In control of the heavy machinery

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    Petrina Wright in the driver's seat at Dig This Invercargill. Photos: Sanda Jukic

    IT’S been months since Dig This Invercargill opened. Southland Express reporter PETRINA WRIGHT checked in on how the unique attraction is going and ended up in control.

    I GOT “totally down and dirty in Invercargill”, and I have the certificate to prove it.

    Inspired by Dig This Las Vegas, Transport World opened the heavy equipment playground Dig This Invercargill in Otepuni Ave in October last year – and this month I had the opportunity to try it out.

    I went into it with some apprehension, having no prior knowledge of how to drive or operate anything larger than my little Holden Astra.

    After a short safety briefing, and with hi-vis vest and headset donned and gumboots underfoot, it was on.

    Firstly I tried out a 15-tonne excavator.

    It seemed a funny fit for a girl who prefers dressing in high heels and drinking cocktails to gumboots and playing in the dirt, but I was willing to give it a go.

    After a few minutes of orientation, I was off.

    My skilled instructor, Lex Chisholm, manager of Dig This Invercargill, very quickly put my concerns to rest providing clear and concise instructions and encouragement and praise aplenty.

    I was surprised how easy it was to operate a heavy machine of that size.

    Not to boast (much), but I successfully manoeuvred a 2000lb tyre and picked up a basketball with the bucket on my first attempts. I also dug a trench and did some gymnastics with the cab. So much fun.

    Next was the 12-tonne bulldozer.

    There was the obligatory pushing of dirt, being in a bulldozer and all, and then the big moment – I manoeuvred the machine on top of a large gravel mound (it was really high up, OK?), tottered over the edge and then drove down the other side.

    Mr Chisholm said my facial expression was “priceless”. I am sure it was. I was absolutely convinced the machine would topple over, but no, it turned out to be surprisingly stable and my embarrassing girlish squealing unfounded.

    Finally I attempted to operate a skid steer loader. Although this was the smallest of the three machines, I found it the most difficult to operate.

    The task was simple – negotiate it around a course. However, my attempt resembled that of a learner driver unable to master the clutch with much stopping, starting and jolting. I admit, there may have been some more squealing, not to mention swearing.

    Before giving Dig This a go, I didn’t think it would be something that would interest me, let alone something I would enjoy.

    I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was so much fun.

    Next time (yes I would go again), I want to try out the car smashing area, which I imagine would be both satisfying and therapeutic.

    Whether you have an interest in machinery or not, I guarantee you will have fun at Dig This.

    So, give it a go and you, too, could be getting down and dirty in Invercargill.

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