Four-by-Four

life

I caught a bit of Top Gear yesterday--yes, I know, but it was an accident, I promise. I watched--tutting and rolling my eyes skywards--as Jeremy Clarkson burnt several inches of rubber off the tyres of a Bentley by pulling 'doughnuts', and marvelled again at the weird things that cars do to otherwise semi-normal people. Perhaps Jeremy Clarkson doesn't entirely count as semi-normal, but I'm sure that you get my general point.

As evidence, I present this example of daft behaviour, seemingly prompted by the mere act of getting into a vehicle driven by both axles. While I was staying in the Parc de la Rivière Bleu, Yves was driving me back to the cabin one day when a mud-splattered and rather desperate looking young man flagged us down. He said that his hire car had got stuck, and asked if we could give him a tow. So Yves picked him up and he lead us to the stricken car, where his friends--who were obviously beginning to despair of ever getting rescued in such a huge park--were staring balefully at the bogged-down Land Rover.

I need to set the scene. Imagine, if you will, a fairly deep river with steep banks. Now imagine that there is a ford across the river which is level with the banks, so that someone crossing by the ford need only submerge their tyres by a few centimetres. Finally, imagine that there's no water in the river. Got that? The Land Rover was wedged between the banks, about a metre to the left of the ford. The driver had obviously seen this nice smooth path over the river and thought, "Nah, that's far too easy--I've got four-wheel drive! Lets try crossing on the steep bit." Unfortunately, the river was only slightly wider than the length of the car, and the banks were very steep, so the Land Rover was firmly wedged on the bed of the river.

Yves gamely tried to tow the car out, but his lightweight Japanese jeep was really no match for several tonnes of British steel. On the first go, his jeep pulled a wheelie, which was quite impressive, and on the second the rope snapped with a cartoon-ish twang.

I decided to keep out of the way of all the automotive action, and joined the two women watching the exertions of their menfolk. One said something which was too quick for my beginner's understanding of French, but I didn't really need to translate. The tone, the folded arms and the rolling eyes were perfectly clear International Womanese for, "This is what happens when you let the testosterone loose on a four-wheel drive vehicle."

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