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Toyotas Go South

Broadcast date : 11th February 2007

The idea was simple. Why not drive down from Dakar in North West Africa to Cape Town in off-road vehicles. Great scenery, great experiences, ideal for SABC 3’s television series "Go South". Why the heck not?

The vehicles of choice started out as off-the shelf Toyota Land Cruisers and Fortunas, specially kitted out with modifications for the journey.

Land Cruisers are legendary in Africa for their ability to cope with the worst terrains. The question was, how would the Fortunas stand up to the punishment?

Right from the start in Senegal, the going was tough. And with the vehicles laden to the hilt with up to 2000 kg of extra equipment, it was always going to be a challenging journey.

The extra gear included some pretty sophisticated camping equipment including out-door showers. But also, some off-road racing-spec tyres, which were proving problematic.

With a number of punctures in Senegal at the outset of the journey, and then in Mali, the trip looked to be in jeopardy.

The crew made the decision to back-track to Bamako, the capital of Mali, and replaced all their tyres with conventional off-road rubber. Then it was on towards Timbuktu with a stop-off in Djenné for some shopping and to witness the largest mud-Mosque in the world.

With the convoy now skirting the Sahara, there was heavy reliance on the latest GPS navigational technology. But as they say, nothing can go wrong, go wrong, go wrong.

One of the concerns when travelling in Africa is the quality of fuel and Colin Brown had kitted out the Land Cruiser to hold an extra 600 litres of diesel.

These tanks were filled at major centres along the route, and then pumped across to the Fortunas when necessary, ensuring good fuel quality for longer hauls. With a common-rail diesel engine, the fuel requirements for the Fortunas are very high.

Into Niger the convoy seemed to be heading into the eye of a gigantic storm. The sights were breathtaking, but the crews were thankful for reasonable road quality.

The road quality did deteriorate at this stage, but fortunately all the vehicles had been fitted with super-heavy-duty suspension.

And in Cameroon, there was plenty of mud to deal with, while the scenery became beautifully lush. Apart from fuel, the vehicles also carried 200 litres of drinking water.

The way the Fortunas were handing the trip continued to impress the crews as the expedition made its way through Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC as it’s commonly known.

The South Africans suffered the usual border control issues that plague tourists through these countries, but there was an air of excitement as the four Toyotas crossed the Congo River into Angola.

That excitement soon turned to sadness as they witnessed the war-ravaged country that is Angola. Land mines are still a problem for travellers in these parts and, unable to move off the roads to set up camp, the team was forced to travel at night.

Let no-one tell you that a trip down Africa is a walk in the park. The extra skid plate protection on the Toyotas was put to good use in Angola, and terrain varied from sharp rock which can play havoc with tyres, to soft sand, where heavily-laden vehicles can easily bog down.

But now territory familiar to the South Africans was in sight. Some spectacular mountain passes marked the passage to Namibia. Beautiful sights greeted the crews, the plains of Etosha, the Quiver Tree Forests, and finally into South Africa, Namaqualand.

And as a good luck omen, the Namaqualand daisies were in bloom as the travellers headed to the mother city.

Punctures apart, the Toyotas performed faultlessly in what turned out to be a 62 day journey, 12000 km in length, and traversing 12 countries in hottest, and sometimes darkest Africa.

What a sight that black south-easter cloaking Table Mountan must have been to the Toyota travellers.

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