"They describe it as dust, sweat, and gears. And bloody hell it is that. But so much more."
Words by: DUNCAN QUINN
Photos by: NICOLAS RAMIREZ & ELEPHANT CHARGE
Lunatics gallivanting through the bush with stripped down, juiced up 4x4s, up hill and down dale. Naturally all in aid of some worthwhile cause.
Why the hell else would you get out of bed at the crack of dawn in the Zambian bush to go orienteering all over creation in a 4×4?
We flew in the night before, inhaled the requisite medicinal gin and tonic (for the malaria you understand), grabbed an hour or so of jet lagged shut eye and then awoke bleary eyed to head out from Lusaka at 3am. As we rubbed our fresh Yellow Fever jabs and considered the hilarity of “going camping for the weekend in Africa” we hooned out of town en route to the middle of nowhere.
It's pretty inspiring driving out as the sun rises to set camp, get a brew on, crack open the bacon and get ready for an early morning beer to take the edge off. Breakfast of champions some might say.
With that done we wandered off into the camp to see if we could find out what this Elephant Charge was all about. We were supposed to be entered to run it. But somehow between getting on a plane in New York and getting to Lusaka (Zambia) it became apparent that someone had dropped the ball. Not only did we not have the 4×4 Nissan had supposedly promised us. We didn’t have a place in the rally, a team or anything else for that matter. Not to worry. Feint heart never won fair maid, as those chaps who went to Sandhurst say. So we headed out in any event to do a recce.
Through the bleary eyed vision of much jet lag and more than 24 hours en route it became apparent that a few things at least were true. First, this really was quite difficult to do well. Second, all of the organizers I had been e-mailing with thought I was winding them up as, as they explained to me, there was no way anyone in their right mind would come from New York City to partake in this mayhem. And third, a white suit in the bush is apparently a novelty these days.
With the help of Vicki, one of the lovely organizers, I hopped in what turned out to be the winning car to attack the “Gauntlet”. After about 45 seconds of holding on for dear life we had gunned it over the side of what looked like a cliff, down through a dry river bed and up a one in three rock face covered in trees to reach the check point at the other side at the top. Spectacular driving skills. And some props to Land Rover as well.
Needless to say we will be back next year to attack whatever the course turns out to be ourselves. It changes every year. And you only find out a few hours before what it is you will actually be doing. The idea is that you make it from A to B through a series of checkpoints by the shortest direct route. Given that 48 hours before we thought we’d be having eggs at Balthazar not in the bush this shouldn’t be too much for us to cope with.
If you want to come along, raise some money for a great set of causes, and prepare your next set of tall tales for the lunch table be in touch.
We’re doing it. And so should you.
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