The 2003 Classic Safari Challenge
A three week marathon drive across the heart of Africa.
To the sound of cheering onlookers...
To the sound of cheering onlookers - the Cape Town Crankhandle Club had turned up with cars ranging from a mint MG TC to pre-war Fords - Lord Montagu dropped the flag.
We slipped away from the shadows of Table Bay Mountain and were soon pounding over the switchback roads heading north towards the Cedarburg Mountains, for our first overnight halt, in lodges around Clanwilliam. The food and entertainment laid on by the local primary school was first class… a benchmark for the rest of the route.
No dramas, or results, were anticipated. But Bill Borchert Larson lived up to past form and was found by the roadside, the yellow Rolls Royce having given up the Ghost, along with several big-ends, so was towed back to Cape Town by Peter and Betty in the mobile workshop.
The rest made a very early start, watched the sunrise over the Cedarburg Mountains, as vingtageants headed by Bill Ainscough and his lively Vauxhall Prince Henry tackled the first of a series of long gravel roads…. several hundred miles of this in the next few days.
A “champagne section” kept those who wanted to have a “bit of a go” on their toes, and Paul Merryweather and Sandra Deacon had the Mercedes that had finished second overall on our Around the World in 80 Days flying once more, setting best performance. Mick Darcey and Steve Hutchinson’s MG B V8 growled it’s discontent with having to swallow so much dust and settled for second place.The Vintageants are above such antics, but Richard Newman was putting in a drive that would not disgrace a more modern classic in his pre-war Chrysler sports special.
So ended Day Two, in time for high tea at the splendid Cannon Lodge out at Fish River Canyon, only room for a rally with less than 30 cars so it’s a comfortable fit. Little stone huts with all mod cons under a thatched roof dotted around the canyon, with a central barbecue (really excellent grub here) made this a most memorable place to stay. Forget the comforts of Table Bay Hotel back in Cape Town, all the five-star hotels merge together, memories are truly made of spots like this.
Day Three has seen us pound more ultra smooth gravel roads well off the normal beaten track, up through the stunning Namib Desert, tonight we arrived at Sesrium, another tiny lodge with individual service, no mobile phones, again, sorry, folks back home, we are all on another planet at the moment. Everyone bar Bill Larson has a Gold Medal, everyone is having the time of their lives, and during the dinner party tonight, Mick Darcey and Steve Hutchinson collected the Champagne for best performance on the blast in the gravel this afternoon, and not to leave out the vintageants another spirited drive by Richard Newman's in his Chrysler 75 earned a second bottle of champagne. .
Several cars have blocked fuel filters and things, so Tony Fowkes, Andy Inskip, Peter and Betty, have been rather busy, but still made it on time to dine with the rest of us. A lantern lights up a nearby watering hole and many animals are expected to take refreshment tonight under a star-lit sky… and we are not talking just about dusty rally-drivers. Oh, and in case you are wondering, it was so hot several in-car thermometers were off their dials today, everyone is in shorts or hot-pants, and tomorrow is expected to be even hotter.
An early morning start to take time out to go and see the giant Namibian sand dunes, so, we do not resume our motoring escapade until a very civilised lunchtime. More chit-chat soonest, but dependant on Kate Aidie and the beam-it-up device…. why this should be so tricky, here in the middle of nowhere, is somewhat hard to fathom. The sky is so brilliant, you can see the satellites from our dinner table. (ed. if you'e reading this before Wednesday night it must have worked)
Our picture above shows the Bentley R Saloon of Jens and Anne Pilo in the beautiful Namibian landscape today.
Finally, the cars are great, so is the company, and the scenery has been truly breathtakingly stunning…. does it go on like this all the way to Kenya?