“Hey Ris, I’ve booked a weekend away for our wedding anniversary! It’s going to be great!”
Most people who know me would agree that I am generally not the type to crave luxury in life. Rare wedding anniversary weekends away are the exception. My ideal wedding anniversary weekend away would consist of:
- Loads of cheese (it’s dairy, so it’s good for you!)
- At least one case of good wine (it’s fruit and it’s fermented, so all the rage for the digestive system)
- Accommodation fancier than my camper trailer
- A bath big enough that I can swim in it
So, it is pretty easy to understand why the next part of Joe’s message had me struggling to find my enthusiasm:
“It’s a 4WD introductory driver’s course in the middle of the bush near Canberra, we can camp in the two man hiking tent!”
A quick check of the BOM website confirmed my concerns that it would be a freaking cold weekend. I felt it was pretty safe to assume that a 4WD training facility would be lacking in the areas of luxurious bathtubs and gourmet cheese selections. But it was booked, Joe was really excited, and I’m a nice wife. Most of the time.
We purchased our ginormous ‘first step to our extended roadtrip to Cape York’ 4WD six months ago. Taking a three month vay-cay and exploring this amazing country we live in has been a shared dream for years. We both love finding spots off the beaten track, pitching our tent, and enjoying the serenity. Our kids love the freedom, we love the experience, camping is a win win as far as family holidays go. Having at least some off road skills was something we both agreed was necessary for us to realise our future plans.
I just wasn’t sure I wanted to gain such skills on my one romantic weekend for the year.
The night before we left, I threw my standard ‘Ris-brand grown lady tantrum’. My kids were sick. I was just coming off off a block of night shifts. I had gotten minimal sleep. And I just wasn’t feeling it, dammit (petulantly stamps foot). After resentfully ferrying the kids to my parent’s house, I resentfully packed my warmest and ugliest camping clothes into a bag, and resentfully binged on pizza and chocolate. I consoled myself with the promise of early morning roadhouse bacon and eggs on the trip down.
We were out the door and on the way by 6am. I wore my purple ugg boots into the breakfast stop roadhouse with pride. The combination of bacon, eggs, and leaving the horror that is Sydney (we have a love/hate relationship) lifted my spirits. Off the highway, down a country road, and then a dirt track, and we had arrived.
Great Divide Tours training facility is located on the outskirts of Braidwood, a scenic little town about an hour east of Canberra. As a self confessed ‘charming country town addict’, initially this was the most appealing part of the entire weekend. Most of my future planning fantasies surround me moving to a charming country town, and Braidwood possesses all the necessary small town features I require. Utterly adorable.
We were met by the trainers, ushered inside, warmed with tea, cake, and a hearty fire in the fireplace. The trainers seemed friendly, and quickly proved themselves to be knowledgeable. After a talk about diff locks, split diffs, low range, and high range, we were placed into groups and on our way, the great big world of off road driving our destination.
An hour into the practical exercises on the first day, my doubts were gone. I was having fun. I mean, I was freezing-freaking-cold, and I was still less than enthused about the two man tent. But the driving part? I was thoroughly enjoying it. By lunchtime on the first day, I was forced to admit that my misgivings had been misplaced. This introductory driver training stuff was completely rad. My initial doubt was completely replaced with Ris-brand extroverted enthusiasm. Joe was simultaneously smug and beaming.
The entire weekend was focused on the concept of safe off road driving, which impressed me greatly. My general impression of 4WD up until taking part in this course was influenced by my experiences as a teenager growing up on the edge of an enormous national park. Plenty of my friends as a kid would ‘bush bash’, but things like ‘risk assessment’ were foreign concepts. For someone like me, who is known for erring on the side of caution (aka- Massive Scaredy-Cat), tearing around the bush in a poorly maintained Suzuki never really appealed. I like coming home uninjured. I enjoy not being lost in the bush overnight in freezing conditions. Call me crazy.
The training facility itself was pretty awesome, too. Acres of custom-designed obstacles, with varying degrees of difficulty, gave every participant a chance to learn at their own comfort level. I surprised myself and discovered that I was very fond of driving up and down steep things, and then surprised myself even more when I realised that I wanted to do it again. With each obstacle carefully and thoroughly walked through by the instructors, even the most apprehensive novice felt comfortable giving it a go.
Despite losing the feeling in four out of ten of my fingers for several hours, and being forced to sleep on an air mattress while wearing two pairs of socks, gloves, and a beanie all night, Joe’s less-than-romantic take on our annual romantic weekend away turned out to be an excellent experience. We are already talking about when to do the next course. I’m already researching lift kits and diff locks.
If I were to do it again, the only thing I would change is where we slept – Joe failed to mention, until the very last minute, that there is an option to sleep in the onsite bunkhouse instead of on the grass. And, while bunks are a far cry from five stars and a giant bathtub, they a hell of a lot warmer than a damp tent.
In closing, for your reading pleasure, I leave you with a list of four wheel drive recovery items that sound incredibly inappropriate:
- Tred Leash
- Jack Mount
- Lift Jack
- Bow Shackel
- Snatch Strap
Snatch Strap. I mean, really. Who comes up with this stuff?
This post is not a sponsored post. I just happened to really enjoy my weekend with Great Divide Tours, and wanted to share the love.