The 4×4 Eco Challenge 2006 pushes farther north, with the final round taking place in some of Africa’s most beautiful and untouched territory from 24 August to 7 September. The route follows the sandy shores of Mozambique and then goes into the remote lowlands.
New routes for the final of the 4×4 Eco Challenge were mapped out recently when Eco Challenge organiser Gerhard Groenewald and his crew explored little-travelled coastlines in Mozambique and ventured into barely accessible hills and plains to find the perfect locations for the 2006 showdown.
“Right now, there is no road of any kind leading to one of the inland locations we have selected,” says Gerhard. “This is really uncharted territory – more than 350 square kilometres of environmentally sensitive terrain that will draw on the finalists’ skills as earth-friendly drivers and offer exciting new finds for our researchers and eco-explorers.”
This year’s Eco Challenge will explore wild areas in remote parts of Mozambique. Scientists will give special attention to the baobabs, acacias and aloes of Africa and their links to the rest of the world. “We hope to find ecological links between Mozambique and the nearby island of Madagascar,” says scientist Priscilla Swart.
Marius Burger, the well-known herpetologist who joined the 2004 and 2005 legs of the 4×4 Eco Challenge, will again accompany the expedition. He said that due to the civil war and general unrest until recently, Mozambique had been avoided by biologists for many years. As a result it was the least explored of the countries on South Africa’s borders.
“Most of the 4×4 Eco Challenge 2006 route will traverse unknown territory, and thus we will be in a good position to make substantial contributions to the knowledge of this country’s herpetofauna. Who knows, we might even pull out a new species or two,” says Marius.
According to Gerhard, the organisers are getting tremendous support from Mozambique for the Challenge. “The people have been fantastic, so helpful and friendly – from government officials to local communities.
“Infrastructure is poor, if not non-existent, in the areas we have chosen. There will be about 50 people in the final round of the Eco Challenge, and we will have to take all our equipment with us.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to experience the new Toyota Fortuner first hand on this reconnaissance. We covered more than 7000km on the round trip, all on Goodyear Wrangler ATR tyres, and the combination was absolutely excellent.
“Fuel consumption was a decent 9,4 km/l, and the Fortuner’s load capacity was astounding. We arrived at Toyota’s head office with a fully loaded Hilux double cab, crammed with six cases of water, a 140-litre National Luna Fridge, camping equipment, food, camera equipment and personal belongings. Amazingly, all this baggage transferred easily into the Fortuner, without the need to remove the back seats,” says Gerhard.
On the way home, the organisers crossed over into Zimbabwe to host a 4×4 training weekend for Trentyre Zimbabwe. It took the form of a mini-4×4 Eco Challenge.
“After an absence of more than seven years, it was a wonderful surprise to see that everything still looks the same in Zimbabwe, and the roads were in excellent condition.
Fuel was not a big problem, and we passed convoys of tankers from Mozambique on their way to Harare to offload. “Zimbabwe still gives one the feeling of a home away from home. Food and other supplies are readily available, although you have to carry plenty of notes.
“The 4×4 community of Zimbabwe welcomed us with open arms, and 10 teams participated in a fun weekend at Hippo Pools in the Umfurudzi wilderness area.
The four top teams will take part in the semi-finals in June.” The training phase has been completed, and the focus now shifts to the semi-finals and final to determine the 4×4 Eco Challenge champions of 2006.
The semi-finals take place in the dramatic red desert dust of the Kalahari near Upington. All teams selected for the semi-finals will prepare intensively for Mozambique’s spectacular final stages. During this phase, practical training will concentrate on driving techniques in thick sand as well as lectures about environmental impact and conservation and travelling overland in Africa.
Dubbed “the stuff dreams are made of”, the 4×4 Eco Challenge 2006 is a one-of-a-kind adventure for anyone as passionate and knowledgeable about off-road driving as they are about the planet.
“It was founded to promote environmental awareness, improve 4×4 driving skills, encourage responsible off-road driving and to increase the pleasure all 4×4 owners can get from our magnificent environment – today and long into the future,” says Gerhard.
For more information, visit the website, www.4x4ecochallenge.co.za