Gliding on Water

Gliding on Water

 

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

Don’t miss the awesome short video at the end which captures this story. 

It was still early when the giant, extended wheelbase Landcruiser, our ride to the Okavango, rolled off the main road from Maun and onto the dirt road towards the village. Along with Tarryn’s folks, Grant and Debbie, we were the only people filling the twelve seater.

The Okavango Delta is a huge marshland area in Northern Botswana. A very important area naturally, the area hosts a huge variety of wildlife from birds to the giant African mammals like the Hippo, Elephant and Giraffe.

Tarryn and I scoping out the Okavango and looking at the giraffe on the far side of the river. Photo: Grant Stevenson

Within a short distance from the road we came across the first of many water crossings over the veins of the Okavango. From first sight it was clear the Okavango’s reputation for wildlife was well founded. Life was everywhere. In a minute we spotted numerous bird species including Pied Kingfishers, multiple species of Herons and Cranes and Fish Eagles. The lush landscape glinted in the morning light from the moisture in the ground and local people moved on the banks looking for fish. It was beautiful, it even smelled pristine.

 

We drove on and after a few water crossings deep enough to submerge half of the Landcruiser, making its exhaust sound like a submersible, reached the village. We were happy we didn’t bring our Jimny, Badger, on this excursion. He might be tough as nails but we didn’t want to drown him.

The village we were at was one of the local polling stations, a hub for Macora activity in the area and a gateway to the Okavango. Macoras are the local name for the dugout canoes which the locals throughout the Northern Botswanan and Southern Zambian regions use to navigate the waterways. Rivers and swamps. Though traditionally made from trees, in Botswana, they are now commonly fibreglass in an attempt by the Government to reduce deforestation and promote sustainable tourism. From what we saw they were 3-4m long and on average only 50cm wide with a flat bottom to enable them to move in shallow water. Rather than using paddles as you would in a Kayak, they move the boats by using wooden poles to push off the swamp floor as they are much more effective in the shallow water. This has led to the guides being given the name “polers.”

From the first moment we met our polers, Heaven and Leon, we were impressed both with them and the initiatives set up around the Macora tourism. It was clear the guides were exceptionally knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area and cared about their impact and conservation. “This is our home and our lives, we need to protect it,” said Heaven.

 

It was clear the guides were exceptionally knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area and cared about their impact and conservation. “This is our home and our lives, we need to protect it,” said Heaven.

Heaven

Poler, Okavango Poling Trust

Hanging our with our Polers; Heaven left and Leon right.

With guiding principles and introductions aside, we poled off. Once we were out from the reeds and into the open water Heaven found his rhythm. He pushed off the ground with strong but graceful thrusts, smoothly propelling us forward in rhythmic bursts. We were not moving through but gliding on the water.

It wasn’t long till we heard and then saw our first pod of hippo. There were about three to four of them in the water, their eyes and snouts visible above the water line intermittently as they bobbed up to catch a breath. Hippos being her favourite animals, Tarryn was in her element. “They are like oversized cuddly piggies, but demanding the respect of space,” she says.

We moved on, pausing often to view birds, photograph scenery and chat. We soon heard more hippos. Heaven, now understanding Tarryn’s affection for them, paddled in their direction. This time we found far more than previously; probably sixteen in two different pods.

We sat and gawked at the gigantic animals in amazement. Keeping about fifty meters between us and the hippos, our guides kept a close eye. It might sound a long way but when you consider we were in a tiny canoe watching and a bunch of Africa’s most dangerous animals, you realise it’s not that far at all.

Tarryn’s cuddly friends; Africa’s deadliest animal. The dicotomy pretty well sums up my wife ;).

Once we were safely away from the Hippos I asked Heaven for a turn at poling. Miscalculating how tippy the boats were, I nearly capsized the Macora before I even started. Shortly afterwards I managed to accidently smack Heaven on the head with the pole which caused an eruption of laughter. Luckily things improved from there and though I can’t claim I was ever graceful, I got us around for about twenty minutes without giving myself or my passengers unwanted swims.

We stopped at a large island for lunch and an informative walk where the poler’s taught us about local plant, animals and showed us how to track using prints and dung. We found some giraffe and zebra which we watched for a time before moving off.

With that, our day was drawing to a close, it was time to go home. We turned and headed back. We had been privileged to have an amazing day and meet some of the incredible animals who call our continent home. We left happy knowing that Botswana and the polers were doing their part to preserve their precious environment.

Dawn – Part 2

Dawn – Part 2

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

Note: This is Part 2 in a two-part blog series titled “Dawn,” it continues from Part 1 which can be found here www.teamtane.com/dawn-part-1/. We suggest you read Part 1 first but it is completely up to you 🙂. Enjoy the read.

We had seen a few ridiculously dirty 4x4 vehicles passing us the other way as we drove toward Kubu Island from the Khama sanctuary. We also knew Botswana had experienced a particularly wet season, so knew we were in for water on our way from Kubu Island to Maun. Little did we know the extent…

Deciding it was necessary to find out a bit more before we braved the pans, we located and chatted to the caretaker from the Makgadikgadi Adventure Camp. He had seen two cars pass through two days previous so assumed the road was passable but mentioned he could guide us around the pan for R100 (about $10).

The African sky rages with beautiful colours during sunrise the morning we left Kubu.

We decided to drive down the dirt road to check it out. We got to the pan to find what looked like a kilometer wide lake containing a host of wildlife. It looked more like a wetland nature sanctuary than a salt pan.  We chatted for a couple of minutes about the prospect of attempting to cross it before unanimously deciding that it wasn’t worth it if we had a backup option. We returned to find our friend.

He guided us along another road and down some minor cattle tracks. We wound between thick thorn bush and bounced off rocks all the while thanking the Wizerd smash plates and Tough Dog suspension for protecting our tough but little Suzuki, Badger. After about twenty minutes our guide pulled off. We thanked him, paid him and said our goodbyes.

Connections are made and deals are struck, language is the key to interaction. Shane tries to learn Setswana off King George; Kubu Island’s caretaker. (Photo: Tarryn Quinnell)

He guided us along another road and down some minor cattle tracks. We wound between thick thorn bush and bounced off rocks all the while thanking the Wizerd smash plates and Tough Dog suspension for protecting our tough but little Suzuki, Badger. After about twenty minutes our guide pulled off. We thanked him, paid him and said our goodbyes.

 

We got to the pan to find what looked like a kilometer wide lake containing a host of wildlife….There was another flooded pan directly in front of him. This one far larger than the last. Bugger.

Shane Quinnell

Team Tane

A short while later we drove back onto a dry cracked pan and rolled on. Suddenly, Grant started breaking in front of us. Tarryn hit the brakes but despite her slow speed just kept going, straight toward the hulk. At the last minute, her wheels caught and she slid off the minor track to a stop, just missing the back of the Hulk. Lesson learned; in muddy conditions maintain a BIG distance and use gears to stop. Her fright at almost hitting the Hulk was enough for her to hand the keys over to me.

We hopped out Badger wondering why Grant stopped. Then we saw why. It was déjà vu. There was another flooded pan directly in front of him. This one far larger than the last. Bugger

Tarryn starting the great trek across the mighty swap pan. The far side of the pan is just visible on the horizon.

We checked the map and found our friendly guide had only directed us around the first pan (see our route on our Tracks4Africa Live Map on our home page). The first of many. The largest one was right in front of us. We scratched our heads and wondered what to do. ‘Do we go back and make a giant detour or take the risk?’

We decided to check it out. With that Tarryn and her mother, Debbie, were out of the cars, shoes off and walking through the mud. I joined for a short while to get a feel. The mud was sludgy and slippery. This was going to be interesting. Whatever the case if we attempted it, we would need to maintain momentum or we were in big trouble.

Tarryn and Debbie proceeded towards the far side of the lake. Grant and I watched them through our binoculars waiting for the agreed signal, stomachs in knots. Then they turned and both arms went up. That was it, the signal. It was game time.

A regular and very necessary occurrence on the pans; cleaning grass from underneath the car to make sure it does not catch fire. (Photo: Debbie Stevenson)

With that Grant who had been letting down his tyres gave me a nervous smile, hopped into the Hulk and was off.

He hit the water with speed, spraying mud and salt water everywhere. He kept going, and going and going. I watched through my binoculars as he finally reached the other side. I thought, ‘thank goodness,’ then I realised it was my turn. My stomach lurched.

I took a deep breath, got into Badger, engaged low range and released the hand brake. I knew I had to make it to the far side, failing was not an option. Failing meant we would likely be there hours or even days before getting out. It meant we would have to use our shiny new VRS winch to try get out. If that failed Grant and Debbie would have to drive on to find someone, somewhere with a tractor to help pull us. Both which were ridiculously unlikely finds. Failing meant Tarryn and I would more than likely have to leave Badger in the wetland and spend a cold uncomfortable night sleeping on the bank with who knew what kind of animals nearby.

With that I pushed the accelerator and started moving. I changed to third and found a comfortable speed. I hit the mud. I felt Badger sink as he hit the extra resistance before finding traction and moving on. Whpew!

Badger tears his way through the epic swampy pans like the little beastly Suzuki he is!! (Photo: Debbie Stevenson)

I was just getting comfortable with the mud when I hit the water. The spray was massive; at times completely covering the windscreen and rendering me blind. I hit the wipers full blast and got my vision back. I tried to slow slightly to reduce the spray but felt Badger starting to struggle so hit the pedal again. Once or twice I hit deep sections and felt the mud hit the bottom of the car but Badger just kept going.

One-quarter through… half way… Three-quarters. The bank was getting nearer, my confidence growing. Then finally, as if a gift from nowhere I hit hard ground; the far side of the pan. WHOOOOHOOOOO!We were through in one piece. Damn, it felt good, despite having mild shakes from the adrenaline.

Tarryn ran over. We all patted each other on the back and shared war stories. We had made it across the pan, which turned out to be nearly one kilometer wide, and in turn avoided what would likely have been a cold night on a muddy, wet pan.

Our small yet ferocious Suzuki Jimny Badger after the epic achievement of crossing the wetland pans… Our confidence and respect for him grows daily.

Celebrations came to an end as we realised how much farther we had to drive. We moved on. We hit a few more sections of mud and water but having succeeded the worst of it, we hardly blinked.

The remainder of the journey to Maun was relatively uneventful though we did help pull start a local, see some ancient and incredible Baobabs and encounter the largest herd of Zebra one can imagine in the middle of nowhere. Like something out of Tarzan, they galloped next to us along the pans.

Our friends. The huge, mysterious herd of Zebras we met on the Makgadikgadi Pans.

We reached Maun, dirty and tired but happy. As dusk fell, the second dawn crept up on us. The dawn of consciousness. Our experiences that day taught us two fundamental things. One, ‘Africa truly is phenomenal,’ and two, ‘attempting Africa alone is a significant undertaking’

In my experience, ignorance and optimism are often more powerful than confidence when it comes to taking the plunge, to making progress. Up till now, we relied on these traits. For the first time, we were slightly daunted by our plans. We gained a deep respect for Africa and our undertaking. We decided from now on, this would be our guiding force.

The video below shows the action detailed in the blog as it happened. Check it out! You can find more on our You tube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWnRYq5ax-1L4KxTQImrFqA), please subscribe. 

Dawn – Part 1

Dawn – Part 1

Words and Photos by Shane Quinnell, Team Tane

Dawn is an incredible time of day. It heralds the start of a new day, new possibilities. It lights up the land and brings the beautiful colours of opportunity.

For Tarryn and I the quote from Batman (a deep movie I know) “the darkest hour comes before dawn,” rang true. Our darkest hour of teething pains came just before we left, and faded the day we headed North for the interior of our great continent, Africa. Our dawn had arrived with our departure and the colours, sights and sounds were incredible. They rang of our present freedom and the endless prospects which awaited us on our journey, Suzuki Africa Sky High.

Dawn the day of our departure… Damn it felt good to be on the road.

Our lack of experience on African Overland trips became apparent before we even left, when we found I had accidently packed our Tracks 4 Africa (T4A) (4x4 GPS tracks for Africa) SD card into our storage unit. We were fortunate however, to have Tarryn’s folks, Grant and Debbie, join us for the first twelve days of our trip with their Hilux, ‘The Hulk.’ Despite not being leather skinned nor wearing khaki, both Grant and Debbie are experienced Southern African overlanders, who have spent many days travelling the backroads of Southern Africa. They also both had a copy of T4A. So naturally, until we got a new copy in Maun, Botswana, they became our navigators.

Debbie and Grant, Tarryn’s folks and, for the first two weeks, our navigators ;).

Despite our lack of experience, however, we successfully, fairly easily fitted eight months’ worth of camping equipment, all of our Osprey packs and Black Diamond climbing gear, into our slight Suzuki Jimny. Thereby proving our notion that Suzuki Jimny’s have enough space to pack everything you need for an extended overland trip.

The days we spent with Grant and Debbie were nothing short of incredible. Our first hurdle, Martin’s Drift; the SA Botswana border, was a breeze. We were out within 30 minutes. We got through to Khama Rhino Sactuary, had a celebratory beer and proceeded to encounter five White Rhinos and a bunch of other game. Our first afternoon on the road and Africa was already sharing her secrets. It great to learn how the Presidency of Botswana (Ian Khama) was behind the battle against rhino poaching and fully supportive of the protection of their country’s wildlife. It was obvious this approach was working. One can only hope that one day South Africa will recognise this and do the same.

One of the amazing birds from the Khama Sanctuary.

The second morning Tarryn and I, who constantly lagged behind her super-efficient parents, drove the deep sand road toward the

Baobas by dusk light, an incredible sight with an ancient feel.

sanctuary’s gate to catch up with her folks who were already there waiting. On the way we almost ploughed straight into a leopard who was crouched in the middle of the road stalking an impala. I fumbled my lenses to try get a photo as the leopard eyed us angrily for upsetting his breakfast and stalked off. I missed the shot but maintained the memory of the incredible encounter.

Following our chance encounter we left Khama toward Lekhubu (Kubu) Island, the Island of the Baobabs. We soon learnt why T4A was mandatory and how important Wizerd’s and Opposite Lock’s modifications were.

We lost sight of the Hulk a few times enroute. Without a detailed map or T4A, we had almost no idea where to go. We were in a sea of sand with overhead bushes and criss-crossing paths, not knowing which to take. When we finally found the Hulk, Tarryn and I vowed never again to forget T4A!

Kubu Island was like something of a daydream. Imagine a semi-desolate, semi-arid island, covered in baobabs, located in the middle of sprawling salt pans and you are pretty much spot on. Before we had properly stopped, Tarryn was out of Badger on her way up the rocks towards the closest Baobab, hammock in hand. It was the thought of hanging out in our hammock under a baobab which got us through the teething we described in the last blog (see the blog: www.teamtane.com/teething).

Two of the giant gnarled Baobabs we found on the mysterious Kubu Island.

There was something about the gnarled Baobabs which made the island feel ancient, which gave it a certain vibe. The teething stress melted away. We were in Africa and loving it!

After witnessing a spectacular Sunset and waking at first light to an equally spectacular sunrise it was, unfortunately, time to move on. I hate to do this to you but, you will have to wait till part two to read the riveting next section… Its coming soon.

Check out the EPIC Youtube video below to help you get over us leaving you hanging on the blog :). 

Teething

Teething

Words and Photos by Shane Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

Much like puberty, teething is something each and every single one of us will go through in our lifetimes. Unlike puberty, however, almost none of us can actually remember our own teething experience. Rather we experience it through stories told to us by our parents, their friends, or maybe via the experiences of other kids when we are old enough to remember it. Whatever the case, the consensus is; teething is tough.

My experience in life is that teething is not only experienced when we actually grow teeth. We experience it each and every time we try something new and grow from it. With this in mind, it’s safe to say Tarryn and I have been teething.

Tarryn getting high on the side of Cape Town’s twelve apostles during a training session up a climb called Slanghoulie frontal in preparation for Mt Kenya. One of her first times leading trad climbing.

The last few months of our lives have been a blur of planning, actions, obstacles and finally long awaited results. All of this activity has been fuelled by a decade long dream to experience the “real Africa,” by doing an EPIC overland trip 20,000km long and in the middle attempt Africa’s five highest mountains.

“While we appear confident in what we are doing… we are pretty fresh off the print…much of what we are doing is new to us.”

Shane and Tarryn Quinnell - Team Tane

The truth is that while we appear confident in what we are doing, we actually haven’t done anything like this many times… ever. Yes we have climbed in Cape Town and attempted Mt Kenya, yes we have travelled quite a bit and done road trips in Badger to Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland, but really we are pretty fresh off the print.

Unlike the veterans of the African bush who wear khaki and whose skin looks and probably is as hard as leather, much of what we are doing is new to us. Through Wizerd and Suzuki Bryanston we recently learnt to drive a 4x4 over things more daunting than a speed hump; through Opposite Lock, how to fit a solar panel to a battery system and through Suzuki South Africa, how to do a proper service on our own little Jimny, “Badger.”

Ashley from Wizerd grinds one of Badger’s plates to help fit the new winch from Opposite Lock. Taken during the long hours I spent in the workshop helping retrofit our little guy.

Between us, Tarryn and I only recently learnt how to use Photoshop, use a GoPro and edit videos properly, and how on earth to build a website. Finally and possibly most poignantly, Tarryn only recently learnt how to lead ‘trad climb (short for traditional climb; the style where you have to place your own protection),’ which is mandatory to climb Mt Kenya.

As I am sure you can imagine, all of this learning has at times left us close to redlining with our overheating brains threatening to melt and drip down our faces. This was particularly true in the last week where we spent hours, and I mean HOURS, at Suzuki and Wizerd’s and underneath and inside Badger, on Skype with Smartgrid figuring out their satellite modem, talking about emergency response plans with International SOS, learning how to load the awesome Tracks4Africa live map onto our website and trying to import our Mont Bell sponsored apparel from Japan. The patience and support we have been shown has been remarkable.

Me underneath Badger at midday the day before our departure struggling to fit the fridge National Luna lent us for the entire 8-month trip when ours kicked it the night before… Incredible generosity! Photo: Desray, National Luna

Nevertheless, despite all the craziness and the odds, which frequently looked insurmountable, here we are on day eight of our dream; Suzuki Africa Sky High. We can’t say that the teething has stopped, it hasn’t. We are still figuring ourselves out, still optimising our packing space and growing our relationship with Badger, but the learning curve and teething pains have slowed. The most important thing though is that we are here, in Botswana, doing it and loving it! We made it.

Faces of some of the most important people behind our mission taken during our launch, from left to right; Ryno (Suzuki Bryanston), me and Tarryn, Monty (Wizerd), Charl and Megan (our headline sponsor – Suzuki!), Jaco (Frontrunner), Darrell (Opposite Lock). Notice our awesome sign printed by ChannelPrint. Photo: Suzuki

To conclude, in our experience living your dreams is possible. The only catch is that it requires a huge amount of hard work both from you and the world around you. The truth is we could not have done and be doing this alone and have to take this opportunity to thank all the amazing people who are behind us. Firstly, our great sponsors who helped make our expedition possible. Then companies like Bridgestone (who are now a sponsor) Front Runner, National Luna and Channel Print who stepped in when it counted, i.e. in the last week, to respectively, assist us with much needed new tyres, toughen up our roof rack, lend us a working fridge when ours failed a day before departure and print us a banner for the mountain summits. Finally and most importantly we want to thank you; our family, friends and followers who have shown interest in our dream, liked our stories and commented our pictures. As much as this journey is for us, it is for you. Without your interest and belief in what we are doing, the fire of our passion would be long dead. After all, what good is a story if no one wants to hear it?

With this, we thank each and everyone who has helped us and look forward to sharing our dream with you, in the hope of inspiring you to embark on your own and share it with us. 

Keep an eye out for our next blog where we give you the inside to life on the road living our dream.

The Dusty Classroom

The Dusty Classroom

Words by Shane Quinnell, Photos by Shane and Tarryn Quinnell

So, we are going to drive through Africa in a Suzuki Jimny called Badger for six months. This means that for 6 months, Tarryn and I will live in a box the size of a VW polo with a tent on the roof and rely on this box for nearly everything. Transport, electricity, beast of burden, kitchen, house and home. It is both an exciting and slightly daunting prospect. A prospect that requires proper preparation and planning, both physically and mentally.

The first thing that comes to mind when Suzuki Jimny and overland are put in the same sentence is space.  There is not a lot of it, but with smart packing and the Wizerd Monty’s ingenuity we will be fine. The second thought is, what happens if we break down? Again, get some parts off Suzuki Bryanston, find Wizerd Monty and learn some magic “boer maak ’n plan (farmer make a plan)” tricks. Finally and most importantly; what happens if we hit rough terrain, a question which is more a ‘when’ than an ‘if’. We soon realised we needed 4x4 training… badly.

The Hulk tears his way out of the training course's watery grave!

The Hulk tears his way out of the training course’s watery grave!

Fortunately for us Ryno, from Suzuki Bryanston gave us the answer to our prayers. He had a training day for clients of his dealership booked out at De Wildt near Hartebeespoort where the Wizerd would be teaching some tricks and invited us along for the ride. Tarryn and I jumped at the opportunity.

De Wildt is a 4x4 game farm only about an hour from Joburg. It has great facilities, according to Monty is an average class 3 or intermediate track and has fun driving. Overall it appears to be a popular choice for 4x4 training.

The morning of the training it was great to see all the fellow Jimny’s and drivers rocking up ready for action. The experience of the drivers ranged a bit but most of the owners were 4x4 virgins arriving for their first experience. The excitement and anxiety was palpable as the Wizerd passed out the notes.

The first hour consisted of a very informative theory session on the basics of driving a 4x4 and more specifically a Jimny or Grand Vitara. The important parts on the cars were explained and strategies for how to avoid damaging them while attempting technical driving discussed. I’m not generally very good in a classroom but the information provided was fascinating and knowing each piece could help us finish Africa Sky High it kept me enthralled.

With theory aside it was time to hit the practice track. Ryno was a shining example of finesse as he got his Suzuki Bryanston Jimny footloose with one wheel two feet of the ground, got wet then vertical on the practice track.

I volunteered to go second and as usual found that the pros always make things look easier than they are. Despite this I managed it fine other than not using enough momentum to get up the steep ramp and having to hit it as second time. This once again showcased the difference between Tarryn and my driving styles. While I tend to prefer the ‘slow and steady approach,’ Tarryn utilises the theory ‘when in doubt, rev it out.’ Therefore she didn’t battle getting up the steep hills but nearly ramped off them instead.

Making tracks in the dusty classroom.

Ryno making tracks in the dusty classroom.

After the warm up round, we hit the real tracks. The first major obstacle was an axel twister with fairly deep dongas on alternating sides which rolls the car side to side as you drive through. Fortunately being in a Jimny the twist on the car is severely reduced as the car can generally fit in between the holes.  While still a daunting sight, the obstacle looked much less intimidating than the first time I saw it months before during our first solo Team Tane 4x4 outing.

Again the masters took to the track to show us the best lines and made it look as if they were merely on a dodgy dirt road. The rest of us weren’t quite so graceful as we spun wheels, scraped belly’s on the ground and bounced our way to the top. Nearly everyone stalled somewhere as we lost traction on the dry ground and achieved nothing but the creation of mountains of dust. By the end of it the air was hazy from our attempts in the dusty classroom.

After getting all of us through, the Wizerd and Ryno moved us on to other obstacles each with their own intricacies. I had consciously left our Frontrunner rooftop tent on Badger for the training to check the impact it would have on Badger’s handling. I was very aware of the extra 40kg while driving. While it did noticeably increase the roll, Badger handled the extra weight pretty well overall. Still, Tarryn and I could hardly contain our excitement at the thought that soon Wizerd and Opposite Lock would be kitting Badger out with products like Tough Dog suspension which would dramatically improve the performance.

Having Monty and Ryno at hand for assistance was incredible both for confidence and technique. Their advice made huge difference in ride comfort and our ability to get through obstacles. Their calm demeanour really helped us and others get through things we otherwise may not have even tried and overall the training was extremely worthwhile. With their assistance each and every one of us on the course successfully gave the trail a go and loved it!

Slowly the day wound to an end all of us suffering from giant smiles and dust inhalation. It was wrapped up with a good old South African braai (BBQ), cold beers and tall stories of how far we each got wheels off the ground.

For Tarryn and I, the experience was extremely valuable and greatly increased our technical driving abilities and most importantly, our confidence. I would definitely recommend contacting Suzuki Bryanston or Wizerd to get onto a course or join the Suzuki 4x4 club to get into four-wheel driving. It is an experience that I have no doubt will help us get through Africa!

Contact the Magicians

If you want to organise a spot in your own dusty classroom or to chat about getting involved use the contacts below. Click on the images to be redirected to the respective sites.

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/).