The 6th Classic Safari Challenge – 2017
9 October - 5 November 2017
The 6th Classic Safari Challenge – 2017
The Entry List for this event is now fully subscribed.
Particpants on the The 6th Classic Safari Challenge will be exploring some totally new territory within South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and travelling through some stunning terrain.
The driving days are superb with scenery ranging from forest to desert taking in the Indian Ocean and Namibia’s majestic Skeleton coast. Our route takes you through vast plains, vineyards, beaches and game parks with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the spectacular wildlife. A light aircraft flight will take you to the Okavango Delta where you can relax in luxurious lodges and enjoy a choice of game drives.
A first for the Classic Safari, we will stay in the Marine Hotel, Hermanus, giving you the opportunity for whale watching as October is the ideal time to see them. You will stay at the very best accommodation available with maximum comfort, good friends, fine dining and soak up Africa’s stunning atmosphere.
The month of October is one of the best times to visit South Africa, pleasant temperatures, neither too hot nor too cold with balmy evenings and just a little rainfall. It will be the very beginning of the African summer and a good time for game viewing. We are looking to take 25 cars with us on this experience of a lifetime.
The Classic Safari is a rally with a strong social content, exhilarating driving days, spiced up with an optional Time Trial for those who want to have a bash at some competitive driving. If you simply want to tour around, then a tarmac alternative route will be available. You can drive the test or take the main road.
There will be no trick navigation, no map work or GPS usage, no regularity driving, just a simple Tulip route book making the rally suitable for both newcomers to the sport and for the more experienced who really enjoy driving fabulous roads. We have over 70 international events under our belt, including 12 rallies to Africa. We will give you all the necessary support to get you to the start line and through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Our mobile mechanics and medical team provide you with the backup and peace of mind you need to totally enjoy this unique event. Luxury accommodation in exclusive lodges and game parks, most evening meals, selected lunches on special days, third party vehicle insurance, game reserve and safari park entry fees, internal light aircraft flights, secure parking, rally plates, decals, competition numbers, route books, medical notes and vehicle preparation tips are all included in the entry fee. As this is the 6th edition of the Classic Safari, we intend to take advantage of past experience to dial in to some improvements.
We have a route that concentrates on luxury accommodation with as many places of interest to visit as the schedule allows. More rest days will increase the time available for relaxation, giving you the opportunity to really enjoy all that Africa has to offer. We revisit some favourite haunts; the unique and remarkable Tuihuis, Craddock, The Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe, and return to the spectacular Phinda Game Reserve, last visited by the event in 2006. We have managed to secure accommodation close enough to the dunes of Sossusvlei to enjoy the sunrise and experience its effect on the dunes, without it being a 4am start!
The 6th Classic Safari Challenge 2017 – Participants
Updated 19th August 2017 – the entry for this event is fully subscribed
|1||Graham Goodwin(GB) / Marina Goodwin(GB)||1929 – Bentley VDP||4398|
|3||Keith Ashworth(GB) / Norah Ashworth(GB)||1927 – Bentley 4½ Le Mans||4398|
|4||Clint Smith(GB) / Dawn Smith(GB)||1967 – Jaguar E-Type||4200|
|5||Manoj Saxena(USA) / Avi Saxena(IN)||1935 – Alvis Speed 20||2654|
|6||Philip Macwhirter(AUS) / Laurette Macwhirter(AUS)||1968 – Morgan Plus 8||3528|
|7||Mike Velasco(GB) / Maria Garcia Fernandez(E)||1935 – Bentley Derby||3500|
|8||Arnold Meier(CH) / Melanie Meier(CH)||1938 – Chevrolet Fangio Coupe||4000|
|9||Manuel Dubs(CH) / Irene Dubs(CH)||1940 – Ford Coupe||3619|
|10||Herman Wielfaert(B) / Katrien Tremerie(B)||1948 – Bentley Speed 8||5675|
|11||John Whitelock(GB) / Nicole Whitelock(GB)||1938 – Ford Coupe||3622|
|14||Marco Rollinger(LU) / Marianne Hengesch(LU)||1952 – Alfa Romeo Matta AR51||1884|
|15||Mario Illien(CH) / Catherine Illien(CH)||1955 – Citroen 11B||1911|
|16||Albrecht Haase(D) / Christine Haase(D)||1958 – Jaguar Mk1||3524|
|17||Dirk de Groen(NL) / Alexandra de Groen(USA)||1958 – Mercedes Benz 219||2195|
|18||Mike Harrison(GB) / Lorna Harrison(GB)||1959 – Volvo PV544||1800|
|19||Bertie Van Houtte(F) / Charlotte Van Houtte(GB)||1965 – Porsche 911||1991|
|20||Hermann Frye-Hammelmann(D) / Gisela Hammelmann(D)||1975 – Ford Escort RS||2300|
|21||Vic Norman(GB) / Anne Norman(GB)||1964 – Porsche 356 coupe||1600|
|22||Roy Stephenson(GB) / Rachel Stephenson(GB)||1965 – Ford Mustang||4700|
|23||Jan Hradecky(CZ) / Dana Hradecka(CZ)||1965 – Mercedes Benz 230SL||2290|
|24||Gavin Henderson(GB) / Diana Henderson(GB)||1965 – Porsche 911||1991|
|25||Thomas Beyer(CH) / Verena Simmen(CH)||1965 – Volvo Amazon 122S||1780|
|26||Mick de Haas(NL) / Grace de Haas(NL)||1966 – Mercedes Benz 230SL||2334|
|29||Ed Howle(USA) / Janet Howle(USA)||1968 – Audi 100s||1800|
|30||David Roberts(GB) / Jo Roberts(GB)||1968 – Triumph TR250||2498|
|31||Jose Romao de Sousa(PT) / Maria Romao de Sousa(PT)||1968 – Volvo 142S||1993|
|32||Gunther Schmidt-Lindner(AUS) / Jillian Schmidt-Lindner(AUS)||1969 – Ford Mustang Mach 1||5000|
|33||Tom Van Den Berg(NL) / Femke Schepers(NL)||1969 – Mercedes Benz 280SL||2800|
|34||Stephen Hardwick(GB) / Samantha Hardwick(GB)||1971 – Datsun 240Z||2393|
|35||Gianmaria Aghem(I) / Rossella Conti(I)||1972 – Lancia Fulvia Coupe||1584|
|36||Marco Halter(CH) / Claudia Engelhardt(D)||1973 – Porsche 911||2994|
|37||Peter Lovett(GB) / Zoe Lovett(GB)||1973 – Porsche 911T||2341|
|38||Alan Beardshaw(GB) / Tina Beardshaw(GB)||1973 – Triumph TR6||2498|
|39||Gary Culver(GB) / Debbie Culver(GB)||1976 – Ferrari 308 GT4||2926|
|40||Edmund Peel(GB) / Sara MacDonald(GB)||1977 – Porsche 911 Carrera RS||2700|
The Route Outline – Day-by-Day
Saturday 7 October – Cape Town
A champagne reception, followed by a sit down dinner for all entrants; a chance to catch up with old friends and the opportunity to meet new ones. We will start our African Adventure from Africa’s number one hotel chain– the One & Only, in Cape Town. With captivating views of the iconic Table Mountain from its enviable location on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, this hotel offers all the luxury you would expect from a 5 star establishment. An ideal starting point for your fabulous journey. On the morning of your arrival on Saturday 7 October, you will be met at the Rally Welcome Desk where information about collecting your car in the afternoon and Saturday evening’s Gala Dinner will be given to you, along with an information booklet about the event.
Sunday 8 October – Cape Town
During Sunday afternoon, after your car has been through the usual safety checks and documentation has been completed, there will be an informal briefing session with maps and photos of the fabulous roads you are about to drive. The evening will be free for you to explore the sights and to enjoy the wonderful restaurants around the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
Day 1: Cape Town to Clanwilliam 320kms
A relaxed start time sees us leaving Cape Town behind for a few weeks as we head north, keeping as close to the coast as the road allows. We pass through the quaint fishing village of Elands Bay, a wonderful spot for dolphin and whale watching, stopping for a welcome coffee. October is whale watching time so have the camera ready. After experiencing the first of South Africa’s superb gravel roads we head to Muisbosskerm, Lamberts Bay for a fabulous outdoor seafood experience. Voted as one of the world’s ‘Top Ten Seaview’s to Dine For’ by National Geographic, it promises to be a memorable lunch. As we continue onwards, the magnificent Cedarberg Mountains come into view, providing the roads with a fabulous back drop. A short afternoon drive takes us to the Oliphant’s River Valley for our first overnight halt in Clanwilliam.
Day 2: Clanwilliam to Fish River Canyon 650kms
A long day ahead, so we set off early and move northwards eventually following the course of the enormous Orange River. Within a few kilometres of leaving Clanwilliam, we have our first medal test of the day. We stop over in Springbok for lunch, where we should see the incredible transformation which occurs every Spring, with the scrubland exploding into colour from thousands of flowers hidden in the dusty earth, brought to life by winter rains. A truly spectacular sight.
Today is a border day as we cross into Namibia through a quick and efficient border post. We follow the unmapped road across the desert to the Richtersveld National Park. The infamous smooth gravel roads of Namibia make for a great afternoon drive to the Fish River Canyon area. As before when in this area, we will stop for coffee at the Canyon Roadhouse, an amazing American-style café, on our way to tonight’s overnight halt.
Day 3: Fish River Canyon to Sossusvlei 550kms
Today’s route takes in more gravel roads that dip and curve through to lunch at Helmeringhausen with fascinating scenery to enjoy on the way. With a medal test before lunch and one after, it is an action packed day. A stop off at the Helmeringhausen Hotel for lunch; sampling their famous apple cake and browsing in their gift shop, is a must. The fuel station in the main street will be a welcome sight.
The afternoon takes us onto roads that wind through the Namib Desert to our overnight halt, one hour from the famous dunes at Sossusvlei. On the way to Sossusvlei we drive the Zarishoogte Pass, a stunning road which we have used before but well worth another visit.
Day 4: Visit to the Dunes
An early start to be at the Sossusvlei sand dunes to see the memorable sun rise, well worth getting out of bed a bit earlier. You will see Dune 45 which appears in many publicity and advertising shots. As the sun rises, black shadows are cast on the western side of the dune contrasting sharply with the bright sunlight on the eastern side. A phenomenal sight. We are hoping to organise breakfast here for you – a great photo opportunity! Back to the hotel for a relaxed afternoon and to pour over the route for tomorrow.
Day 5: Sossusvlei to Swakopmund 410kms
We leave the dunes behind and continue our journey northwards through the Namib-Naukluft National Park, stopping in Solitaire for lunch. We have more gravel medal sections including the Gaub and Kuiseb Passes as we journey through the lunar landscape of the Namib-Naukluft National Park.
We continue on to the city of Swakopmund where we will be staying in the brand new Strand Hotel. Uniquely located on the iconic and historic Swakopmund Mole and surrounded on three sides by the Southern Atlantic Ocean, the views are incredible. The city has a very German colonial feel about it and is full of great seafood restaurants. A free evening for you to explore the town and indulge in the local delicacies.
Day 6: Swakopmund to Etosha National Park 480kms
Today’s drive see us leaving Swakopmund on the unique salt road along the world famous Skelton Coast towards Henties Bay before we turn north east and back onto the superb Namibian gravel roads. This coast takes its name from the numerous wrecks of ships that the South Atlantic storms have driven onto the beach. You can top up fuel and car provisions in Uis before heading through Damaraland.
The afternoon takes us further north as the gravel road winds its way to the southern edge of Etosha National Park. Tonight we stay in the beautiful Etosha Safari Lodge and eat outside under the stars.
Day 7: Drive through Etosha
Officially a day off for you to experience Etosha National Park for yourselves. The distance today is only 120kms, with no timing. It will take you a minimum of 3 hours to drive to the Eastern gate, so bear that in mind; you can easily lose track of time watching the antics of the elephants around the many watering holes! The park is the best place in Africa to view the endangered Black Rhino; there are about 300 of them here. You will also see elephant, lion, Black Face Impala as well as the other 114 mammals that roam in the park.
Halali, halfway through the park makes a good stop over point for lunch.
Tonight we are staying on the eastern side of the park, in Mokuti Lodge where game drives and a beautiful swimming pool await you.
Day 8: Etosha National Park to Popa Falls 550kms
We leave the park behind us to travel east but do keep an eye out for those elephants on the road today. We have the first medal section in the morning ensuring we make the most of the fabulous gravel roads with a potential second one in the afternoon. Many retail opportunities await you with craft stalls along the route. Today’s gravel roads are wide and as with most of the roads in Namibia they are mainly smooth. You can’t fail to notice the huge baobab trees today, some so huge, they have been hollowed out and lived in. Lunch today is organised for you in a river lodge alongside the Okanvango River, very relaxing……
We stay in Popa Falls this evening with a sundowner out on the sandbanks, overlooking the Falls.
Day 9: Popa Falls to Chobe National Park 432kms
Good roads eat up the kilometres today as we continue our journey east towards Chobe National Park and we cross the border into Botswana. This area really is game park land and you will see many on today’s route, we counted 29. Look out for the beautiful Oryx with their dramatic face markings that roam the fields around.
A medal section in the morning on more gravel takes us through the open plains with their swaying yellow grasses. If you couldn’t stop at previous craft stalls, don’t worry there are more today!
We hope to arrange lunch at the Bezi River Village, which is located on the Zambezi River and famous for its African cuisine.
A short run into Kasane after lunch to the Chobe National Park. Chobe is famous for its elephants and you will see them here in their hundreds. We will stay overnight in the Chobe Game Lodge right on the riverbank, where you watch the elephants enjoying the water while sipping a glass of wine, what could be more relaxed? Boat rides to get closer to the elephants and the crocodiles will complete your evening here.
Day 10: Chobe National Park to Okavango Delta
A relaxed start today as we drive just a few kilometres to the secure parking where you will leave your cars behind and take light aircraft to the Delta. After a short flight, you should be in your lodge by lunchtime giving you the afternoon to relax before taking the early evening game drive.
The group will be split between 3 different lodges in the Delta, each one being equally luxurious. Definitely a time to be spoilt….
Day 11: Rest Day – Okavango Delta
A day at leisure in the lodges. This unique Delta is 15,000 sq kms in size and has a height variation of just two metres. The water flows into the Delta from the Angolan Highlands and never reaches the sea but disappears into the Kalahari or is consumed by animals or plants. During the time of the year we are there, we should see African Wild Dog (one of the world’s rarest carnivores), as well as lion, leopard, buffalo and many antelope species. Each lodge will discuss your personal requirements for game drives when you arrive.
Day 12: Transit day
Another relaxed day today as we take to the air and travel back to Chobe Game Lodge. You will be taken to collect your cars and then drive the short journey for an early finish for the day. For those that didn’t get the opportunity to experience the boat trip, maybe you can do that today. Chobe Game Lodge also has a spa, you can treat yourself to a massage or any other spa treatment. The large swimming pool and waterfall is a wonderful place to relax during the hot afternoon. The waiters are on hand to bring you a refreshment from the bar or you can just doze under the shade of the Natal Mahogany tree. Wonderful!
Day 13: Chobe National Park to Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe 120kms
A short run today to a busy border crossing, taking us into Zimbabwe. A good road will see us at the border by lunchtime, meaning you can have a lie in today or an early morning boat trip. We leave Botswana behind and head east into Zimbabwe and the fabulous colonial building of the Victoria Falls Hotel where a Gala Dinner is planned for you. We stayed here in 2013, but couldn’t resist bringing you back as it is such an iconic place.
Day 14: Day Off – Victoria Falls
The hotel has lots to offer you on this rest day. There is tennis, a large swimming pool, spa treatments and also an 18 hole golf course nearby. If you are interested, you can hire clubs and book in advance. For the more adventurous there is white water rafting along the Zambezi Gorge or maybe you would prefer a helicopter ride over the falls. This is highly recommended as the view of the Falls in full flow from the air is incomparable. The hotel will be able to book excursions for you.
The Victoria Falls are one of the wonders of the world and will not disappoint, ‘the smoke that thunders’ or ‘mosi-o-tunya’ in the local dialect, can be heard and just seen from the hotel gardens. A sheet of falling water falls at 1,000,000 litres a second, a fantastic sight and only a short walk through the hotel gardens to see it.
Day 15: Victoria Falls to Francistown 564kms
After a luxurious breakfast in Victoria Falls Hotel, we leave the best of Zimbabwe behind and cross the border back into Botswana. Fast, tarmac roads take us to Nata for lunch where we have organised a braii in the boma. After lunch we drive past the Makgadikgadi Basin, where the salt pans are the largest in the world; they make a rather desolate scene but with a magnetic attraction. Very few animals live here except the odd wildebeest but the bird-life is prolific, look out for low flying pelicans!
The fast tarmac roads continue to our overnight halt in Francistown, Botswana’s second largest city after Gaborone. Francistown was the centre of southern Africa’s first gold rush and is still surrounded by old and abandoned mines. We have arranged to eat in the beautiful gardens of the Cresta Marang Hotel tonight.
Day 16: Francistown to Sun City 595kms
Today’s the day when we follow in the footsteps of Vasca da Gama and cross the ‘Great, grey-green greasy Limpopo River’ made famous by Rudyard Kipling in his book ‘The Elephant’s Child’. Our journey today allows you to experience the unspoilt African bushveld and a beauty that is breathtaking, the views are so incredible.
There is also the glorious stillness and quiet that comes with real, open bushveld that is so difficult to describe, but once experienced is never forgotten. Visits to this part of South Africa never fail to haunt, and give one a taste for open space and grasslands, unbeatable sunsets and the sounds of the African bush. This is Africa at its best.
After crossing the quick and efficient border back into South Africa, we take to the gravel roads through Waterberge National Park on our way to tonight’s hotel and another first for the Classic Safari, Palace of the Lost City in Sun City. Set in 25 hectares of botanical jungle and surrounded by rocky mountains, it is part of the Leading Hotels of the World chain. Another 5 star experience.
Day 17: Sun City to Misty Hills 173kms
A lazy start this morning to enjoy a relaxed breakfast in a superb setting and then a visit to the Pilanesberg National Park. Less than an hour away from Sun City, the setting of the Park is in the crater of a long extinct volcano from some 1300 million years ago. Pilanesberg is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world. Its rare rock types and structure make it a unique geological feature. You can relax, park up for a while and enjoy the game viewing before a short journey to Misty Hills. You should see the ‘Big Five’ and a wide variety of rare and common species like the brown hyena, the fleet-footed cheetah, the majestic sable, as well as giraffe, zebra, hippo and crocodile, to mention but a few. The route today allows time for a medal section around Lichtenberg before finishing our day enjoying the delights of the Sandton race circuit.
Day 18: Misty Hills to Cathedral Peak 443kms
A longer drive today as we head for the Drakensberg Mountains. We leave the Misty Hills behind and take to the quiet roads, avoiding the traffic around Johannesburg and Soweto. We keep to the gravel roads all morning and then head to Heilbron for lunch. A medal section through Oliviershook Pass after lunch and then onwards to the glorious Golden Gate Highlands Park, so named because of the sun reflecting off the enormous sandstone cliffs. You cannot fail to be impressed by the soaring landscape you will see today; lots of photo opportunities for you. Tonight we stay at an old favourite, The Cathedral Peak Hotel, nestling in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, the hotel boasts one of Africa’s most comprehensive buffets and has super friendly staff. The crew of the film ‘Zulu’ stayed here when filming, so definitely a special place.
Day 19: Cathedral Peak to Phinda Game Reserve 433kms
With the Drakensberg Mountains in our rear view mirror we continue our journey on quiet gravel roads to the historic town of Ladysmith. A two medal section day today, one before we stop for lunch at Isandlwana and one in the Rorke’s Drift area. This historic region was the scene of a massive defeat for the British Army at the hands of the Zulus in the nineteenth century. The only time an entire British regiment was wiped out with only a few escaping to Rorke’s Drift. You cannot fail to imagine the Zulus lined up above you on the ridges of the hills. A stop over at the Rorke’s Drift museum and then on to our first sight of the Indian Ocean as we arrive at the stunning game reserve of Phinda. We are planning to stay in Phinda Forest Lodge, set in a rare and beautiful sand forest, the glass walls of Phinda Forest Lodge offer a sweeping view of one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. Floor to ceiling windows invite the forest in but the dense canopy provides privacy. It really is a stunning place.
Day 20: Rest Day – Phinda Game Reserve
A day of game drives, relaxing and of being totally spoilt. Enjoy……
Day 21: Phinda Game Reserve to Umhlanga 281kms
We leave the game reserve behind after a leisurely breakfast and continue towards the coast line of the Indian Ocean. Our drive today follows the beautiful coast for most of the day, dipping inland for a medal section before we stop for lunch in Richard’s Bay. Being back on the seafront, there are some fabulous seafood restaurants in town. This area is known as ‘The Dolphin Coast’ because of the frequent sightings of bottlenose dolphins playing in the Indian Ocean waves.
Tonight’s hotel is the beautiful Oyster Box, overlooking the blue sea of the Ocean, the ultimate in colonial charm & style.
Day 22: Rest Day – Umhlanga
Today you can enjoy all that the Oyster Box has to offer, maybe a Spa Treatment, a round of golf or a spot of dolphin watching from one of the bars overlooking the Ocean? You can bathe in one of the glorious pools while sipping a cocktail, the choice is yours….
Day 23: Umhlanga to Port St Johns 451kms
The road to Port St John hugs the coastline as we pass through many seaside towns. We go through the town of Margate, stopping for lunch. As we head towards Port St Johns we arrive at the area known as the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape and the scenery is mouthwatering, boasting some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the country. Port St Johns lies at the mouth of the Mzimvubu River, a river flowing through an impressive gorge known as the “Gates of St John” into an estuary on the Indian Ocean. On both sides of the river ravine are high sandstone mountain peaks that can’t fail to impress even the most ardent traveller.
Day 24: Port St Johns to Cradock 461kms
Our route today takes us inland with a completely different flavour of South Africa. Queenstown, named after Queen Victoria is a pleasant town where you can refuel both you and the cars. Very quickly you will realise the importance of the railway here as there are many steam engines on display throughout the town. After lunch and after travelling on good roads, we arrive in the small Karoo town of Tarkastad, very close to where the Battle of Elands River (1901) was fought during the Second Boer War. Our destination for tonight is Cradock, a firm favourite of the Classic Safari. Our hotel, for those that haven’t been here before, is 30 Karoo styled houses with Dutch gables, lovingly restored to their former glory. The houses occupy an entire street, at the end of which is the Victoria Hotel, also lovingly restored. All of this managed by a remarkable woman who is personally responsible for the success of this unique place. Your room key tonight will fit the door to one of the cottages in the street. Tonight we may be lucky to have the kitchen choir sing for us while we eat in the restaurant of the Victoria Hotel.
Day 25: Cradock to Plettenberg Bay 532kms
Within half an hour of leaving our unusual hotel in Cradock, we have our first medal section over the Swaershoek Pass. The road is an exquisite winding mountain road with tight hairpin bends, a real challenge for you. We continue on through the Great Karoo, a hauntingly beautiful semi desert covering a total of 400,000 square kilometres. The scenery is very dramatic caused by volcanic action 1.8 million years ago; a great drive. We head south to the Western Cape, avoiding the large city of Port Elizabeth to arrive in Plettenberg Bay via the coast road. The Bay, known locally as Plett, lies on the famous Garden Route and just south of the Garden Route National Park. Our hotel tonight is the Plettenberg, a stunning location right on the headland.
Day 26: Plettenberg Bay to Hermanus 525kms
A longer day today so we set off a little earlier and drive through the Garden Route National Park and head inland for a while. We pass through the area of Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the World and drive the Swartberg Pass. This is one of South Africa’s finest mountain passes created in the 1890’s by 200 convicts and a lot of gunpowder! After lunch in Barrydale, we continue on to one of the highlights of the trip, Hermanus. The town, originally called Hermanuspietersfontein, (shortened as the name was too long for the postal service) is famous for southern right whale watching. As we will be there at the right time of the year, we will certainly see them. Our hotel tonight, the Marine Hotel, is ideally placed for you to watch the whales while you sip your pre dinner cocktail.
Day 27: Hermanus to Franschoek 164kms
A relaxed start to the day and a chance for more whale-watching before we drive closer to Cape Town and stay overnight in Franschoek. Our route takes us around the beautiful False Bay and the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. From the road you can see the large cliffs plunging into the water, a very scenic drive. We pass through the charming town of Grabouw, where the soft drink Appeltiser was created. The area is famous for its fruit growing and we drive past many kilometres of orchards. Founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, Franschoek, one of the oldest towns in South Africa, nestles in a rich and fertile valley between glorious towering mountains, right in the beautiful Heart of the Cape Winelands. The wine lovers amongst you can stop and sample some of the wines on the route today. Maybe a case or two will find its way into the car? Le Franschoek Hotel awaits you.
Day 28: Franschoek to Cape Town 193 kms
We take the coastal road into Cape Town and drive under the iconic Table Mountain straight through to the Cape of Good Hope. The Cape is a magnificent place and will not disappoint. The ride up the funicular at the Cape is well worthwhile just to experience the stunning views of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans below. A fitting place to end our adventure. We drive back into Cape Town with plenty of time to prepare for the evenings Gala Dinner in the One & Only Hotel. The trophies are waiting….
Day 0 – Prestart from Cape Town – Table manners
Sunday 8 October 2017
Welcome to the 6th Classic Safari Challenge, the final event of the 2017 season for the Endurance Rally Association and, what a way to finish! In years gone by this luxury safari rally has showcased the very best of Southern and East Africa and from what we see of the route this one is definitely not going to disappoint.
Originally bought into being in 2003, this sixth edition of the Classic Safari has been devised and planned by John and Gill Cotton.
Ahead of the crews lies a clockwise drive from Cape Town to Cape Town via Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe totalling some 8,500km over 28 days.
We’re staying at the fabulous One & Only Hotel. Set on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and with views of Table Mountain, last night we enjoyed a welcome party with champagne, fine wines and dinner giving us a chance to catch up with old friends and the opportunity to meet a few new ones.
As with every rally, the day before the start was taken up with all manner of paperwork, practicalities and formalities and, as usual the ERA Office manager Eleonora Piccolo led the charge in the signing on department alongside Sue Vincent. Whilst, as usual Andy Inskip, Jamie Turner et al took charge of scrutineering down in the car park.
Only one minor mechanical situation was reported, that being the Alvis of Manoj and Arvi Saxena which stubbornly refused to start. Sweeps Tony Jones and Bob Harrod diagnosed a flat battery and soon had it powered up and ready to roll.
Over the rest of the day, clumps of excited crews sat with pots of rooibos and poring over the maps and route book which they’d just received. At the rally briefing, ERA Rally Director, Fred Gallagher (fresh from the Trans America recce) welcomed the crews whilst Gill Cotton and John talked them through the practicalities of the event.
Dr Delle Grimsmo gave a few useful tips pertaining to health and hygiene for the traveller whilst master mechanic, Jamie Turner outlined the role of the sweep crews for those very few crews who haven’t been with us before.
The evening was a free one allowing the crews the opportunity to sample some of the best of the many eating establishments which feature in this most cosmopolitan of world cities.
Tomorrow the flag drops at 8.01am and the adventure begins.
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 the number one car of Graham and Marina Goodwin was promptly flagged away 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.
Day 6: Swakopmund to Etosha National Park – Moving on but with heavy hearts
The events of yesterday naturally cast a long shadow over the rally this morning and, to take this into account the route for the day was altered accordingly.
The drive along the Skelton Coast towards Henties Bay and through Damaraland was cancelled in favour of a simpler run up the main tarmac roads to the Etosha Lodge.
Albrecht Haas, wasn’t with us this morning however as he, Christine and their Jaguar had been delayed in Solitaire with a broken axle. They’re determined to catch up and reckon with a fair wind and a bit of luck they’ll be back with us in a couple of days. Additionally the Morgan of Philip & Laurette Macwhirter was left behind with a broken leaf spring. A disappointing end to their Classic Safari but they’re going to continue with us in a rental car.
Tomorrow we’ll dust ourselves off once again and get back behind the steering wheel to enjoy the best that Africa has to offer.
Day 7: Drive through Etosha – Game on
Today the Rally was given a whole day to experience the incredible Etosha National Park. The straight line distance was only 120km from the morning’s MTC to the night halt in Mokuti Lodge, but most of the crews zig zagged their way through the many secondary routes in the hope of spotting some, or all of the big five.
Elephants, zebra and ostrich were seen around the muddy watering holes, whilst two rare and elusive black rhino put in appearance deeper into the bush.
Bertie and Charlotte van Houtte’s Porsche unfortunately suffered a small engine fire at the entrance to the park so they were towed back to Etosha Lodge, from where they’d set out some thirty minutes previously.
Halali, halfway through the park was a good stop to enjoy the packed lunch which the Etosha Lodge had provided and it was here that we found David Roberts, along with his daughter and relief co driver Lindsey, sat bedside his faithful TR which had suffered a suspension collapse.
A web of ratchet straps was spun to hold the back end together and the little red soft top limped onwards to Mokuti and a waiting flat bed truck for the onward journey to Cresta Mowana and a more permanent repair. The Alvis of Manoj and Avi Saxena also retired today with carburettor problems.
To round off an epic day, this evening, an excellent dinner was served to the rally deep in the bush with delicacies such as oryx, springbok and beef tripe on offer.
Day 8: Etosha National Park to Popa Falls – Mercury rising
Leaving the game lands of Etosha this morning, the needle on the thermometer began climbing towards 40°. The open car crews were feeling the heat and more than one engine suffered from ongoing fuel vaporisation syndrome.
At the passage control in the busy town of Rundu, Mike Velasco’s Bentley drew quite a crowd as the sweeps set to trying to find a way to cool the fuel on its way to the engine. The rest of the crews raided the freezers and chillers of the fuel station and devoured all manner of ice creams and cold drinks.
Tom van den Berg and Femke Schepers have been playing with the roof arrangement of their Mercedes today and reckon that they’ve cracked the secret to staying cool. Roof up with both the rear windows and the side windows open to get some shade and to maximise the cooling effect of a through draft.
There was much long straight and hot tarmac today, with goats and cattle along the roadside as well as many craft stalls offering wooden or woven curios and trinkets. The landscapes and the people of Namibia have changed dramatically now and, by the time we arrived in the Divundu region on the banks of the Okavango, the deserts, dunes and gravel roads were distant memories.
We are staying in lodges around Popa Falls this evening and some crews took the opportunity of a cooling sundowner out on the sandbanks, overlooking the Falls before enjoying an unforgettable dinner.
Day 9: Popa Falls to Chobe National Park – Botswana bound
The day began well for John and Nicole Whitelock who, thanks to the Saxena brothers and their rental car, were reunited with their passports this morning at the MTC in the forecourt of the Divundu fuel station. An oversight had seen them left behind in Etosha whilst their owners had carried on northwards — oblivious.
Bertie and Charlotte van Houtte also looked pleased as they are also back with us in a rental car eager to get back to running with the pack.
The rally route crossed the Okavango River immediately after the restart and then began the long run down the famous Caprivi strip keeping our eyes peeled for any errant elephants. Only one was glimpsed, momentarily, through the bush, but this constant looking for them was hungry work so a good lunch had been prepared on the banks of the Zambezi at the Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge in Katima Mulilo. From the shady tables we watched pods of hippos as they alternately bobbed up and down in the warm shallow water.
The good roads ate up the kilometres today as we continued our journey towards the border and into Botswana. This is the third country we have ticked off so far and, if the thermometer in Andy Inskip’s truck is accurate, the hottest, with 42°c reported at one point.
We are staying on the banks of the Chobe River this evening, in the excellent Cresta Mowana Lodge where David Roberts and Jamie Turner have been struggling all afternoon to rebuild the suspension of the TR250 with parts which Jo has just flown in with.
There’s an early start tomorrow when a squadron of light aircraft will transport is deep into the Okavango Delta for two amazing days of safari drives.
Day 10: Chobe to the Okavango Delta – Delta force
No one was allowed a lie in today, we were scheduled to fly into the Okavango Delta, one of the highlights of the rally, from the modern and efficient Kasane airport.
As such, the rally awoke to the unmistakeable sound of the inhabitants of the nearby Chobe River greeting the day in their own inimitable way, grunting, groaning, screeching and squawking.
Over the course of the morning, a squadron of Cessna and Kodiak bush planes ferried the rally to various camps via remote landing strips. The flight into the Delta, and the Moremi Game reserve, was approximately one hour which meant that by midday, all crews were ensconced in the kind of African style luxury that harks back to yesteryear.
The next forty eight hours passed in a haze of, breakfasts, lunches, high tea, sundowner drinks, long siestas, dinner and game drives. Some of us were lucky enough to see a pack of wild dogs select, chase and dispatch an impala, as our skilled and knowledgeable guides pressed their heavy duty Toyota Landcruisers deep into the bush so we could slowly tick off the ‘big five’.
Away from the dusty and bumpy land based safaris, there were boats trips to get up close and personal with hippos, crocs and all manner of wading and diving birds.
Surely one of the wonders of the natural world, the cool and clear Okavango, flowing from way up in Angola into Botswana, had perfectly refreshed the crews. And, judging by the reactions upon returning to Kasane, for everyone concerned, this had indeed been a worthwhile diversion. An evening cruise up the Chobe gave everyone a chance to compare notes before dinner on the lawn illuminated by a spectacular electrical storm.
Day 13: Cresta Mowana to Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe
We were back behind our own wheels today as we made the short run to the border crossing into Zimbabwe.
Our destination was the fabulous colonial era Victoria Falls Hotel, where a mid rally Gala Dinner was planned in the Livingstone room. Most crews arrived well before lunch time and wasted no time booking themselves onto excursions and adventure activities for which this area is famous.
Tomorrow is a rest day and what better place to reflect to take some well earned time out?
Day 14: Rest day – Victoria Falls Hotel – Colonial service
This magnificent hotel has lots to offer on a rest day.
The Victoria Falls are one of the wonders of the world and ‘the smoke that thunders’ or ‘mosi-o-tunya’ is pretty much at the bottom of the hotel gardens. A sheet of falling water falling at around 1,000,000 litres a second is a fantastic sight and could be viewed either by walking down to it or flying over it on one of the helicopter tours which proved very popular.
Crews were free to spend the rest of the day and the evening exploring the town and enjoying some of the local restaurants.
Some light fixing, fettling and bodywork repair went on in both the carpark and the spa.
Day 15: Victoria Falls to Francistown – Back to Botswana
After a luxurious breakfast in the Victoria Falls Hotel, we left the best of Zimbabwean hospitality behind us and crossed the Kazangula border back into Botswana.
It’s a big country out here and, although this section was 305km, the busy yet efficient border meant that no one was delayed. Elephants are often spotted roaming wild along this main road and today one or two crews were luck enough to see the odd pachyderm jogging along beside them.
With the ink on the visa stamps barely dry, we started our engines and hit the tarmac roads which took us to Nata for lunch. Here the Rally was served a lamb braii in the boma of the Pelican Lodge. And, after eating their fill, there was then an excursion onto some red dirt gravel for a short Time Control section through the area around Mathangwane where small knots of young rally fans cheered us heartily and waved like they’d never waved before.
The tarmac roads then took over again and whisked us onwards to our overnight halt in Francistown, Botswana’s second city. Francistown was the centre of southern Africa’s first gold rush and is still surrounded by old and abandoned mines.
Our night halt is the Cresta Marang Hotel with lush landscapes gardens filled with traditional thatched rondavels crews bedded down for the night.
Day 16: Francistown to Sun City – The sun always shines
Today we followed in the footsteps of Vasca da Gama and crossed the ‘Great, grey-green greasy Limpopo River’ which was made famous by Rudyard Kipling in his book ‘The Elephant’s Child’.
This mighty river forms part of the border between Botswana and South Africa and once we’d driven over that bridge then we knew that we really were on the home leg of this rally.
The crews left the Cresta Marang Hotel bright and early today and began the long pull south, through the many veterinary checkpoints for which Botswana is famous. After some 235km, just before the border, a treat was in store for us however, in the form of a well placed passage control in Lerala. Not only were crews able to purchase fuel and cold drinks, but they were also able to partake of some excellent homemade cupcakes and coffee.
Graham and Marina Goodwin unfortunately had little time to enjoy these refreshments however. They arrived on the end of a rope, attached to the rental car of Gary and Debbie Culver. A problem with the clutch was diagnosed and, taking their cue from Andy Inskip, the Goodwin / Culver train pressed on through the Martins Drift border and all of the way night halt at The Palace of the Lost City – in Sun City.
A lunchtime Control, in the Ocean Basket in Lephalale brought the Rally together over the likes of sushi, fish and chips or oysters. On a day as hot as this the cool maritime environment served up a welcome break.
Sun City itself comprises 25 hectares of jungle, theme park, hotels, casinos and conference centres and is surrounded by mountains and is bordered by a small game park. It’s a unique setting and the sheer scale of the Hotel took our breath away.
Whilst most of us were able to enjoy some of the unforgettable hospitality on offer, the sweep crews were getting down and dirty with Graham Goodwin. The Bentley Boy had sensibly packed some spare clutch components and, over the course of four hours, he and messrs Inskip, Jones, Turner and Harrod had the problem solved.
Day 17: Sun City to Riverside Sun – Track Time
For some, there was a lazy start to this morning with time to enjoy a relaxed breakfast in an unforgettable setting. For others though, there was a slightly earlier reveille which gave them the chance to visit the nearby Pilanesberg National Park.
It’s a typically well stocked park and in three hours we were lucky enough to see around ten rhino, a brown hyena, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, hippo and lions.
There was then time to return to Sun City for one of its famous breakfasts where all manner of international delicacies were available. Finally, at 11.30am the flag dropped and the crews pointed themselves towards the Zwartkops Raceway for a buffet lunch and two laps of the track. After the long straight roads of the last few days this short and sharp reacquaintance with the steering wheel and the gear-lever came as a welcome relief.
Next came another interesting diversion, Rally Director Fred Gallagher had wangled an invitation to the Hallspeed Toyota Dakar Workshop, just outside of Kyalami. As the Classic Safari rolled into the carpark, the machinery on display was indeed impressive and the cars in the workshop were also worthy of some closer attention. For those who know and love the sometime utilitarian Toyota Hilux, the transformation which these guys achieve is nothing short of remarkable and the ERA sweep crews were busily scribbling down crib notes for their own vehicles.
Renowned engine maestro and Citroen fan, Mario Illien also got thoroughly involved with both the nuts and bolts, and the theory of the engineering which he found himself surrounded by. And, evidently, it was difficult to drag himself away from the cars to continue the run through the environs of Johannesburg to the Riverside Sun night halt.
Day 18: Riverside Sun to Cathedral Peak – Peak Performance
Today we headed for the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains, a favourite ERA stomping ground having visited the area for the last three Classic Safari Challenges.
Bright and early then the Rally pulled out of the Riverside Sun and immediately crossed the Vaal River and took to the back roads towards the combined passage control, coffee shop and chocolate shrine in Poelanies Guesthouse in the bustling town of Reitz.
No-one left disappointed and a few left with some essential cocoa based supplies to get them through the next few days.
If the morning coffee was good, then the lunch in Clarens was even better. This artistic little town boasts some fine restaurants, cafes and craft shops and, sitting in the sun with cheese and ham toasties in front of them the Rally was in a happy place.
After this simple dejeuner then it was on the highlight, quite literally, of the day as we climbed into the sun kissed Golden Gate National Park under a perfectly blue sky. The view from the windscreen was tremendous, enormous pink and yellow sandstone cliffs rose above golden grassland, with highland zebra grazing peacefully alongside.
The epic landscapes continued over the Oliviershook Pass and the Steelfontein Dam, through villages of mud walled and grass thatched dwellings and on to the famous Cathedral Peak Hotel, which boasts one of Africa’s most comprehensive buffets. In 1964, the crew of the film ‘Zulu’, which portrayed the events of the battle of Rorkes Drift in 1879, stayed here whilst filming in the area.
Finally, we all wish many happy returns to Ed Howle, who celebrated his birthday in style this evening with a rousing chorus of happy birthday and a cake.
Day 19: Cathedral Peak to Phinda Game Reserve – Mud, mud, glorious mud – We awoke to a surprisingly cool and damp morning. But at 1500m above sea level these things are to be expected and, with the mist shrouded Drakensberg Mountains disappearing in our rear view mirror we journeyed on towards two gravel tests within marching distance of Rorke’s Drift. This was the scene of a much storied encounter between the British Army and the Zulus during the nineteenth century.
A passage control at the Rorke’s Drift museum gave the crews an opportunity to take on board coffee and to absorb a little of the savage history of the place.
The next section, the 261km to the night halt in Phinda surpassed everyone’s expectations thanks to the combination of heavy rain, bustling market towns and unmetalled roads. Only one week ago we were enjoying temperatures of 40°c in a dry and parched environment. Today, the mercury never rose above 17°c and instead of clouds of choking dust, the crews were treated to rivulets of liquid red mud which transformed every vehicle it touched into something akin to an East African Safari Rally car. The crowds of cheering children along the roads in towns such as Nongoma only added to the occasion.
Whilst the landscapes and the roads of KwaZulu – Natal were certainly magnificent, the rally had good reason to press on towards our night halt in the game reserve of Phinda.
Set in a rare and beautiful sand forest, evening game drives through the reserve had been pre booked and some crews returned just before dinner to report that they’d seen leopard, cheetah and lions within an hour.
The lodges in the Park feature glass walls which give sweeping views of the surrounding forest and the dense canopy above it. We’ve got a rest day here tomorrow, and the prospect of the 5.00am reveille for more game viewing sent most crews scurrying to bed at a reasonable hour.
Day 20: Rest Day – Phinda Reserve – Game on – A day of game drives, relaxing and of being totally spoiled. The all inclusive Phinda Reserve proved to be an excellent spot for the Rally to hole up, get some laundry done and watch some amazing animals doing some amazing things.
From dawn till well into the darkness, the always attentive guides and trackers took us through the bush, and gave us prides of lions, cackles of hyena, a leap of leopards and a crash of rhinos. Thankfully, given the size of the reserve and the individual nature of each safari drive we never saw a jam of Landcruisers.
Sundowners on the veld, with Amarula and biltong were served as an hors d’oeuvre to a fantastic fine dining experience in the boma. Local Zulu dishes were skilfully blended with South African and European ingredients and washed down with some excellent wines.
Day 21: Phinda Reserve to Umhlanga – Surf and turf
Another early morning start for another (possibly the last of the whole Rally) set of game drives, before our last Phinda breakfast and the drive to the Indian Ocean.
There was nothing too taxing for the crews to negotiate during the morning, save for one gravel section which saw the cars running alongside heavily laden and lumbering freight trains and timing their run to make sure that they were ahead of them before the next unmanned crossing.
We then had lunch at the lovely Mtunzini Country Club and met up with old friend, local resident and sometime rally navigator Seonaid Boyne Davidson Beningfield.
The afternoon’s run took in eucalyptus forest, pineapple fields and sugar cane plantations before we arrived in the chic seaside resort of Umhlanga Rocks, where liveried staff were on hand to give us the best welcome possible.
Stephen and Samantha Hardwick’s Datsun, unfortunately suffered some bodywork damage on the road to the finish, when a local car caught them a glancing blow at a junction. Both crew members were unhurt and the sweep crews are looking at ways of ‘polishing out the scratches’. Doubtless the leaders of the Classic Category will continue with the rally and, with a bit of luck, still be on top spot in Cape Town.
The night halt today is the beautiful Oyster Box Hotel, right on the Indian Ocean, this is the perfect blend of modernity, colonial charm & style and, as we have another rest day tomorrow before the long pull to the finish, most crews wasted no time in making themselves at home.
Day 22: Rest Day, Umhlanga, Oyster Box – Having whale of a time
With just under one week to go, the Classic Safari Challenge finds itself today settled on the shore of the Indian Ocean having left the Atlantic some three weeks earlier.
This is the last rest day before the home run and the Oyster Box hotel had many things to offer our travel stained crews from spa treatments, rounds of golf, whale watching or lounging around in, or alongside the pool.
Breakfast was nothing short of superb and pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. Oysters and smoked salmon proved popular for many although the good old cheese omelette certainly wasn’t forgotten.
Perhaps confirming the old adage that there’s no rest for the wicked, there was obviously some spannering to be done and one or two crews were busy in the car park checking, adjusting and inspection. Some also took the opportunity for a bit of car cleaning after the wet – and muddy we had enjoyed on the way to Phinda. The typically enthusiastic car washing / valeting service therefore proved to be very popular and Graham and Marin Goodwin took full advantage of this and had Pearl, their Bentley, washed and shampooed and, thanks in part to this enthusiasm with the high pressure lance, the Cricklewood cruiser needed some slight encouragement to get going again.
Sadly, Albrecht and Christine Haase have had to leave us today to fly back to work. Over the last three weeks they’ve proved to be a more than capable endurance rally crew, and they’ve been great company. We look forward to seeing them again very soon and wish them Auf Wiedersehen und gute fahrt.
Day 23: Umhlanga to Umngazi – Spooky, scary
Feeling thankful that we weren’t heading towards Durban, the Rally slid out of town on some excellent freeways and rolled past the huge coastal Toyota factory. As proud sponsors of the Classic Safari rental car challenge, there were a few crews who might have uttered a silent prayer of thanks in its direction.
The Test for the day was at the Dezzi Raceway, a looping roller coaster of a circuit in full view of the ocean and exposed to the winds which whipped from it. The hairpins, dips and chicanes brought out the best – and the worst – of both the cars and the drivers. Whatever though, it was great fun and the whatever they were driving the drivers threw their cars from apex to apex with handfuls of opposite lock, forearms tensed and beads of sweat on their brows. The navigators meanwhile, grabbed whatever they could and simply held on tight.
Coffee was taken at the nearby Hillbillion resort whereafter we began the long trek to Umnagazi. The landscapes were breathtaking and huge. We climbed to 1000m around the town of Bizana before heading through the vast rolling grasslands of the Eastern Cape and then onwards to the Wild Coast which boast some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world.
Along the way José and Maria de Sousa were stopped with Jamie Turner in attendance. The clutch in their Volvo was playing up and, as nothing could be done by the side of the road, the advice was to nurse the car into the night halt where a full inspection would be possible.
Umnagazi lies at the mouth of the Mzimvuba River, which flows through a gorge known as the “Gates of St John” into an estuary on the Indian Ocean. The Umnagazi River Bungalows sit at the mouth of this and a more idyllic and tranquil spot would be hard to imagine. Unfortunately tonight is Halloween and a coven, comprising the likes of Zoe Lovett and Jo Roberts were hell bent on staging the most fabulous fancy dress party this sleepy little town had ever seen.
Day 24: Umnagazi to Cradock – The morning after
The Halloween High jinks ran late into the night and, as dawn broke over the narrow sandbar separating us from the ocean, there might have been a few sore heads rising reluctantly from their softly plumped pillows in their well appointed rondavels. Breakfast therefore was a slightly hushed affair but the papaya, pineapple, pancakes and porridge soon set things right; along with gallons of coffee.
Today we struck west, inland and upwards towards the desert plateau that is the Karoo and the night halt in Cradock. Very quickly we saw 1,000m appear on the altimeter and the landscape changed from lush grassland to rocky scrub.
There was one test today, shortly after the time control in Queenstown which was a pleasant spot for refuelling the crews and the cars. After this ‘lunch halt’ we took to the gravel via the small town of Tarkastad, close to the site of the Battle of Elands River (1901) which was fought during the Second Boer War.
There was plenty of opportunity for a bit of showboating on the wide piste, and a short rain storm kept the dust down and lowered the temperature slightly.
The Victoria Manor hotel in Cradock is a favourite of the Classic Safari and we’ve visited it three times in succession now. The property comprises 30 traditional Karoo lovingly restored to their former glory. The houses occupy the entire street, at the end of which is the Victoria Hotel itself. We were also privileged to have the kitchen choir sing for us while we dined in the impressive restaurant.
José and Maria de Sousa sadly missed all of this as they had to stay behind this morning with a broken clutch. The Volvo limped in last night and the crew have ordered spare parts from Durban, if they arrive on time then they expect to rejoin us in Hermanus.
Day 25: Cradock to Plettenberg – Coastal command
The staff of Die Tuishuise and Victoria Manor set us off on our way in fine style this morning and, within half an hour of leaving Cradock, we had the first medal section over the mighty Swaershoek Pass.
This gravel mountain road had some tight hairpins, long straights and some great views over the wind blasted landscapes the Great Karoo, a semi desert covering a total of 400,000 square kilometres.
The scenery was very dramatic indeed as we pressed on to the Western Cape via a passage control in the Golden Valley, Melk en Heuning coffee shop. The Sunshine Coast soon arrived and, neatly sidestepping the large city of Port Elizabeth we arrived at the MTC in Jeffreys Bay.
From here, and with no timing, the crews had two options. Either to head straight to Plettenberg Bay on the main roads or take a detour over the incredible, but unsurfaced Prince Alfred Pass. Both options had their own merits, an early G&T in the superb Plettenberg Bay Hotel or some breathtaking views and a real taste of the back country. Whichever option they chose though, both sets of crews eventually arrived in Plettenberg Bay just south of the Garden Route National Park and set to some pre dinner whale spotting from the terrace.
Mike and Lorna Harrison weren’t with us though as they had broken their wishbone in their Volvo – again, and this time it’s irreparable. A truck will take the car to Cape Town whilst a hire car will bring the crew to Hermanus. Similarly, the Volvo of Jose and Maria De Sousa has been retired and the crew will also rejoin us in rental car in Hermanus leading us to wonder what it would be like if only everything in life was as reliable as a …….
Day 26: Plettenberg Bay to Hermanus – Thar she blows
Today we crossed from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic in 560 easy kilometres. The early part of the day took us through the Garden Route National Park before we struck inland to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world and, given the size of these birds, no-one considering a late breakfast at the Smitswinkel Farm Village dared have an omelette.
If they’d filled up here then they wouldn’t have had any room for the excellent lunch provided at the Olive Garden Restaurant in Ladismith.
Good quality tarmac, long open bends and impressive views were the biggest features of today which also included climbs of the impressive Huisrivier Pass and the Tradouw Pass.
The night halt tonight is in Hermanus. The town, originally called Hermanuspietersfontein had its name shortened as the original was too long for the postal service to cope with. Hermanus is famous for southern right whale watching and, many crews made the sort trip to the cliffs to peer into the surf looking for blowholes.
Alan and Tina Beardshaw however had other things on their mind this evening. They and their concours quality Triumph TR6 arrived on a flat bed truck with total transmission failure. This close to the finish there’s little point in renting a car so we expect to see them thumbing a lift to Franschhoek tomorrow.
Day 27: Hermanus to Franschoek – The Home run
A lazy, 9.30am start gave crews a chance for some more whale-watching before we began the short drive to the lunch halt at the impressive Franschhoek Motor Museum via the dramatic coastline of False Bay and the Franschhoek Pass.
The final test of the rally was held over the Van Der Stel Pass which Keith Ashworth enjoyed more than any of the others so far given that Jamie Turner had just resolved the issue with his fuel tank’s pressure relief valve. The ‘extra 50bhp’ which he’s now got will no doubt be put to good use on the run in to Cape Town.
On the road today we passed through the town of Grabouw, where the soft drink Appeltiser was created, this area is famous for its fruit growing and we drove past many kilometres of apple and cherry orchards which eventually gave way to neatly trimmed and well tended vineyards. A much more sensible way to use the land we felt.
Founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, Franschhoek is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and sits in a rich and fertile valley between towering mountain peaks. Right in the Heart of the beautiful Cape Winelands the town has a vibrant food and wine scene as well as a huge range of arts and crafts shops. After the visit to the museum the high street was lined with rally cars and the pavement cafes filled with rally crews reflecting on the journey that has been the Classic Safari Challenge 2017.
The Le Franschhoek Hotel is where we’re spending the night and, as is customary with long distance rallies, the penultimate night is where the party really gets started.
Day 28: Franschhoek to Cape Town – That’s all folks
There’s always a last day on any Rally and this day dawned today; bright and clear.
There was but a short drive, almost a ceremonial procession, to the finish line at the Cape of Good Hope where we were expecting a small crowd of furry little rally fans in the form of the Cape chacma (or the Papio ursinus ursinus if you prefer) to gather around the cars and to greet the drivers as they were waved in by Fred Gallagher and his chequered flag. Clerk of the Course, Gill Cotton then presented the crews with their coveted finishers awards.
Things didn’t run according to plan however, Jim Smith and Pete Stone had sprayed themselves liberally with baboon repellent and the organisers had also employed four professional baboon wranglers to keep the expected crowds in check. As a result there were precisely no primates on hand to mark the occasion for us. No matter, the humans managed to a pretty good job themselves and over a finger buffet on the sun drenched coast, they congratulated themselves on a job well done.
Once all of the crews were assembled and the necessary pictures had been taken, Peter Lovett then led a minutes silence in memory of Jan Hradecky. He and Dana have never been far from our thoughts and today we all felt his loss once again.
We took the coastal road back into Cape Town over Chapmans Peak and drove under Table Mountain straight through to the One and Only Hotel where soon enough, the prize giving gala dinner got underway and went on late into the night.
Manuel and Irene Dubs driving a 1940 Ford Coupe scooped the top spot in the Vintageant category whilst Stephen and Samantha Hardwick in their Datsun 240Z beat all comers in the Classics category. For both crews this was a very welcome maiden win. Two discretionary awards were also presented. Against all Odds – went to Marco Rollinger and Marianne Hengesch who have soldiered on in their Alfa Romeo “jeep”. With top speed of 80kph, this has been a long rally for them. The Spirit of the Rally went to Verena Simmen for her unfailing cheerfulness and enthusiasm.
Finally, it’s Clint Smith’s birthday today so we wish him many happy returns and trust that all of the correspondence he receives will have Clint, on cards.