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A classic report from the 2001 Rhino Charge

I am back from the Rhino Charge. We did very well.

We came 7th overall and 3rd in the Victor Ludorum. Probably the best that Avery will ever do! Out of 55 entrants there were only 12 finishers. It was rated the toughest one yet! We raised 780,000/-.

The winner was Rob Collinge in a super truck then came Makitrick in another Range Rover Super Truck then, Will Car - Hartley who had the highest placed townie car. I think we were next after Jonney Havelock & Stuart Alison who beat us by 1 km coming 6th. We beat Ian Duncan, Stephano Chelli, the Volvo and the Uni-Mog! I recon we did OK.

Makitrick took 2.5 hours going down hill on the other tiger line to Good Year. We had optimistically planned to do it up hill in 45 minutes but luckily chickened out when we got there and went around which added a lot of miles to our course.

We also beat the Batlisk British Army Team who did not finish. They spent 2 hours Turfor winching their way down and up the other side of the 40? cliffs of the Ngare Ndare River Gauntlet. They did however win the Gauntlet.

We all think that Collinge should have been disqualified for having borrowed a spare tyre and spare parts from a spectator and for having lost one of his crew. The poor fellow broke his arm and lost all his front teeth on the tiger line to ?Vinyard Church?. Luckily he was helicoptered out.

Since I had helped raise approximately half of the funds, I figured I owned at least half the front seat of No 38 during the event.

The course was set in some beautiful country North of Borana near Illingwesi and Tasia Lodge. Turn left after Isiolo and drive 35 kms West. There were 13 Check Points. Three in the Gauntlet. The general terrain was either the most horrible lugga filled, bolder strewn, steep mountains or the thickest, lugga filled, bolder strewn, wait-a-bit thorn you could imagine. Kieran drew "Vinyard Church" as our starting point which gave us either an uphill tiger line as one option or a horrible wait a bit course as the alternative. We went for the wait-a-bit thorn.

There was not a single mechanical breakdown and there were no "major" injuries in our car during the charge. I take my hat off to Sean for being able to keep this old, short wheel based Land Rover Series II in such good condition. No wonder Nairobi?s Matatu drivers cringe and give way to Sean when he drives it to work each day!

We thought we had a really good system going.

The night before the charge, we plotted our course on the map and programmed the GPS?s. We had 3 of them although Colin ran out of time trying to learn how to programme his. I brought up my new computer so that we could allocate the correct amount of time to each section & checkpoint so that we did not miss any as we had done last year or make any bad navigating mistakes.

The "Upstairs Navigator" was supposed to stand up in the back and look at the hills and with the aid of his compass and a branded vision of the whole course clearly in his mind, give us major markers to steer for. He could only do this once he knew precisely where we were on the map and this was the job of the "Down-stairs Navigator," who also had the job of yelling at Sean to tell him where he had to go.

Sean, having his own GPS frequently ignored the good advice Graham and I offered him and he later blamed his very expensive hearing aid. (His standard excuse.)

Having the honour of the front seat I was the "Down-stairs Navigator" and looked after the only sensible accurate GPS and yelled at Sean where he should go. I must admit that I did try really hard to give him a good course and not bias him too much in his decision to ram all the thorns through my window instead of his. Periodically though, when the thorns got too bad or the car was about to tip over, I would abandon the car & leave Sean to his own mad devices when he was about to do something spectacularly stupid.

Johnathan Denissen sadly got malaria before the weekend and could not come. Neither, therefore could his gorgeous sister come along to enliven the view as accommodation was tight in camp. Sean, ever resourceful however, asked Graham Watson another engineer friend who had been at Nairobi School with me to take Johnathan?s place as the "Upstairs Navigator." Graham was easily conned by Sean into believing that there was a waiting list of six others and readily agreed. I believe he regretted his decision almost as much as I did!

It was almost impossible to stand while the vehicle was moving and exhausting to do so if you could. On the roads, which were far and few between you could get your head out, but then your arms and gloved fingers would ache from holding on. The alternative was to squat or run. All this I had learnt from the last time and that was why I was so anxious for the front seat! Graham had been doing an amazing job of navigating and between us we had the thing down to a T.

While we were navigating through the God forsaken unseen parts of this wonderful place ? more suitable to dik dik?s than Land Rovers. Graham?s problem started to manifest itself.

He had long abandoned the "upstairs" part of his navigating job because it was a life- threatening situation and he continued brilliantly and bravely from the floor at the back of the Landi.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to rid itself of this lunatic journey, the acid from the borrowed- Benz-battery, which had come along to help us winch our way out of tight spots, managed to escape the confines of its casing. It found refuge on the floor of the tiny LandRover next to Graham and his brand new pair of trousers. Sitting on the floor in the acid filled space, Graham did not notice the encounter between his "brand new" trousers and the escaped acid.

The most spectacular injury came to Graham when we arrived at the GoodYear Control Point. He got out of the car to stretch and walk around the gathered crowd, totally unaware that he was showing one naked white buttock. The acid had eaten right through his trousers & underpants. Luckily there was water at the checkpoint & Graham?s wife was could give him another pair of trousers change into.

Both Colin and I also had sore bums from sitting in the acid and my trousers will never be worn again. I gallantly gave Graham the front seat for the rest of the trip.

Beware if you are ever tempted by Sean?s invitation to join him in a Rhino Charge for you will spend most of your time during the event hanging on for dear life at the back and at least a week afterwards removing thorns from your fingers and face.

The Rhino Charge is about moving in the right direction. This is what it is all about.

This is not a race about the shortest distance at all. It is really a race against time.

You have no time to be endlessly winching or mending cars or punctures.

While I type this report I have just stopped to remove another thorn from my typing finger so that I can extract the one in my head. Finally I have had a clear thought:

The Fund Raising part of this thing "Rhino Charge" is also about "moving in the right direction."

Getting the fence done so that we can protect the wildlife, the forests, the people and the water catchment areas. The race is to get the fence up in the shortest possible time.