Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Gert van Rooyen
“Please wear your black Tuffstuff branded tops,” read my final SMS. Communicating with six different women in six different industries, this platform seemed to be our lingua franca.
“I can’t, I’ve got a muffin top,” one of the Bush Babes replied (won’t say who).
“Did you perm your hair again?” I asked. She phoned back in stitches to explain that a muffin top is the “love handles” that develop around the waist post-December holidays. They are pushed up by too-tight pants.
Not ayoba for a tight-fitting top. Feeling like a complete ditz for not having this seemingly general expression in my vocabulary, I could at least add that in township slang, this ghastly condition is known as “anacondas”.
Women have more to worry about than men. Even when it comes to a day’s 4×4 training, because really, who wants to look bad when they can look good? With that in mind we informed Gert, Leisure Wheels journo and photographer, of the, well, muffin situation… and a few other issues of concern. (We love having him along on trips. He understands women.)
Gert acknowledged the seriousness of the situation and agreed to “watch his angles” and concentrate on taking shots in more forgiving light conditions.
With that problem out of the way, it was time to focus on the task at hand: manoeuvring a 4×4 with the same agility and poise that we would a mascara wand in the traffic.
This was to be a day of reckoning – of applying brakes as gently as foundation, managing clutch control as if it were hunger pangs, and activating the diff lock as precisely as the cleavage control clip of a three-in-one Wonderbra.
Our recent trip to Lesotho gave way to this dogged determination. In January, the six Bush Babes trekked to the Maluti Mountains in the Lesotho heartland, for our first real 4×4 experience and rural camp. The road to the campsite was worse than we could ever have imagined. With only two of us possessing more than limited off-road experience, we were caught off guard and unprepared for the challenging conditions. We had no choice but to persevere, trying to stay calm and praying that we would make it safely down the mountain… and back up again.
The two Nissan Pathfinders and Jurgens Xplorer caravan that accompanied us later showed the evidence of a slippery and rocky road that, in retrospect, should not have been attempted with those particular vehicles or any caravan (See the two articles in issue 83, pages 46 and 54.)
It took some time to get the Bush Brigade’s diaries in sync for the new venture, despite our determination to take the bull by the horns. Bernie arranged the training for a Sunday morning at De Rust Outdoor, in Broederstroom (the old African Outdoors Group). Once again, Nissan came to the party and provided two vehicles. Their choice? Nissan Navara 2.5 Diesel double cabs.
Getting to De Rust at 07h00 on a Sunday morning is not easy. Maryka, aka Crazy Bush, overslept. As in completely. She was supposed to meet Karin (Sporty B) and Janize (Queen B) at Karin’s house. Karin eventually phoned her at 06h15. Crazy Bush was still fast asleep. (Haute coiffure is an energy taxing industry.)
She made it to the training grounds in record time, phoning for instructions as she went along. She looked surprisingly fresh and trendy; all things considered, but oi-joi-joi, those shoes! Dainty silver pumps. I’ve mentioned this before, but I seriously need to take Maryka outdoor-shoe shopping.
The rest of the Bush Babes were pretty much on time, wearing a tad more appropriate attire. We were one Bush short, though. Mere days before we were due to leave for Lesotho, our only blonde comrade, Katy Sokolewicz, aka Wild Bush, tore the ligaments in her right ankle. The moonboot was barely off when she managed to fracture the knee of the same leg on a fishing expedition. She’ll be out of action for at least 12 weeks.
George van Zyl and Hardy de Kock, two of the three owners of De Rust, were ready to welcome us. Two hearty gentlemen, indeed. After we’d mingled over a steaming cup of coffee and a rusk, Bernie gathered us as a caring hen would her chicks, and moved us to the lecture room for the theoretical part.
We all enjoyed Bernie’s training style. Straightforward and to the point. The photos in his slide-show made it easy to understand the terminology. Every question was answered in an easy-to-understand, non-technical way, even “What is that ostrich-like gadget on some of these cars?”
“That is called a snorkel,” Bernie answered sincerely, and duly explained.
The function and benefits of a diff lock were a hot topic, and the general interest in understanding how this and other parts worked made for an exceptionally interactive lecture. The simple conclusion regarding diff locks? “You paid for it, so use it.”
When something didn’t make sense, Bernie continued explaining until all of us – including the bustling Maryka – got it. We covered departure and approach angles, power distribution, and all other aspect that are pretty standard in a beginner’s training.
As far as accessories are concerned (and these are not the blingy goodies from Accesorize) being honest with yourself is key, according to Bernie. “Why are you really buying it? Is it for fashion or function?”
A truly fascinating piece of information was that airbags are covered in latex! You can just imagine where that conversation went…
After a coffee break, we were off to do the practical half of the training. We felt confident tackling it with the Nissan Navara’s powerful engine.
We were divided into two teams: Michelle (from Tuffstuff Insurance), Jackie (Ginger B) and I went with George and Maryka, Karin and Janize with Hardy.
The first test: stop and start on an incline. Now here we had to concentrate a bit. Engage diff lock; select low range; creep halfway up incline; stall the engine; apply brakes; select reverse; start the engine, take foot off clutch; slowly take foot off brake…and roll back.
Next on the agenda was the actual obstacle course. The part we were to attempt was entry level and perfect for first-timers and SUV-owners. Knowing this calmed the nerves a bit.
Bernie insisted that we walk to the obstacles first to examine the existing tracks, loose stones and ditches. He explained as we went along. He then took us for a drive – on the same route – in the back of his double cab to get the feel of what was to come.
The Navaras seemed as ready as we were. Bernie guided us from the outside and gave directions over difficult obstacles while George and Hardy made sure everything went smoothly inside the cabin. They talked us through every step of every obstacle. Summed up, slowly does it. They undoubtedly know how to work with ladies, ladies.
Ginger Bush (Jackie Hefez) was fearless and precise. She did an awesome job. Janize (Queen Bush) and Karin (Sporty Bush) were naturals and sailed through the course quite effortlessly. Michelle (who was born and raised in the bush) didn’t find it tuff at all. Maryka – although hesitant at first – surprised everyone with the way she took charge of the vehicle and the moment, and managed to manoeuvre the Navara with very little help…and no boo-boos.
“Lekker Pappie!” she shouted as she jumped out of the Navara in disbelief at this very macho accomplishment.
“This is almost as satisfying as snipping off a midlife mullet!” She looked so tiny next to the beast she had just tamed. Well done, Crazy One!
None of us got stuck. I’m sure the Navara’s powerful diesel engine had a lot to do with this. It might not have been easy with a less powerful engine.
We ended our day with a scrumptious lunch served on the wooden deck at De Rust, discussing cars like real petrol-heads. The verdict on the day: We fared brilliantly!
“For first timers, you did extremely well with these big vehicles,” said Hardy. Bernie’s chest swelled with pride. “Now for the advanced training and recovery, a
nd you’ll be ready for Moz in May and Botswana in July.”
Queen Bush: Any and every woman, with or without an SUV or 4×4, should do this course. It is a confidence booster of note. And it’s fun.
Sporty Bush: Why not be adventurous and take on the course for the next hen’s party? And just think how awesome it will be to bundu bash with your friends, knowing you will cope without the men.
Ginger Bush: Even if you don’t plan on owning a 4×4, this is a must. A lot of what I learnt applies to everyday driving too.
Honey Bush: Practice makes perfect. I have improved a lot since my first attempt. Sadly, I don’t go off road often enough for it to become second nature. This is just what I needed. Reinforcement.
Crazy Bush: I never ever thought that I would be able to do this. I was very scared. But the empowering feeling of doing man-stuff is really worth it! All you have to do is listen.
Tuff Bush: If you’ve criss-crossed Africa in the passenger’s seat, you have not really done the off-road thing. Change sides. Knowing your game and that your partner can rely on your competence is very, very rewarding.
Special thanks go to 4×4 Megaworld for taking the Leisure Wheels Bush Babes to the next level and to Bridgestone SA for sponsoring the venue and lunch.
For information on 4×4 basic training with 4×4 Megaworld, contact Bernie Williams: 083 300 5442; [email protected]