4×4 Night drive in Axel

How crazy do you have to be, to drive 250 kilometers for a few hours of off-roading? Well, if you own a Land Rover (especially in Holland), you’ll certainly understand. The town of Axel (Netherlands) is our destination and this time there’s a big difference. Light. Or lack thereof… It’s a night drive.

So we pack a tent, check that the spotlights are working and take a winch strap – just in case. Around three o’clock in the afternoon, we help Simon and family load their Land Rover 90 on the trailer and we head out in convoy toward the southwest in the general direction of Belgium.

Fortunately, it is pretty quiet on the road (except for the glorious sound of the 200tdi) and with a detour towards Antwerp (thanks GPS!) we arrive at the GAF site about three hours later and have our small tent camp set up before dark. We report at the club tent, have a quick bite and then into the Landy’s!

There are about fifty cars (at least, that’s what we are told). So, fortunately, it is not too busy and we can take our time and look around – or at least look in the direction of where the headlights are shining. It is dry with a beautiful starry sky, so the weather is good and so is the terrain. Not too much mud, but a couple of deep holes and the tracks are getting deeper.

It doesn’t take too long before we are also stuck. No problem, right? Just winch out and we can go? Well, no … The old Warn does not want to let out cable (I just had it fixed!), so we again rely on the rear-winch to drag us out. Then Victoria has a battle with a small slope to get out of the deep ruts. A quarter of an hour where the car took quite a beating, but then there is the satisfaction of extricating yourself out of a tight spot. It is always nice to learn something in the field and ‘conquer’ the track.

What the offroad commission also had planned was a dozen-or-so coloured felt-tip pens, attached to a fluorescent tube, hanging in a number of trees scattered throughout the area. The aim was to highlight all the colours on a piece of paper taped to your door mirror, attached to the passenger’s side (so the co-driver could make themselves useful).

The kids loved it and it was difficult to keep them from cheating (kids will be kids, as well as some of the adults!). We came pretty close to the getting them all in the pitch blackness, but – one of them was rather too high in the tree (for those without portals and fat rubber or something?).

Another one was on a high point in a mud hole. This was challenging enough to get through on its own, let alone to stamp our paper! Afterwards, we heard that one of them was tied to a car! This rode around the place without anyone noticing.

We therefore never got the ‘prize’ – a drink and something to eat. But the campfire at the club tent was warm and a couple of tall stories were told…

When we finally crawled into our tent, the mercury had already fallen to about three degrees. So an extra sleeping bag was employed – it’s quite nice getting used to the cold again. The next morning it was blue sky and sunny but cool. It quickly warmed up though, during our breakfast, cooking on the gas. A couple of eggs and bacon and then we cleaned up the tents, and stuffed everything back into the cars. Eventually, after another couple hours on the freeway, we reach home by the end of the afternoon with a big smile.

So you tell me… How is this possible? So much effort for a few hours of driving through the mud with frozen toes? And then sifting through the dark photo’s with a smile? Well, that’s called the “Land Rover feeling’ according to some people. Either you get it, or you don’t 🙂

Thank you again to the Offroad Commission for another fun ride, and the Catering Commission that always has the thankless task of keeping the pea soup and coffee warm.

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