At 2pm on Friday afternoon, after being placed in teams of two – a driver and a navigator- our fleet, consisting of four Hilux bakkies and two Fortuners, left Toyota SA in Woodmead and hit the road to Rust de Winter.
The 4x4 Jamboree event was held at the Rust de Winter campsite, about 100km north-east of Pretoria. The entire event took place from the 24th of April until the 27th of April. We woke up really early on the Saturday to prepare. The event on the Saturday consisted of various technical 4x4 obstacles such as a mud pit which, thanks to my brilliant ching-chong-cha skills, I got to drag my co-driver through the mud. There were also axle twisters, steep inclines and tight courses aimed at testing the driver’s off-roading skills. Points were deducted for touching flag poles, going over the specified time and even for role-backs and reverses.
Now, don't think the co-drivers just had to sit there and look pretty. No! They had their own tasks to do which also counted for points. As the driver entered an obstacle the co-driver would be handed a puzzle to complete, a crossword to do or, as in one particular instance, my co-driver had to get four metal balls into four holes inside a box while I was driving over truck tyres; we lost that one!
On the Sunday we once again woke up before sunrise to prepare for an entire day of cross-country off-roading over some pretty challenging terrain. The ideal time for completing the route is about six hours and it’s only around 60 kilometres long. Periodical time checks were done along the route as well as the odd question here and there, meaning that both driver and co-driver had to follow the route guide provided by the organisers.
The cross-country route was extremely technical and our armada of stock standard Hilux bakkies and the Fortuners handled everything thrown their way. Some of the routes were graded a Level 5, which is quite extreme. The option of avoiding the "serious 4x4" routes were given but we did have faith in our Hilux so the 'avoid' options were not considered.
The drive consists of various bum-clenching routes and one particular obstacle saw me hanging out of my seat as I slowly manoeuvred the Hilux down a sheer rock face. Another one had me so worried because I was moving over the top of a hill and to my right was a rock which I had to climb but the more I moved right, the higher the Hilux would lift on that side. To my left was a rather steep drop, which would only result in death. In order to get through I had to climb the rock on the right; my navigator could almost touch the ground (the littler there was) on the left side. It was certainly an experience.
As these were stock standard vehicles doing courses predominantly chosen for modified vehicles, damage to our war horses was somewhat unavoidable. Slight front bumper damage was apparent however, that was all. We left other contestants - who had spent hundreds of thousands on kitting out their Jeeps and other various 4x4 vehicles - in awe! Not because of the impressive ability of the Hilux but probably because they thought we were bonkers doing the serious stuff, as most of us have never done this before.
After a long day out in the beautiful African bush we arrived back at campsite. Our Hilux bakkies and Fortuners did well and they had the scars to prove it. With over 170 cars that entered, I reckon we were of the very few who took part in stock standard vehicles and brought them all back.
The 2015 Rust de Winter was once again an amazing event for friends and family. The entertainment was endless for the kids and of course for the adults and their big toys. The event, although point-orientated is a fun event. Sure, there are prizes for teams who scored some of the highest points but for the Toyota SA media team, the biggest prize was to take part, complete and not break a vehicle.
If you love camping and spending time with friends and family and you love 4x4ing then the Rust de Winter is definitely for you.