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If you have broken down or are well and truly stuck, with no way of extricating yourself, getting assistance isn’t always easy. This is where a cellphone or radio can come into its own, or you may have to walk to the nearest farmhouse to get help.

It might pay to try to contact the nearest 4WD club. While club officials may not be able to assist directly, they will almost certainly know someone locally with all the equipment necessary. Police stations will usually have details of local club contacts and should be able to put you in touch. A list of 4WD clubs and details for a recovery service appears on page ??

Whatever form the help comes in it will probably cost you, so be prepared to pay.

If you make contact with would-be rescuers, tell them what the problem is and what needs to be brought to fix either your vehicle or you or one of your passengers. More importantly will have to tell them precisely where you are. It is no good telling them that you are driving a grey truck and that you are about 3km upstream from the pylons in the Waimakariri River. It could take all night to find you.

Even on local trips you should take a map so that you know where you are and can tell others. Put a mark on the map where you are, find the co-ordinates of that spot, write them down, then double-check them. When you have established communication with a helper tell them exactly where you are (e.g. ‘I am on Map M35 Christchurch, grid reference 658517, at the groyne on the true left bank’.) Ask them to repeat the location back to you, to make sure they have written it down correctly. You can then give them details of any injuries or the equipment or parts they will need to bring to get you going again.

PRS or CB radio is less reliable than the cell phone over long distances but you never know who may be just a short distance away and picking up your call. You may have to try calling on all 40 channels to see if there is anyone out there.

If all of this fails you will have to consider whether to walk out (if you can) or stay put.


It is important for anyone venturing out into you the countryside to know that the banks of a river have a ‘true’ description. This is gauged while looking downstream: ‘true left’ is the left hand bank when looking downstream and ‘true right’ is the right hand bank. These two bank descriptions can eliminate the possible errors that can occur where a river twists and turns so it is difficult to describe a bank as north, south, east or west. Not knowing which way is north can also add to the confusion but it is usually easy to determine which way a river is flowing. Directing rescuers to the wrong bank of the river can cause delays that are at best inconvenient, at worst dangerous.

*Article is courtesy of the New Zealand 4WD Handbook by Ken Sibley. Available in NZ from most book stores, or in Australia from 4WD1.com

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