I thought i'd share this little episode of the time I got the Land Rover stuck in the jungle when alone. Nothing focusses the mind more than a survival situation and nothing teaches you more about driving off road than getting stuck up to your axles in mud.
I was doing shuttle runs over a stretch of 18km of muddy jungle track as I couldn't take all the food, 14 people and bags in one trip. We were aiming for a camp site along the 2 day route to our project site for the next 6 weeks. I went on the first journey with another guy and 6 weeks worth of food in the back. I dropped everything off including him and headed back to get the first half of the group. 4km back, my front right wheel dropped into an unseen hole in an otherwise calm muddy rut. The axles dropped onto the mud and I was going nowhere.
Fight or flight
As the sun started to set and my radio was out of reception, I was faced with a few decisions:
- Bed down where I was and wait out the night and try in the morning
- Walk back 4km to get to the guy I dropped off and use the radio
- Dig myself out as quick as possible
With the schedule of the expedition to keep to and 14 people waiting to get to the campsite, I decided to go for it. The vehicle wasn't equipped with a winch, so I had to do it the old fashioned way...
Does no winch make you unprepared?
In my time in Belize I had to self-recover quite a few times and you get very good at it. Not having a winch causes some trepidation before entering a dubious patch of terrain; but this is no bad thing. Having a winch can create a blasé approach to conquering obstacles that could see you being more stuck or damaged than you can do anything about.
With having no winch in all the expeditions I had been on, there came a point where I gained a level of fearlessness and found myself quite adept at recovering a stricken vehicle. This gave me a hugely beneficial attitude and seek achieve safety and reliability in what I did. For this reason I have not included a winch in my list of basic expedition equipment or essential modifications.
I found though, that this 'edge' of fearlessness disappears quite quickly through lack of practice - and what you would once breeze through would make you stop and question your own (and the vehicle's) ability.
There is no better practice for expeditions than going on expedition, and there is no better thing to have on expedition than practice. Confused? Oh the paradox.