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On wheels again: the Savanna Rally 2011


After several heavy jobs in and around our home, it was high time to relax. That is to say, if you want to call car rallies relaxing, because actually it is exciting and stressful business! Our car is in great shape again and showed during the Sol Adventure Rally in October that no sand hill is to steep and no hole to deep. Our mechanic is proud of “his” baby!
Preparatory to the Savanna Rally we exercised a bit with new Dutch colleagues, not circumnavigators in a yacht but much more uncommon: in a car. With their sturdy antique Landcruiser Coen and Karin-Marijke drove in eight years from Holland through the Far East to Suriname and they have many more big plans. www.landcruising.nl

Friday 4th of November was the start of the Staatsolie Diesel Savanne Rally 2011. Lindy enjoyed it all so much last year, that she decided to join us again. It is a spectacular event, covered live on tv. During the rally the Surinamese are glued to the tube for four days. No less than five (!) national broadcasters sent their reporters into the bush to film and interview the participants and we were frequently to be seen on tv – causing many enthousiastic reactions.

There were 96 cars, so more than 200 participants, combined with 150 people tending to supporting jobs: route plotters, checkpoint crew, catering, etc. In all, a huge organisation.

The spectacular start on a packed Independence Square is preceded by a flag parade by all international teams. JW grumbled over having to characterise himself as a foreigner, but as soon as he got hold of the Surinamese flag his objections to the flag parade were gone.

The rally is quickly directed from the town centre into the suburbs and the interior, where you drive for a night and three days on rather impassable "roads". We had studied the rules thoroughly and drove the first route correct and within the time frame. But then trouble came, because if you don't pay attention for a split second, you are trapped by one of the many “kisi’s”: snakes in the grass of which there are many more than you can imagine.

The Savannerally is not a race. It is a challenge for car and driver who has to steer the car through rough terrain without getting stuck in sand heaps and mud. But especially the navigator's competence is deciding. Main objective is to find all correct (there are also many false ones) unmanned checkpoints and to pass the manned checkpoints at the right time. We still haven't outgrown the super jerk stage so with every order we stick our heads into a hornets' nest.
P did so literally when she inspected some bushes and was assaulted by 200 horny male wasps, as our chairman expressed in his speech. Head and back were covered with insects, panic and screaming of course but luckily many others were nearby and came to the rescue. “ROLL! ROLL!” was yelled, upon which P threw herself into the hot sand, thus chasing away the biggest part of the swarm.
Three people hurried to the scene with cube ice to cool head and back, cooling down the worst of the fire of a thousand stings. Combined with an antihistamine tablet (handy that also doctors compete) the result was that after the initial shock also the pain diminished quickly and that P experienced no nasty consequences. One of the plotters who was around, placed an improvised DLW-sign (dead end street). Funny, because DLW-signs are a vital part of rally technical signposting.

Photo's 3, 4 en 4A by Coen Wubbels

After the finish we called in at our mechanic to show our scratched & stained car and to tell how good it had performed. As a cars lover, the mechanic followed it the whole rally on tv, so knew about the wasps (as this was of course a great item for an other interview), and also told us that 40 out of 96 cars had encountered trouble. He was proud as a peacock when it appeared that our car was not among this unlucky category.

But trouble is inevitable, although it's timing was excellent: the day after the rally, when we dropped Lindy at the airport we had a flat tire. Darkness just fell in and JW could not unmount the spare tire from it's socket as we missed the right tool; so we called the mechanic and this fantastic man rushed to our rescue immediately. The next day we bought four new tires and our ancient lady (1990) proved to really have earned this present as to our big surprise we won the first prize in our class!


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