Words and Photos By Shane Quinnell. Awesome feats by the members of Suzuki Auto Club SA!
You look out from behind your steering wheel with apprehension. In front of you the “road,” which consists of two dusty tyre tracks, runs for about three meters and disappears into the leaves of a tree and an eternity of blue sky. Your heart beats like a bongo drum as you contemplate the numerous unpleasant possible futures that your imagination unwillingly conjures up. Despite the apprehension you slowly lower your clutch and roll toward what might as well be the edge of the world.
“Little to the left… a bit right…” says the voice of confidence in the form of Vic standing a meter from your window. “This is ridiculously stupid,” says the voice in your head. You ignore your head and listen to Vic. Slowly you feel Badger creak underneath you as gravity pulls him down more and more strongly toward the abyss. Still you can see nothing but blue sky.
After an extended groan you know it’s decided, you have reached the point of no return. You see the ground again. Now you can’t see
anything but the ground and you can’t stop yourself from slowly rolling and sliding straight towards it either. Gravity and the thirtyish degree slope you are on have you in a bear hug and are not letting go. So you let go.
As you release the brake pedal gravity pulls you down. You try and apply it again but the unpleasant sound of your wheels sliding on sandy ground rings out and you know it’s futile. So you grip the steering wheel and you listen to the voice. You roll, bounce on three wheels, hear your smash plate smack a large rock and look up to see the world as it should be. Brown road, a horizon and blue sky. You grin as you hear people cheering and let out a sigh of tension… done.
This is one of my most resounding memories of our weekend spent at Berakah Adventures (near Parys, approximately 1.5 hours South of Joburg) with the crew from the Suzuki 4x4 Club of Gauteng. Unlike most people who were with from the club, attempting ridiculous things in cars is not a usual Saturday for my wife Tarryn and I. In fact, it was basically the second time ever we had been on a proper 4x4 track. In retrospect attempting Berakah with an unmodified Jimny with next to no experience may have been slightly doff. However, the trial by fire was an unparalleled learning experience and awesome weekend out.
We only found out from “Kaptein,” Monty Montgomery, the club head, the night before that Berakah was considered a grade 3-4 track; difficult in layman’s terms. He calmly suggested we remove our Front Runner rooftop tent for the next day as it would “increase the risk of rolling.” Admittedly we were sweating slightly when we started the track.
The reality though was that our fears were mostly unfounded as though the track was rough and tough, it was manageable. There were almost twenty cars, mostly Jimnys, with us in total and every car managed to overcome each of the obstacles without too any hassles. It was incredibly impressive to see the competence of both the cars and the drivers as they tackled the terrain. The experience really expanded my understanding of the capabilities of the machines we were driving.
When we bought our Jimny, I like many other prospective consumers incorrectly assumed that his diminutive size meant he may not have been as capable as other 4x4’s. I could not have been more wrong. Not only did the Jimny’s keep up but in some places seemed to excel compared to the other much bigger 4x4s who were with us or that we met en-route. Often thanks to their narrow and short wheel bases. The one Grand Vitara who was with us did extremely well too but often had to take different lines from the smaller cars.
“The realisation dawned on me that the Jimny is effectively a full size 4×4 which has been compressed into something half the size; it is a 4×4 concentrate!”Shane Quinnell
The realisation dawned on me that the Jimny is effectively a full size 4x4 which has been compressed into something half the size; it is a 4x4 concentrate! It is clear now why the previous owners of our car named him “Badger;” after his likeness to small statured and surprisingly ferocious demeanour of a honey badger.
I realised talking to the club folk that the Jimny has acquired a bit of a cult following: as Ryno from Suzuki Bryanston put it “if you cut open the veins of myself and many of the people here you would find its not blood from our hearts that powers us but a Jimny 1.3l.” Considering its relatively low cost, small stature and oversized balls it’s no wonder this is the case.
Though the standard Jimnys like ours did remarkably well, it was chalk and cheese when compared to the cars that had modifications, which many did. Most of the other car’s varying mods were manufactured and installed by Monty’s company “Wizerd 4x4,” but included suspension and work from Opposite Lock amongst other products.
Between the 40+mm raise provided by the suspension changes and the various smash plates which protected their vital organs, the modified cars did seem to avoid the few bumps inflicted on the more stock cars and generally improved comfort. So while far from mandatory, for people looking into SERIOUS 4x4 in a Jimny, one or two minor mods are probably recommended.
I was lucky enough to hop on board with the “Kaptein,” for the night drive and really noticed the difference well between his modified pocket rocket and our Jimny. While we had capably managed all obstacles in Badger, his car was noticeably more comfortable and competent.
The night drive was absolutely awesome and something most of us had never done before. It was slightly surreal as the course we had done only hours earlier took on a whole new feeling akin to something of a fairy world. Though I wasn’t driving it didn’t seem that much more intimidating than day drving, just different. Then again maybe this was partly due to the many spotlights and lightbars on the Kaptein’s car which helped take us most of the way back to daylight.
Overall from my point of view the weekend was a great success filled with great war stories shared around the campfire, sufficient moments of type two fun (the type that is only fun later) and great supportive company. A large part of the success can be attributed to various figureheads in the Suzuki Club; like Monty, Vick and Ryno. Their consistent expert advice and calm demeanour even or especially when drivers got wild eyed helped keep the team together and get us through the track. However, it was the collective of the many awesome people who are the club that made the event what it was.
In general I am not a big club person but in this case I wish I had signed up sooner. Not only was the Berakah trip a great weekend away but the confidence inspired by the experience was priceless for both Tarryn and I. Though I don’t think we are quite ready to tackle the African wild alone with Badger, we know it is possible and that with a bit of practice it will happen. Looking forward to the next adventure!
Keen on the Experience?
In case you are interested chatting to someone about a car or want to try Berakah for yourself, here are some links that will point you in the right direction:
Test yourself at the epic course from Berakah Adventures; only 1.5hrs from Joburg so great for a day or weekend; http://www.berakah.co.za/
Interested in trying out a 4x4 Concentrate (Jimny)? http://suzukibryanston.co.za/
Want to make your Jimny even cooler and more competent?