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The Dusty Classroom

The Dusty Classroom

Words by Shane Quinnell, Photos by Shane and Tarryn Quinnell

So, we are going to drive through Africa in a Suzuki Jimny called Badger for six months. This means that for 6 months, Tarryn and I will live in a box the size of a VW polo with a tent on the roof and rely on this box for nearly everything. Transport, electricity, beast of burden, kitchen, house and home. It is both an exciting and slightly daunting prospect. A prospect that requires proper preparation and planning, both physically and mentally.

The first thing that comes to mind when Suzuki Jimny and overland are put in the same sentence is space.  There is not a lot of it, but with smart packing and the Wizerd Monty’s ingenuity we will be fine. The second thought is, what happens if we break down? Again, get some parts off Suzuki Bryanston, find Wizerd Monty and learn some magic “boer maak ’n plan (farmer make a plan)” tricks. Finally and most importantly; what happens if we hit rough terrain, a question which is more a ‘when’ than an ‘if’. We soon realised we needed 4x4 training… badly.

The Hulk tears his way out of the training course's watery grave!

The Hulk tears his way out of the training course’s watery grave!

Fortunately for us Ryno, from Suzuki Bryanston gave us the answer to our prayers. He had a training day for clients of his dealership booked out at De Wildt near Hartebeespoort where the Wizerd would be teaching some tricks and invited us along for the ride. Tarryn and I jumped at the opportunity.

De Wildt is a 4x4 game farm only about an hour from Joburg. It has great facilities, according to Monty is an average class 3 or intermediate track and has fun driving. Overall it appears to be a popular choice for 4x4 training.

The morning of the training it was great to see all the fellow Jimny’s and drivers rocking up ready for action. The experience of the drivers ranged a bit but most of the owners were 4x4 virgins arriving for their first experience. The excitement and anxiety was palpable as the Wizerd passed out the notes.

The first hour consisted of a very informative theory session on the basics of driving a 4x4 and more specifically a Jimny or Grand Vitara. The important parts on the cars were explained and strategies for how to avoid damaging them while attempting technical driving discussed. I’m not generally very good in a classroom but the information provided was fascinating and knowing each piece could help us finish Africa Sky High it kept me enthralled.

With theory aside it was time to hit the practice track. Ryno was a shining example of finesse as he got his Suzuki Bryanston Jimny footloose with one wheel two feet of the ground, got wet then vertical on the practice track.

I volunteered to go second and as usual found that the pros always make things look easier than they are. Despite this I managed it fine other than not using enough momentum to get up the steep ramp and having to hit it as second time. This once again showcased the difference between Tarryn and my driving styles. While I tend to prefer the ‘slow and steady approach,’ Tarryn utilises the theory ‘when in doubt, rev it out.’ Therefore she didn’t battle getting up the steep hills but nearly ramped off them instead.

Making tracks in the dusty classroom.

Ryno making tracks in the dusty classroom.

After the warm up round, we hit the real tracks. The first major obstacle was an axel twister with fairly deep dongas on alternating sides which rolls the car side to side as you drive through. Fortunately being in a Jimny the twist on the car is severely reduced as the car can generally fit in between the holes.  While still a daunting sight, the obstacle looked much less intimidating than the first time I saw it months before during our first solo Team Tane 4x4 outing.

Again the masters took to the track to show us the best lines and made it look as if they were merely on a dodgy dirt road. The rest of us weren’t quite so graceful as we spun wheels, scraped belly’s on the ground and bounced our way to the top. Nearly everyone stalled somewhere as we lost traction on the dry ground and achieved nothing but the creation of mountains of dust. By the end of it the air was hazy from our attempts in the dusty classroom.

After getting all of us through, the Wizerd and Ryno moved us on to other obstacles each with their own intricacies. I had consciously left our Frontrunner rooftop tent on Badger for the training to check the impact it would have on Badger’s handling. I was very aware of the extra 40kg while driving. While it did noticeably increase the roll, Badger handled the extra weight pretty well overall. Still, Tarryn and I could hardly contain our excitement at the thought that soon Wizerd and Opposite Lock would be kitting Badger out with products like Tough Dog suspension which would dramatically improve the performance.

Having Monty and Ryno at hand for assistance was incredible both for confidence and technique. Their advice made huge difference in ride comfort and our ability to get through obstacles. Their calm demeanour really helped us and others get through things we otherwise may not have even tried and overall the training was extremely worthwhile. With their assistance each and every one of us on the course successfully gave the trail a go and loved it!

Slowly the day wound to an end all of us suffering from giant smiles and dust inhalation. It was wrapped up with a good old South African braai (BBQ), cold beers and tall stories of how far we each got wheels off the ground.

For Tarryn and I, the experience was extremely valuable and greatly increased our technical driving abilities and most importantly, our confidence. I would definitely recommend contacting Suzuki Bryanston or Wizerd to get onto a course or join the Suzuki 4x4 club to get into four-wheel driving. It is an experience that I have no doubt will help us get through Africa!

Contact the Magicians

If you want to organise a spot in your own dusty classroom or to chat about getting involved use the contacts below. Click on the images to be redirected to the respective sites.