Rally Round Africa: Victoria writes (Part 1)

Navigation training underway

Jeremy and I met with Kim and Nikki Bannister in a pub in the Cotswolds to try and teach me how to hold a tulip map the right way up and how to press buttons on a stopwatch. They certainly got me looking efficient and Jeremy had the fun job of driving the Boxster through water splashes. We even finished in the right place (partly accidentally)!

Bring on the Regularities!

A peek at the Itinerary

Not a bad place to update the Blog

And here we are! not a bad place to update the Blog – by a pool on the Indian Ocean in Dar. We landed this morning at 5.45 am and came straight to the Sea Cliff hotel.  We have made contact with our Rally Clerks of the Course Nikki and Kim Bannister over breakfast and made use of some one-to-one time with them to gain some local knowledge. The competition begins before the competition! We have also now met some of our fellow Rally goers – the petrol head schpeak has begun – yawn Victoria!…..

Arriving back at the hotel armed with oil for the imminent oil changes as we run the car in.

Our new friend Chris acting as a private banker as he changed too many dollars to Tanzanian Shillings – don’t worry we checked the exchange rate!

Collecting Sol (at last) and all the antics that went with…

Today we were all bussed over to the other side of Dar to collect our cars from the port. A long hot dusty drive – even the coaches got lost – good come back for me in the future as navigator! Here is a photo of all the cars with the containers in the background that they arrived in. Everyone very keen to be reunited with their cars, I think Jeremy was the keenest!

And the OFF! The journey starts here. My first navigational challenge as the calibration exercise began when we got back to Sea Cliff.

Not long into the journey back to the hotel we got stuck in terrible traffic, Sol overheated and the clutch was not impressed and stopped working.

Rev your engines!

The start line of the Rally Round Africa 2018

We are car number 10 – leaving at one minute intervals – Standard time is 07.00 so we are leaving at 07.10…we are counted down and waved off, vroom vroom…

Navigator (me) trying to remember her training lesson in the Cotswolds – only last week but a long long way away. Must zero the trip meter at the exit – the journey begins!!!!

Still Alive

A quick post to let you all know that we are still alive! Blogging has been very difficult as this has turned out to be what one of the other competitors described as a “full on endurance rally” driving from dawn till dusk with only just time to eat and grab a few hours sleep until the alarm goes off to start again the next day. Added to that of course very limited wi-fi that isn’t enough to upload blog posts and so many problems with the car that has left J (and the wonderful mechanics) working on him into the early hours…..other Bloggers have given up – not me and anyway tomorrow we have a day off in Lusaka, we arrived tonight after driving for 10 hours 566K so I will do some proper blogging and get you all up to date!

Love to all from us both and Sol and Africa xxx

Dar es Salaam to Selous

The first of many early starts we set off on our (short for this Rally) 200.16K drive to Morogoro.

Despite our police escort the rush hour traffic out of Dar was horrendous and Sol got very hot very quickly. It was a joy however to see the excitement on people’s faces as they lined the streets to wave us along.

Jeremy really had to have his wits about him as the journey to Morogoro was so hazardous. Motorbikes and Tuk-tuks everywhere and people running into the road to wave at us. Then once we were out on the main roads little Sol was squeezed between a relentless stream of overloaded lorries that would definitely not pass European emissions tests!

Sol stood up to the challenge until 1K before we arrived at the hotel. He had had enough of the heat and the clutch went again. Somehow J managed to coast into the hotel car park and I did my bit getting the time card signed.

A Day In The Selous 5th Oct Day Two

Jeremy is understandably fretting this morning about waking up in the middle of a 54,000 square kilometre park while Sol is hundreds of miles away in need of attention. We won’t be going any further until the clutch problem is fixed. However his worries were soon far away as we set off on four wheels again for a day in the Bush.

Our first stop (after driving for 2 hours!) was the Rufiji river – the biggest in Tanzania apparently. Jeremy feeling at home messing about in boats

We saw many crocodiles and hippos and  all sorts of other wildlife – our dedicated guide got into the river right next to a huge crocodile to free the boat the grounded boat.

Our group was split between 4 camps and luckily the mechanics were staying with us in Serena lodge. They had been delayed for the night but arrived in time for us to collar them at dinner buy them a beer and hope to be at the front of the queue for fixing when we get back to Sol in the morning….

Selous to Mikum

Breakfast on the move

we were given the first flight with the mechanics so that they could get going on Sol to hopefully problem solve before setting off at standard time 13.00 on our long journey to Mikumi – we weren’t the only ones with problems…

After adjusting the clutch and fitting a fan and even finding other problems which were solved with a pair of Jeremy’s pants (!) we set of at the much later time of 15.00. No sooner had we gone round the corner than Sol started making all the wrong noises, so back we turned. As we drove back in J said that the engine sounds “Pants” so Richard (chief mechanic) said “you had better take your pants off then”. That is what he did. Problem (and a few more such as the choke being stuck on which explained why we were using so much petrol) solved.

A long hot dusty journey down to Mukimi  – more lorries and motorbikes – speed traps round every corner manned by policemen who basically name their price for a cash fine with no receipt – cheered along by the hords of happy people along the roads.

All was going well until just before we reached our time control destination and suddenly the trip meter stopped working ! HELP ! Jeremy pointed to the speedometer which was also out and said that he thought that the cable had probably snapped. This was disastrous for me as navigator. We found the hotel anyway as it was guessable from the last section of the rout book and got signed off. We were split into hotels tonight and I have to say when we were shown to our grotty noisy one on the main road – after all the problems we were having with the car and the really enduring journey it had taken to get there I was close to sense of humour failure.

It’s all part of Rallying (apparently!) and I talked myself into keeping my spirits up. J had a look at the cable, saw that it had snapped, so there was nothing we could do about it and we got in a landrover to go back to the other hotel for a BBQ with some local entertainment – not such a bad ending after all and ….tomorrow is another day……

Rest Day In Lusaka day 8

Since I posted the Blogs below – we have crossed the border from Tanzania to Malawi, driven through beautiful  Malawi which was such a breath of fresh air literally after Tanzania – no lorries (!) and crossed borders again into Zambia. We spent our first night in Chipata and now we are having a day off in Lusaka. Jeremy having driven the last 1,800K on the handbrake (with the foot brake as an emergency as it sticks on every time you use it – I won’t bore you with why). No fuel gauge (we have run out of petrol twice!) using an app on my phone for a trip meter.

We had a press meeting this morning with Sam the president of Zambia Motor Sport Association where Jeremy was given a chance to talk about Just A Drop to the Zambian media. Since then, Jeremy has been having fun working on Sol – fixing an oil leak and goodness knows what else, with Sam joining in and having a go driving Sol. It was wonderful to see what pleasure it has given Sam.

I have spent the rest of the day – it’s now 6.00-  updating the Blog but have only got to Day 4! Other people have given up and switched to Instagram and even the Rally Round team said that they are struggling to keep up with theirs with two people feeding it. So I feel I can be forgiven for skipping a few days.

I really want to put up lots of lovely pictures to give you a flavour of the diverse areas that we are driving through but that is what takes the time. My over riding feeling of the Rally so far (apart from exhaustion!) is the sheer joy our cars give to all the people we pass, so here is one or two to give you a flavour of that.

And of course Jeremy spending more time under the car than in it!

Tomorrow morning we weave for Livingstone at standard time 06.00 that’s 06.10 for us – less than 12 hours away, so it’s time for me to sign off and go and get my hands dirty with Jeremy and his nuts in the car park! xxx

Lusaka To Livingstone

So we checked out of time control at 06.10 and then went to breakfast. Probably not that sensible as little Sol has one of the smallest engines on the Rally and needs lots of petrol stops

and stops to crack the breaks off every time J has to use them, so we struggle to get the the time controls at the best of times. Anyway we had a good run out of Lusaka and then did a 45K section on a dirt track – that was really good fun but no pictures I’m afraid as SO bumpy and no time for stopping. The only car we passed was one of the Porsches, who were understandably taking it very carefully after a previous Porsche lost it’s suspension in a pot hole earlier in the Rally.  So we knew we were at the back of the pack again.

After making up some miles on a nice clear main road,  – only stopped for speeding once (!) we turned off onto more track to start our first timed section: Regularity RS9./1 : Kolomo.

Here is where it all started to ho horribly wrong! This is what Raying is all really about – the competitive side. The previous regularities had been cancelled for various reasons so there was quite a build up to this our first one and I was nervous enough as it was. There is a window of time to do the regularity and we got there five minutes before the end – We spent 15 minutes faffing about where the start was as the instructions were ambiguous – Several locals stopped and asked if they could help as they thought we were lost – we tried to explain what we were doing but it’s not easy to explain! – I had at this point put about four different start times on my time card and we were now 15 minutes late to start. Little did I know there was worse to come – I was just getting ready for the off and my phone which is what I was using for a trip meter told me it was too hot and it died on me! Stress levels were boiling over – but J remained his usual calm self and started taking photographs! We decided to just drive it and guess the distances and see what happened….. We don’t even have a speedometer (!) because of the snapped cable, but J thinks the rev counter is just as accurate.  I have a proper mechanical stop watch that J sells through HVC but it was useless without the trip meter. The average speed was supposed to be 38 so again we guessed. Unbelievably we didn’t get lost and arrived only a few seconds out – so it could have been a lot worse but I was quite traumatised by the whole thing!

It was all made better by the section ending at Rowland and Mandy Smith’s Farmhouse where they hosted a fabulous lunch for us all, care of our fellow competitor Tony Allen.

By complete co-incidence Tony is associated with a schools charity called African Revival who are supported by Just A Drop! Two of their representatives were there so we chatted to them about Just A Drop and here is a photo of J with them:

I put my phone in the fridge and off we set for the next regularity – which wasn’t nearly so traumatic –

and the drive down to Livinngstone

Soon after Livingstone we arrived at the fabulous fabulous fabulous Royal Livingstone hotel. Not often you have Zebras grazing on the lawn with a Morgan in the background!

We were greeted with sundowners looking over the Zambezi river. The stresses of the day all forgotten

Rest Day At Livingstone

Breakfast on the veranda in Father’s original (vintage!) Safari shirt

and then a walk to my namesake Falls

J has been fettling with the car again this afternoon – more oil leaks and the such and I have been uploading photos to the blog and refraining from throwing my Mac-book into the Zambezi! Am going for a swim now before the day vanishes – we are all meeting at 4.00 for a surprise ?!?!…..

And the Surprise Was….

A ride on the Livingstone Express (their version of the Orient Express in it’s day) with dinner and drinks.

More than slightly uncomfortable as we were steaming through communities of people living in shacks surrounded by rubbish – plastic bottles mainly but they rushed up to cheer us on, with sheer joy on their faces.

Time to leave Alastiar to his Babes

A quick toot of the whistle

and back to study the route book to see what tomorrow holds for us in a navigational way. If only we had a plan of what will go wrong with Sol tomorrow! xxx

From Zambia to Botswana

We were warned that this would be the most difficult/stressful border crossing, but little did anyone know that the ferry would be broken! we left in batches rather than one minute intervals to make the crossing easier, the 9.00ers before us were very lucky as they got on the last ride before it broke. There was no shade and we were waiting in 40 degrees African sun  When we were told it would be half an hour to fix it we thought  maybe three days, so were utterly delighted that it was all fixed in under four hours! We (in a very hot way) enjoyed the view of four different countries, (don’t ask me to name them now – I’ve had a cocktail in celebration that I have enough wifi to upload a photo!) and watching the scenery such as the carved out canoes going past

then we were on our way

And here we are in no mans land between Zambia and Botswana

Kasane to Francistown

Lots of Driving, lots of Navving, lots of Distance, I overshot the turning to the track to lunch, partly because J was following Alastair and Rachael who had also overshot it, because he was convinced they would know where they were going! – denying the first rule of Navigating that he taught me (actually the only one) which was never follow anyone else!

Arrived at our watering hole only to be whisked off on trucks to the salt flats – well it was all very flat as our truck got a flat tyre, with no spare – so we baled onto another truck that had already seen the flamingoes and went back!

More spannering needed – don’t ask me what – you don’t need to know…

From Phinda to Umghlanga

Bye bye team at Phinda – lovely seeing you and all the other animals.

Hello Umghlanga

The face says it all – we have arrived at the Oyster Box in Umhalanga – a beautiful hotel in a stunning location, in one piece but with no clutch! The closest I have seen to J not smiling!

I have enough wifi to upload a few photos but feeling FOMO as my group WatsApp with the Rally is inundated with pictures of  everyone else enjoying cocktails, while I do Blogging. Here I am with Eva and Barbara feeling very proud of ourselves!

J is spannering with the mechanics (saints!) with the help of a beer from Pam. Pam and Laurie do know how to look after us!

p.s. Recent regularities have been cancelled and I totally messed up the ones that we did do – partly because of the broken cable to the gauge pilot – no speedometer – no kilometre – no trip meter – etc etc – but today we had two regularities and with the help of a stop watch (even that is 4 seconds out), and an app on my phone which didn’t overheat today, we got a Zero and a 1 – (for my friends and family who don’t know – low is good) is bring on the beers.

Here is a picture of the Rally Round Team – Organisers, Doctor, Photographer and Mechanics, with my celebrating our Zero with Gary ?

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