That’s where my story starts really… Namibia. After a long flight to Windhoek and an even longer flight out to the middle of nowhere aboard a small chartered plane we arrived in an area known as Palmwag. We, (me and three other media scribes) landed on a gravel airstrip and were greeted by a few contestants who were unfortunately voted out of the competition. There was no time for chit-chat and we headed back to camp. When we arrived we saw all our new friends, and high-fives seemed to be the method of greeting.
I met the contestants at the boot camp. Some of them had never set foot in the outdoors and some had never even driven a bakkie before. Well, by the time that we arrived on day eight, everyone looked as if they had been schooled by Bear Grills himself. They were dirty, tired and dusty and everyone was on a mission. Ford Rangers needed to be cleaned, checked for damages and repaired where necessary; the camp site was a hive of activity. I was immediately given a number 19 spanner and was told that I had to help change the vertical control arm on one of the Rangers as it had snapped.
The day was somewhat long and the contestants were really tired, so too, was I. That night I had to ditch the fancy hotel rooms that I’m used to and settle for my tent. To use the words, cold or freezing would be an understatement. The next day we headed out onto a long and treacherous road through Desolation Valley.
Now don’t think this was just a drive with a spectacular view. Oh no! All contestants were constantly being evaluated and scored daily on their convoy and off-road driving skills, camp etiquette, team work, communication skills, leadership qualities and adaptability.
There were a series of special tasks and assessments on general knowledge related to Namibia and the African continent, celestial navigation, GPS navigation, as well as vehicle maintenance and recovery techniques, which, as cliché as it might sound, you do need, where we were.
The journey was absolutely amazing and the places we visited will forever be in my mind. However, there is another side to the Ranger Odyssey that people tend to forget about. You see, despite the driving and the practical and theoretical tests there’s a huge social element to the whole thing.
Imagine if you will, being tired, hungry and dirty, and almost 3 000 kilometres from home. Now visualize having to do mental and physical tests, with twenty other people trying to outshine you. It’s not easy; I’ll be honest, I became irritated with people but you have to maintain control; all those different personalities, religions and ideals thrown together like that. However, it worked and I for one learnt a few things that I can apply to my everyday life. I think the Odyssey takes you out of your comfort zone and drops you in the middle of an uncomfortable situation. We were given the skills to learn how to deal with it and we did.
Our last night at the foot of the Brandberg, Namibia's highest mountain, was somewhat emotional to say the least. My journey had come to an end and the trials and tribulations that we had all gone through as one team were all but over. Just one thing remained, ok, two things… First was a very long drive back to Windhoek to catch our flight back home and second, voting for a winner.
At the Ford Go Further Africa event, which took place in Sandton on Tuesday, the 11th August a winner was announced. This young lady stood out to me and my fellow media because of her strong character, her determination and her ability to lead under any circumstance. She also has the ability to listen and to give advice where needed.
On the face of it she doesn’t look like your typical Ford Ranger driver. She’s a pretty little blonde on the outside but inside she’s as tough as a Ranger. Everyone here at Autodealer just wants to say congratulations to the 23-year-old computer programmer and part-time DJ, Liane van Dyk, the 2015 Ford Ranger Odyssey winner. Liane wins an Odyssey-spec Ranger bakkie for a year, including fuel to the value of R5 000, each month. Well done, Liane!