The Mighty Rwenzoris

The Mighty Rwenzoris

 

 

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

This is a brief summary of our epic trip to climb three of Africa’s five highest summits in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda. Full accounts will be published in the Getaway and Sawubona Magazines in the coming months and posted to our articles page. Don’t miss the summit gallery, trip info and video at the end! Hopefully, this wets your appetite for more ;).

Sitting here, bouncing our way in Badger on yet another potholed dirt road, it is difficult to believe our trip to the Rwenzoris was real. It is similarly difficult to believe that despite the odds; the variability of weather, possibility of sickness or fatigue stopping us, we made it up all three mountains. Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke (4,890m) and Mt Baker (4,844m), respectively the 3rd, 4th and 5th highest mountains in Africa, are under our belt. It feels like a dream. I suppose in many ways for Tarryn and I, it is the culmination of part of our dream.

The mighty Rwenzori Mountains; the mountains we climbed. From left to right Mt Stanley, Mt Speke and Mt Baker, the 3rd to 5th highest mountains in our continent.

We are under no illusion that we had support in getting to the top. From our friends, family, amazing sponsors, our guides and most importantly the great Rwenzori Mountain God; Kitasamba. Anyone who knows big mountains, knows there is never a guarantee and some level of luck is involved in summiting, thus we thank our lucky stars.

However, in addition to luck, summiting the Rwenzoris took many other things which I am very proud of our team, including Tarryn and adventure buddy Immo, for possessing. They required physical and mental toughness, intense determination and a desire for adventure.

Heading toward the top of Mt Stanley, shown in the background. Once at the summit, the weather closed bringing with it freezing winds.

They also all required high tolerance to ridiculously frigid conditions, something Tarryn seriously lacked but our great Mont Bell clothing helped with, early alpine starts and most importantly an unnaturally high level of tenacity.  This last requirement Tarryn showed in absolute abundance on all three mountains as she pushed through fatigue and constant mild hypothermia to get to the summits. These feats of determination earned her limitless respect from all of us there and the nickname “Suzuki,” for being small and tough as nails.

In spite of, maybe because of, the often harsh conditions; never ending bogs, frequent black ice and rough terrain, the hike was mind-blowingly awesome! The entire range is an other-worldly assortment of strange plants and animals, like the three-horned chameleon and scenes which appear to have stopped evolving somewhere in the Jurassic period.

The being from the other world; one of the strange three horned chameleons we met on our journey in the mystical mountains.

The mountains themselves were incredible and well worth the toil required to get to them. In general what can be said is that all the mountains were more technical than we expected and provided a proper adventure. From crampons and ice axes, to gloves, walking poles, gaiters and harnesses, our Black Diamond gear was put to the test. We are happy to say the gear performed with flying colours.

This said, while the mountains shared similarities, each also had its own character unique challenges. Our routes up Mt Baker (4,844m, Africa #5) and Mt Speke (4,890m, Africa #4) were both free of glaciers but included some technical but really fun sections of scrambling. As we were to find, black ice, and in Speke’s case normal ice and snow, made the climbs interesting, challenging and at times really slippery! Tarryn came back laden with bruises from all the slides she succumbed to.

“in the 9 years I have worked in the Rwenzories I have seen the glaciers melt further every year. Watching them I can even cry…” If you want to experience these mountains in all their glory, get there fast.

 

Enock

Head Guide, Rwenzori Trekking Services

 

The calm before the storm, literally. Sharpening, checking and fitting our crampons. As with anything, in mountaineering “proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.”

This said, while the mountains shared similarities, each also had its own character unique challenges. Our routes up Mt Baker (4,844m,

The start of mighty Margerhita glacier. Now receding further up the mountain each year the start of the glacier is very steep and technical. Notice the specks; they are people.

 

Africa #5) and Mt Speke (4,890m, Africa #4) were both free of glaciers but included some technical but really fun sections of scrambling. As we were to find, black ice, and in Speke’s case normal ice and snow, made the climbs interesting, challenging and at times really slippery! Tarryn came back laden with bruises from all the slides she succumbed to.

In our eyes though, Margherita Peak of Mt Stanley, who at 5,109m (Africa #3) is the undisputed King of the Rainmakers, stole the show and our adventurous desires. With two glaciers enroute to the top, Mt Stanley is a true adventure to climb. Unfortunately due to effects of climate change and environmental degradation, these beautiful ice rivers are predicted to be gone by 2025. Enock, Head Guide for Rwenzori Trekking Services who we walked with said “in the 9 years I have worked in the Rwenzories I have seen the glaciers melt further every year. Watching them I can even cry.”

Our hike to the Mountains of the Moon took ten days and covered about 108km. We went with the local company Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS), based out of Kilembe, Uganda. Both the hike and the company we used were superb. RTS even went as far as offering hot water bottles at the end of each day’s hike! Considering their highest camp, ‘Margherita,’ is approximately 4500m high and bloody freezing, this was a pleasant and in Tarryn’s case, necessary, luxury. The mountains of food provided at each meal time were also awesome and their guides friendly, well trained and super knowledgeable. They even supplied us with high quality Black Diamond crampons and ice axes for the Margherita climb. While we generally like to carry our own packs in this case it was great in this case it was great to only have our lighter Osprey mountaineering packs for the strenuous hiking while porters carried our large packs.

Some mountains are made of food. The massive meal provided to us by RTS on the first night of our hike.

It must be understood that the hike will cost a bit of money. Once you get there is it very clear where it goes. In addition to the above, RTS provides really high quality huts at nearly every camp and well cut and maintained trails. Moreover, from what we understand a lot of money is funnelled into community development and conservation and provides a huge amount of local jobs.

The Rwenzoris is another world. A world of wonder, intrigue and adventure. We would recommend it to anyone, ideally without a fear of heights, who is looking to experience true mountains in the heart of Africa. If it sounds like your thing then get there fast before the magical ice rivers melt.

Don’t miss the EPIC summit gallery, information and video below!

Tips on Getting to the Rwenzoris?

Lets face it, who wouldn’t be interested!! Its the best hike we have done and one of the coolest places we have ever seen.

Important Notes: Unfortunately you can’t hike alone and must use an operator. Having been there we KNOW this is a good idea anyway. Unless you like swimming in mud do your best to go in the dry season (Jan – Feb and June – July), you’ll swim in less mud in season. Get fit, the hike is relatively strenuous.

Contacts: We went with Rwenzori Trekking Services (http://www.rwenzoritrekking.com/, rwenzoritrekking@gmail.com). All prices on their website, our hike was around $1520 per person for ten days. It is a bit more expensive if two people or less. Note that prices exclude Ugandan Wildlife park fees ($35US per person per night in the park) and optional tips (totaling about R1000 per person for a ten day trip if you follow suggestions).

Happy Exploring :)!

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Light is Fast!

Light is Fast!

 

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

“Light is Fast,” the motto of our apparel partner Mont Bell, is an idea which is close to our hearts and one of the key themes of Suzuki Africa Sky High. To us, in three words the apparently simple pun manages to sum up a very important philosophy; ‘minimalism.’

To most people, the idea of minimalism involves being overly stingy and having less than what you actually need. In our minds, however, it is about having exactly what you need and no more. For example instead of carrying a huge amount of cutlery and crockery on our expedition with us, we have two plates, two bowls, two spoons, two of everything. We don’t need or have space for spares, “just in case.”

A “light,” lunch on the road side is our most common type of midday meal…

On a mountaineering expedition, you can only carry what you need to survive. Food and water is hard to decrease in size but having light Sea to Summit titanium cutlery and fold up bowls, 350g down jackets and other lightweight multi-purpose clothing from MontBell, a small Jetboil stove and hiking equipment from Black Diamond rather than bulkier equipment significantly helps curb space requirements.

Anyone wanting to overland in a Suzuki Jimny needs embrace the concepts of mountaineering and hiking. They need to understand minimalism is not just a hippie concept; it is biblical law. The Jimny being the Jimny, there simply is not space for overindulgence or carrying excess useless cr@p. This is part of the beauty and draw of the Jimny; it forces simplicity.

Our philosophy for Suzuki Africa Sky High came from our other world’s of hiking and climbing. Pack light is the idea as you have to carry everything. Taken from the top of a climb up the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town.

Anyone wanting to overland in a Suzuki Jimny needs embrace the concepts of mountaineering and hiking… This is part of the beauty and draw of the Jimny; it forces simplicity… For this reason a large amount of our gear is from hiking and adventure brands like Black Diamond and Sea to Summit, who live by the minimalist ideal and specialise in lightweight equipment.

Team Tane

However, minimalism is not just a concept bred for small car aficionados. It is something we can all benefit from on overland trips, while travelling and in general life. There is a large amount of tangible research which correlates an increase in happiness and reduction in anxiety levels from having less stuff cluttered around us. Thinking about it, it’s really a simple concept. The less we have, the less we have to worry about, the easier things are to find. For us on Suzuki Africa Sky High, less stuff means we can actually move our chairs back as there is space under the seat. If you are interested a book called “Stuffacation,” covers this topic in far more detail.

Hanging out in comfort with nothing other than what we have in Badger… And in a Suzuki Jimny, its not that much.

With all of this in mind we have some ideas we would like to suggest trying to help reduce clutter particularly when packing for a trip:

1.Think Up Not Down: When we were packing for Suzuki Africa Sky High we constantly found people saying “you will NEVER fit what you need in that Jimny.” Undoubtedly the people were owners of large 4x4s comparing our little pocket rocket to their monster trucks. Our response was always “it is bigger than a motorbike or our Osprey hiking packs.” This was our secret, we compared Badger to things smaller than him. We were thinking like motorbikers or hikers not Overlanders;

This is our playground and the birthplace of our mentality, we think up from what we can carry in our Osprey Packs as we climb with our Black Diamond gear to what we can fit into our Suzuki Jimny.

2. Pack Light: It is important to understand that like all tools, outdoor equipment is made fit for purpose. For this reason a large amount of our gear is from hiking and adventure brands like Black Diamond and Sea to Summit, who live by the minimalist ideal and specialise in lightweight equipment. Clothing also takes up lots of space so try pack versatile, lightweight and easy to clean clothes. It is for these reasons we partnered with Mont Bell. Opposite Lock also stocks some great camping equipment which packs down well. Just remember think light; instead of buying the giant cast iron #3 potjie, buy an Aluminum #1. Also, the less clothing you pack, the less items you need to clean!

3. Compartmentalise: There is NOTHING more frustrating than spending hours trying to find stuff in your car or backpack while in the bush. You need to be pedantic about where stuff goes and always put it back in the right place. It really helps if things have a specific place rather than just leaving them to roll around. Draw systems, dash covers and bags like those supplied to us by Wizerd and plastic boxes which you can buy from any plastic shop are great for this purpose.

Tarryn showing off our awesome draw system and bags which compartmentalise and organise our life on the road. The big plastic boxes sit on top.

4. Cut the Cr@p: As I eluded to earlier part of being lightweight is simply having less stuff. A contact called Coenie from Cederberg 4x4 once said to me “when packing for your first overland trip lay all your stuff on the ground, cut it in half, then half again. Keep the remainder.” Take only what you need and need only what you take. You will learn “what ifs,” are generally not necessary;

5. Use the Space: All of it. We pack under the seats, behind the seats, on the roof, next to the draws, everywhere we can. See space for what it is. If you need it use it.

Following this principle of minimalism and embracing the ideal of living simply has been a big part of our success up till now. Not only did it allow us to fit our lives and entire adventure cupboard into our Suzuki Jimny Badger, it has also kept us sane over the first 1.5 months of our trip. Trust us, whether you live from a car, backpack or house; light is fast.

Hanging out in the bush can be comfortable with little other than what we have on our back.

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White Nile Water

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read more

Love Don’t Need

Love Don’t Need

 

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

One of the most gratifying things when doing an expedition in the style of Suzuki Africa Sky High, i.e. sharing it with the world, is actually getting responses from that world. Since starting our trip we have had some amazing interactions with our friends and followers, including inspirational messages and notes on our how adventure has inspired. In addition to these we have had some great questions, many of which had caused us to stop and think to find the answers.

Lekhubu island with some of our loves; our Flexopower panel from Opposite Lock, Power Traveller panel on left and shower skirt on the Front Runner tent can all be seen,.

This blog is inspired by our friend and follower Vic Rundle who recently asked “Now that you have been on the road for a while can you tell us what you didn’t take that you needed, what you took which you didn’t need and what you took which you love.” Here is our go at a response:

Need – What we forgot but have needed – Fortunately the list is pretty short but has some key items:

  • Mont Bell Soft Shell jackets or a similar mid-layer: we only have thermals then puffy jackets and waterproof layers;
  • More canisters for our Jetboil cooker: they are hard to find North of SA;
  • Goggles, Snorkels and Pillows: Wish we had these but simply did not have space;
  • Tracks4Africa SD Card: As explaining in Dawn Part 1, forgetting this was a big balls up but thankfully we have since replaced.

Life’s a beach. Chilling out making coffee on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, Kigoma. Shown are our Sea to Summit fold up pot and cups, our Jetboil and the peculator and flask give to us by my Brother and Sis-In-Law.

Don’t – The things we took but haven’t used: Even shorter than the last list… its hard to overpack useless cr@p in a Suzuki Jimny:

  • Solar Shower: It’s a nice to have that we haven’t used. Call us grubs but we don’t shower often when facilities are scarce. In the interest of hygiene we tend to have “wet wipe baths,” and only shower every 2-3 days or swim in a river;
  • Mountains of Medicine: With the best of intentions, Tarryn packed enough medicine to look after an army; around 5 bags full. Seriously considering dropping half of it at the nearest clinic so we can properly move our seats back.

One of the many views we have seen out Badger’s front window throughout the thousands of kms travelled. You can see Wizerd’s dash protector.

Love – The bits and bobs which put smiles on our faces:

  • The mini perculator and flask from Shane’s brother Dylan and our Sister in Law Siobhan, thanks guys!
  • Two laptop batteries: very useful for doing blogs and videos on the road;
  • Solar Panels (Fold up panel from Opposite Lock (OL) and Power Monkey Extreme: The OL panel keeps our battery charged and fridge cold while we are stopped for numerous days and Power Monkey keeps our devices and camera charged;
  • Fold-up Pot from Sea to Summit: Tarryn begged for this for months until I eventually conceded, have now realised it is EPIC for space saving;
  • Spray skirt attachment for our Front Runner tent: I begged for this for months until Tarryn eventually she conceded. She now acknowledges it is great in SO many ways; it is our changing room, shade, shelter and private storage unit among many other things;
  • Our Hammock: Don’t need to explain this one;
  • Wizerd Dash and Door Pockets: They give us so much more space than we would usually have and are absolutely amazing for storing small items which would usually get in the way.

All in all we are pretty happy with our packing and can live with our decisions, what we packed and did not… The only thing we are still mourning is the fact we forgot to download the second and third audio books for the “Discovery of Witches,” series. There is NOTHING quite like being left hanging deep in Africa.

Hanging out in arguably the coolest hammock spot in Africa, on the edge of the Lumangwe Falls, Zambia.

 

Other AWESOME Articles…

White Nile Water

We all know the Nile by name but very few of us know it by character. In this story we get to know the raging torrent of tonnes of water which pushes its way from Uganda all the way to Egypt as we battle its white water. Read about our EPIC and heart pounding day out.

read more

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 :).