On day four the off-road part of the 2013 General Tyre 4×4 African Adventure started in earnest. Shortly after departing the Elephant Sands campsite, the convoy turned right onto a 4×4 trail that is used primarily during the local hunting seasons. Thick bushveld characterised the drive, including towering trees and dense foliage. It also provided the first notable sightings of elephant – which amazingly vanished into the bush as quickly as they appeared.
After roughly two hours on the trail, we joined the cut line (or “kaplyn” in Afrikaans) that forms the border between Botswana and Zimbabwe – without a fence in sight. This effective no-man’s land is graded periodically, and is the only real indication of any form of formal division between this section of Botswana and the adjacent national park in neighbouring Zimbabwe.
The group enjoyed a tasty mid-morning brunch in the shade of a huge thorn tree as the ambient temperature had already nudged 30 deg C by 10 am. We then continued along the border line, which varied from wide open grasslands interspersed with marshes, thick bush and tall elephant grass that seemingly hadn’t been cut back in several years.
Then came the mud. Although it was much drier than experienced during the recce conducted in January, there were sufficient muddy splashes and slippery dongas to liven the spirits of the crews and add a touch of dirty character to the fleet of 4x4s. One particularly treacherous section required a deft approach, but everyone got through without hassle – except, ironically, the driver of the recovery vehicle (no names mentioned, Jacques J).
Instead of straddling the bank he adopted the gung-ho approach (reportedly spurred on by the driver of the sweep vehicle, although Rynhardt vehemently denies any complicity) and got suitably bogged down in the sticky mire. A fair bit of winching, in searing 35 deg C heat, saw the Adventure Junkies Hilux safely extricated with a laugh and a jeer, and then it was the final push through towards the end of the trail at the Matetsi border post. The off-road trail covered 165 km, yet took over 6 hours to complete due to the undulating terrain.
However the General Grabber MTs and ATs emerged with flying colours, as did all the sponsored vehicles, comprising the Toyota Hilux and Fortuner, Ford Rangers and Isuzu KBs.
A further 90 km back on the A33 tar road towards Kazungula and Kasane took the adventure to the overnight stop at the welcoming Senyati Safari Camp, with its popular elephant watering hole, superb private camping facilities and sounds of wildlife (including elephant and hyena) piercing the night air.