Craaaaaak dddd…!’ A tremendous crunching noise seemed to be coming from the back of the Pajero somewhere. What the hell was that? It sounded as if the Conqueror trailer hitch had torn loose. It couldn’t have… I was crawling along in fourwheel high, first gear! When I jumped out and rushed to the back of the Mitsubishi, I could see nothing at all wrong with the tow hitch, although it looked a bit low on the deck.
By this time, Phillip de Vries and his crew had pulled up behind me on the rocky rutted track. After one look from Phillip, he burst out with, “Engelsman… your back wheel is completely stukkend!” The sidewall of the Pajero had been ripped to shreds. However, Phillip and the manne in his 4x4 – Cedric Miller and Deon Beekhuizen – sprang into action; and when an airlift jack didn’t work, a Hi-Lift on the Front Runner rock-sliders had me up and running in minutes.
I had gone barely another 500 yards when Phillip’s voice crackled over the radio, “Flattie… stop.” Then an even louder shout: ‘FLATTIE… STOP.” Who the hell was Flattie? Then the lights went on… Phillip was shouting at me. I had a new name – Flattie. I had now managed to rip one of the sidewalls of my Conqueror off-road trailer. This was the start of the notorious Van Zyl’s Pass, after all. In fact, I was the only mampara to get a puncture – or rather three of them – on the whole 5000-odd kilometre trip. But, before I embarrass myself further, let’s start at the beginning.
The beginning of this was when the Ed said something along the lines of “Would you like to go to Namibia…?” All I registered was “Namibia. Van Zyl’s Pass,” and I was stuttering, “I want to go,” even before I’d heard the rest. I entirely missed the bits about Epupa Falls, and Pajeros towing Conqueror offroad caravans and trailers.
Later that evening, reading the emails from organisers Vivian Torlage of Conqueror Northgate, Jannie Rykaart of Protea 4x4 Adventures, and our bunch at SA4x4, it started to sound like the trip of a lifetime. It was to be called the Van Zyl’s Pass Challenge, and this pass had been chosen because it is known to be a legendary off-road challenge for man and machine. But these guys were going to push the envelope even further… how about towing the entire range of off-thefactory- floor Conqueror off-road trailers using stock-standard Mitsubishi LWB Pajeros through the harsh, yet beautiful, northernmost reaches of Namibia?
Seven vehicles, seven trailers, a trip across the breadth of Botswana and on to the notorious Van Zyl’s Pass… was it possible? It looked like we would soon be finding out.
Van Zyl’s Pass Gallery
To read the full article, get the January edition of SA4x4