SPECIAL FEATURE | THE INDEPENDENT | Driving in Uganda especially upcountry can be exciting and adventurous not until your vehicle gets stuck somewhere in the muds or plunges into a poorly navigated gulley or trench. Most of the non-paved roads in Uganda are generally poor and hard to maintain during wet seasons that makes them hard to navigate especially for the newbies.
However, if you are driving a good four wheel drive (4WD) vehicle you need to worry less. You just need a few tips and you are good to go.
For travelers that are considering a road trip, you need to always look for one so that you maneuver every detail of the country with ease. If you don’t own any, you can look into securing one 4 wheel drive. Many Car Rental agencies offer a long fleet of of 4×4 car rentals in Uganda as it also endures them in one way in terms of field support in case you get stuck.
Now that you have secured your 4×4 vehicle, what next? You need to put in mind two things; engaging the 4 wheel and navigating it. Not in every 4×4 vehicle is that the 4 wheel drive option is always active. Some need to engage first.
The most preferred cars by road trippers opting for the option of self-drive in Uganda include the Toyota Rav4s and Land cruisers and of the two, it’s only the former whose 4 wheel drive mode is full time. The Land cruisers need to be engaged first for this mode to be active. You need to talk to your technician to guide you how to engage it and advise on when to use it as driving for long distances with this mode enabled could cause you big problems ahead.
You now have your 4×4 vehicle on the road, how are you going to drive? Are you just going to passing anywhere since you have a backup of the extra power in the wheels? No. As a newbie to the wonderful world of 4-wheel drive, don’t let your minds take you into the camp of those who think they know it all already. You need some tips so that you away with it safely to enjoy your adventure. Here are some you should note;
Learn how to Maintain Speed & Momentum
If you hit a spot of trouble such as a gulley or your vehicle skids into a trench, don’t accelerate as this can get you into a worse position. You need to slow down and take it easy. This will help you keep traction and your tyres will work for you instead of spinning aimlessly.
When approaching an obstacle, you need momentum. The trick is to start a little way back to gain the momentum you need. This is a skill which you will master over time as you drive on poorer roads. Go slowly over obstacles. Pull the hand brake a little for tension on the drive line to slow the vehicle and enable you to accelerate gently over.
Always test the road where you expect trouble
You have reached a certain part of the road that seems hard to navigate, don’t just bump into it without testing how hard it could be. If the place is muddy or found a big pothole filled with water. You can use a stick to test it for depth and softness.
Remember a soft hole can prove impossible to escape! Enter the mud hole with a little momentum and if you feel that you’re getting stuck turn the wheel left to right to gain traction. Once you’ve gone as far forward as you can try reverse out. Then, don’t try new tricks when you’re out alone. Just know your limits.
What to do when you are stuck
If you are truly stuck for instance you are in a Land cruiser, engage the 4 wheel drive option and then try again. If it doesn’t work out. Try letting a little air out of your tyres for better traction and when you get out of the ditch don’t forget to fill them up again when you reach the next gas station. Else, you can call for help from passerby drivers to help you out.
Always be equipped with Emergency tools
Make sure your vehicle is equipped with emergency tools and spares including a hi-lift jack, Steel wire, Spare tyre and plug kit. The hi-lift jerk may help you sometimes just in case you get stuck and there is a need to put some stuff under the car tyres to gain more traction.
Take protective measures
Whenever you hit on an off-road, make sure you are protected in all ways in case of emergency. Wear a safety belt, have a cell phone always on you, avoid toxins before and while driving. Always get back on the tar road before dark and this is the main reason why most Uganda car rental contracts advice on stopping the rented cars at 7:00 am.