The 6th Classic Safari Challenge - 2017

9 October - 5 November 2017

Classic Safari Reports

Safari Diary from Cape Town - South Africa - November 5

Day 25: Cradock to Plettenberg - Coastal command - The staff of Die Tuishuise and Victoria Manor set us off on our way in fine style this morning and, within half an hour of leaving Cradock, we had the first medal section over the mighty Swaershoek Pass.

This gravel mountain road had some tight hairpins, long straights and some great views over the wind blasted landscapes the Great Karoo, a semi desert covering a total of 400,000 square kilometres.

The scenery was very dramatic indeed as we pressed on to the  Western Cape via a passage control in the Golden Valley, Melk en Heuning coffee shop. The Sunshine Coast soon arrived and, neatly sidestepping the large city of Port Elizabeth we arrived at the MTC in Jeffreys Bay.

From here, and with no timing, the crews had two options. Either to head straight to Plettenberg Bay on the main roads or take a detour over the incredible, but unsurfaced Prince Alfred Pass. Both options had their own merits, an early G&T in the superb Plettenberg Bay Hotel or some breathtaking views and a real taste of the back country. Whichever option they chose though, both sets of crews eventually arrived in Plettenberg Bay just south of the Garden Route National Park and set to some pre dinner whale spotting from the terrace.

Mike and Lorna Harrison weren’t with us though as they had broken their wishbone in their Volvo -  again, and this time it’s irreparable. A truck will take the car to Cape Town whilst a hire car will bring the crew to Hermanus. Similarly, the Volvo of Jose and Maria De Sousa has been retired and the crew will also rejoin us in rental car in Hermanus leading us to wonder what it would be like if only everything in life was as reliable as a …….

Day 26: Plettenberg Bay to Hermanus - Thar she blows - Today we crossed from the Indian Ocean to the South Atlantic in 560 easy kilometres. The early part of the day took us through the Garden Route National Park before we struck inland to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world and, given the size of these birds, no-one considering a late breakfast at the Smitswinkel Farm Village dared have an omelette.

If they’d filled up here then they wouldn’t have had any room for the excellent lunch provided at the Olive Garden Restaurant in Ladismith.

Good quality tarmac, long open bends and impressive views were the biggest features of today which also included climbs of the impressive Huisrivier Pass and the Tradouw Pass.

The night halt tonight is in Hermanus. The town, originally called Hermanuspietersfontein had its name shortened as the original  was too long for the postal service to cope with. Hermanus  is famous for southern right whale watching and, many crews made the sort trip to the cliffs to peer into the surf looking for blowholes.

Alan and Tina Beardshaw however had other things on their mind this evening. They and their concours quality Triumph TR6 arrived on a flat bed truck with total transmission failure. This close to the finish there’s little point in renting a car so we expect to see them thumbing a lift to Franschhoek tomorrow.

Day 27: Hermanus to Franschoek - The Home run -  A lazy, 9.30am start gave crews a chance for some more whale-watching before we began the short drive to the lunch halt at the impressive Franschhoek Motor Museum via the dramatic coastline of False Bay and the Franschhoek Pass.

The final test of the rally was held over the Van Der Stel Pass which Keith Ashworth enjoyed more than any of the others so far given that Jamie Turner had just resolved the issue with his fuel tank’s pressure relief valve. The ‘extra 50bhp’ which he’s now got will no doubt be put to good use on the run in to Cape Town.

On the road today we passed through the town of Grabouw, where the soft drink Appeltiser was created, this area is famous for its fruit growing and we drove past many kilometres of apple and cherry orchards which eventually gave way to neatly trimmed and well tended vineyards. A much more sensible way to use the land we felt.

Founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, Franschhoek is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and sits in a rich and fertile valley between towering mountain peaks. Right in the Heart of the beautiful Cape Winelands the town has a vibrant food and wine scene as well as a huge range of arts and crafts shops. After the visit to the museum the high street was lined with rally cars and the pavement cafes filled with rally crews reflecting on the journey that has been the Classic Safari Challenge 2017.

The Le Franschhoek Hotel is where we’re spending the night and, as is customary with long distance rallies, the penultimate night is where the party really gets started.

Day 28: Franschhoek to Cape Town - That’s all folks - There’s always a last day on any Rally and this day dawned today; bright and clear. 

There was but a short drive, almost a ceremonial procession, to the finish line at the Cape of Good Hope where we were expecting a small crowd of furry little rally fans in the form of the Cape chacma (or the Papio ursinus ursinus if you prefer) to gather around the cars and to greet the drivers as they were waved in by Fred Gallagher and his chequered flag. Clerk of the Course, Gill Cotton then presented the crews with their coveted finishers awards.

Things didn’t run according to plan however, Jim Smith and Pete Stone had sprayed themselves liberally with baboon repellent and the organisers had also employed four professional baboon wranglers to keep the expected crowds in check. As a result there were precisely no primates on hand to mark the occasion for us. No matter, the humans managed to a pretty good job themselves and over a finger buffet on the sun drenched coast, they congratulated themselves on a job well done.

Once all of the crews were assembled and the necessary pictures had been taken, Peter Lovett then led a minutes silence in memory of Jan Hradecky. He and Dana have never been far from our thoughts and today we all felt his loss once again.

We took the coastal road back into Cape Town over Chapmans Peak and drove under Table Mountain straight through to the One and Only Hotel where soon enough, the prize giving gala dinner got underway and went on late into the night.

Manuel and Irene Dubs driving a 1940 Ford Coupe scooped the top spot in the Vintageant category whilst Stephen and Samantha Hardwick in their Datsun 240Z beat all comers in the Classics category. For both crews this was a very welcome maiden win. Two discretionary awards were also presented. Against all Odds - went to Marco Rollinger and Marianne Hengesch who have soldiered on in their Alfa Romeo “jeep”. With top speed of 80kph, this has been a long rally for them. The Spirit of the Rally went to Verena Simmen for her unfailing cheerfulness and enthusiasm.

Finally, it’s Clint Smith's birthday today so we wish him many happy returns and trust that all of the correspondence he receives will have Clint, on cards.

Syd Stelvio



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