As a fund-raising event the Kenyan Rhino Charge beat all previous records with a mind-boggling total of £615,683.50 a cause for great celebrations in itself but this year the Avery family also received a warm and very well deserved cheer as their Bundufundi (bush mechanic) team, in their faithful and much modified Series III Volvo portal-axled, hybrid, finally won the Charge after 15 years of trying and numerous good placings, heartaches and cuts, sprains and bruises. They travelled a total of 37.36 km, 890 metres less than second placed Ian Duncan, who in turn travelled 150 metres less than Neil McRae in third position.
The simple object of the Rhino Charge for those who do not yet know is to visit 13 checkpoints in 10 hours by travelling the shortest distance possible – no mean task in blistering heat over unfamiliar terrain. Teams of up to six per vehicle employ runners as well as a navigator and these intrepid souls leap on and off scouting a route ahead, pushing and lifting their car over rocks, dodging flailing thorn bushes and sometimes being left behind completely!
One first time competitor out from the UK commented something to the effect that it was the sheer level of 'destruction' of the machinery involved that came as the biggest surprise to him along with the unbelievable toughness of the routes taken by the 65 teams. My team, in a relatively standard V8 90, took 6 hours to cover about 2 km on one of the 13 sections between guard posts and was not actually completely stuck at any time, just struggling. We were doing it properly trying to take a straight line route through the bush as it should be done so such is life! We heard of another team in a modified Range Rover with Unimog axles underneath who had destroyed three propshafts climbing over boulders which then became wedged between the axle, the chassis and the prop itself. Kit Kaberry, who won the Victor Ludorum at last year’s UK Rhino Charge, was driving a loan car provided by KVM, a very non-standard, bobtailed Range Rover called Shorti. His team went for it on their very first section and took three hours to travel just over 3km, then had problems with overheating, alternators, wiring and batteries but struggled on gamely all day and hope to return for another go next year.
Alan McKittrick was praising the 'beautiful' David Bowyer-supplied winch having spent 4.5 hours battling in the opposite direction on the section which took us 6 hours. He completed most of it with no clutch having boiled the fluid early on and went on to finish 5th overall and win the prestigious Victor Ludorum thanks to a magnificent sponsorship figure of £89,470!
Run in one of the hottest parts of Kenya west of Lake Magadi in the Rift Valley, the event doctor had warned competitors to take on board at least 4 litres of rehydrant to avoid dehydration spoiling their day and this was served up at each guard post as soon as teams checked in. With such attention to detail this was a happy and successful 4x4 and social event with camping and venue fees of £23,554 going to the people of the two local group ranches which hosted us for community development projects. As the tired and dusty competitors hauled their camping gear and cars back home it was left for the organisers to check that no debris was left in the bush before starting to think about where next year’s Charge will be and how best to confuse, outwit and generally bamboozle the competitors again in what is a seriously addictive event.
Should anyone want to know more about either the Kenyan or much easier UK Rhino Charges they are welcome to contact John Bowden via firstname.lastname@example.org. This year’s UK Rhino Charge is on 3rd October at Pippingford Park, East Sussex.
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