ford Ranger was full with sugar beet, fodder for his hill sheep.  It was now axel deep in mud. He’d spun the wheels and dug two nice big holes and also slid down hill at forty five degrees rear first. Our parting advice when he passed through was “Do not take your vehicle into the fields it will get stuck”. He thought he could master the conditions.

Now a real 4x4 was on the scene we joined two strops and ran out a recovery rope about 35 metres into the field. Whist I was supervising the rope I gave the farmer, who I will call Dan, a spade and said get digging around the back wheels. Our Land Rover with diff-lock engaged and in low range promptly pulled the Ford out without any fuss. 


Now Dan should have known better and should have listened to the advice given but we all know what youngsters are like. After a few nights out with the young farmers and learning to drive a tractor some farming boys think they are invincible. The circling birds turned out to be Buzzards not Vultures but the moral of the tale still stands.

It is not good to gloat when a close mate gets his truck stuck and needs help but it does make you grin. As I told Dan I will not mention this much over the next ten years