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4x4’s are not for sissies. I’m not talking about the odd pot hole riddled road, which some parts of our country are so well known for. I’m talking about axle twisters, 30 degree angles and less than clean underwear.
Last weekend I went along with my boyfriend to a 4x4 training weekend. He did the driver training; I was the co-pilot/back seat driver. After hiring a 4x4, it became clear that we didn’t have an idea what this monster of a bakkie could do. Situated between Malmesbury and Wellington you will find Babylonstoren. Once of the oldest Cape Dutch farms, with a twist. It has a formidable 4x4 trail which will be near impossible to navigate in the wet.
Having met Herman, (our fantastic instructor) and the other students, we started off with the theory. We learnt all there is to know about axels, articulation, diff locks, tyre pressure and shocks. I’m using the term “student” very loosely. Most of the people on the course did have varying degrees of experience of 4x4’ing, but I couldn’t help but notice how the silence fell every time they were faced with a new obstacle. Then the fun started…
You will be interested to know that in order to successfully trapise over boulders the size of a small house, you need very low tyre pressure. Extremely low. We learnt this the hard way, with my dearly beloved spinning away in the gravel and rocks, unable to get any kind of traction whatsoever. After deflating the tyres to (what I thought) dangerously low pressure, everything became a lot less scary. The first steep 40 degree hill proved quite a challenge. The instructor sat next to each student and talked them through the whole process of stall starts and getting proper traction. I was most impressed when he ran down the hill each time to drive up again with a different student.
The axle twisters were a real treat to watch; imagine playing hopscotch with holes as deep as your waist! Again Herman sat next to each student, talking them through the whole process. Most of the students descended into joyful (or hysterical) fits of laughter when their 4x4 started tipping over with 2 wheels in the air! It reminded me of a shovel –snouted lizard doing its thermal dance, two feet up, two feet down! The Jeeps made it look ridiculously easy, their wheels barely leaving the ground. I understand what all the fuss is about. Unfortunately, the only 2 vehicles getting stuck or needing assistance from another vehicle were the Jeeps, how embarrassing. There was also a slightly damaged Land Rover and an unhappy Trooper with a less than perfect clutch at the end of it all.
My favourite obstacle of the day was “Apocalypse Rocks”, a steep downhill encountering an equally steep rock face, on the edge of a cliff!
The side slope also proved to be a huge challenge. I was in fear of being crushed by a Pajero, revving and sliding precariously on the slope, whilst trying to get the perfect photo. This time the instructor walked beside the vehicles, as it was near impossible even sitting in the driver’s seat. Many students ended up holding on to the roofs of their vehicles!
We spent the night in a chalet with the most incredibly view. Having eaten our T-bone steaks, there was just enough time to brush our teeth before falling asleep, drained from all the sun and adrenaline.
The next day we had our Bush Mechanics training. Now this was really interesting, did you know that something as simple as an empty Coke can will keep you going for miles and miles? I can’t divulge the secrets here, but it sure made me look at ordinary things in a very different way!
Next year, I will definitely do the driver training, watch out Babylonstoren!