The 2003 Classic Safari Challenge
A three week marathon drive across the heart of Africa.
Another short day of 350 kms, on smooth graded gravel...
Another short day of 350 kms, on smooth graded gravel, through one of the World's remotest regions. We have not seen a truck all day, just the occasional farmer's pick-up.
The ranches are big out here, one farmer added up his acreage that made him bigger than Kent and Sussex put together - and his next door neighbour is even larger.
The switch-back of sandy gravel roads runs up the Skeleton Coast and takes us once more inland, north-eastwards, with rocky red mountains providing some variety from the seemingly never-ending desert dunes.
The afternoon run into the large thatched roof lodge of Twfelfontien set in the rocks of a mountain ridge overlooking a vast plane was our rest-stop tonight. We dined out on the verandah overlooking hundreds of miles of grassy emptiness. Several crews took an opportunity to explore nearby caves and cliffs to inspect primitive bushmen's paintings thought to be 3,000 years old.
Ostriches, Springboks, Oryx, and rare eagles provided us all with company today. The road has been a mixture of dead straights that pound you out towards the far horizon, to sudden undulating switchbacks that rise and fall from washaways, and this can be tricky at times.
Richard Newman and Robert O'Hara, took a hard landing and the Chrysler Special snapped a half-shaft, the wheel then coming clean off. The only three-wheeled Chrysler in the whole of Africa spun instantly round, and finally landed on its side in a thorn bush. With several passing competitors providing immediate assistance, Mark Thake, the events paramedic, driving one of the Organisation's Land Rovers, was quickly on the scene, soon followed by rally doctor Bob Mark, and so the crew were quickly in professional hands. Richard has a suspected broken arm, and dislocated thumb, possibly from the kick-back of the steering wheel, and Robert O'Hara received cuts to his head - but remained surprisingly chatty throughout.
In order to get the crew to hospital for a more thorough check-up, an aircraft was called in, and Tony Fowkes, a pilot himself, turned a section of road into a landing strip. (We said they don't see much traffic around here). A spare tyre was set alight to provide smoke to aid the pilot with wind direction, and orange rally marker arrows found a new use in marking the edge of the strip. The pilot was full of praise for the arrangements, and Richard and Robert were soon aboard and being flown to the Namibian capital for a thorough inspection at Windhoek Hospital.
Tony Fowkes brought the Chrysler Special in to the Lodge tonight, sitting at the wheel with Andy Inskip doing the towing, and they both reckon that with a few hours attention, the Special could be flying once more. But if the rally doctor's diagnosis is right, it might be some time before Richard is driving that right arm again.
Tomorrow, we are off to Etosha Park, home of the World's biggest elephants, and the scenery changes once more.