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Mystery Rally 2019 – The Long Way Round

Named Trouvaille or ‘A lucky find’, the Western Cape 4×4 & Difflock Club’s highly anticipated ‘Mystery Rally’ again surprised with more action than ever before.

Story & pictures Andrew Middleton

The 2019 Mystery Rally event was bigger, longer and even better than ever. This year’s fifth running of the event attracted 47 entries for a grand tour of the Cape’s most spectacular scenic spots, 4×4 challenges, and epic campsites.

As per usual, the guys from the Western Cape 4×4 & Difflock Club pulled off a stunning event spread over four days in September, including about 600km of driving, two camp sites, and a variety of challenges. Being a ‘mystery’, no contestant had any idea what to expect or where to go until the first set of GPS co-ordinates were released just before dawn on Friday, 20 September.

First stop was the legendary Honingklip 4×4 Farm and Brewery near Bot River. At SA4x4 we’ve been using Honingklip for many years, as a proving ground for test cars due to its wide range of terrain and challenging climbs. In past years, Day 1 of the Mystery Rally has always been an ‘adventure day’ involving a full day’s drive to the first camp. This year, however, event organiser Marc Dunster kicked things up a notch and sent us on a wild goose chase in the surrounding mountains. Some of us got more lost than others – that includes myself and co-driver Grant Greening.

We ended up somewhere near Ceres about 200km off-piste due to a GPS error (seriously, this time it really was the fault of the GPS). Having discovered our error and on returning to camp, the place was abuzz with activity as some teams enjoyed Honingklip’s best brews while others played on the venue’s countless 4×4 obstacles. It was here that we met some of the more interesting characters at the rally.

The jammin’ Jeep

Deep in the valley at Honingklip, while still finding our way around and figuring out who was who, we happened upon the first ‘incident’ involving Anton, Rudi, and their faithful old XJ Jeep. Having lunged nose first into a clearly impassable ditch, the right rear driveshaft snapped with a loud crack. Being a ‘full floater’ type axle design, the entire wheel finally fell off, with the remaining stub of broken half shaft still attached – but not before rally participants made five noble attempts at a snatch recovery. This sort of incident was to become a recurring theme for the poor Jeep and its spirited pilots.

That said, this early breakage was made good when a new part was quickly sourced from the Paarl workshop of Martin Lottering and the XJ Crew.
Unfortunately due to gale force winds at Honingklip earlier in the day, some tents had decided to find new homes and, while my pop-up acted more as a blanket than a shelter on the first night, there was no getting away from the start of Day 2 at the first sign of light.

Chasing the goose

The first big drive of the rally would take us on another goose chase to locate co-ordinates that would enable us to find the fastest route between Honingklip (Botriver), Malgas, Riviersonderend, and a secluded farm in Greyton. Well, that was my route anyway; some others added another 200km to the tally as they battled through farm gates, tiny towns, and rugby pubs in the middle of nowhere.
Having got separated from our group of rallying friends, my co-driver and I hauled into a wet and miserable Greyton just as darkness fell. Of course, we got lost in an attempt to find our destination for the night, a rustic campsite on the farm of Reenen Kritzinger just outside the town. We could see the camp from across a river, but had no access to it. Frustrations were at an all-time high and our GPS nearly took a swim. After eventually finding the farm, we were greeted with a blazing fire and a warming sherry, things could have been worse. Unfortunately, having got so lost, we’d knocked ourselves out of contention for a prize.

Competitive spirit

Scoring honours in the Mystery Rally is a layered task. The most points are amassed on the adventure drive days, when the rewards go to those able to correctly follow GPS co-ordinates and find clues along the way. That part done and dusted, the next two days were devoted to a series of point-scoring challenges.
The first hurdle to overcome was an incredibly steep 4×4 trail up and over one of the mountains on Reenen’s farm. The track, just beyond camp, defeated most standard bakkies and had a couple of the guys in a state of near panic with an extremely steep off-camber descent. One wrong move would have ended in a seriously bad day. Thankfully, magnificent views of the Greyton valley and Overberg mountain range kept everyone on top form, with plenty of white knuckles but no incidents – that we’d leave for the next day’s events.

The traditional potjie competition, for which Reenen had laid in at least half a ton of firewood, took up the evening. Contestants were placed in teams not of their own choosing, and were handed mystery bags filled with ingredients varying from oxtail to mince, spices, lamb chops or chicken, and vegetables, amongst other delights.
With teams assembled around a gigantic fire pit, potjies of all kinds (and a selection of pizzas) had to be produced on the braai alone. With this challenge, people that would have perhaps never met became best of friends and an awesome sense of community reverberated through camp.
Every cook put in massive effort so, as a judge of the potjie challenge, I never admitted to contestants that some meals were slightly below Michelin Star grade. After much deliberation by the judges the team Green Guys (ironically making pizzas) actually scooped the prize by the narrow margin of just one point – due to the spectacular assortment of cheesy delights they assembled. Needless to say, with everyone working together around the biggest firepit I’ve ever seen, the festivities reached deep into the night.

The final wallow

With a roar and a crash, the final day of challenges kicked off with Rudi and Anton’s ill-fated Jeep as the headliner once again. First up on the time trial, they went full-tilt at the section, proving that 33-inch tyres, lifted suspension, and a heavy roof rack do not make for the most stable rally car. Cutting a sharp left and hitting a lump at full lock, at 60km/h, their XJ flipped over with a crash, but miraculously landed back on its wheels almost instantly.
Seconds later, revs rose and the Jeep lurched forward as if nothing had happened. Though their rig was squashed a bit in various places, the brothers actually nabbed 1st place on the time trail, and continued on to the mud challenge along with everybody else. The organisers gifted them free entry into next year’s event for their utmost disregard for the Jeep’s wellbeing in the face of a challenge.
The next mettle-tester was a 300-metre long drag strip of thick cotton clay, which had been ploughed by Reenen and subsequently rained on – creating an almost impassable mud pit. With black soil flinging high and vehicles mostly sideways, driver skill was less important than nerve, mud tyres, and boot full of throttle. As the day drew on, deep trenches formed and threatened to scrape underbellies. Morne du Preez took his immaculate 1995 Disco 1 V8 to 1st place by seemingly skimming over the mud with his eyes closed.

Thankfully, for the sake of the vehicles involved, Reenen had a massive irrigation hose on site to wash off the thick clay, though getting rid of the ingrained mud was no joke. Car wash owners all over Cape Town must have been cursing the Mystery Rally ever since.
Apart from the evening’s prize-giving, where more festivities were the order of the day, that was it. Once again, the Mystery Rally proved to be an absolute blast for every man, woman, and child who attended. It’s something to put on your calendar for next year.

MYSTERY WINNERS

Overall winner: Michael Fouché (Suzuki Jimny with home-built trailer)
Mud drags: Morne du Preez (Disco 1 V8)
Best donut: Charles Muller (Hilux Vigo 4.3-litre V8)
Time trial: Anton van Zyl (Jeep Cherokee XJ)

JOIN UP IN 2020
No dates are set in stone for next year’s Rally but expect it to be held mid to late September. Follow the WC 4×4 & DL Mystery Rally Facebook page for more updates or contact organiser Marc Dunster at westerncape.4×4.difflock@gmail.com
Expect to pay around R2 500 for the car and another R600 for your co-driver. Prices are yet to be confirmed.

SPONSORS & THANKS

With thanks to Honingklip Farm for access to their fantastic restaurant and craft brewery, as well as one of the best 4×4 trails in the Cape. Visit their Honingklip Farm 4×4 Facebook page and also read our full review of the farm by searching Honingklip Farm SA4x4 or going to https://www.sa4x4.co.za/trail-review-honingklip-4×4/
Other thanks must be made to Reenen Kritzinger for use of his personal farm and rugged campsite, as well as 4×4 trails and facilities – without Reenen this year’s event would have been very different.

Lastly, thanks to the sponsors (listed below) who pay for this epic event and make it possible. Please give them the support they deserve.

Burnco (Panel beating, spray-painting, and 4×4 engineering centre.) www.burnco.co.za
The Mark Group (Painting, waterproofing, and renovations.) www.themarkgroup.co.za
Team Offroad (4×4 driver training, team building, fun days, tour planning, and consulting.) www.teamoffroad.co.za
Tygerberg Caravans (New and used caravans, safari trailers, tents, camping accessories, and more.) www.tygerbergcaravans.co.za
Motolek Stikland (Auto electrical technicians specialising in auto electrical and related services.) www.facebook.com/motolekstikland/
FJ Stainless Steel (Custom stainless steel made in the Deep South.) www.fjss.co.za
Honingklip (Brewery, restaurant, and 4×4 trail near Bot River.) www.facebook.com/HoningklipFarm/
Coast 2 Coast Tours (Safaris and 4×4 vehicle hire.) www.coast2coast.tours
Goch & Cooper (Engineering, servicing, and repairs, as well as performance upgrades for all vehicles.) www.facebook.com/gochandcooper/
Dust Media (4×4 events planning, marketing, and organisers of the annual WegRy Bull Run.) www.dustmedia.co.za
Sainted Aunt Brewery (Delicious craft brews supplied free of charge to keep the rally lubricated.) www.facebook.com/saintedaunt/
1st Alignment Centre and 1st Outdoor & 4×4 (Accredited Ironman 4×4 fitment centre with everything from winches and bullbars, to camping gear. 1st Alignment is a specialist tyre fitment and alignment centre catering to all vehicles including 4x4s.) www.1stoutdoor4x4.co.za www.1stcca.co.za
Pinelands Mica www.facebook.com/MicaPinelands/?ref=br_rs
www.mica.co.za/store-location/western-cape/pinelands-mica
Africa Offroad (Suppliers of anything 4×4 related including camping goods, vehicle equipment, recovery gear, medical, spares, and much more from one website.) www.africaoffroad.co.za
WP Motors (Specialists in used car sales with over 30 years of experience in finding the perfect car for you, with no deposit.) www.wpmotors.co.za
Lift Tech (Specialists in hoists and winches, rigging hardware, fall protection, lashing equipment and slings for the industrial and private sectors.) www.lifttech.co.za
Shorty’s Adventures (Custom canvas work, a wide array of camping equipment and a variety of tours.) www.shortysadventures.co.za
Coastal Safari (Suppliers of a variety of camping equipment such as caravans, camping trailers, tents, fridges, and solar kits for rent or to buy.) www.CoastalSafari.co.za
Tiger Wheel & Tyre (Fitment centre, alignment centre, battery centre, and sellers of a huge variety of tyres with branches all over South Africa.) www.twt.co.za
Eilandtzicht (House of premium liquors. Eilandtzicht specialises in liqueurs and cocktails, including recipes to start your next party with a bang.)
Diesel Electric Cape Group (Supplying a wide variety of parts and filters to suit the industrial, commercial, and private diesel electric sector. Try Diesel Electric in Parow for all your diesel needs.
www.diesel-electric.co.za/parow-diesel-electric-cape-town-pty-ltd/

OUR RIDE
NAVARA 2.3D LE 4X4 AT DC + Leather

Having been on the roads since 2015, the highly-underrated Navara has been due for a facelift and recently received ‘Stealth’ treatment. Underpinned by the same coil sprung chassis as you’ll find in the Mercedes X-Class and motivated by a potent 2.3-litre twin-turbo oil burner, the Navara is a formidable machine with arguably the most comfortable ride of any of its competitors.
The ‘Stealth’ package includes a host of cosmetic updates to the highly-equipped Luxury Edition Navara. Standard silver detailing on the exterior has been replaced with black trim and orange accents, while a sports bar, accented side steps, and blacked-out wheels complete the picture. To match the exterior, the two-tone theme is continued with black leather and orange material inserts, which helps modernise the interior.

Living with the vehicle over long distances and a huge variety of terrain, from mud to rock and fast gravel, we found the coil rear suspension incredibly supple yet forgiving even on mountain passes. It really does feel like an SUV. Coil springs also carry the benefit of never squeaking when caked in dust and mud, as leaves always do. To live with as a camping rig, we were grateful for the 12V socket bay in the load bay, which powered our fridge, while the tie-down points on sliding rails were ideal for securing our gear.

Mated to a responsive 7-speed gearbox, the 140kW engine is potent yet very refined – it’s no wonder Mercedes-Benz used the Navara as a base for their bakkie. That said, the more keenly priced Navara does seem to make its German-badged brother a stretch too far on the price front. We’d rather opt for the Nissan and keep the change for a decent set of tyres and a canopy.
Off-road, similar to the previous Navara, the new one could do with a mild suspension lift (or higher profile tyres) to improve under-belly clearance, though it is hard to fault its on-road manners. Overall the Navara thoroughly impressed us with its impeccable roadholding, comfort, economy, and performance.

SPECS
Price: R647 500
Engine: Twin turbo 2 298cc in-line 4-cylinder diesel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic with manual override
Fuel consumption: 9.6l/100km (As tested, including off-road driving, loaded with 450kg)
Payload: 961kg
Tyres: 255/60 R18

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