The first chunk of the day is spent slogging about 10 miles across a flooded savannah. This includes doubling back after we discover a bridge leading to our morning destination is underwater. "Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle" becomes our battle cry as we stomp the gas and gyrate the steering wheel back and forth to maintain traction through slimy, muddy ruts and pools of water up to the axles. The rain pelts down as Burns and his crew occasionally have to wallow in mud to once again hook up winches and tow straps. It's exhilarating and a bit frightening to power through the mud, throwing up waves of water, the suspension slamming up and down as you saw the wheels this way and that to keep your momentum, at the same time dodging bushes and trees. Nothing feels worse than that gradual loss of progress as the water and mud tries to pull you down. And nothing better than when the big luxury SUV fights back and pulls itself free. I think if we'd have been driving Hummers, we would have been sunk, literally and figuratively.
Speaking of being sunk, that sums up our afternoon and early evening. Mud is not the issue, since we're following established roads. Except the rains have made them into rivers. For long stretches, up to a half a mile, parts of these roads are under three feet or more of water. Since the only off-road equipment on our fleet of Range Rovers and LR3s are the Goodyear Wrangler tires, this means maintaining a steady speed of about 30 mph to create a bow wave a foot ahead of the engine compartment. No snorkels, just Land Rover's Bob Burns standing in waist-high water with a radio, offering directions and encouragement. It's daunting, not knowing how deep it gets, or how far the water goes on for. As the sun begins to set, we hit drier territory. The ensuing two-hour drive through pitch black jungle seems strangely anticlimactic by comparison.
After 15 hours of intense driving, our reward is lodging at the five-star jungle oasis of the Chan Chich resort. It even has a paved airstrip.
No, this has not been your average trip. But a Land Rover is not your average vehicle. Given the chance, I'd go back tomorrow-mud, snakes, bandits and all.