Text and photos: Ludovico de Maistre
There is a small but ever-growing group of individuals who aren’t interested in exploring the world with the aid of experienced guides, expensive navigational systems and air-conditioned SUVs. No, they yearn for a simpler time when adventuring wasn’t quite so sanitised and commercialised – when there were real dangers, and success could be achieved only through a combination of luck, perseverance and ingenuity.
These people call themselves The Adventurists, and in December last year, Carlo Alberto Biscaretti di Ruffia, Paolo Rignon and I officially joined their ranks.
Only one thing is needed to become a member of this group: you have to take part in one of their adventures. This might sound simple, but it is deceptively difficult. You see, the group’s adventures are not for the faint-hearted. Taking on one of their challenges requires real commitment.
The adventure that we signed up for was the Africa Rally – an arduous trek from London to Limbe (in Cameroon) that was aimed at raising funds for various charities working in Africa. In order to make the trip as challenging as possible, the rules stipulated that there would be no official route and no support.
Each team would have to find its own way to Limbe. Oh yes, as an added challenge the Adventurists demanded that all participating vehicles be left-hand-drive and have an engine displacement of no larger than 1 000cc.
With this restriction in mind, our first task was to find a suitable vehicle.
Hailing from Torino, the home of Fiat, we quickly settled on a 1987 Panda 4×4 that we managed to pick up for a very reasonable price.
The little car had seen better days, but was still mechanically sound. All we had to do was replace a few couplings and install an underrun protection plate.
In addition to preparing our car, we had to decide on a charity to support. After some deliberation we chose Send a Cow – an organisation that provides training, livestock, seeds and support to farmers in Africa.
On 10 December 2009 – three days before the rally’s official start – we were packed and ready to head for London. Hours before leaving, however, we received a call from the organisers.
The event had been cancelled!
The head office of counter-terrorism in the United Kingdom had decided that participants faced a very real risk from terrorist factions in Mauritania.
We were devastated. Our adventure had come to an abrupt and premature end.
But all was not lost. Thankfully, a day later we received another call from the organisers. A new plan was offered: we could ship our Panda to Dakar, Senegal, and start from there. We immediately jumped at the suggestion.
We hastily changed our travel plans, loaded our car onto a ship in Antwerp and flew to Dakar.
* A truely amazing story, we know. So read Ludovico’s entire article in the July issue of Leisure Wheels. On sale now!