That first time

By PG Jonker

Having visited the Epupa falls with our Toyota Venture many years ago, we liked the taste of the remote travel.  However, I then decided that, for my own peace of mind, I should rather do such trips in a four wheel drive vehicle.  So I started looking for a 4×4.  Finding one is a story on its own, but eventually I took delivery of my second hand 1998 Mazda Magnum 3.4 V6 DC.

Have 4×4.  What now?

Bloubergkoppie, near Melkbosstrand, was then still open for the public.  It has since been closed for the public, unfortunately due toe abuse by those playing around with all sorts of vehicles, and in the process damaging the area.

My friend Bernhardt volunteered to take me on my maiden 4×4 drive.  So one Saturday morning we set out on my first 4×4 outing with my own (well, actually the bank’s) 4×4.

After deflating tyres Bernardt led the way on a sandy track running parallel with the pirloins, with him indicating with his arm up or down for high or low range, using his fingers to suggest the right gear. I may mention that he did use his index finger to indicate first gear.

The 3.5 V8 in Bernardt’s yellow 1984 Range Rover would have been as old technology as my carburetor fed 3.4 liter, and on par in terms of power delivery, so his gear indications were a fair reflection of what was required by my bakkie.

I love this kind of sand driving.  The V6 just rumbles on, and would seldom run out of power in first gear high range.

The first dune we got to had to be conquered.  It required speeding up the dune in the two spoor track, but then to lift off from the accelerator just as you get to the top due to the spoor making a sharp turn to the left so as to create oversteer to get around the bend.

Yes, I know, the dune looks like nothing on the picture.  And yes, it did not even compare with what the guys encounter doing the Namib desert crossing, but trust me, a photo never do justice to the incline on a track.

Being my first time I was a bit nervous.  Only years later did it strike me as fitting that Bernardt was also a practising psychologist.

As we progressed my confidence increased.  It is amazing the feeling of empowerment getting the hang of things.

At one stage Bernhardt’s kids got on his roof rack.  Contrary to my over-cautious nature, I allowed my two kids on the roof rack as well.  What were you thinking, dude!

But we were having great fun.  Bernhardt leading the way, with the kids waving happily on the roof rack.  The Range Rover disappeared over a dune.  When it came into sight again I saw the brake lights coming on, and Bernhardt jumping out of the car and running to the rear of the car.

It turned out that my 5-year old daughter got a bit carried away with waving at me that she forgot to hold on the roof rack.  On the next bounce she was flung off the roof.

Fortunately no harm done.  After blowing the sand out of her face, ears, nose, mouth and so on, she was fine again.

Moving higher and higher towards the top of Blouberg Hill we encountered firmer ground,  some steep hills and a few dongas as well.

Not sure whether I should negotiate on such deep donga spoke to myself:  “I’m not sure whether I should do this, my bakkie’s tummy might scrape here.”

“Please don’t, oom,” my nine-year old passenger agreed, “my tummy is also going to scrape if we go down here.”

Blouberg Hill has a bit of a history.  In 1652 the Dutch came the Cape.  Then the English took it from the Dutch.  Then the Dutch took it back.  Apparently that ticked the queen off a bit, and then the English took it back again.  The decisive battle in them regaining control over the Cape was the battle of Blouberg Hill in 1806.

During the second world war an observation post was built on the koppie to watch out for enemy ships.

Table Mountain left, Robben Island on the right

I’m glad I could make it to Blouberg Hill before it became out-of-bounds.