I think I finally get it now. I mean, not entirely – my stereotypical femininity and risk-averse nature seem to prevent me from ever fully grasping the reckless spirit of adventure that possesses most other 4×4 enthusiasts.
But, as I looked into my rear-view mirror at the reflection of the 200-metre hill I had just conquered (measurements may have been exaggerated), I could not help a cheeky grin wriggling its way across my face as my chest puffed out with pride. I had done it. I had conquered the giant. I felt unstoppable. No, I was unstoppable.
It was a quiet Monday afternoon when I was quite literally thrown into the deep end for my first go at 4×4 driving. Perched at the edge of a ridge that lurked above a pool of muddy water, my colleague Andrew Middleton hopped out of the driver’s seat, grabbed his camera, and instructed me to take the wheel. Wide-eyed and with my heart pounding, I nervously shifted into the driver’s seat.
A minute before, Andrew had driven the route with me, and I had memorized every instruction he had given me: Handbrake down. Slowly release the clutch as you lift your foot off the brake. Let
the car drive itself.
I remember my utter astonishment as the car literally drove itself up to the ridge and into the murky slush below. Ignorant as I was, I had never heard of (let alone experienced) the anti-stall feature in a 4×4.
My heart was still dancing with the excitement of this discovery when Andrew gestured to me from outside the Isuzu to speed things along. My toes timidly tapped the accelerator as I eased the Isuzu a little more boldly through the water.
It was only later that I discovered the fun of accelerating your mighty 4×4 beast through water and splashing the victims that lie in the wake of your mighty conquest.
I spent the rest of that afternoon, and the next, jumping in and out of the driver’s seat as Andrew guided me through the various obstacles he wished to photograph on both the Meadows and Off-Camber 4×4 trails. As the new intern at SA4x4, I wanted to get through all of the obstacles as seamlessly as possible so that Andrew could bag some good shots for the mag. Well, at least that’s the reason I like to give for suppressing my inner speed-demon during my two-day 4×4 baptism in PE.
Then, just days later, I was given the perfect opportunity to add a few more arrows to my new-found quiver of 4×4 skills, having accepted an invite to drive the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Shogun on the soft sand dunes out in Atlantis. My real task? Learn how to drive a 4×4 without screaming like a chipmunk on helium every time I drove over an obstacle. This task, I fear, was not quite achieved.
But, I am proud to announce that my high-pitched squeals of fear were rapidly transformed into high-pitched squeals of delight after about the third sand dune I managed to roar up and over in the Pajero.