Something different was promised.
When someone is lost in the bush, or some adverse event requires police on the ground in remote places, the brave men and women of the police who are search and rescue specialists get called on to go to remote places. Helicopters are not always the right answer and then the 4WD vehicles come into their own. To lessen the risk of compounding the problem, the people who drive the 4WDs into hard places need to be trained to renew their certification as capable operators. Yesterday I was privileged to photograph a training session in the Orongorongo valley.
Since it was a police exercise, with trainers from both Whitireia Community Polytechnic and the Royal New Zealand Police College present, there were the inevitable forms to be filled, followed by some sensible checks before anyone took the vehicles out in difficult terrain. “Pre-flight checks” were done on each of the vehicles, both to ensure that everything was as it should be, and to familiarise the driver with the characteristics of the vehicle concerned. It is important to know for example where the electronic are, and where the air intakes are if you plan to ford rivers.
The next few hours were taken up with refresher assignments on various kinds of terrain, negotiating high angles, mud, and steep descents. These techniques were practiced by drivers on each of the six available trucks, with a wide variety of engine and transmission options. The technique for backing down a steep hill is quite different with an automatic transmission, for example.
After all the required exercises were satisfactorily mastered, the drivers then went in convoy up the very rough and rocky bed of the Orongorongo River. Definitely Bond martini territory though I found myself both shaken and stirred. I know people who do this sort of stuff as a sport or hobby. It was exciting as a novelty experience but the few kilometres we went up the river convinced me I would not do well if it went much longer. It is necessary to be unbuckled to ford rivers, so I was bouncing all round as we lurched across boulders, and could not get the camera still very often to get good photographs.
One of our number got stuck in the river. Fortunately there were five other vehicles ready to extract it. When we finally came to rest back in the farm where it all began, I left these fine people to do their debriefing while I grabbed a shot of a historic farm wool shed.
As I said, it was definitely a different and memorable kind of day.