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We decided to take a much-delayed day trip recently and it turned out to have been rather badly timed. But what you think would have given us problems actually was the best part.

The idea was a simple drive to check out new overlanding and camping opportunities on the coast of Lian, Batangas. Simple, easy, lots of opportunities.

Well, two things worked against us. First, traffic was abysmal in Tagaytay between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And second, the big storm washed away a lot of the beach in Batangas, which meant that the only access to some of the places was with some tight squeezes through downed wood and fencing, and even those were swamped by shifting un-packed sand that could easily turn muddy and softer. Seeing groups of people trying to push vehicles got us a little concerned. All these though was really because of the storm and storm damage, and they were already fixing things up. A downed fence was replaced by our drive out, for example.

The positives were, this was a dog-centric trip. With a rather unusual choice, an Audi Q7. Odd because using a new luxury SUV with a miniature dachshund that loves to roam is a scratch disaster waiting to happen. Fear not: we accessorized.

In a previous column, we had talked about several pieces of modern pet gear that makes life with dog while mobile much more relaxing. What we brought with us now is the latest example of how people think more than ever about their pets.

We were using Audi-supplied accessories, a pet mat and a secure harness. We had previously tested a pet hammock from Outward Hound and petwarehouse.ph and we thought is was great. The mat from Audi is a step up. For one, it has a quilted design that matches the level of detail with the Q7, but more importantly it was sided and flexible. Four pieces all zipped up to create a large pocket that protects the entire back seat as well as the interior of the doors. It hangs on the headrests and rods, and is extremely easy to use. For big dogs you can even unzip the sides to get the dog in then zip back up. And a key point here is the flexibility that the zippers allow. We used only half of it, so it only took up half the seat but still was able to use the sides. Additionally, it allowed us to use the Outward Hound pet car seat (also from petwarehouse.ph) for our smaller dog so she could securely look out the window while my daughter sat with her in the back. Very well thought out, very flexible. I would get one from Audi even without the Audi. There was also a very solid harness that is meant to strap to the car seatbelts with very solid carabiners, if you so desire. This is all available because Audi Philippines, in speaking with their customers, found that they really wanted to bring their pets more but didn’t want to mar the sumptuous Audi interior. So in came the pet gear. An added plus is that it keeps all the pet hair in one place and is easy to clean.

Through the changing terrains and shifting sands

The other positive was the Audi Q7 itself, in particular the all wheel drive system that we could tune via mode selection. This wouldn’t have meant much under normal circumstances. When, however, we saw how vehicles were sinking into the sand and mud as they tried to get through the newly thrashed terrain we had concerns. We weren’t concerned about not getting through, but more about the close proximity of downed trees and fences and the nails that extended from them. We knew we could power through with most cars anyway, but if there was any sliding or sideways motion we would put a very nice paint job into a very rusty nail. Or worse. Especially with still strong winds pushing some rather dark clouds our way. Thankfully, the mode selection was there to handle the situation, and all went well.

The end result was great, really. It was sad to see the level of destruction caused by the very serious storm to the vast area, but it was nice to see how quickly things were getting back to normal. People were camping that day, but we were the only ones willing to bring a car as far as we did. We tried to stop and help people carry their heavy camping coolers, but the look and bark they got from our rear seat passenger may have put them off.

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