Drive to nowhere in an XK - Out of Africa! - Jeep Commander Forums: Jeep Commander Forum
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post #1 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-10-2016, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
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Drive to nowhere in the Tankwa Karoo in an XK Hemi - Out of Africa!

[HD Video to NOWHERE at the bottom - You were warned!]

We dropped into AfrikaBurn, the South African version of Burning Man, (only better), but that's not the whole story. After a two hour ride out from the city, we'd left tar sometime in the early afternoon, proceeding North, deep into the Tankwa Karoo National Park. Our plan was to sleep at the Gannaga Lodge on Friday night and descend for the Burn on Saturday night, after a shower and a good breakfast, something we knew wouldn't be waiting for us at the Burn.
Some hours later, we made a quick stop at a crossroad to a different nowhere.
"Let's turn left here", said my cousin, "I haven't driven that before and it looks fifty clicks shorter on the map".
I posed no argument, looked at no GPS or map, having earlier decided to leave all the navigation to he who had made several trips to Tankwa and was in my eyes, 'the expert'.
"No problem"
However, I couldn't've got it more wrong as it was exactly that shortcut that sunk our battle plan and left us in the dark with a flat. Morale of that story? Do your own navigating. Getting there!
Since we'd turned left instead of going straight we'd driven for hours on dirt roads and sometimes no roads. We'd even lost the road and gone up a river bed, then opened farm gates every few clicks for hours and by that time the sun was sinking behind the mountains in front of us. Later I figured out that the fifty click shortcut had taken us nearly three hours, but at that time we were enjoying ourselves too much driving through nowhere to care. By the time we rejoined the 'road' the sun was taking its last bow. We stopped to take a picture that I've included below.
"How far to the Lodge?", I asked the cousin.
"Another hundred kilos, or so", he said, with a grin.
"Whaat?"
"It's in the middle of nowhere, what do you expect?"
"That's like two hours!"
"We'll make better time now, the road is much better, and no more farm gates"
I grinned back, tired but not deterred, though I really should've been. There were ominous clouds above and the road had puddles of water that spoke of a recent deluge that we were slipstreaming. We drove on into the dark towards our destination, Gannaga Lodge, at the top of the Gannaga pass. It got wetter and muddier. I hoped that the pass was passable but the Jeep didn't skip a beat even though it took several dives into muddy potholes. I clung on wishing I'd splashed for spotlights. It wasn't too much later that my cousin, in the Toyota Prado in front of me, suggested that we engage 4X4 low to make sure we'd make it up Gannaga Pass, not something that's advised in rain, mud and mist where the nearest help is hours away. The last stretch of road leading up to the pass looked like it had just been washed away in a downpour but the rain was only moderate. 4X4 low range worked like a charm making the climb seem easier than it probably was, while the darkness protected me from the vertigo I knew I'd be feeling if I'd seen the drop, a few meters away. The mist was so heavy I had to dim my lights. I thought the demister had failed but opening the window made no difference -- except I got wet. We slogged up the pass into the mist for what seemed like forever when my I saw my cousin coming to a halt in front of me. Then he was running down the mountain with wild eyes in the headlights yelling; "There's a boulder blocking the road. We have to turn back!"
"Whaat?"
"There's a huge boulder blocking the road. We have to turn back. Do you want to check it out?"
It was immediately of concern to me that my ever-optimistic cousin looked concerned. Worse---he was asking me for advice.
"No it's fine. I'm outta here before more boulders roll down the mountain"
It wasn't really fine, but retreating down the pass in mist and darkness seemed to be the only Plan B available, and I assure you I executed it as quickly as I could, all the while imagining more boulders rolling down upon us. Turning the big Jeep around in the mist and dark was in itself a near-miracle on a country pass only wide enough for one vehicle with a sheer drop on the one side and a rock face with a river coming down it on the other, but we managed to beat a hasty retreat within a click of our final destination.
After another hour of driving in muddy and rainy conditions we arrived at the Tankwa Park 'office'. It was all dark but I still felt reasonably good. Pulling on a jacket, it was cold, I located a torch to check my tires, after all we'd just done 300 clicks on bad roads. To my horror I saw that my left rear was flat.
Sitrep: We're in the middle of nowhere in the dark with a flat and I'd been in bed with flu for a week before we'd left.
I did not possess the required energy to change a 60 KG rim, even on a good night when I could figure it out. No worries. We were set to sleep in our vehicles the following night at the Burn and my rear seats were already down with a double mattress in the back. Tomorrow had arrived early, that's all. We were supposed to sleep at the Burn after a comfortable night at the Gannaga Lodge, instead we ate cold food in the dark behind the San offices. During the night the mattress went flat and I had to pump it up twice because the first time I couldn't find the plug, but at 7.30AM my cousin was banging on the window telling me to get up so the park rangers could fix my tire. So I'm eating a boiled egg and drinking Woolworths orange juice for breakfast and the two San Park rangers only take 15 minutes to drop the wheel, take it away, fix the puncture and return to refit. It's all in a day's work for them. Big Respect to rangers everywhere! Flipping people from desperation to destination. And thanks to my cousin for providing the necessary optimism and chaos to make it a memorable trip to nowhere....Jeep Rules!
"But what about AfrikaBurn?", you may ask.
Well, we got there before most of them had woken up, but that's another story
Dashcam Tankwa:
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Last edited by Commander_Mike; 05-11-2016 at 12:30 PM.
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post #2 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-12-2016, 07:09 AM
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Drive to nowhere is right.

As a D.O.D. United States Merchant Marine, I have been operating in the Indian Ocean AOR in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa since the middle of April and have been in and out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, Africa several times in the last month.

I would never drive my personal vehicle in Africa, given a choice.

Truth be told, when I leave this area early next month, I hope I never see this country again, what an absolute sh!thole. I can't find one good thing to say about the place quite honestly.

Nice story & pics though, glad you made it back safe & sound.
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Last edited by Big Blue; 05-12-2016 at 08:31 AM.
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post #3 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-22-2016, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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Haha, you are correct in saying that you wouldn't find me in my own vehicle up North where you were, but let me add that you wouldn't find me in anyone else's vehicle either. Man, those places are fried with heat and poverty and nothingness interspaced with chunks of human kindness coupled with road piracy no (normal) American can understand. However, where I was isn't like that at all. I live in Cape Town, South Africa, and the above trip was done relatively closeby compared to the horn of Africa, which is like the other side of Africa. I mean the roundtrip was about 750 kilometers. But it's as empty as hell up there and getting morooned is no joke where there isn't a car for days sometimes..but better than 750 clicks outside Djibouti Also the people here are much more chilled, though of course you can always be unlucky... Have a look here to see where we were..tell us more about your desert experiences with road pirates then? best...Mike. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tankwa..._National_Park
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post #4 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 03:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Commander_Mike View Post
Haha, you are correct in saying that you wouldn't find me in my own vehicle up North where you were, but let me add that you wouldn't find me in anyone else's vehicle either. Man, those places are fried with heat and poverty and nothingness interspaced with chunks of human kindness coupled with road piracy no (normal) American can understand. However, where I was isn't like that at all. I live in Cape Town, South Africa, and the above trip was done relatively closeby compared to the horn of Africa, which is like the other side of Africa. I mean the roundtrip was about 750 kilometers. But it's as empty as hell up there and getting morooned is no joke where there isn't a car for days sometimes..but better than 750 clicks outside Djibouti Also the people here are much more chilled, though of course you can always be unlucky... Have a look here to see where we were..tell us more about your desert experiences with road pirates then? best...Mike. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tankwa..._National_Park
Now I see that you were actually way down in the SW corner of Africa as opposed to where I have been the last month which is essentially the NE quadrant where the horn of Africa is. Your immediate area appears to be quite a bit nicer then what I have seen & experienced.

Being a Navy Desert Storm veteran prior to joining the U.S.M.M. I have traveled all over the world and been to more countries then I can name, but, I have never seen a place quite like this. It has made me appreciate and realize once again, how fortunate we are to live in the United States.

I can't really tell you any stories other then what I have observed via the bus-ride from the Port of Djibouti to Camp Lemonnier. The area is so desperate, dirty and run down that we are not even allowed to go on liberty out in town, we are restricted to the base.

Not a very appealing place, as you have said, poverty is rampid and the whole scene is quite depressing. The people that do drive, are by and large driving older 4x4's & cars and they drive like complete lunatics.

I have not seen any road pirates yet, but, there are people begging or peddling at almost every intersection with a traffic light that you come to and the constant, intense heat is oppressing & almost unbearable.


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Last edited by Big Blue; 05-23-2016 at 03:46 AM.
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post #5 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
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I'm garrisoned at the Southernmost tip of Africa, and yes, it's nothing like where you were. I have two oceans on my doorstep and can ride my V2 motorbike from one to the other in like twenty minutes In fact, it's pretty idyllic here. Of course if you have no money it's hell anywhere on Earth, but much worse in intense heat or cold.....have you ever been to Cape Town? I'd be glad to take a day to show you Cape Point....hire a Harley and we'll do the coastal route...the dollar is doing very well against the Rand...
I have had no military experience as I got rejected from compulsory drafting due to some physical defects that became undetectable when I was later examined by private physicians..I was not yet 18 tho..and that was 1968...but I digress.. Thanks for the interaction, which I'm enjoying..I'm an author sometimes making movies....x
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post #6 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 05:18 PM
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Nice Bike Mike.

Unfortunately, when we pull into Djibouti, we are never there for more than one day at a time, so, there is no way I would have the time to travel all the way down to your neck of the woods and as I told you earlier, they will not allow us to leave the base for liberty.

Thanks for the invite though.

No, I have never been to Cape Town, it looks like a real nice area, very cool pics.
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Last edited by Big Blue; 05-24-2016 at 03:20 AM.
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post #7 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 05:29 PM Thread Starter
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No worries man. South Africa is first world in the urban areas and with unmatched space and beauty. The climate is moderate here in the South. It's safe to drive long distances. The roads are good and there are garages everywhere. However, the road above is like the Baja..Loads of fun, but don't f-ck up!
Stay safe and the invitation remains for downstream..!
x
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post #8 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-23-2016, 07:33 PM Thread Starter
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Nice Bike Mike.

Unfortunately, when we pull into Djibouti, we are never there for more than one day at a time, so, there is no way I would have the time to travel all the way down to your neck of the woods. Thanks for the invite though.

No, I have never been to Cape Town, it looks like a real nice area, very cool pics.
ps..regarding your placement..just saw this

Mystery Surrounds NASA's Secret Mission in Africa - ABC News
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post #9 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-24-2016, 03:15 AM
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ps..regarding your placement..just saw this

Mystery Surrounds NASA's Secret Mission in Africa - ABC News
I digress.


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post #10 of 10 (permalink) Old 05-24-2016, 12:30 PM Thread Starter
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I digress.
lol - it's still a mystery - understood!

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