Text: GG van Rooyen
Photography: GG van Rooyen and LA Sport
Large, organised off-road events are often quite serious affairs. To be sure, the competitors are usually enjoying themselves (unless they’ve been thoroughly defeated by an obstacle), but relaxing and having fun are not the main objectives. With prizes on offer, the aim is to win the competition, and that requires focus and effort.
So what if you just want to have fun with your off-road vehicle and mingle with likeminded 4×4 enthusiasts? With the specific goal of creating a relaxed event that gives 4×4 owners the opportunity to put their vehicles through their paces while having fun with their families, LA Sport 4WD Megastore instituted the annual Camp LA Sport.
The event has been running since 2008 and is held each year at the impressive Mabalingwe Game Reserve near Bela Bela (Warmbaths). And because the event is always hosted at Mabalingwe, the reserve’s management has allowed LA Sport to create two challenging 4×4 trails. The first is the Rocky Ridge Trail, and as its name suggests, it is a rock-strewn track that winds to the top of a ridge that not only offers superb views of the surrounding area, but also provides a tricky driving experience. Indeed, the Rocky Ridge Trail offers the greatest off-road challenge at Camp LA Sport. Many sections of the route are quite steep and treacherous, and one wrong move can result in the painful, rasping sound of steel being dragged over rock. Thankfully, knowledgeable marshals (usually representatives from various LA Sport stores) are on hand to help drivers navigate through the obstacles. After all, nothing spoils a fun-filled weekend as quickly as an expensive repair bill. And for this reason, marshals go out of their way to help drivers.
The sight of marshals running up and down trails, crawling underneath vehicles to check clearance, placing sand bags in front of tyres and hanging from the sides of vehicles to add weight is common at all the trickiest obstacles.
The second route, Kubu Trail, isn’t quite as tough as Rocky Ridge, but it nevertheless has of a few very tricky sections.
But more importantly, it boasts spectacular scenery. The view of the reserve from the top of the Kubu Trails is truly magnificent.
In addition to the two 4×4 trails, Camp LA Sport also hosts a gymkhana track. And this is undoubtedly where the most fun can be had. How so? Well, in order to complete the obstacles successfully, the whole family has to get involved. For instance, one obstacle requires a passenger to lean out of the window and throw darts at a dart board.
Another obstacle requires the blindfolded driver to navigate a steep hill with the (often conflicting) instructions of his or her passengers.
This year’s gymkhana track also offered a lot of spectator value. Although the gymkhana always attracts large crowds of spectators, this year’s event was particularly interesting. Lionel Lewis, host of the event and founder of LA Sport, tackled the track in the Leisure Wheels Project Navara (which was built in conjunction with LA Sport) and the results were spectacular. The Navara’s performance impressed everyone. With its massive 38-inch Mickey Thompson tyres, it traversed the track’s sand, slopes and pools with ease.
The two off-road trails and the gymkhana track are undoubtedly the main attractions at Camp LA Sport, but they’re not the real reason why so many people attend the event each year. Simply put, off-road drivers do not go to Camp LA Sport to pit themselves against the Rocky Ridge and Kubu routes. After all, what would be the point? Scores aren’t tallied and medals aren’t handed out.
No, the point isn’t to prove that they are great drivers. It is purely to have fun with their families and swap stories around the campfire with other 4×4 enthusiasts. And those are very good reasons, which is probably why the event has become such a success. Around 500 people attended the 2010 Camp LA Sport. In fact, Mabalingwe’s camping and caravan park was filled to capacity. The SAB beer garden also increased in size this year and KFC hosted a kids’ corner that included fun activities such as horseback rides, target shooting and sand art.
The 2011 Camp LA Sport has tentatively been scheduled for 23 – 25 September 2011, though this date might change.
To ensure that you don’t miss out on next year’s event, check out LA Sport’s website (www.lasport.co.za) in the months to come for more information.