The Isuzu Books for Africa team goes 4x4ing

Posted on 9 November 2010

Saturday 23rd October

07h00. The Isuzu Books for Africa team drag ourselves to the meeting point- the goat pen outside our residence. Normally I would be surprised. It’s the morning after our final exam and we’re all on time! And although our puffy eyes and the two litre water bottle grasped tightly in Gareth’s hand, kind of reveal how we’re really feeling, spirits are high. It’s true, there’s not much that would have got us all out of bed this morning, but the chance to test-drive our recently sponsored Isuzu 4X4 bakkies certainly did!

The Isuzu Books for Africa committee was assembled early in 2009. Since then we’ve steadily raised funds and collected learning material which we will deliver to veterinary faculties in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Zambia. It really is an honour to be selected onto this committee and the novelty of being on Books for Africa helped push us through the first year or so of fund raising. Slowly, slowly we neared our target of R120 000 and collected books, literally from around the world. But around July this year it became increasingly difficult to keep those chins up! Though we had raised the funds, we were still nowhere with regards to vehicles. And no vehicles meant packing all those books away and leaving them for next year’s committee to deliver! Fortunately, Isuzu stepped in just as we were about to start begging people like our neighbour’s boss or second cousin, once removed if we could please borrow their vehicles for a tough six week trip through Africa”¦ not likely!

Their generous sponsorship of two KB 300D-teq LX 4X4 bakkies ultimately sealed the deal. Nothing else stood in the way of what is sure to be an incredible project, and of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. As if this wasn’t enough, they then invited us to a 4X4 training course so we could get a feel of how these vehicles will handle some of the rougher terrain we may find ourselves on.
At the Isuzu Off-road Academy (where Isuzu had recently set a 72hour endurance record), we finally met with Ryan Visagie, the man who essentially made this all happen. The morning began with a brief presentation of the Isuzu’s proud history. During this, we were reminded that Isuzu has been actively involved in other admirable projects such as Operation Mandume and Operation Rachel, in which countless fire arms and explosives were destroyed in Angola and Mozambique respectively. This was followed by an introduction to a few basic “4X4 concepts” before we were given the chance to actually get behind the wheel.

The Isuzu team were excellent. They lead us through some extreme gradient tests and helped us discover the incredible power and more importantly for us, user-friendliness of these vehicles. The majority of our committee had little or no 4X4 experience and yet we all managed to guide our vehicles around a reasonably challenging off-road course. The quality and off-road capabilities of these bakkies are phenomenal and really made us look good! We could see why these were bakkies of record breaking proportions.
There was no rush… the Isuzu team had tons of patience and went out of their way to ensure that we enjoyed ourselves. And we did. In fact, this was this first time we had all done something together as a committee who knew that they’d done it! We’d reached our goal. Two years of hard work amidst our demanding academic syllabus had paid off. We were going to Africa and these were the vehicles we were doing it in! And bumping through the course I was reminded of what a great committee we have.

As our first real blog I feel it’s probably appropriate to introduce our committee to you as I saw them on that morning”¦ though I’m sure you’ll get a good idea of who we really are over the next six weeks or so.
James, the oldest member of the group took the wheel first, practically drooling. James completed his honours in Wild Life before crossing over to veterinary science. He’ll almost undoubtedly take the role of game ranger/bush guide on our trip- he even has the witty sense of humour! Yes, James is that guy who stands round a braai and keeps folk chuckling”¦or at least the guys. I can’t help but wonder if Charlotte and Nicky, the two girls on our committee, are politely laughing at his jokes or nervously chuckling at the thought of spending six weeks with this group of boys!
Nicky is a driving force in the group. She was responsible for coordinating the collection of all the books”¦but ended up doing a lot more! As one of the more pious members of the group, Nicky represents a pillar of good morals and goes out of her way to help anyone in need. But she’s no sucker, and kept us all on our toes throughout the year. She’s one of those girls who wants no special treatment- and rightly so. She took that bakkie round with no trouble and had made it very clear that she’ll be driving just as much as the rest of the guys during the trip.
Our other lovely lady, Charlotte, was a little more hesitant. Charlotte is one of those girls who is incredible at everything but somehow manages to convince herself otherwise. For the past two years she took on extra little jobs like they were biltong at a braai! And time after time she delivered, pulling off professional fund raising events and functions with the grace and elegance of a real lady! Don’t be fooled though! Her supermodel looks speak nothing of the tough little warrior inside and she’ll snap your pinky finger right off if you even think the words “poppie” or “barbie”!
Luca’s our route man”¦ and he can speak portuguese! He’s the kind of guy you turn to when s!*t hits the fan! He’ll shrug his shoulders in the face of any adverse situation and calmly set about fixing it up as best he can. He’s done a few off-road trips in his time and took the 4X4 course in his stride. He didn’t say a whole lot about the ride”¦he’s not a big talker. But when he does speak, you listen. And from what I gathered, even he took a lot away from the course.
Adam’s our main man. The chairperson of the committee. As always, he made sure everyone who wanted a ride had had one before he took the driver’s seat. As chairperson, Adam’s only real job was to overlook the functioning of the committee and fill in a few gaps here and there. But this is a different kind of committee and Adam set a fine example for the group by really loading himself with extra work. He did all those admin jobs that take hours to get done. And, importantly, he represents the committee in front of the important guys, especially at the veterinary faculty. I think it’s safe to say that the most challenging job Adam faced was keeping us all focussed during our meetings every Monday. We’re quite an opinionated bunch and deciding on the smallest detail can take us ages. Adam’s the guy who keeps meetings rolling and he’ll continue to play that role along the trip.
Finishing off the committee we have Darren and Gareth! They’re both guys”¦ and they both study veterinary science”¦but that’s pretty much where the similarities end! Gareth is the joker of the group… and one of the members Adam needs to keep in place during our meetings! It’s no secret that he can be just a tad inappropriate at times, but still, you have to admire his wit! I’ve never see the guy angry. Gareth and Luca organised our route together, but he’s the kind of guy who almost wants us to get lost. He keeps talking about setting up camp on the side of the road and braaing road kill”¦ so we can only hope that he hasn’t secretly incorporated one or two days this kind of travel in our itinerary! Naturally, Gareth loved the bakkie, finding it particularly masculinizing”¦but then again, he does drive a Tazz.
Darryn on the other hand is the guy that never says a bad word about anyone. He’s a good, good kid! The “perfect son”; studies hard, goes to church, plays sport. And I’m sure that as the trip drags on and we have less and less to talk about, he’ll steer the conversation away from the gutter, where we do so often find ourselves! Darryn had a tough job contacting sponsors. After facing rejection after rejection, the guys got such a tough skin nothing you say can bother him! He’s a good guy but and as far as I can tell, he’s happy to accept all of our imperfections.
And as for me, well, if I complemented myself you would think I was bias and if I put myself down you think me modest”¦so you’ll have to follow us along our trip to find out. We depart from Pretoria on the 11th of November. The route has been carefully planned; the veterinary faculties are all ready and excited to host us”¦ Africa awaits!
And the people most content at the end of our day at the Isuzu Off-road Academy were our folks. We’re now confident in our vehicles, as well as our ability to handle some of the toughest roads Africa can throw at us, and their minds are at ease that the kids are heading off in some of the safest and most reliable 4X4s available.
The morning ended with a delicious lunch supplied by Isuzu and a short meeting with Ryan for “questions and answers.” This is it! We’re finally sorted. Keep up to date with our travels on this blog!!
Cheers for now,

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