A trip down Leisure Wheels lane

If memory serves me right…


Contributing Deputy Editor, Danie Botha, takes a trip down Leisure Wheels memory lane – 100 issues is a lifetime!


I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with Leisure Wheels since the first issue, 14 years ago. The magazine is dear to me for a variety of reasons, and I’m privileged to be still involved today.
We’ve had countless adventures over the years. From washing a car in a river in minus very-too-much temperatures, taking turns to defreeze our hands in front of the car’s air vents while the other person did the washing, to being hijacked in Mozambique. From getting horribly stuck on the Makgadikgadi pans to experiencing the splendour of the Namib Desert.
Yep, it’s been an amazing, 100-issue ride! There are many memories – but here are a few from the early days.
It was 1998. We took a new Isuzu Trooper to Mpumalanga and the historical Botshabelo settlement, near Middelburg. This shoot was memorable for two reasons. Firstly, Jannie Herbst asked me to bring along a pretty girl for the photos. I invited a friend of a friend along. This friend and I eventually got married in 2001. And we still are married, with two kids in tow.
Then there were the stuffed birds, which we got from the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria. These birds came “alive” in Jannie’s cleverly worked out photographs. One particular photo featured an owl swooping down on a poor, unsuspecting field mouse, perched perfectly in the Isuzu’s headlights.
Many people asked how we managed to get this once-in-a-lifetime picture. With great drama, I told them that I had firstly set forth and caught the field mouse. Then we set up an ambush in an area where we knew an old owl was lurking. I delicately tied a string to the mouse’s rear leg, and positioned it in front of the Isuzu.
And so we waited. Hours went by. Our models smiled, locked in position. The mouse was handled brilliantly by the “mouseketeer” (me). And then the owl came, at 2:16am the next morning! Jannie was ready with his camera and… snap, snap! The perfect photograph was taken.
Okay, so I did own up that the mouse and the owl were of the stuffed variety, but it was fun while the ruse lasted!
We used to take a lot of photographs at a 4×4 track in Midrand. Although we had a few close calls at a rather intimidating water crossing at this track (please note, a Kia Sportage can actually float!), one particular photograph landed us in, well… hot water.
Nissan SA had just launched the Terrano 4×4, and we took it to this track for action photos. But action photos are action photos – we were looking for something special. Something… wow! That’s when we decided to see if we could get all four wheels in the air, for a spectacular shot.
We located the perfect launch site, and I lined up the Nissan. My first attempt yielded only one wheel off the ground.
So I attacked the launch “pad” again, with more vigour… and that Nissan flew! The photo was indeed spectacular!


When the folks at Nissan SA saw the picture they were not particularly pleased. In fact, they were rather cheesed off because they had finally figured out why that Terrano’s wheel alignment was messed up. Sorry guys!
Another memory concerns a Toyota RAV4 and the Tiffendell Ski resort. We took the RAV and two lovely models there to photograph the Toyota in the snow. Unfortunately, there was just a tiny bit of snow at the very top of the Drakensberg peaks. We had to get to that snow. So clearly I had to drive this two-litre softroader with an automatic gearbox up the side of a very steep mountain. Errr… right.
Thanks to the combination of high altitude and the auto gearbox, the little RAV4 wasn’t particularly keen on this exercise. At one stage I had to go down a slope a bit (at a very hairy angle) to build up speed, and then turn up the slope (at a very hairy angle) and keep the accelerator planted. This was rather stressful.
The RAV4 would eventually just run out of steam, coming to a stop at a 50 degree angle, facing upwards, with the engine aimlessly revving at around 4000 r/min.
After several attempts had yielded exactly the same result, we moved on to plan B. This entailed recruiting Tiffendell’s big tractor. We used a chain to connect the tractor, which was stationed at the top of this mountain, to the RAV4. I was behind the Toyota’s steering wheel as the tractor dragged it up the slope, and all the way to the snow!
In theory, this was just grand. In reality, the only thing that prevented the RAV4 from hurtling down that mountain and being utterly destroyed was the chain!
In the end we got the photo and Jannie even added some more snow back at the office, and some Swiss Alps for the background, just for the atmosphere, you understand.
And then there was the time… Oh, there’s no more space. Right well, so here’s to Leisure Wheels’ next 100 issues! May there be many more happy (and safe) memories!