Modified Class No.4
It’s Friday at last, 4pm! We have been read the rules and given a detailed 20m contoured map circa 1965, It shows ten check points, and some interesting contours over an area of 10Kmx10Km.
In the draw we are given the checkpoint closest to the Gauntlet made up of three check points, zigzagging over a river with a sign “DANGER Potentially Crocodiles and Bilharzia”. We are lent canoes to walk the course. The line here is essential as your km reading is tripled within the gauntlet section. He who finishes the course overall in the shortest distance less the funds you have collected for the charity wins!!! Two options appear to us in the planning stage: Anti-clockwise: do the Gauntlet first while everyone is fresh & strong? Clockwise: do the gauntlet last so the path is beaten down by the others, you can see what is possible but you are so physically finished after 8 hours running; Hills, Heat, Hives…….. Regardless of the heat you run in long sleeves and trousers to protect yourself from the many painfully itchy, stingy, indescribables that are normally avoided at all costs.
We are feeling BRAVE! Our vehicle is totally READY! The “Warthog” a 1985 Toyota FJ45 land cruiser, the first Rhino Game-viewing vehicle we purchased second hand 20 years ago when we first started Bushtracks Africa the Tour operating company based in Livingstone. A FJ45 running a 4.0litre 1UZ V8 with a 5 speed auto. Spring over axle conversion running 36x12.50R15 Simex extreme trekker tyres. Reverse shackle conversion on front axle with dislocating rear shackles on the rear suspension. Removed the secondary load springs on the rear for extra articulation. Front and rear winches. Over hangs cut down for better approach and departure angles with tubular wings and external roll cage with tray back style rear body.
Saturday 7am our timed starting point was the summit of a 1180m hill with steep declines in every direction. We headed straight towards the river, hitting some vertical drop offs through thick bush to arrive at the riverbed at 860m. We planned to drive up the rocky bed towards our first checkpoint where we had arrived at the gauntlet first, we are going straight through the deepest channel confident our engine is waterproof and the snorkel will do the job through chest deep water. We are in, we are chest deep. We are halfway across. Our left wheel goes into a soft spot; it lists, momentarily floats (HUGE WHEELS!!!!) then sinks to the left. The top of the windscreen is now the only thing showing above the water even the steering wheel is under; we catch the wireless winch controls floating away!
The winch & grappling ropes makes it to the tree on the opposite bank. The vehicle impressively winches itself out. Des drains the engine covering the audience with water. It splutters bravely to life for a couple of turns then dies. No one else makes the river crossing in the same place. 7 teams out of 18 finish. We have to wait till next year and we need a new engine! We loved every minute of it. Huge thanks to the organisers for a fabulous event and to our sponsors: Bushtracks Africa, Desmond Engineering Services, Chundu Farms, Esse Clearing, Hemmingway’s, Latitude 15, Safari Par Excellence & Protea hotels Livingstone, Friends and Family. Please, help us conserve our wildlife! Come race at the Elephant Charge & donate to this excellent cause.