Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Driving to stay alive

We've just finished eight hours of 4WD training in what I think I can technically call "the outback", and my eyes are like giant, gritty, grainy orbs in my head.

My tear ducts are in overdrive, trying to soothe the irritation brought on by 42 degree temperatures and one flimsy shade tree, so it's as if I'm crying silently and without pause......and you know what? I kind of feel like doing that through sheer exhaustion.

Learning how to drive properly out here is absolutely critical. There are a few sealed roads in the Kimberley, but not many - most of them are dirt, and most of them are in poor conditions at different times of the year. If you're travelling any kind of distance, you'll need a 4WD and you'll need to know how to use it. Being able to get yourself out of a pickle is crucial - if you're not keen on an early death.

We got the gist of this pretty quickly from our trainer. Move over Bear Grills, Don Major (who hasn't watched tv since 1975 and doesn't actually know who Macgyver is, so when we gave him the nickname he was a little puzzled) beats you hands down any day.

He took us over a list of things that can kill you .... with a certain amount of relish, I have to say. A long, lanky man who grew up in Central Australia, Macgyver didn't learn how to read or write until he got married - but he's the kind of guy who knows everything there is to know about how to keep yourself alive until help comes.

And this is pretty important for us right now, because we're about to embark on a three-day camping trip into the wilderness, and many of us haven't camped since we were oh, about seven, and got stuck up a tree in the middle of a lake and had to be rescued by our cousins.  

An hour of theory later, four vehicles were out in the distance clambering over obstacles and through water crossings, and I'm delighted to report that the first person who totally bogged the car in the mud and needed to be towed out was one of our male colleagues, Snatch, who'd been at the wheel for less than sixty seconds. I think it helped everyone to feel much better about how they might do themselves.

We learnt how to winch a car out of a wetland (my that was fun, this was in the 42 degree part of the day) and which straps to use and which straps will fling off and kill you if you try. Ahem.

We learnt that it is very important to make your own way down a drop-off incline rather than following the tracks of the vehicle in front, because otherwise you might end up sideways and scare us all to death.

We learnt that tire pressure for mud driving should be around 16 - 20 pounds per square inch (uh huh.... whatever that means), that a Hi-Lift jack is a beautiful tool that should be treated with respect and in fact we should probably never use it because the handle can smash your skull in, and we learnt that in the event of disaster, we should probably just ring our boss for a helicopter.

Now please excuse me while I urgently program his number into my mobile phone.

1 comment:

Isabella Golightly said...

The one thing I learnt on my very brief sojourn to an extremely remote mining town in north-western WA, many, many years ago was that you always, and I do mean always, stop for anybody stopped by the side of the road and inquire politely if they need any assistance. And they do. Who knew you'd need to know all that? Beats learning to knit, hmmm?