Travel

Strap on the snow tyres, it's going to be a slippery ride

Ashley Bright and his teammate Douwe Buursma at the finish line.
Ashley Bright and his teammate Douwe Buursma at the finish line. Ashley Bright

FOR seven consecutive days, Ashley Bright's world was black, white, cold, fast, noisy - and a hell of a lot of fun.

He has just returned to Australia after taking part in Navigate North, an adventure car rally with an endurance and navigation twist that ran through the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Lapland, Poland, Denmark and Germany.

For Ashley, the journey played out to the beep-beep of an in-car Garmin GPS and the tap-tap of the navigator's fingers on laptop keyboards as routes were mapped.

But mostly, all he heard was the thud-thud of windscreen wipers shifting snowflakes and a Volvo XC-90 engine purring and whirring through some of the most spectacular arctic scenery on the planet.

In this place, at this time of year, colour goes into hibernation. There is black, and there is white. Plenty of white.

Driving in snow at night, headlights illuminate snowflakes as they zap horizontal, and drivers channel Han Solo shifting the Millennium Falcon up to light speed.

And all he felt was motion. Constant motion.

So much that he suffered vertigo when his feet finally landed back on Sunshine Coast soil.

This year's Navigate North had 22 teams of two traverse some 7000 kilometres across 10 countries in seven days.

Snow tyres that would have melted on summer roads were imperative in the minus-18 temperatures. So was stamina, a sense of humour and an adventurous spirit.

The rally was not a race, but a test of navigation prowess and human endurance.

Organisers calculated the average time it should take between checkpoints.

Teams could take whatever route they desired, but they had to cross the finish line as close to that time as possible.

Under or over, they lost points.

And if they travelled more than five kilometres over the speed limit they lost points.

After a week of all this, as well as closed roads, avalanches, accidents and delays, Ashley and his teammate Douwe Buursma managed to finish seventh overall.

The European importer of the spotlight covers Ashley makes at his Australian Spotlight Protection business at Landsborough asked him to take part in the rally.

"It was awesome," he said.

"Very tiring. I would do it again, definitely, if my wife would let me.

"We split the driving and the navigating, but one day I drove 12 hours and he drove three.

"Once you get into the car you don't know how long you'll be in it for...on the last day it was 32 hours.

"And when we got into Germany, where speed is unrestricted on the autobahns, the organisers put a self-imposed limit of 150kmh on the cars.

"One day, we were sitting on 150kmh for 10 to 11 hours.

"It was amazing scenery because it

was snowing most of the time we were there.

"It was twilight for six hours of the day, and the rest of the time it was dark.

"We actually used the rally to test our orange (headlight) covers. The amber covers don't reflect as much light from the white snow and you can see further. They worked a lot better."

You know you are in a tough race when even the organisers' cars get in strife.

Ashley remembers one incident where a rally official in a Rav 4 drifted into microsleep and into a snow-filled ditch.

"His car headed off to the side of the road into the snow that was banked up. He was lucky it wasn't the other side of the road - that was a 40-metre drop into a pine forest.

"We had to ring in (to a central control centre) and say we had stopped because we were assisting with a recovery.

"We were lucky, we didn't have an incident. We had very good tyres. I got out of the car one day to take some photos and I slipped over on the road, and yet our tyres were gripping so well on that same road."

One of the reasons Ashley said yes to the rally was to strengthen the business relationship with his teammate.

"It was great for advertising for him. And the winner had our orange spotlight covers on, so it was excellent.

"Everyone was asking me where I fit in and I said, 'Well, I make these' and then they realised.

"It was really good."

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Petrol is about $AUD2 a litre in the Arctic region right now
  • Mr Bright was surprised at how well the locals spoke English there

Topics:  cars, motor sport, travel


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