You may recall that I am not keen on crowds.
I said as much yesterday, so this was a self-inflicted injury. I went to Whiteman’s Valley again. Normally a pastoral oasis, a place of peace and quiet, on this occasion, it was a thunderous cacophony of roaring engines, and mud.
The annual “Deadwood Safari” is a national competition for 4WD vehicles. These are not ordinary SUVs with knobbly tyres. They are mostly purpose-built machines that may retain the grille and a few panels from the vehicle whose engine is used as a basis. They are loud, and extremely powerful. The passenger or copilot has four levers that can be used to lock wheels individually or in pairs to bring about amazing skid turns.
It is great fun for the several thousand spectators in this normally serene place. In addition, summer came at last. It was a truly perfect day, hot, cloudless and flat calm. The organizers have plenty of experience so there were all the facilities you would hope for as well as a few sunshades under which patrons could sit and eat their food out of the sun’s heat.
There were some thirty or so tasks for the competitors to complete, and in each case, to succeed, they had to pass between the blue markers at the start and finish without at any stage losing forward motion. Points were lost for non-completion, and the number depended on how far through they got. The courses were mostly on hills or in gulleys.
At least one such course was up a steep hill and into a patch of bush.
Whether there is normally as much mud as I saw yesterday, or whether it was engineered for the occasion, I don’t know. At least one of my photographic friends got plastered with flying mud, and had to retreat to clean up his camera. I took note of where the previous car had flung its mud before I lined up for a shot so stayed relatively clean.
Safety is taken seriously, but it was possible to get very close to these lurching snorting beasts. Just after the machine above reached the point I was standing, it turned sharply to the right and that spray of sticky liquid mud was squirted all over the place I would have been if I had not been alert to the possibility.
Every so often, perhaps one competitor in four or five, a vehicle would stall in one of the courses, unable to get traction to go back or forward. I don’t know where they got them all from but there were tracked hydraulic diggers all around the venue, and in that case they would simply extend the boom, hook the bucket to the car with a big fabric strop and with seeming ease and the merest twitch of the hydraulics, the stranded car would slide free.
Overall, the impression of the day was mud, despite the comparative dryness of the surrounding farmland. That, and the noise … the furious bellow of some very large unsilenced V8 and even V12 engines.
My next edition will be posted from Melbourne, Australia.