In the early days, Francois Rossouw did not ask people to book their places on his 4×4 trips into the Kalahari Dunes. Everybody had to check in at the Kalahari Molopo Lodge on the scheduled date and he would meet them there. Then one day, everything changed.
On our first trip to the Kalahari Dunes, 15 vehicles arrived and we had a ball. Then, after the news spread, more and more people became interested.
You must remember that this was the first time that real 4×4 self-drive trips were organised for people who had not previously belonged to a club. They had to do at least one trip with the club before they could become a member.
Then it happened. An overwhelming 72 vehicles pitched up for a Kalahari trip! Among the people were Willem Boshoff and Jan Basch.
Willem had an imported white Chev Blazer Taho. It was still new, but there was a problem with the automatic gearbox. Every time Willem went on a trip, the Blazer would expire halfway to the starting point and he would arrive in a hired vehicle. We eventually called the white Blazer “The Ghost”. We always heard about it, but we never saw it!
This time the latest problem was fixed only days before a Kalahari trip, and Willem and Jan set off for Upington where they would spend the first night. But even before they got to Klerksdorp the gearbox expired again and they had to limp back home. The Ghost failed to appear… again.
But like most serious 4×4 people, Willem and Jan did not want to give up. They transferred all their camping gear into Jan’s Volkswagen Syncro kombi that he used for work every day, and set off again. This time they got to Molopo Lodge and were ready for the dunes the next day.
People filled the lodge and camped everywhere, even in the garden and in the road. The place was full. Most of the men used the pool next morning to freshen up, since the bathrooms were crowded out.
Eventually we set off into the real Kalahari, having to cross more than 80 dunes. All the vehicles in the convoy were proper 4x4s with good ground clearance, except one – the Syncro. It had standard 205×15 tyres which did not deliver enough clearance in the tracks made by the many 4x4s.
Every time Jan tackled a dune, we would hear the VW revving up and then storming the dune. It had a bull bar that was quite low and shovelled up a pile of sand which it threw up onto the windscreen and then over the kombi. It looked like an explosion every time, but then the kombi would appear out of the dust on top of the dune – every time. It looked as though the kombi moved every dune before it could get over it! Eventually Jan kept the windscreen wipers on all the time, to keep off the sand so that he could see where he was going.
When we made camp in the evenings, Jan spent a lot of time cleaning the kombi so that he could be ready for the next day. When the morning came, the kombi had to carry on taking a lot of punishment, but it lasted all the way. It was the entertainment of the weekend to see the kombi bus moving the dunes.
I think Willem was lucky that The Ghost expired so early on the trip, because if it could not get to Klerksdorp, I hate to think what would have happened if it had got the chance to take on the dunes.
After this trip, we realised that we had to control the numbers and that it would be better to book a limited number of vehicles for every trip. Too many vehicles make the excursion too crowded, but the parties in the evenings will never be the same again!