The 5th Classic Safari Challenge 2014

1st - 26th  May, 2014

Classic Safari Reports

Safari Diary from Etosha - May 19

Day 13: Victoria Falls - Rest day - After last nights banquet of crocodile and thick fillet steak, beef we hasten to add, there was possibly no better feeling than to wake up in the five star luxury that is the 1930s Victoria Falls Hotel. Throwing off the thick Egyptian cotton sheets, we made our way to the breakfast terrace, The Jungle Junction, via the million dollar view of the bridge over the Falls. A sunrise left an orange mist which hung in the air as the cloudless blue of the sky promised another fabulous day.

And what a day it was going to be, there was a plethora of activities on offer - lion petting, helicopter flights over the cataract, the Game Park with elephants drinking from the edge of the River Zambezi, a wet and wild walk along the side of the Falls themselves or a simple but luxurious spa treatment.

But for some, the morning was taken up with maintenance issues and car concerns. As usual the sweeps were busy but none of the problems they were presented with proved to be serious. Andrew and Gina Long's Crossley needed attention to its radiator, Marco Halter was looking at the clutch of his Volvo whilst Greg Newton and Bill Cleyndert gave their machinery a wash and brush up. Andy Inskip kept himself out of trouble fabricating a new gear linkage for the VW Beetle of Ed and Janet Howle.

The day was rounded off in spectacular fashion with a sunset river cruise up the beautiful Zambezi river where the crews were able to watch hippo and crocodile whilst sipping a civilised G&T and nibbling on a selection of canapés. As the big red African sun set the full moon rose to give an incredible double header.

Tomorrow we will somehow have to drag ourselves away from here and get on with the Rally.  We leave behind one of the finest hotels on the African Continent.

Day 14: Victoria Falls to Nata -  We drove to a beautiful thatched lodge inside Botswana, after an easy border crossing out of Zimbabwe at Kazangula. 

Along a long straight bitumen road we skirted the Chobe National Park, with elephants grazing in the long grass beside us, and arrived by mid-afternoon for refreshing drinks and a lazy lunch along with a dip in the pool.

Day 15: Nata to Maun and by plane to Okavango - We left at first light for a steady drive to the small but busy town of Maun, on the South side of the Okavango Delta, the world's greatest wetlands area. 

And, after a chaotic hour in the departures hall of the airport - where timings for our squadron of 16 planes booked exclusively for the E.R.A. seemed to be changing by the minute, we were eventually bundled into the Cessnas for a 30 minute flight to four luxury camps in the middle of the Delta. This was to prove yet another highlight of the event. Most of us took to small agile aluminium boats for a "game drive" by river and a most spectacular sundowner before we returned to the comforts of our wonderfully exotic small lodges, set in one of the wildest and most peaceful regions on earth.

Day 16: Okavango Camp - Rest day - Our four idyllic camps set in the heart of the wetlands could not be more comfortable. 

The Classic Safari Rally was split into groups for yet more game drives, long lazy lunches and dinner parties by candlelight with vocal entertainment provided by the chefs and staff who serenaded us with traditional song and dance, before we ate. A nightcap of Amarula liqueur, sitting around a roaring log fire rounded off a perfect day. It had all been a memorable experience, a world away from the rigours of driving a classic car across the heart of Africa.

Day 17: Maun to Popa Falls via Drotskys - Air Traffic Control in Maun got the message - by satellite  phone - that we were ready for our early morning airlift back to the cars. 

At 7.45am we jumped into the open 4x4s and headed out to the grass air-strip. Some of this took our Land Rovers hacking through thick 10ft-tall grass of reed and long Fescue and even involved at one point wading through axle deep water as we rocked our way slowly over boggy ground to the airstrip.

Within minutes of arrival at the strip the faint sound of a plane could be heard buzzing over the top of the surrounding jungle, and the first plane comes into view, suddenly dropping down to skim over the tree-tops and then again falling rapidly onto the end of the short strip. In a cloud of swirling dust the little Cessna spun round, sending up more dust, and with its big single engine on tick-over we were once again strapping ourselves in to hurtle back down the bumpy strip.  The pilot had the plane on full revs as the wheels beneath us whisked over the brittle branches of a line of Acacia trees that stand like sentries at the far end of the baked earth landing strip.  At 900ft we are passing over the heads of elephants below, then a heard of water buffalo... and we are heading back to civilisation and the manic bustle of Maun aerodrome.

The entire experience of staying in the middle of the Delta has been a wonderful highlight of the entire journey.

Day 18: Popa Falls to Mushara - It's good to be back behind the wheel on the fabled graded-gravel of Northern Namibia. 

Under the hottest of suns and deepest blue African skies we have engines racing again on an open road Medal Section. This is 50 kilometres with a seriously long and dusty gravel road with few sweeping bends through open bush. Best performance went to the Ford Mustang of Mike and Eunice McInerney, which just pipped the Falcon GT of Dennis and Kathleen Varni, who sped past the finish checkpoint manned by Lee and Sue Vincent, who would not stop the stopwatch until the Ford had come to a standstill. This overshoot cost Dennis a few seconds, enough to allow the Mustang to steal first place. Third best and on form was the Volvo 142 of Jose and Maria Romão de Sousa, who collected the gold medals at dinner.  The Washington's flying Dodge was yet again best Vintageant, with the gold medals going to Andrew and Gina Long in the 1928 Crossley.

We all arrived at Mushara camp where we enjoyed more fabulous African hospitality in several small lodges.

Day 19: Mushara to Etosha - With today designated a transit day we set out early for the crossing of the world famous Etosha National Park. 

We experience Zebra herds crossing the road while some see elephants, giraffes and ostriches in the road... All that is except Andrew and Gina Long who are turned back by an officious park-gate ranger who, despite having no objections to the vintage Bentley, refuse access for the Crossley on the grounds that their car has no side screens. 

While arguments continued in the hot sun at the gate, the luckless crew were overtaken by open sided Toyota Safari vehicles. As this is being written Andrew and Gina are on a 300 kilometre detour around the edge of the park to Andersons Camp, where zebra are drinking from a pool 25 yards from our dinner table.

Syd Stelvio


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