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The Ford Ranger Odyssey - not for sissies

24.06.2015

EVER since Homer's classic poem, The Odyssey, which tells the story of a Greek warrior called Odysseus and his ten-year journey home from Troy, odyssey means any epic journey, trek or crusade.

Ford South Africa has thus named its epic journey, The Ranger Odyssey. It’s been known to be a tough and gruelling adventure that not only pushes man to the limit, but machine, as well. It’s not easy and for this reason the organisers only selected 38 contestants out of around 11 000  hopefuls, to partake in The Odyssey Boot Camp.

At camp, the 38 hopefuls were judged and observed constantly throughout various training exercises, which took place over four days. The purpose of this is for the organisers to select just 20 candidates who will be granted the opportunity to take part in this year’s Ranger Odyssey, set to take place in the Desolation Valley in Namibia. Up for grabs is a Ford Ranger 3.2-litre diesel, with fuel for one year. The Ford Ranger boasts a five-star NCAP safety rating and has all the power and driver supports that benefited us on this odyssey.

I went to the Boot Camp and almost didn’t make it back. This is my story…

Day 1:

I, along with 29 South Africans, four Nigerians and two other contestants, one from Mozambique and one from the Ivory Coast as well as one contestant from Angola, arrived in the small, almost abandoned town of Prince Albert in the Western Cape. We arrived at The Barn, which was to be our main gathering point. Excitement and laughter filled the room as we all signed in and were allocated our tents, stretchers and chairs. We were also placed in groups of two, for accommodation purposes. The programme started with a rather lengthy presentation on the theory behind 4 x 4ing. This theory would prove to be vital throughout the weekend. Contestants were also briefed on the Ford Ranger, the other member of the team.

Once the presentation was concluded, we were told to walk about three kilometres to our campsite with our luggage and camping equipment. I was already doubting my survival at this point. We were already tired, as we arrived at the campsite and because the sun was beginning to set, we were cold. Setting up a tent in the dark isn’t so easy, especially when you have a time limit. Supper was back at The Barn and once again we had to walk. Back at camp we were told that we had to stand guard during the night and I was on guard duty from 1am to 2am. It was a cold night and I was definitely out of my comfort zone.

Day 2:

What a day this was! It started off at 5am, with nine-kilometre trail run before breakfast. I chose the walk-faster-than-normal option. After grub we finally got into the Rangers and headed out to the dry river bed of the Gamka River, about 12 kilometres north of Prince Albert. There, we would delve into the art of various vehicle recovery methods as well as hands-on driver training over obstacles.

This was to give contestants the know-how on how to deal with various situations that might occur during their twelve-day odyssey through Namibia, later in July. The Ranger is well suited for this task and contestants were taught how to work with a Ranger’s off-road ability on how to progress through obstacles.

Instructors laid out a course that incorporated soft sandbanks, rocky terrains as well as steep inclines and descents. Some of the contestants had never driven a Ford Ranger before and others had never done any off-roading, so it was an interesting morning. It was also a good time to bond with other contestants, getting to know their individual stories. Around midday, after lunch, we headed back to The Barn where we were told to wash all twenty vehicles, which were muddy and dusty from the day’s training. I had been too busy to notice that I hadn’t even sipped a single drop of water; I was drinking energy drinks.

After washing the twentieth car, I began feeling very strange. Long story short, and much throwing up later, I was diagnosed with severe dehydration. The medic decided to stick an intravenous drip in my hand and after a few hours and many different pills, plus a good night’s rest, I was back to normal. 

Day 3:

This day was dedicated to driver safety within a convoy. We were told that due to dust and visibility issues in Namibia, a convoy can stretch the length of about 20 kilometres. The car up front might not be able to reach the car at the back via the on-board radio, so we were taught how to relay a radio message as well as how to report on vital information, such as travel direction changes or potential obstacles. The chosen route was over the spectacular Swartberg Mountains via the Swartberg mountain pass, through Groenkloof and on to Calitzdorp, then back again via Seweweekspoot.

This did take up most of the day and by the time we got back to camp we were tired. The joking and laughing, heard on day one, was all but silenced. We got an early night because we had to be up at 4.30am - the final day.

Day 4:

Waking up before sunrise, for four days in a row, is really not all that pleasant; not getting a full night’s rest is not pleasant either and feeling cold most of the time, was even more unpleasant, but I guess it was needed so as to prepare us for the task at hand. We got up as instructed and headed to The Barn. Tired, cold and longing for home, we were given a very technical presentation by the guys from Navworld on the Garmin GPS equipment that we would be using in Namibia. Just when we thought it was over, contestants were thrown into the deep end and individually interviewed by the instructors and by Ford representatives. Questions flew at them from various angles and answers were expected immediately. Even the media team was questioned about various contestants.

Everything that happened at the Boot Camp played a vital role when faced with the challenges in Namibia. Contestants were chosen on attitude, group interaction, off-road driving ability and last but not least, leadership skills. It’s important that decisions were made quickly and correctly out in the desert, because as fun as this might sound, it is still extremely dangerous.

Here's a video of the Bootcamp highlights


Those who made the cut:

Deborah Almeida, 29 - Luanda, Angola

Charlton Botha, 31 - Cape Town, South Africa

Ginette Chubb, 37 - Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Ismail Diara, 41 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

Moyosore Fawol, 31 - Lagos, Nigeria

Johan Henn, 32 - Barberton, South Africa

Helena Higgins, 42 - Cape Town, South Africa

Melani Kruger, 25 - Vanderbijlpark, South Africa

Gavin Jones, 30 - Johannesburg, South Africa

Jacobus Muller, 28 - Pretoria, South Africa

Monica Nkosna, 34 - Pretoria, South Africa

Xoliswa Nontanda, 32 - Durban, South Africa

Mohammed Omarjee, 29 - Durban, South Africa

Giftson Onuiri, 31 - Lagos, Nigeria

Dino Ribeiro, 33 – Maputo, Mozambique

Amogelang Senokwane, 28 - Johannesburg, South Africa

Simon Siaga, 31 - Magaliesburg, South Africa

Israel Skosana, 33 - Sandton, South Africa

Morou Taoua, 40 - Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire

Liane van Dyk, 23 - Pretoria, South Africa.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
24.06.2015
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