Words and Images Martin Pretorius, Additional Images Mike Turner
It first became clear that Camp Jeep would be a different kind of off-road get together when I was about 350km from Johannesburg. By this time, my backside was turning numb after the long drive, and my ears were begging for a reprieve from the constant droning of the all terrain tyres on tar and the screaming
of wind over the un-insulated hardtop. A Wrangler, it transpires, even in fullhouse Unlimited Rubicon spec, isn’t really the most forgiving long distance cruiser.
Then the Ladysmith turn-off beckoned, and I left the N3 with its speed traps and inconsiderate drivers in the rear-view mirror. And right there, in the middle of nowhere, the Camp Jeep organisers had set up a comfort break for the weary travellers making their way to the event. A stop by the roadside had me treated to a bottle of cold water and a warm welcome. Happy chatter with Jeep enthusiasts ensued; then, my thirst quenched, I set off on the last 80km to the main event.
The central Drakensberg scenery filled every square inch of the Wrangler’s windscreen, and every oncoming Jeep flashed its headlights in greeting. This was something that I’d last experienced when I’d still owned an old Italian car, and (back then) it was a sign of commiseration from fellow owners; but Jeep owners are clearly just happy to see each other. It must be a Jeep thing.
Arriving at the rather posh Champagne Sports Resort, home base for the weekend, I found it difficult not to feel intimidated by the impressive array of highly customised Jeeps all over the place. My Wrangler Unlimited was by no means a small or unobtrusive vehicle (especially not when wearing such bright yellow paintwork), but it seemed positively tiny and non-threatening in the company of such monsters. The bigger the tyres, the better, and the same apparently applied to suspension lifts and body modifications.