31 March 2023 *The Third World as Seen From The Saddle- Day One of the Safari Rally. *

Suffice to say, Jeremy Clarkson would love the Zimbabwe Safari Rally. It is every best episode of Top Gear ever made, rolled into one epic movie, a very long movie.
Day One had the cars travelling from Bulawayo to Hwange National Park on the roads less travelled, via Nyamandhlovu and Tsholotsho. The roads are less travelled for good reason. They are completely knackerd. I don’t know who Zimbabwe’s current Minister of Roads is but I am guessing he is rather plump and well rested.


There was such a party atmosphere as the ancient and venerable mixed bag of cars rolled out of the Holiday Inn carpark, some of them only just, everything from stately long in the tooth Mercs and Beemers, racy soft top Mercs, a low-slung Morgan sports car sporting a 3lt Ford engine, a Ford F250 pickup, also sporting a Ford engine, a stumpy edition of a Unimog circa 1960, a World War II Willy’s Jeep, a Kubelwagen, and a Pontiac muscle car, a 1967 Chrysler Farm Mobile, one of only 18 left running in the world, and a nineteen voetsak Austin matatu complete with chicken on the roof and an armchair in the back for comfort, and an entire fleet of ubiquitous and elderly Land Rovers.


The mechanics got their longest day ever off to an early start when they were called upon to give the kiss of life to those engines not keen on leaving the car park.
Our job was to sweep for strugglers and stragglers at the back. Mostly I seemed to sweep Land Rovers, the Unimog and a 1960 Morris Minor piloted by Jess Bray and Jen Mason.
Jeremy Clarkson would especially approve of the Morris Minor. It could do nought to 70 k.p.h. but only just. The Morris’s top end speed improved considerably after the brakes failed. The windscreen wipers also failed about a minute into a rain storm. Thereafter Jess and Jen operated the wipers manually using shoe laces. Space in the little was at a premium with the bulk of the boot space taken up by a Jaegermeister dispenser powered by an inverter. The bitterly cold Jaegermeisters were heaven sent, until the inverter conked out. Alas.


As compared to cyclists, motorists take their social rehydration very seriously and use every breakdown as an excuse to open the cold boxes. With one of the Land Rovers stopping to mark it’s territory 15 times, the cold boxes took a hammering.


We eventually limped into Main Camp at midnight after our longest but best day ever. On the drive into Main Camp I almost saw two hyenas, but didn’t, I also didn’t see my cheetah, but I did see huge herds of wildebeests and Impala, and a Civet cat.


In closing and to get the elephant out of the room, I can confirm that the coveted last place position went to a Land Rover, as did second, third, fourth and fifth last place.
Tomorrow, more of the same as the Safari Rally traverses Hwange National Park. A huge well done to Taylor’s Africa Safaris for putting together our best adventure ever.
Until my next blog, check your oil, water and your head gaskets – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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