Words by Andrew Middleton, images by Rob Till
‘‘Don’t hold back, Andrew; let’s show these ballies how it’s done!” my co-driver Tymon Smith excitably exclaims as he clambers into the mud-soaked cage. Strapped in, his look of glee quickly turns to pale fear as he realises control has been relinquished to a madman.
Flag down, third gear, low range, rear locker engaged and throttle pedal buried deep into the carpet, I glance at the wildly out-of-control sled being towed behind me, briefly wondering if I should slow down for Tymon’ s safety. I quickly send that silly thought to the back of my mind and keep the throttle open. I know I’m going too fast, but as a thick quagmire approaches, the need for momentum is a good excuse for my recklessness. Keeping it completely pinned, we make it through the first mud hole – only just – with the wheels hurling rooster tails of rocks, dirt and dung directly at Tymon.
Upon entering the second mud pit, we aren’t so lucky; too much ‘momentum’ pulls my front left tyre off the rim as our Fortuner understeers into the edge of the dugout pit. We are stuck, but it’s a successful mission anyway. Despite being covered in cow poo, Tymon is alive and I’m laughing – amped for the next obstacle. This two-day off-roading Jamboree, held at the Rust de Winter resort, puts fun far ahead of serious competition.
Needless to say, many take the annual event very seriously indeed, and it seems that our small group of Hilux bakkies and my Fortuner are the only standard vehicles around. We’re here to make a point and prove that the underdog can come out on top. Whistling turbos and the thunder from a Detroit diesel V8 drown out all else on the first day’s gymkhana. There are 4×4’s wherever you look: some stuck, some about to be stuck, and others going through the motions. And all are constantly being judged and marked by keen-eyed marshals.
The first day consists of technical driving challenges for the person behind the wheel, and both mental and physical tests for the co-driver. For both parties, day one is long and tiring, but mainly just a good laugh – ending, of course, with a few beers around the campfire that evening.