The 6th Classic Safari Challenge - 2017
9 October - 5 November 2017
Classic Safari Reports
Safari Diary from Sossusvlei - October 12
Day 1: Cape Town to Clanwilliam - The cape clouds had cleared overnight to give us a bright and clear morning with a deep blue sky. Under which, Fred Gallagher promptly flagged off Graham and Marina Goodwin at 8.01am. Pearl, their Bentley slid gently down the ramp and onto the first test of the day.
Two laps of Killarney Race Track was on offer to settle the crews into their rallying rhythm and, John and Nicole Whitelock aboard a Ford Coupe took the top spot in the Vintageant category whilst Peter and Zoe Lovett, in their Porsche trumped the rest of the Classics. From the racetrack it was out onto the fast and free flowing N7 highway for the northerly run to a coffee halt in Malmesbury.
This is the epic Cape - Namibia route and the wide open views hinted at the sheer expanse of this country / continent and presaged what was ahead of us. Young vineyards, fields of cereals and stands of palm trees sat either side of the ribbon of blacktop and were filled with farm workers and tin windmills alike.
Some crews were also lucky enough too see ostrich running alongside the road, pools full of pink flamingo on the approach to a long and dusty gravel section with a passage control, manned by the very same Fred Gallagher and his sweep chauffeur, Jamie Turner, who’d hot footed it straight from the startline.
The Rally was heading towards the Atlantic by this time and soon enough we pulled into a dusty roadside halt and enjoyed a most fantastic beachside BBQ lunch at Muisbosskerm. The fish was so fresh that when we arrived it was pretty much still swimming around in the boiling surf. Served up with hunks of warm home made bread, and with mussel shells used as spoons, this was a lunch to remember.
Out in the carpark meanwhile, Andy Inskip was busy reattaching a headlight to the Porsche of Bertie and Charlotte van Houtte and Keith and Norah Ashworth rolled in late in with a mystery noise from their Mercedes which they think needs further investigation.
From the lunch break, the last 60km into Clanwilliam was plain sailing on good tarmac with stunning views of the Cedarberg Mountains. The crews arrived in town with plenty of time to enjoy a fine evening of food, drink and dancing in the charming Yellow Aloe guest house.
Day 2: Clanwilliam to Fish River Canyon - A long day lay ahead of us today, so at 7.30am the first cars rolled away from Clanwilliam and set a course northwards along the Olifants River to a short gravel Test of the same name. Six rocky, twisty and boulder strewn kilometres later it was Stephen and Samantha Hardwick aboard a Datsun 240 who emerged victorious and doubtless took to the long pull on the N7 with something of a spring in their step.
The rally regrouped at a hot and dusty passage control in Springbok where the delights of the local Wimpy bar were supplemented by the excellent packed lunch which the Yellow Aloe has supplied upon our departure.
The border was the focus of today so after a quick cold drink, the crews climbed back into their hot cars and headed up to Vioolsdrif on the Orange River which divides South Africa and Namibia. Once the carnets and passports had been stamped the rally rolled into the second country of the trip and very soon found itself on the smooth and rewarding gravel piste of the Richtersveld National Park for which this country is so well known.
Plumes of dust marked the route as the 35 cars thundered over the fringes of the Namib Desert and the Richtersveld National Park. The gravel is good here which led David Roberts to quip that “Namibian gravel is better than the roads in Barnsley”.
Sadly, Vic and Ann Norman’s beautiful Porsche 356 overheated on the run into Canyon Village and was towed for 50km by Bob Harrod into the night halt where a full inspection revealed that this little Stuttgart stormer wouldn’t be going any further. The crew are disappointed but have already made plans to continue with us in another vehicle.
Gary Culver’s Ferrari on the other arrived in the car park sporting a pair of Jamie Turners underpants which had been press ganged into service as an emergency air filter. Jamie’s now hoping that tomorrow’s route won’t bounce him around too much.
Before dinner was served some crews took the opportunity to visit the impressive Fish River Canyon, some 20km away but returned in plenty of time to sample the excellent kudu steak and impressive wines on offer.
Under the biggest of star filled African skies the Classic Safari then settled down for the night and enjoyed a well deserved sleep.
Day 3: Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei - After the darkest of nights came the brightest of dawns, and an alfresco breakfast on the terrace was the perfect way to start the day.
Time was allowed this morning for those crews who didn’t get to see the Fish River Canyon last night to pay a visit today before the Rally got underway again from the landmark Canyon Roadhouse cafe and fuel station some 20km from the night halt.
From around 8.30am, the crews formed an orderly line for the one and only pump. The last that they’d see for quite a while in this wildest of wilderness areas. And, with only 100 km of tarmac today, the route promised to be a lot of fun.
The first passage control, 80km along the road, was in Naute Kristall and was conveniently situated in a gin distillery where Fred Gallagher and Jamie Turner respectively stamped the time cards and fettled all manner of minor niggles before the cars pressed on to the lunch control in Helmeringhausen.
This little village has been visited before by the ERA before and, word had spread through the crews that the best apple cake in all of Namibia was on offer along with excellent coffee and a selection of fresh sandwiches. The fact that there was a fuel station right opposite and a general store alongside, which sold anything and everything, merely served to gild the lily.
Once man and machine had replenished themselves, the rally sallied forth once more onwards to the day’s Test at Zarishoogte Pass where Delle Grimsmo and Bob Harrod lit the blue touch paper at the start, whilst Pete Stone along with Jim Smith clocked them in after 14 twisty and dusty kilometres. Marco Halter and Claudia Engelhardt took the honours here with a blistering performance in their Porsche.
It wasn’t all plain sailing after the test though and, Nicole Whitelock suffered an oil leak on the way into the Sossusvlei night halt. Soon after, Mike and Lorna Harrison snapped a wishbone which was lashed back together by Jamie Turner allowing them to limp into the night halt.
Despite yesterday’s application of Jamie Turners underwear, Gary and Debbie Culver’s Italian Stallion lost its clutch today and has had to retire. The crew are going to continue however and will catch up on tomorrow’s rest day.
Day 4: Visit to the Sossusvlei Dunes - Sossusvlei, in the Namib-Naukluft National Park is famous for its huge sand dunes and most crews took an early morning drive into the middle of them today, where they seized the opportunity to climb and then run down “Big Daddy” into the iconic Dead Vlei forest with its white crusted floor and sun bleached stumps.
A desert breakfast was then enjoyed under the shade of an ancient camel thorn tree, before the fleet of safari vehicles which had carried us there, whisked the rally back to the Sossusvlei Lodge with all of its creature comforts.
Those with urgent mechanical work to do and who had not been on the dune drive this morning were now joined by those with less urgent work along with four very hot sweeps.
Andy Inskip, Tony Jones, Jamie Turner and Bob Harrod slaved heroically under the full sun with only minimal shade offered by the slatted cane car ports, although Dana Hradecka and Nicole Whitelock attempted to keep them cool with regular deliveries of ice cream and cold drinks.
Marco Rollinger’s Alfa needed some attention to its steering box, whilst Philip & Laurette Macwhirter’s Morgan, which joined us last night after a heroic catch up drive from Port Elizabeth, required work to its ignition and speedometer cable. Mike Harrison meanwhile, managed to have his wishbone repaired, courtesy of a local mechanic.
In such a setting as this and with a day of balloon flights, helicopter rides and light aircraft sorties to look back on, the dinner this evening was a boisterous one.
Tomorrow though we’re back on the road as we head to the coast at Swakopmund with its famous flamingoes via two tests and another exceptional bakery at Solitaire.
Day 5: Sossusvlei to Swakopmund - Jan Hradecky - The ERA is saddened to report that Classic Safari competitor Jan Hradecky has died following a road traffic accident in Namibia. Jan’s wife Dana was with him and received minor head and facial injuries. Jan received medical treatment at the scene but sadly his injuries were too severe.
No other vehicles were involved in the incident. Another competitor arrived on the scene as the accident happened and alerted the medical team immediately, who administered treatment on the scene. Jan's family has been notified.
Rally Director Fred Gallagher said: “Jan was a seasoned rally participant, having competed in our 2016 Peking to Paris Motor Challenge. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Jan's wife Dana, their family and friends at this difficult time.”
The Endurance Rally Association team in Africa and the UK Rally office are working with the local police and the Czech Embassy in Pretoria to offer the family whatever assistance is needed.