The Cape to Cape expedition, which has entered Tanzania, is beginning its descent towards the port of Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean. On extremely muddy tracks, the drivers have had to feel their way skilfully to avoid getting stuck in the mud and have once again benefited from the formidable fording capacities of the Keraxes and, when the going has got really bad, the solidarity of their fellow team members! But the Dar es Salaam passage beneath a magnificent sunset over the Indian Ocean plus the warm welcome in Zambia were compensation enough for their efforts.
Having passed over the Tanzanian border without too much waiting around, the Cape to Cape expedition made its way towards Lake Victoria, one of the biggest in Africa, to spend the night. At the crack of dawn, the convoy began its crossing of Serengeti Park which may be world renowned, but is certainly very muddy during the rainy season! Even the forest rangers got stuck in the mud and it was thanks to one of the expedition Keraxes that their truck could be pulled out of the ditch. “Driving in the mud reminds me a bit of driving on snow,” explains Jo-Oyestein Nyhus, Techline Manager for Renault Trucks Nordik in Oslo, “I know everything about driving in Nordic countries, but here it’s just a bit more complicated!” Fortunately, when the Keraxes’ fording capacities were not enough and the vehicle did get stuck in the mud, team solidarity kicked in.
Arriving that very evening at the edge of the Ngorongoro crater was a magical moment for the whole of the team. The view from the caldera is quite simply spectacular. This crater, which is at 2,300m altitude, was formed when the volcano collapsed in on itself. It is the biggest caldera in the world to have remained intact, with a diameter of 20 km and surface area of 260m2. Its walls are 600m high and have no fault; animals have to climb its flanks to get inside. The inside is a concentrated version of the whole of Africa: rivers, lakes, savannah, forests and swamps allowing over 25,000 mammals to live there together. You will frequently come across zebra, leopards and lions as well as elephants and a few rare black rhinoceroses. During the night you can hear the calls of gnus that have taken shelter inside the volcano.
This stage was also an opportunity to invite Renault Trucks customers onboard the Keraxes and the Sherpas to ride some of the route together. They were able to take their part in the Cape to Cape adventure on vehicles that they praised for their comfort, in spite of some very bumpy tracks. In the evening, the convoy stopped once again at the foot of a volcano, this time the Lengai, a sacred mountain for the Massaï.
Then the convoy began the long descent over a few days towards the Indian Ocean, always accompanied from afar, but not for much longer, by Kilimanjaro. Progressively the countryside becomes less mineral. The rocky tracks gave way to laterite and the first palm trees began to appear as we arrived at the coast. At the port of Dar es Salaam, the magnificent sunset was a just reward for the drivers who for the past ten days had covered 2,500 km at an average speed of 45 kph.
After the Tanzanian roads, which took the Cape to Cape convoy through baobab and eucalyptus forests, there came Zambia. In the evening, the expedition was welcomed at the village of Chilkwa and children were there to offer songs whilst the village people prepared showers for us. The sun was hardly in the sky when we were off again for almost fifteen hours of tracks… astonishingly beautiful but astonishingly difficult too! One Kerax lost a whole radiator during one river crossing. A makeshift solution was found to get it to the lodge that was to be home to the exhausted team for the night. After three hours of mechanical work in the early hours, the team set off again towards Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Heading for the Southern Cape of course!
David Dartevel, Head of Advertising Promotions for over 6-ton vehicles in the Renault Trucks Europe Marketing Department
David, how did you come to be taking part in this expedition?
When I learnt that participation in the Cape to Cape expedition was open to all Permit C holders, I quickly filed my candidature after discussing the opportunity with my wife. I took my HGV licence a few years ago when I was responsible for the photo library which is part of the media library. I took it to be able to move vehicles around to help the photographer to get his shots!
Before leaving, had you driven on tracks like this?
No I’d only driven on roads. But I feel good at the wheel of the Kerax. The most important thing is to feel at ease. It’s made easier by the fact that the vehicle gives you a strong sense of safety. I think that we’ve just got used to each other. Over such tricky terrain, it’s important to let the truck go to work when you’re driving yourself and, as a driver, to react according to its behaviour.
What were your favourite stages on this expedition?
The Ngorongoro crater and the opportunity to admire all these animals so close up, plus our arrival at the foot of the Lengai volcano. These are two exceptional sights. We had some extremely muddy passages at the start and several trucks got stuck in mud traps. It was opportunity to see how the drivers would cope and whether they were prepared to help each other. They were of course, and it’s important to feel that there’s a strong sense of solidarity between members of the team. It’s reassuring to know that you can rely on everybody.
And what will you take back from the first half of the expedition?
First of all the human angle. It’s been an opportunity to meet colleagues from different sites such as Limoges or Blainville and from the foreign subsidiaries with whom I have less contact. It was also an opportunity to meet up with local populations, which added spice to the journey. Finally, I’ve been able to see what the Kerax is capable of doing in difficult conditions and I must say that I’ve been very impressed.
In what way?
By its fording capacities on all types of track: in the mud, over stones, in sand and in the garrigue. I felt that nothing could stand in its way. Furthermore, the truck is very comfortable. It is this aspect that seemed to really win over the customers who came on board.
Indeed, on three occasions you had Renault Trucks customers on board your truck during the expedition. What were their impressions?
A Swiss customer and two French ones did sit in the passenger seat for a few kilometres along the way. They were pretty surprised by the level of comfort, especially when we were driving over sections littered with potholes. They did like the fact that the suspension seemed to absorb a lot of the impact. More generally, they loved taking part in the expedition: for them too it was an opportunity to join in the adventure.