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Blimey! Did you know Jon's New Zealand book Squashed Possums is out now - find out more

Italian job in the bush


CaravanSitting in the drivers seat surrounded by darkness, the Mazda's headlights illuminated the caravan ahead of me. The car was stuck in the mud, tyres spinning and it was clear that I wasn't going anywhere. Bugger, I thought, this isn't good, before my situation deteriorated dramatically accompanied by the awful sound of creaking metal as the car decided whether to drop into the abyss below.

Buffeted by strong winds and torrential rain, I had been returning to the caravan one night after work. Driving along the uneven dirt track, everything around me was plunged into darkness, with only my twin headlights providing a glimpse to the outside world. Turning a sharp left through my gate for the final slippery slope up to the caravan, the track became increasingly sodden, my tyres unable to find any purchase on the slippery grass and mud beneath me. Only a couple miles away in Paraparaumu it had been a beautiful sunny day and I hadn't been expecting to drive into a quagmire. The car in first gear, my wheels span helplessly in the mud, absolutely refusing to move forward. Pulling the stick into reverse, I peered blindly through the rear windscreen as I backed up, hoping to find some traction lower down the slope. Instead I reversed straight off the track and into the bush.

Having backed up a little way, I put the car into first gear and attempted a a few hill starts but the Mazda steadfastly refused to move. Driving up to the caravan had recently become increasingly challenging since the rain had arrived. Well, I thought, if the car's stuck, I might as well get out and have a look at my situation. I opened the drivers side door to get out and reaching my foot out into the darkness, it appeared there wasn't anywhere solid for it to go, only some long grass and a large drop over a steep grass verdge. Unable to get out of the drivers side, I pulled the door shut as the car gently moved and creaked. My heart missed a beat as the Mazda decided whether it should remain parked where it was, or give into the temptations of gravity and take a short plummet over a long drop into the ravine. It was an awful moment, and I couldn't help thinking that there was no Michael Caine sitting on the backseat to offer a pithy "hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea." Instead, not waiting to find out where the car was going to end up, I quickly clambered over the gear-stick, pushed open the passenger-side door, and scrambled dramatically out of the car. Of course, had this been the movies, the car would have fallen impressively over the edge at this moment, but being real-life, it didn't. Switching my torch on, I peered around the car and discovered that one wheel was hanging off the edge, whilst the others were sat on the long wet grass. Peering over the edge, the ground plunged thirty feet below into a forest. Plenty of room to turn the car over a few times, before landing with a crash into a tree.

CaravanI can only assume that I must have been in some kind of shock, because the next thing I did was traipse up to the caravan and ring my neighbours Andrew and Jean, to leave a message. "The car's stuck," I said, "and might fall into the bush, I'm going to try and stick something under the tyres and move it again, but if you hear a loud crash, It probably means I've turned the car over and fallen into a very large ditch, so could you come over and help?" Then, rather foolishly, I returned to the car, stuffed some cardboard under the tyres, got back behind the steering wheel and tried to move the car. Of course, it didn't budge an inch and quickly coming to my senses, I soon realized that perhaps I was tempting fate a little too far. Switching the headlights off, I abandoned the car, leaving it marooned precariously overnight.

Whilst I returned to work the following day, Andrew and Jean very kindly lent me a car and together with the AA, a length of cable and a tractor managed to tow my car to safety. It's not unusual when driving about the country to see an old wreck, burnt out and parked in a forlorn corner of someones farm or homestead, but I was rather grateful that mine hadn't become a new addition.

Blimey! Did you know Jon's New Zealand book Squashed Possums is out now - find out more


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