Fancy a bit of 4×4, old chap?

Text: Stephen Smith
Photographs: Waypoint Tours

In South Africa we’re spoilt – our country is beautiful and diverse, and there are more adventurous places to visit than you have time for. There are also guides who will take you there, and take care of everything else too.

But England is a little different. It’s pretty, we’ll give it that, and there are definitely places where you can get your 4×4 stuck in the mud. But where’s the space? The adventure? Where can you push your vehicle to its limits, and experience things you’ve never experienced before? We feel for the Poms, we really do?

When Barrie Dunbar arrived in England in the early Nineties he realised that there was a big market of people with 4x4s yearning for adventure, but with nowhere to really take them. And 4×4 owners in England don’t have all the expertise and kit that we do in South Africa. They don’t even know how to braai properly.

Barrie already had experience in expeditions, having travelled extensively throughout South and southern Africa and further afield in places like northern Africa, Australia, southeast Asia, central and eastern Europe, and the more isolated and remote Mediterranean areas.

But Waypoint Tours began as a hobby. Barrie missed adventure, and began looking for places he could travel to from England, in a 4×4, much as he did when he was in South Africa. Morocco appealed to him, and he made a few trips there.

Then he began to lead tours to the area, even catering for his guests, which is almost unheard of in the UK. He put his braaing skills to good use, and got very favourable reviews from his guests. Waypoint Tours grew and grew in popularity, becoming the fully-fledged specialist 4×4 expedition company that it is today.

“I booked with Waypoint Tours early this year (especially as the tour was fully catered and I hate cooking) after hearing some good things about them. I can confirm that South African Barrie Dunbar is a no-nonsense man who knows his stuff (and he’s a great cook). I can thoroughly recommend Waypoint Tours, and I would confidently follow Barrie anywhere.” – Charles Spencer, Toyota Land Cruiser 80.

Morocco is still the primary destination for Waypoint Tours, but Barrie also leads trips to Western Sahara and the wilder parts of Portugal, while Mauritania is also on the books for 2011.

The routes that Barrie chooses are not easy, and he even warns potential customers about this in the beginning. The terrain is challenging, and always includes dune-driving, water-crossings, rocky areas and steep mountain passes, and snow isn’t out of the question by any means.

Though risks are carefully assessed, Barrie remains adamant that Waypoint Tours will never be like some other operators, where danger drives shot-gun.

Barrie’s routes don’t backtrack either, so every day his clients see new areas for the first time, and if they go on more than one trip they won’t be subjected to the same sights, because new routes are planned for every trip.

But Waypoint Tours isn’t just about hard-core off-roading. Morocco is full of cultural highlights, as are Portugal and Western Sahara, and Barrie leads his tours in their direction, avoiding tourist traps but finding genuinely interesting cultural and environmental sights for his clients. He will also tailor-make tours for people with a special interest, such as archaeology, photography, exploration, film, anthropology and adventure sports activities.

Barrie attributes Waypoint’s success to a simple recipe: “We offer a very high level of professional and personal service, focussing on the combination of challenging piste (sand track) driving and gourmet-cuisine catering, whilst always taking into consideration our clients’ specific requirements and requests.”

“A great drive through the Marrakech medina! A good trip with perfect BBQs and unforgettable mountain views. Very good for practicing haggling.” – Neil Hughes and Anthony Davies, Toyota Land Cruiser 80.

What really sets Barrie apart from other tour operators in the United Kingdom, though, is his catering. He was the first to market fully-catered, self-drive tours in the UK, and is still the only one to do so. And Barrie takes his typically South African love of braaing with him on every tour, as you can see from the comments made by past customers!

Barrie blends the local cuisine with the subtle art of the braai, creating mouth-watering meals every day and night, even in the harshest of climates. In fact, he’s actually a registered caterer! He also uses a tagine, which is a traditional clay pot used to slow-cook stews, not unlike a potjie in practice.

Some of Barrie’s creations from the tagine include: beef with dates, almonds and pistachios; lamb with prunes, figs and honey; and beef with sweet potatoes, peas and ginger. His specialities on the braai are salmon with sweet chilli and lime; spicy beef keftas (meatballs) in pita with tatziki; and chicken with pineapple and sweet peppers. He uses only free-range and organic fresh meats.