Thinking outside the puddle

Have you ever got your car stuck in a big puddle, unable to dig the mud out from under the car to get moving again, because there’s so much water it just keeps filling the mud back in? Probably not. But, if it should ever happen to you, I suggest you think outside the puddle.

Our Mitsubishi L200 (a 4×4 pickup truck) entered a seemingly shallow puddle only to suddenly sink into a very deep part of the puddle. Within a second the rear differential was already sitting in the mud at the bottom of the puddle, so we were stuck.

Stuck in a puddle, you can't get out of

We got the shovel and hoe out, and tried to dig the mud out from underneath in order to get the vehicle moving again, but the puddle was too deep: water just kept pouring the mud back in under the car and making it sink further. Keeping the engine running to make sure water couldn’t get in and destroy it, we began waiting for people to walk by. Soon enough, we had 3 young men down to their boxer shorts trying to help us get unstuck, but still no success!

After about half an hour, a young man wearing a red sports jersey with Chinese lettering happened upon us. He took our hoe, and started walking off into the tall grass at the side of the road, forcing the grass down to the side to make a bit of a path, without explaining his strange actions.

Dude takes our hoe and walks off into the bush

After a minute or so, we began to understand: the young man first cleared some of the grass and then began loosening up the soil at the side of the road. He then began digging a trench about half a foot deep and two metres long, perpendicular to the road, leaving some soil at the edge of the puddle to keep the trench dry while working.

A trench starts to take shape at the side of the road

Once they judged the trench sufficiently awesome, my driver broke the dyke and the water began to flow out of the puddle.

Breaking the dyke

To speed up the flow of water out of the puddle, one guy continued lengthening the trench farther away from the road, and my driver and one other passer-by used their hands to push the water faster toward the trench.

Speeding up the flow of water into the trench to drain the puddle

Within ten minutes, the water level was low enough to dig out a bit of mud and for a dozen people (by this time, quite a crowd had gathered around) to stand only ankle-deep in the water. Together they rocked the vehicle side to side for about a minute while the driver revved the engine and pumped the clutch until the tires gripped well enough to drive out of the puddle and onto a dry part of the road. In total, the car had spent nearly an hour stuck in the puddle! Check out how happy my driver was afterwards:


The moral of the story: think outside the puddle. If you’re stuck, and the road is at the same or higher level than the surrounding area, put your civil engineering hat on and try emptying the puddle.

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