Dealing With Car Trouble In the Middle of Nowhere…

Car stuck in the mud

When you travel in remote places car trouble can have a whole new meaning!

We have had 3 ridiculous adventures where there is no AA and no one to call…

1. Stuck in the mud – in the Desert in Bolivia

We booked a 3 day tour of Salar de Uyuni – the salt flats and deserts that join Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.

The first day was incredible despite my altitude headache. It is a truly unique and stunning place and there are no roads! It is all flat and desolate – you just drive anywhere on the salt and sand.

We left on day two for a whole day of driving and sights. Then after 60 minutes full tilt through the salt and desert, we saw another 4×4 stuck in the mud with its inhabitants waving desperately.

We pulled over where we were and walked over to see their front wheels deep in thick, heavy mud.

We were out of mobile range and it was lucky we were behind them as there may not have been another vehicle pass through this part of the desert for hours… maybe a day or two.

The car was sooo stuck. Initially their driver tried not to get too dirty, but after an hour he was coated in mud. There were 14 of us looking for solutions in the middle of nowhere… in the desert… a days drive from electricity, supplies or a rescue car for these people.

Car stuck in the mud

If you looked to the small mountains in the horizon they looked like they were floating. It was the first time I have seen this kind of desert illusion and it was incredibly beautiful – except that being stranded in a place that resembled an acid trip is not a very comforting experience!

A few guys took a tarpaulin and hauled back rocks from a small hill nearby. Others looked for debris that had floated through the desert. It was all hands on deck in the burning high altitude desert sun.

Car stuck in the mud

We tried having everyone push the vehicle. We emptied everything out and tried again. We stuffed rocks, wood and debris under the tires. We tried and tried and tried. But no luck.

It was suggested that we tow the vehicle out with our one, but the only thing worse than one vehicle stuck in the desert was two.

After hours of trying, our driver drove off to get help. They drove to mobile range, made some calls and then brought back two wooden planks they found in a tiny village nearby.

Another hour passed and the planks didn’t cut it, as soon as the car got out it would get stuck again two metres later. Our driver once again disappeared over the horizon and 40 minutes later came back with the calvary… 6 tiny local women.

We could hear their laughter before the truck arrived with them bouncing in the back with several large planks of wood.

They jumped off their truck and lugged the enormous planks down to the car. 30 minutes later, we all cheered, they took their wood and drove off laughing into the desert.

Now that’s how to get a car out of the mud!

2. No keys – in the frozen Peruvian Highlands

Peruvian Highlands

We visited an amazing project in the Peruvian highlands, about 4 hours drive from the city. We were very unprepared for the unexpected snow but we kept warm with the awesomeness of the Cusco World Vision Team.

We buzzed around filming permaculture projects that were successfully improving the lives of people in tiny remote villages 4000 metres above sea level.

At the end of the last one, we sauntered back to our vehicle and realised that the keys were on the inside and we, our driver and hosts were on the outside.

It was freezing and we were literally in the middle of nowhere. The beautiful, grey, misty, snowy valleys of nowhere.

Our hosts called ahead to the other WV truck that was in the vicinity but cell range was hard to get. So the boys got to work on breaking into the vehicle.

Eventually we got a message to the other vehicle who came back for us and there were now 6 guys working on the car. Feeling really happy to be female I left the men to save the day and jumped into the open vehicle and got warm, snacked and gossiped in my broken Spanish while they worked it out.

Car stuck in the mud

30 minutes later with plenty of team work, a coat hanger and some duck tape we were in, the heat was on and we were able to begin our long drive home.

3. Stuck in the mud (again) in flooded South Australia

We were filming a video about the Murray Princess with is a gorgeous old paddle steamer that cruises up the incredible Murray River in South Australia…

We managed to catch the worst flood that the captain had seen in his 12 years on the ship, and as South Australia tends to be pretty dry and arid everything along the river got washed out.

The one activity we managed to go ashore for was a trip to a remote country farm to see sheep shearing and other remote country type things. As the cruise is aimed at sex/sept/octogenarians they have some covered caravan type trailers towed by 4×4’s to take you from the ship to the farm. Did I mention remote yet?

Of course on the way back to the ship, the vehicle got stuck! Being the youngest guests by about 30 years, John and I naturally wanted to help get them out of the mud so that the frail oldies didn’t have to walk through the muddy, snake filled bush up the washed out dirt road.

Stuck in the mud

In the end we got one of the vehicles out to drive the oldest of the oldies and the farmer told us he would just leave the other one there until the rain eased up.

What I have realised in all of this is that when there is car trouble are three kinds of people…

A) Those who jump in and help
B) Those who watch
C) Those who take photos and blog about it afterwards

If there are enough A’s in a group I immediately turn into a C! Is that so bad?

Post By Serena Star Leonard

Serena Star-Leonard is a business coach, writer and blogger travelling around the world for 3.5 years and counting. As well as capturing stories of inspiring people who are making a difference to their communities, her passion is to help people find a way to do the things they love for a living.

Website: → How to Retire in 12 Months

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  • Ingrid Pich

    I love your sense of adventure and yes, I would be a C! People need to know about this stuff:)

  • Donna

    Well I suppose somebody’s gotta do ‘C’ and you are the expert at that Serena! 🙂 Great pics and great stories, I love the way people help without being afraid to get their hands dirty for another person…even a complete stranger 🙂

    • Yeah – well people were a bit precious in the beginning, but after a while no one cared – we just wanted to get on with the day!

  • loved and hated your description of being bogged! i have twiced bogged myself in deep mud in drenching rain because i thought my 2 WD could swim through anything – both times cost me over $150 to get towed out – the guys now greet me personally every 2 or 3 years. Loved that you were honest about turning into a type C person – i would too if there were that many people around. shame you didn’t take pics of those little women and their planks……….. bet you’re kicking yourself. great article!

    • Yeah by the time they came I was over it and waited with the excess ladies in the other vehicle haha!! Hilarious that they remember you!

  • Ha ha, great post and a timely reminder before we set off on our 4wd adventure round Australia! Lots of things to remember, including the keys!

    • Yep – keys are really important haha!! Your trip sounds amazing, how long are you going for?