The 6th Classic Safari Challenge - 2017

9 October - 5 November 2017

Classic Safari Reports

Safari Diary from Cresta Mowana Chobe - October 17

Day 6: Swakopmund to Etosha National Park - Moving on but with heavy hearts - The events of yesterday naturally cast a long shadow over the rally this morning and, to take this into account the route for the day was altered accordingly.

The drive along the Skelton Coast towards Henties Bay and through Damaraland was cancelled in favour of a simpler run up the main tarmac roads to the Etosha Lodge.

Albrecht Haas, wasn’t with us this morning however as he, Christine and their Jaguar had been delayed in Solitaire with a broken axle. They’re determined to catch up and reckon with a fair wind and a bit of luck they’ll be back with us in a couple of days. Additionally the Morgan of Philip & Laurette Macwhirter was left behind with a broken leaf spring. A disappointing end to their Classic Safari but they’re going to continue with us in a rental car.

Tomorrow we’ll dust ourselves off once again and get back behind the steering wheel to enjoy the best that Africa has to offer.

Day 7: Drive through Etosha - Game on - Today the Rally was given a whole day to experience the incredible Etosha National Park. The straight line distance was only 120km from the morning’s MTC to the night halt in Mokuti Lodge, but most of the crews zig zagged their way through the many secondary routes in the hope of spotting some, or all of the big five.

Elephants, zebra and ostrich were seen around the muddy watering holes, whilst two rare and elusive black rhino put in appearance deeper into the bush.

Bertie and Charlotte van Houtte’s Porsche unfortunately suffered a small engine fire at the entrance to the park so they were towed back to Etosha Lodge, from where they’d set out some thirty minutes previously.

Halali, halfway through the park was a good stop to enjoy the packed lunch which the Etosha Lodge had provided and it was here that we found David Roberts, along with his daughter and relief co driver Lindsey, sat bedside his faithful TR which had suffered a suspension collapse.

A web of ratchet straps was spun to hold the back end together and the little red soft top limped onwards to Mokuti and a waiting flat bed truck for the onward journey to Cresta Mowana and a more permanent repair. The Alvis of Manoj and Avi Saxena also retired today with carburettor problems.

To round off an epic day, this evening, an excellent dinner was served to the rally deep in the bush with delicacies such as oryx, springbok and beef tripe on offer.

Day 8: Etosha National Park to Popa Falls - Mercury rising - Leaving the game lands of Etosha this morning, the needle on the thermometer began climbing towards 40°. The open car crews were feeling the heat and more than one engine suffered from ongoing fuel vaporisation syndrome. 

At the passage control in the busy town of Rundu, Mike Velasco’s Bentley drew quite a crowd as the sweeps set to trying to find a way to cool the fuel on its way to the engine. The rest of the crews raided the freezers and chillers of the fuel station and devoured all manner of ice creams and cold drinks.

Tom van den Berg and Femke Schepers have been playing with the roof arrangement of their Mercedes today and reckon that they’ve cracked the secret to staying cool. Roof up with both the rear windows and the side windows open to get some shade and to maximise the cooling effect of a through draft.

There was much long straight and hot tarmac today, with goats and cattle along the roadside as well as many craft stalls offering wooden or woven curios and trinkets. The landscapes and the people of Namibia have changed dramatically now and, by the time we arrived in the Divundu region on the banks of the Okavango, the deserts, dunes and gravel roads were distant memories.

We are staying in lodges around Popa Falls this evening and some crews took the opportunity of a cooling sundowner out on the sandbanks, overlooking the Falls before enjoying an unforgettable dinner.

Day 9: Popa Falls to Chobe National Park - Botswana bound - The day began well for John and Nicole Whitelock who, thanks to the Saxena brothers and their rental car, were reunited with their passports this morning at the MTC in the forecourt of the Divundu fuel station. An oversight had seen them left behind in Etosha whilst their owners had carried on northwards — oblivious.

Bertie and Charlotte van Houtte also looked pleased as they are also back with us in a rental car eager to get back to running with the pack.

The rally route crossed the Okavango River immediately after the restart and then began the long run down the famous Caprivi strip keeping our eyes peeled for any errant elephants. Only one was glimpsed, momentarily, through the bush, but this constant looking for them was hungry work so a good lunch had been prepared on the banks of the Zambezi at the Caprivi Houseboat Safari Lodge in Katima Mulilo. From the shady tables we watched pods of hippos as they alternately bobbed up and down in the warm shallow water.

The good roads ate up the kilometres today as we continued our journey towards the border and into Botswana. This is the third country we have ticked off so far and, if the thermometer in Andy Inskip’s truck is accurate, the hottest, with 42°c reported at one point.

We are staying on the banks of the Chobe River this evening, in the excellent Cresta Mowana Lodge where David Roberts and Jamie Turner have been struggling all afternoon to rebuild the suspension of the TR250 with parts which Jo has just flown in with.

There’s an early start tomorrow when a squadron of light aircraft will transport is deep into the Okavango Delta for two amazing days of safari drives.

Syd Stelvio



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