Our car mechanic was shocked when we told him we were pafrticipating in savannah rallies.
“This car will break!” But there was nothing to worry about as we were
crewing again in Nicolien's car.
Driving in the savannah is off the road. Obviously our
car is constructed to do this, but driving off
the road in a car rally is a different story as wide roads may be easy (although
you can't choose another road if you don't like the one you're on. That
can cost points!
The savannah is quite rough, even in the dry season. Holes and large
puddles all around
and some “roads” are dried out rivers as heavy rainfall during the rainy
season took them over. So you've got to know exactly what you are doing,
concentrate and hope you don't get stuck. A true
challenge for both cars and drivers.
Our first day in the savannah was only for exercise. Yes: day, as the
savannah rallies are mostly held in the nighttime. Such as the SOL Adventure
Rally two weeks later: starting Saturday evening at 21.00 with a large
spectator crowd and tv-reporters interviewing every equipe (talking into the
mike is the navigator's job), and finish at 15.00 the next day.
navigate by air photographs and hand drawn maps with or without (!) a scale
and have to find the correct route while orientating on paths and
shrubs. A compass is a must and so is a tripmaster (counting meters).
exercises were organised by a couple of cracks.
These people know the savannah by heart but don't boast about this; on the
contrary. They motivate and help whenever they can.
Driving in a car rally in the savannah is extreme and on the edge. Navigating is
difficult as point X
may be very clearly situated at a certain intersection of sand roads
where two Mauritius palms grow, we saw sand roads everywhere. You
easily get lost, and this is not the only hazard as you also have to
watch out for fires!
And for cars coming at you, as some participants don't seem to be afraid of a
Almost all rally cars are wrapped in printed foil to avoid scratches.
Looks pretty cool indeed! Nicolien's car is also wrapped but transparent
because of her diplomatic status. She was completely unchained, dove
and deep puddles and steered her shiny new Prado through scratching
branches, as the savannah is partly open territory and partly forest.
the way the forest in the savannah is beautiful, much prettier than the
jungle in the south, as there is more variation in vegetation.
During exercises we once
got stuck completely and JW had to cut away some shrubs and small trees
before we could get away.
Fortunately we brought our machete! The Dutch engineers just ahead of us
During the first real rally in savannah area we fortunately never got stuck
and we got some good advice on some spots where problems are expected, as
someone from the organisation is keeping watch. These people are great! If
they don't drive, they volunteer for anything, even for manning checkpoints
in the blazing sun.
The preparations for a rally are unbelievable. We noticed two weeks after
the exercises that the whole area was much neater. Fallen trees were removed,
hazardous branches were cut, dangerous grounds were marked,
some roads were cleared by a bulldozer and two bridges were built.
Also some new barricades were constructed. The routes are full of tricks and
as fun is one of the main ingredients in SARK rallies. And good food!
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