As the rain fell around us, our hopes of finding someone to help diminished.
Every few hours we checked the beach for tyre tracks and set up a ‘HELP’ sign in case someone came past. We wrote in the lake hoping to attract anyone flying over and attempted to winch the car out by burring the spare tire and wrapping the snatch strap around the rim. The car would not budge.
At this point we had lost 4X4 and the diffs would not lock in. We also noticed a pool of oil around the drivers side tyre. Not good!
We studied the maps to see if walking was possible, but knew staying with the car was our best option of being found. We had plenty of supplies and could easily be comfortable for another week. If we had walked we would only have what we could carry and as the nearest manned campsite was about 200km away, there was no way we could carry enough.
Our last resort was to set off the PLB (Personal Lifesaving Beacon) once activated this device sends a distress signal to the worldwide satellite system which then forwards the message to the closest Rescue Control Centre.
So as Monday came around, we had now been stuck for four days. With no other options we packed up the car, got ourselves ready and activated the PLB.
Sitting in the car watching the flash of the beacon and listening to the beep was extremely nerve racking. So many things went through our heads especially ‘is there anything else we could have tried’. After a couple of hours of playing UNO we heard a noise and jumped out of the car just as a chopper flew over the hill heading straight towards us.
It was a surreal experience to have a chopper land about 100m away from you in the middle of nowhere.
The pilot and an ambulance officer walked towards us and after confirming we were not injured and had plenty of supplies we all relaxed and made a few jokes. The pilot put us at complete ease reassuring us we had done everything right, except of cause bogging the car.
He made a few calls on the satellite phone to confirm no injuries and then let us know the SES were on their way. Before leaving he joked, “If they don’t show up in 2-3 days just set the PLB off again”
We made lunch and waited for the SES to arrive. All I could imagine was looking in our side mirrors and seeing the scene from Mad Max. We played more UNO, walked to the beach and after a few hours decided to cook some pancakes.
Just as I poured the batter onto the hot plate Stu saw two 4X4 come over the hill, I quickly finished cooking and packed everything away. Later on the police joked that they would have liked some pancakes and how rude it was we didn’t save any for them.
When the SES officers came over to us they again put us at complete ease. They also made us feel like we had done everything right and were so glad we were not injured.
They assessed the situation and attempted to snatch strap our 4WD out of the mud. But unfortunately it did not budge. With all other options exhausted the SES and the police declared it unrecoverable.
That is when it all sunk in; we were going to have to leave our home behind. This was pretty devastating and we were not at all prepared for that outcome. There was no time to dwell on it though as the next step was deciding what to take with us and what to leave behind. Everyone helped gather our things and we managed to get all of our important possessions into the two cars.
Once the cars were all packed we had a bite to eat and one of the SES volunteers asked what we had written in the dirt. I said “Bogged” he laughed and said “No Shit”. It was like that the whole time and we cannot thank them enough for keeping the situation light hearted but professional and making us laugh so much.
We jumped in the back of the police car as the sun was setting and started the long journey back to Esperance.
8 hours later we arrived in Esperance completely exhausted. Our phones were going off with worried messages from family and friends, so we assured everyone that we were back and safe. We headed straight to the SES head quarters where some volunteers had organised pizzas and drinks for everyone. I will tell you that was the best tasting pizza I have ever had.
Accommodation had been organized for us by the Police and after unpacking all of our belongings into the SES shed. We thanked everyone involved and headed to the motel for a much-needed shower and rest.
7am in the morning there was a knock at our door and Stu’s brother was standing on the other side. He had driven so far to help us out and we were absolutely blown away. Tom you have no idea how much it meant to us having you there to help us get home.
So now our belongings are in storage and the wait game begins with the insurance and recovering the Prado.
We cannot thank everyone enough, especially the amazing volunteers that were a part of our rescue. The SES, the pilot and the ambulance officer all gave up their own time to help us and at no point did they ever make us feel like an inconvenience. They were all so humble and just an incredible group of people.