4×4 Concentrate

4×4 Concentrate

Words and Photos By Shane Quinnell. Awesome feats by the members of Suzuki Auto Club SA!

You look out from behind your steering wheel with apprehension. In front of you the “road,” which consists of two dusty tyre tracks, runs for about three meters and disappears into the leaves of a tree and an eternity of blue sky.  Your heart beats like a bongo drum as you contemplate the numerous unpleasant possible futures that your imagination unwillingly conjures up. Despite the apprehension you slowly lower your clutch and roll toward what might as well be the edge of the world.

“Little to the left… a bit right…” says the voice of confidence in the form of Vic standing a meter from your window. “This is ridiculously stupid,” says the voice in your head. You ignore your head and listen to Vic. Slowly you feel Badger creak underneath you as gravity pulls him down more and more strongly toward the abyss. Still you can see nothing but blue sky.

Ryno about to roll off the edge of the world... we could hear the bongo drum outside the car.

Ryno about to roll off the edge of the world… the bongo drumming begins.

After an extended groan you know it’s decided, you have reached the point of no return. You see the ground again. Now you can’t see

Francois halfway down the end of the world. Removing the roof tent was a GOOD idea!

Francois halfway down the end of the world.

anything but the ground and you can’t stop yourself from slowly rolling and sliding straight towards it either. Gravity and the thirtyish degree slope you are on have you in a bear hug and are not letting go. So you let go.

As you release the brake pedal gravity pulls you down. You try and apply it again but the unpleasant sound of your wheels sliding on sandy ground rings out and you know it’s futile. So you grip the steering wheel and you listen to the voice. You roll, bounce on three wheels, hear your smash plate smack a large rock and look up to see the world as it should be. Brown road, a horizon and blue sky. You grin as you hear people cheering and let out a sigh of tension… done.

This is one of my most resounding memories of our weekend spent at Berakah Adventures (near Parys, approximately 1.5 hours South of Joburg) with the crew from the Suzuki 4x4 Club of Gauteng. Unlike most people who were with from the club, attempting ridiculous things in cars is not a usual Saturday for my wife Tarryn and I. In fact, it was basically the second time ever we had been on a proper 4x4 track. In retrospect attempting Berakah with an unmodified Jimny with next to no experience may have been slightly doff. However, the trial by fire was an unparalleled learning experience and awesome weekend out.

We only found out from “Kaptein,” Monty Montgomery, the club head, the night before that Berakah was considered a grade 3-4 track; difficult in layman’s terms. He calmly suggested we remove our Front Runner rooftop tent for the next day as it would “increase the risk of rolling.” Admittedly we were sweating slightly when we started the track.

The reality though was that our fears were mostly unfounded as though the track was rough and tough, it was manageable. There were almost twenty cars, mostly Jimnys, with us in total and every car managed to overcome each of the obstacles without too any hassles. It was incredibly impressive to see the competence of both the cars and the drivers as they tackled the terrain. The experience really expanded my understanding of the capabilities of the machines we were driving.

When we bought our Jimny, I like many other prospective consumers incorrectly assumed that his diminutive size meant he may not have been as capable as other 4x4’s. I could not have been more wrong. Not only did the Jimny’s keep up but in some places seemed to excel compared to the other much bigger 4x4s who were with us or that we met en-route. Often thanks to their narrow and short wheel bases. The one Grand Vitara who was with us did extremely well too but often had to take different lines from the smaller cars.

“The realisation dawned on me that the Jimny is effectively a full size 4×4 which has been compressed into something half the size; it is a 4×4 concentrate!”

Shane Quinnell

The realisation dawned on me that the Jimny is effectively a full size 4x4 which has been compressed into something half the size; it is a 4x4 concentrate! It is clear now why the previous owners of our car named him “Badger;” after his likeness to small statured and surprisingly ferocious demeanour of a honey badger.

I realised talking to the club folk that the Jimny has acquired a bit of a cult following: as Ryno from Suzuki Bryanston put it “if you cut open the veins of myself and many of the people here you would find its not blood from our hearts that powers us but a Jimny 1.3l.” Considering its relatively low cost, small stature and oversized balls it’s no wonder this is the case.

Though the standard Jimnys like ours did remarkably well, it was chalk and cheese when compared to the cars that had modifications, which many did. Most of the other car’s varying mods were manufactured and installed by Monty’s company “Wizerd 4x4,” but included suspension and work from Opposite Lock amongst other products.

Between the 40+mm raise provided by the suspension changes and the various smash plates which protected their vital organs, the modified cars did seem to avoid the few bumps inflicted on the more stock cars and generally improved comfort. So while far from mandatory, for people looking into SERIOUS 4x4 in a Jimny, one or two minor mods are probably recommended.

I was lucky enough to hop on board with the “Kaptein,” for the night drive and really noticed the difference well between his modified pocket rocket and our Jimny. While we had capably managed all obstacles in Badger, his car was noticeably more comfortable and competent.

Night becomes day in and the track becomes a whole new beast...

Night becomes day in and the track becomes a whole new beast…

The night drive was absolutely awesome and something most of us had never done before. It was slightly surreal as the course we had done only hours earlier took on a whole new feeling akin to something of a fairy world. Though I wasn’t driving it didn’t seem that much more intimidating than day drving, just different. Then again maybe this was partly due to the many spotlights and lightbars on the Kaptein’s car which helped take us most of the way back to daylight.

Overall from my point of view the weekend was a great success filled with great war stories shared around the campfire, sufficient moments of type two fun (the type that is only fun later) and great supportive company. A large part of the success can be attributed to various figureheads in the Suzuki Club; like Monty, Vick and Ryno. Their consistent expert advice and calm demeanour even or especially when drivers got wild eyed helped keep the team together and get us through the track. However, it was the collective of the many awesome people who are the club that made the event what it was.

In general I am not a big club person but in this case I wish I had signed up sooner. Not only was the Berakah trip a great weekend away but the confidence inspired by the experience was priceless for both Tarryn and I. Though I don’t think we are quite ready to tackle the African wild alone with Badger, we know it is possible and that with a bit of practice it will happen. Looking forward to the next adventure!

Keen on the Experience?

In case you are interested chatting to someone about a car or want to try Berakah for yourself, here are some links that will point you in the right direction:

Test yourself at the epic course from Berakah Adventures; only 1.5hrs from Joburg so great for a day or weekend;  http://www.berakah.co.za/

Interested in trying out a 4x4 Concentrate (Jimny)? http://suzukibryanston.co.za/

Want to make your Jimny even cooler and more competent?

 Have a chat to Wizerd (http://www.wizerd.co.za/) or Opposite Lock (http://oppositelock.co.za/).

The Oldest Form of Redemption

The Oldest Form of Redemption

 

Words and Photos By Shane Quinnell

In recent years there have been countless studies on the positive benefits of being in nature. From stress reduction to health benefits and even the reduction of serious diseases. Scientists are slowly proving what many have long known. Justify the reasoning behind this phenomena whichever way you understand; through science, through energy flows or purely through time to relax. Ultimately today there is little arguing; nature is good for you. Time in nature is redemption for the mind, body and soul.

You may be saying “nice to know but I live in a city.” If so you would be like many people in the world; 54% of the world’s population according to the UN. Many people in cities seem to believe nature is this strange hard to reach thing which only crazy people, people like us, find and post pictures about on Instagram and Facebook.

My friend Allister looks out from an AIRY stance, 80m off the kloof floor

My friend Allister looks out from an AIRY stance, 80m off the kloof floor

I would like to challenge that assumption. My belief, which arises from personal experience not scientific investigation, is that there are gateways to beautiful natural places within 1-2 hours of almost all urban centers in the world. The only challenge is to find the gates. The desire to do so is the key.

Take our current place of residence, the infamous Johannesburg (Joburg), South Africa, for example. According to the stories that are generally told and heard in the world outside of Africa’s borders; Joburg is a warzone, a place where violence is king and life is cheap. It is a concrete jungle of hate where no access to the sea or nature exists and most definitely not a place to find sanctuary or refuge in nature.

While I believe that the accounts of violence are greatly exaggerated, and that one can live perfectly happily here as we do, they are unfortunately not completely false. However, even in Joburg, redemption is not far away.

In fact, within approximately one hour from the metropolis of Joburg, redemption can be found in numerous forms. There are many examples of where; from the Hartebeesport and Vaal Dams to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and the Kgaswane, previously Rustenburg, Nature reserve.  My personal favourite, however, is the oldest form of redemption. The Magaliesberg mountain range.

 

The reality is that incredible, healing, natural places exist everywhere and are always near enough to access no matter where in the world you are if you truly want to find them.

 

Shane Quinnell

One of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth, the Magaliesberg, lies just an hour from the bustling metropolis of Sandton, Joburg; the business centre of South Africa and arguably Africa. To me and the others who know it, the Magaliesberg is a semi-secret paradise, a diamond in the rough and Joburg’s redeeming feature.

Awed by sanctuary that awaits inside the Magaliesberg kloofs...

Awed by sanctuary that awaits inside the Magaliesberg kloofs…

From the outside the Magaliesberg may not look like overly much; being relatively small in height and generally dry in and brown in character. However, looks can be deceiving.

A cheeky Vervet Monket, one of the many inhabitants of the Magaliesberg.

A cheeky Vervet Monket, one of the many inhabitants of the Magaliesberg.

For a start the bush is more lush and interesting than expected and the rocks absolutely fascinating. Scattered throughout the range lie many rocks which portray the same wavy pattern as beach sand which has been moulded by the retreating tide. A remnant of a time when the Magaliesberg was actually a seafloor. The most striking example of this I saw eighty meters up the side of a cliff while climbing. There is also the birds and wildlife that can be seen in its folds.

To me, far more incredible than this though are the intermittent kloofs (canyons) which cut the mountain range along its North South axis. From above they look like little more than vegetated depressions but from within are a hidden paradise.

Perennial streams of perfectly clear cool mountain water run in most of the kloofs, at least the ones

Like a colourful, Christmas tree, our trad climbing gear waits for its time to shine.

Like a colourful, Christmas tree, our trad climbing gear waits for its time to shine.

I have experienced. The sweetwater is perfect for drinking and probably cleaner than most you will find unless deep in the wilderness. The water, the giver of life, has over the years nurtured large old trees and bushes and created a micro-climate of temperate forest in the valleys. In turn this forest acts like an insulating blanket and regulates the temperature in the canyons meaning within the trees the air is always a few degrees cooler than the often baking ground above. The sound of running water within the kloofs hypnotises the senses.To me they are places which enforce relaxation.

Moreover, the kloofs are a playground. A place where incredible climbing, mostly of the traditional variety, can be found. Hiking and kloofing (canyoning) opportunities are endless and wanderlust is instinctively invoked. Theyare places close in proximity to the city, which could not be further away. In the year I have been in Joburg, along with good friends, I have enjoyed many incredible adventures in the kloofs of the Magaliesberg and look forward to many more.

The truth is that while incredible, the Magaliesberg is not overly unique. In each and every place I have lived, and I have lived in quite a few, places of natural wonder like the Magaliesberg existed nearby. In Brisbane, Australia the example was Mt Cootha; in Cape Town, Table Mountain; in Middlemount, a mining town in far North Australia, Blackdown Tablelands; Calgary, Kananaskis and Banff and the list continues…

The reality is that incredible, healing, natural places exist everywhere and are always near enough to access no matter where in the world you are if you truly want to find them. With this in mind I challenge you open yourself to the benefits of nature and attempt to find your nearby place of redemption. Wherever it is you are.

Accessing Magaliesberg; the Oldest Form of Redemption; 

The Magaliesberg is quite a big area and as such there are many ways to access its different areas each with their own unique opportunities and experiences. In the case that you are interested you can look through the information below as a start… I hope you love it as much as I do.

Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA): The MCSA is the best way to access the Magaliesberg properly. It offers opportunities to see private areas which are owned by the club and cannot be accessed otherwise and hosts many members who have spent their lifetimes in the Kloofs and love showing new members around. You can even learn to climb with the club on their orientation meets. Details: http://mcsajohannesburg.org/, Email: admin@jhb.mcsa.org.za

Mountain Sanctuary Park: This is another great way to access the mountains. Many of the photos in the blog were taken in Tonquani Kloof, MCSA property which is next door to Mountain Sanctuary. It is a great place with good facilities for overnight or day visitors and lots of great hikes and nature to explore. Details: http://www.mountain-sanctuary.co.za/, Email: owen@mountain-sanctuary.co.za.

Kgaswane Nature Reserve: The Kgaswane Nature reserve lies just South of Rustenburg not far from Joburg. It is a great place to see wildlife and for 1-2 days. Details; http://www.rustenberg-reserve.co.za/ and http://www.tourismnorthwest.co.za/kgaswane-mountain-reserve/#tab=tab-1