One always has to be prepared for the unexpected on an overlanding trip, says Francois Rossouw. And sometimes the unforeseen can turn an otherwise average excursion into a 4×4 challenge with amazing memories. Whatever comes your way, make good decisions!
On our recent Wild Coast trip there were 25 vehicles in the convoy. With a group this big, we can book out the lodges for ourselves and afford the services of good guides, who provide us with information over the two-way radios throughout the trip.
With the cost divided, we can all afford it. However, the lodges and meals all have to be booked and paid for well in advance, to enable our hosts to cater for such a large group.
Our route was well planned and we were on time to arrive at The Haven Lodge just before sunset. Then, as we approached the lodge, a motorist stopped us and warned that there were protesters ahead and that they had blocked the road. They were also throwing stones at the cars, and he advised us to turn back.
Such a situation is a major challenge for a tour guide. In this case, a detour would have taken five hours, pushing the arrival time late into the night.
We drove forward until we could see the protesters and stopped to assess whether we had a chance to get past them. Just then the police arrived, and they started negotiating with the protesters. While they were listening at what the police had to say, we decided to take our chance and drive through, but a big surprise awaited us. For the next 5km, the road was covered in stones, large and small, and it did not look possible to drive on the road at all.
After discussing the situation with everybody over the two-way radios, we decided that since we are all in 4×4 vehicles, we would take a chance and see how far we could get.
At first, the stones were not too close together and we could snake between them, but then they became bigger and were often stacked on top of one another. We could not get any further.
Then an Eskom vehicle came along from behind us, and proceeded to drive along next to the road through the grass, ditches and dongas. We saw this as a very nice 4×4 challenge and followed him.
Fortunately, in following the Eskom vehicle, we had some warning if there were rocks hidden in the grass and on how deep the ditches were. At some places it took a few tries to get through, but eventually the experience became quite a bonus for our 4×4 expedition!
After another 5km, the rocks and stones in the road thinned out and we could get back on track, as it were, with only the occasional detour through the grass.
The Eskom truck still led the way, and the driver kept us in mind. When a ditch was too deep, he reversed and found a better way, so that we could follow and keep up.
We arrived at the lodge a bit later than planned, but still in time to freshen up before dinner. That night we really deserved the party that followed. We were all very happy to be there, and thankful for the extra 4×4 experience.
On another note: We try to treat our vehicles as well as possible. They get serviced and washed regularly. We park them in a garage overnight and try not to scratch and dent them.
Then, beyond our control, things happen that have a major effect on the life and condition of our beloved 4x4s.