Wednesday 1 February 2012

Finally finished and heading for home..........

Well we made it to the finish. Sorry for the delay in the update lack of internet and time.
So I left you last as we headed out of Lusaka and a couple of days with no competitive driving. We heading down to Livingstone and arrived early afternoon which gave us time to take the short walk from the hotel to see Victoria Falls. This was an amazing sight to see and one not to be missed. They are much bigger and more powerful than you could ever imaging. The spray for them is like torrential rain and we got soaked to the skin but at least it washed some of the dust out of our clothes. That evening as we ate in the hotel grounds zebras walked around grazing on their lawns.
Next day we headed off to Namibia and the long drive down the Capriva strip. This road just went on and on. We had a minor moment of worry when the alternator packed up but had the spare fitted in no time. But we did get to see an elephant and even had time to take a picture. Nice hotel that evening and some very nice ice cream for pudding.
Next morning we headed off for a very long day of competitive driving the grave roads of Namibia were very smooth and fast. We spent most the day at high altitude the final section of the day started at 3000 ft and climbed to almost 7000 ft. The poor MG struggled for air and the climbs were very slow. After the timed section as we headed in to Windhoek the views were stunning. We stopped to take some pictures and the Belgium crew behind us pulled up and offered us gin and tonic out of there fridge. But we settled for some coke. Sadly the day end on a low when Owen had his wallet and phone stolen at the petrol station.
Copyright Gerard Brown - Enduro Rally

The next day was another long one with many timed sections and tight road sections. By now we had stopped pushing really hard as the gaps in front were too great and were just holding station in 5th. Not the easiest way to drive as you tend to lose focus. The second test of the day ran up and over the mountains. The descent was unbelievable doing though hairpin after hairpin the corners them selves were cobbled joined by gravel straights. A brief rest at the petrol station with a fine collection of old rusting yank pickups. This was followed by 2 more fast gravel tests before stopping for a very nice ham sandwich in the middle of no where at a nice hotel and petrol station but very little else. We stayed the night in  One more timed section before the run down to Ax Aix for and over night a the hot springs. I’m told the outside pool was very nice and warm with the water from the spring. But I don’t do swimming.
On leaving Ax Aix we had the fastest timed section of the event where we averaged over 90 mph. A short road section took us to the final border crossing and finally into South Africa. Two tight and twisty sections took us to our final over night the second one was a great road along the side of a reservoir. Clan William was our over night where all the crews were scattered though guest houses in the town and the group dinner was in the local bowls club.
And so the final day was here. Two stunning sections in the Ceader Berge Mountains took us to the final run in to Cape Town and the Table Bay Hotel. Just to spice things up we had a puncture on the final section which we changed in less than 2 minutes and we retained 5th place and the class win.
Copyright Gerard Brown - Enduro Rally

It has been a great adventure with some lows. The sand of Egypt and the road to Marsibit. But some great highs. Leading for the first 10 days, in so doing winning the Kent and Europe cups, Ethiopia, Seeing some great sights like the Victoria Falls and meeting so great people along the way and doing the event.
Thank you to all who have supported before and during the event. All the guys at the Rover Centre. Malcolm for post up pictures. Both our families. Guy Woodcock and Kumho tyres. Philip Young and his team of helpers. Special thanks to Fiona for helping with the blog when I could not get on line and lending me her husband for the month.

We look forward to seeing everyone on our return and will trying not to bore you all with stories of when we went to Cape Town.

Final question card.
Steve Owen
  1. No
  2. Both are/were the best of their time.
  3. That’s why you have 2 hands.

And as for Anton’s question No.3 If you are allow to touch it it’s a good one.

Monday 23 January 2012

Keep heading south we're getting nearer...

So I last left you as we headed into Tanzania where our first night was spent in the very nice Mount Meru Hotel. On our arrival I fell asleep whilst Owen changed the rear shocks on all three MGZR’s. The next day we headed off to a 103 km timed section with 3 timing points. We were 6th fastest although now not pushing to hard over the rough stuff to ensure our shocks lasted. Also we lose out on the long up hills to the more powerful cars. That night we stayed in Dodoma and were great by local dancers and drum band. Owen spent much of the evening helping others fix their cars but luckily ours only needed a spanner check.
Copyright Gerard Brown - Enduro  Rally

Next morning we had another good timed section and gained a place when the Toyota Highlux in front of us roller on a down hill bend. Luckily the crew was unharmed and they rejoined the event that evening having had the truck patched up. Another time section up a very rough hill climb finished the day which again we took easy so as not to damage the car. The hotel that night in Mbeya was without dough the worst of the trip to date. We had a room each but Owen’s bathroom had a hole in the floor where he could see the bathroom on the floor below!! That night there was a storm and the loudest clap of thunder you have ever heard waking everyone at 4 in the morning.
Tanzania - Zambia Border
Copyright Gerard Brown - Enduro  Rally
Sunday was spent heading down to the Zambia border. On our arrival it looked like we could be there for hours with a queue of trucks almost 5km long waiting to cross. But we were all waved up the outside and fast track though in less than an hour. Tanzania was added as to the list of countries that must be revisited at some time nice people and country side. We then had a 350km trek to our over night stop at Mpike. This was like a holiday camp from the sixties. Very basic room just two beds and nothing else not even a carpet but it was on suite. The bath room was like a long corridor with the toilet, shower and basin all in a line ideal for a S**t, Shower and shave. Again there was a great storm over night and it did not stop until late morning.
Copyright Gerard Brown - Enduro  Rally

We covered 660km to get to Lusaka with a short timed section of 17km on very narrow gravel tracks. We cleaned this section along with 5 other crews. Tonight we are in the Intercontinental Hotel and it so nice to have a toilet with a toilet seat again, a bath with a bath plug and a hot tap with hot water.
Now follows a couple of long days with no competitive driving but we should get to see Victoria Falls.
Time for an Imodium.
No question card updates other than Anton’s number 3 question we think we have come up with a grading system…..

Thursday 19 January 2012

Shocking news that may dampen things..

Well our journey down Ethiopia was beyond believe from the moment we entered the country to moment we left the roads were line with people cheering us on. We did a couple of timed section on gravel tracks which were very corrugated and the MG did not like these. We lost some time here being first on the road clearing it of all the goats and cattle. On joining the main road again the route instruction stated pass Blue Factory. Owen and I tried to decide what a blue factory made could it be cheesy boy bands or porn films or was it where they made the water that fills the Blue Nile just up the road. No sadly it was none of these but a large factory that is paint blue not a clue what it makes. We then descended in to the Blue Nile gorge. The road down to the bottom and up the other side makes the Stevilo pass look tame. We have a slight worry here as we were cutting it very fine on petrol as many of the station only had diesel. We stayed that night in a lovely hotel over looking a lake. Sadly their internet was down.

The next morning we had 350km run to the Kenyan border and they had closed the road for us the whole way. The crowds were beyond belief. We were told by a girl who was out there working for Oxfam that this was the biggest think to happen for over 20 years so everyone was out watching. A very fast timed section took us to the border. We were sad to be leaving Ethiopia and even sadder when we saw what Kenya had to offer. The hotel was grim and no beer for Owen until a local took us to the prison canteen. On route we passed the police station and the chief was stood out front. He called the local guy over to ask where he was taking us. He explain about the beer and the chief of police told him to make sure that he stayed with us and made sure we returned safe to our hotel later. No I did not have any beer my self.
The next day we headed up the road to Marsibite. This road was rougher than a rough thing on a rough day. It started with a 68km timed section and we set off at a good pace but sadly the suspension was not up to the job and by 30km all 4 shocks had blown. We made our way slowly to the end of the section losing some 34 minutes. Here we change all 4 for our spares in just under the hour and made our way slowly to the night halt without any more damage. The night was spent under canvas and was much better than the hotel the night before.

The next morning it was more of the rough stuff but rougher. Again it started with a timed section which we took at a much reduced pace to make our shocks last. Even so after about 45 km the rears had burst again. After 125 km we were at last back on tarmac but with no rear shocks and the rear beam bushes gone the next 400 km in 5 hrs was a drive I will never forget. We just made it to the hotel on the out skirts of Nairobi in time.
The Wednesday was a rest day although not much rest was had as we spend the whole day trying to fix all three MGZRs. Some new shocks had been sent out to us on the Monday and had arrived at Nairobi airport late Tuesday but got stuck in customs. We had not been impressed by Kenya and we were even less so now. We had tracked down some stiffer springs and modified some Toyota shocks to fit the rear of our car. Beam bushes were made from mud flap material and sticaflex and by 11pm all 3 MGZRs were ready for the next day.

So here we are Thursday morning and our route out this morning passed the airport where all our replacement shocks and bushes were still stuck. The morning contained 3 timed sections and our make do and mend suspension seems to have worked. Then a 120 km drive down to the Tanzania border where our new shocks finally caught up with us. Not sorry to leave Kenya behind. Some stunning country side but the population could learn some manners.
This evening will now be spent putting the new suspension on to all three cars.

Lots I’ve missed out but should give you a feel for what’s going on. Currently in 5th spot and leading 2 wheel drive.

And free Wifi that works!!!!!

I'm Back......

Sorry people for not posting for so long internet access has not been good thank you to Fiona for filling in. Here is what I was about to post a few days ago before the hotel internet crashed. Will post more later with all the latest shocking news.
So we final got the boat out of Saudi neither of us were sorry to see the back of the place. For a country that has gained so much wealth from oil it is a dump and the people have very little manners. A number of the cars had items stolen out of them over night luckily we did not. The only good thing was the price of petrol. But you have to wonder how a country with so much wealth has so many poor people. The most amazing thing we saw was a little old man wash our very muddy car with less than a gallon of water.

And so back across the Red sea on a boat that should have gone to the breakers years ago. Sudan another country not going on the list of places to return to. It took most the day to get though customs and finally ended when every crew pay $80 nice little earner for the man in the hut. This now meant we did most our 750km drive to the hotel in the dark arriving at 1:30 am. The road went from billiard smooth to pot holes the size of England made all the more interesting by Lorries driving along with no lights on. We stopped on route at a road side hut for some food. We were told in was Lamb and bread. Not sure it was Lamb but tasted very good and not suffered any ill effects. By the time we reach town there was a convoy of about 15 rally cars following us. Not a good time for me to miss a turning!!

This morning we continued to head south to the Sudan border and hand over more money to another man in a little hut. But first you had to see a man in another hut who filled out a form. You took this to the money man and handed over your money. He then stamped the form and you went back to the first man showed him the stamp and he would then stamp the carnet. Robbing bastards. Although one funny moment the driver was meant to do this by I had gone with Owen’s passport. They never spotted it but the man taking the money did ask if I was Michael Owen’s brother. Cheek do I look like a Nancy boy football player?

And down the road in to Ethiopia this is the country I had least been looking forward I guess as the only images we see are of staveing people in times of famine. But what a supprise we got. All the passport and custom people were there with extra staff and all the paper work ready we just sailed though and no money changed hands. Due to the speed we had time for a snack at another roads side hut before booking in the control. There were large crowds but they all stayed back and no one touched the cars unlike those Arabs. Sadly the 2 timed sections did not see any of the top crews pick up penalties so we still sit in 4th place. The 200 km run from there to the over night in Bahir Dar will be a drive I will never forget. We had a police escort for 100 km until his brakes caught firer. But in every little village or town the road was lined with people waving, clapping and cheering. Groups of school kids had made banners welcoming us. People who had next to nothing were wishing us luck it was unbelievable. No Iphone Xbox or flat screen TVs they are just happy to have water to drink and food to eat. This is a country of people working very hard to make the best of what very little they have. When Philip Young ask Owen and me for lunch last year to persuade us to do this event he said we would see and do things that will change our lives today was one of those days.
Much to our surprise we drove through a rain storm so we had to stop and ask does it also snow at Christmas or is it just that Bob Geldof block telling an Irish yarn.

So a couple of question cards to catch up on.
Alison Forrest
  1. Yes it does need sorting but not sure how but one thing they need to be able to speak English.
  2. Dog.
  3. Alreka Johnson

Gillian Norris
  1. There are too many people involved for it to be a lie.
  2. Mini skirt (although a white jump suite might do it)
  3. A little of both

Rob Thomas
  1. Yes overall it’s a good thing if they leave Bananas alone.
  2. Owen Hillman Imp. Matt 106 Rallye
  3. Personality all day long

Update on Anton’s number 3. Think we many have the answer working in this Hotel.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Day 18: Abroad thoughts from home (one for you literary types)

No update from Matt tonight. I've not had any contact from Owen either but I know some people that have and word is that they have spent much of the day negotiating with Kenyan Customs Officials. According the event website their 'vital parts are tied up in red tape' but I thought the issue was with spares that had been couriered. The shocks that have been shipped over to them arrived on Tuesday evening but officials would not release them today as they had to process 'perishables' first. Apparently, trying to bribe them just makes things slower...

However, following some detective work by Jamie, it would appear that they may have sorted something. Pictures on the event website seem to suggest that work has been carried out. Take a look at the picture - meticulous organisation. Surely this must be Matt's doing as Owen can't even put his socks in the wash basket! :)

Oh and Matt, don't think I haven;t noticed you adding photos to my posts!

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Day 17: the story so far gleaned from snatched conversations. WARNING may not be 100% reliable

Well, no sign of Matt online tonight and so as promised, here is the news.

Anton or Matt? Never in the same room...
Both of our intrepid adventurers were blown away by the welcome they received in Ethiopia and were greeted like celebrities, with women cheering wildly whenever they arrived at a checkpoint. Sadly, it would appear that someone had told them that Anton Du Beke and Owen Turner (the one off Eastenders) were coming and so what the boys thought were cheers were actually cries of disappointment. Fortunately, Matt was able to placate the assembled crowds by sticking his tongue up his nose.

On arrival at the first overnight in Ethiopia they decided a beer was in order - a rather poor decision bearing in mind they were in a devoutly Islamic area. However, a funny little man (no, not Matt) accosted them and said that for a dollar he could find them beer. After handing over some money and following the chap down a very dusty path, they were taken in to the prison recreation room for beers and the Arsenal game!

The following day saw the boys crossing into Kenya and unbeknownst to them, Ben and Mike were trapped over the border following an issue with a stub axle. None of the crews really knew what was happening and so were waiting patiently for news of the Dawsons via Emma via Facebook via wives and girlfriends! But I digress - the crossing from well kept, smooth Ethopian roads was quite a shock as they embarked on the 'Road to Hell'. The accommodation also left something to be desired as they found their rooms in the first hotel already had occupants - with several more pairs of legs than they had! The second overnight was much better - camping under canvas, but the improvised bucket showers probably didn't manage to mask the smell of sweat accumulated during a mid section change of shock absorbers in 42degree heat. It may have been a blessing for Matt that he didn't have to share with Owen!

I know that the Kenyan roads have lost them some time today but they are loving it and now that the 'Road from Hell' is over, they should be back on track. They are currently in Nairobi, staying in what looks to be a VERY plush hotel so I am guessing that rather than using the wifi, they are having a well deserved rest!

They know that everyone here is rooting for them, but don't be surprised if their tracker goes all around Nairobi tomorrow - they'll be gathering spares for the next leg.

Day 17: an update from a rally widow

Matt may live to regret this but he has given me the login details so that I can keep you updated with how they're doing. I suspect Matt will be able to update himself this evening, but they are still going despite burst shocks and have, amongst other things, had a few beers in the local jail.
Probably not had a recent visit from Weights and Measures.

If Matt is not online tonight, I'll fill you all in!

Fiona :)