Neil’s email had been quite casual, ‘Do you girls want to join us for a weekend away learning about 4×4 recovery?’.
‘Hell no’, was my immediate thought. I was already conjuring up images of muddy 4×4’s with gigantic wheels driven by slightly eccentric English blokes, wearing camouflage gear and getting incredibly excited over a discussion about the benefits of an 80 series versus a 100 series Landcruiser. Mind-numbing stuff if you are like me and have little to no interest in cars, so long as they do the job of transporting one from point A to B.
Mikaela, Neil’s girlfriend, and I had already been exposed to the ‘Landcruiser’ fanatics in a previous weekend away where we learnt how to drive our cars expertly over muddy and treacherous terrain. Well, perhaps ‘expertly’ is a slight exaggeration. We were the only ones who had city tyres on our 4×4’s and so the morning’s exercise of driving with speed up an inclined, wet and muddy cliff of a hill was spent watching others attempt and complete the task with ease. Needless to say, the Landcruiser regulars had taken pity on us city-slickers and had kindly offered various bits and pieces of advice, such as, ‘You need to change those tyres’.. thanks mate.
Anyway, I digress. So, in response to Neil’s email, I was just about to compose my regrettable decline of the invitation, when another email popped up in my in-box. Mikaela’s email was quite frightening, it said, ‘Hi D, what do you think about this? I reckon we should go along. It will be good to know how to get the cars unstuck and might be quite interesting’.
Well, now I had no choice. I couldn’t be the only female to let down the side (this was before Paula came on board as our third member of team femme fatale). So, I bravely drafted my reply in the affirmative and then promptly put the whole weekend firmly out of my mind. The only person who was surprised by my seemingly positive response was my husband, who couldn’t believe my sudden change of heart with regards to all things vehicular.
The day dawned to an ominous start. Severe weather warnings were broadcast and we drove to our destination in Devon amidst pelting rain and howling wind. It fitted my mood precisely. Dressed in water proof gear from top to toe, our trousers kindly donated by Mr. Ex-Army Man and Leader of Dreaded Training Day, Mikaela and I trudged behind the guys.
Our day was broken up into three tasks. Each task took place at a different station within a cluster of pine trees which were swaying rather alarmingly as the wind swirled and moaned. Task one involved a lecture regarding rescue gear. We were introduced to tree ‘huggers’ as I like to name them (actually called tree slings), shackles (never use a cheap chinese brand – said in extremely serious voice with a dark look in response to giggles from the peanut gallery), winches, ropes and cables.
We then spent what felt like hours winching a 4×4 up an incline… by which stage I was frozen and the guys were bright eyed with excitement. Mikaela seemed to be holding her own remarkably well and even suggested some practical thoughts and insights.
Task two involved some Cowboy like lassoing tricks and a lecture and demo on ‘how to use a high-lift jack’. High-lift jacks are monstrosities and not light-weights either. However, they are incredibly useful for getting wheels unstuck and changing tyres. The lassoing tricks were quite exciting, and despite myself, I actually ended up participating with enthusiasm. We were taught how to use ropes attached to fixed point (such as a tree) to help swing the front or rear of the car out of deep thickly mudded trenches.
Our lunch break involved huddling in our cars trying to thaw out whilst munching on Marks & Sparks sandwiches. Then, Mr. Ex-Army Man and Leader of DTD looked at his watch meaningfully, rounded us his troups and led us to task three. Task three involved learning how to use a monstrous high lift jack as a winch. This task was quite interesting from a problem-solving perspective but the end result was somehow less satisfactory. It took us approximately one hour to winch a 4×4 a lousy 2 metres up a slope. Not the winch of choice if time is crucial, however something to add to our ‘tool-kit’.
So, all in all, we had a memorable day and learnt some useful tips. The cherry on top was that due to the awful weather conditions, camping was vetoed (hoorah) and we drove back to London and all it’s creature comforts.