'Steve, I don’t care what anyone says, I will never ever question Land Rover again. No other vehicle would have survived what we put these things through.' This was the first statement from the TDI Team Leader Ian Anderson, whom I met in Lubumbashi in October 2009 as I got off the UN flight from Bukavu. Ian was leading a demining survey team through some of the most impenetrable regions on earth, looking for landmines and unexploded bombs. TDI is a Mine Action company that works throughout Africa in post-conflict regions, clearing up the detritus of war, and Ian’s role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was part of that, leading a survey team through vast areas of the DRC looking for evidence of mines.
The biggest problem with operating in the DRC is the total lack of infrastructure, most notably roads, which have not been maintained or in many cases even used since the early 1970s. As a result, what may be marked as a ‘road’ on a map, is reality is nothing more than a single track that witnesses the odd bicycle, a few goats and one or two chickens but not much else. For this reason many of the regions of the DRC were thought to be impossible to reach. Unperturbed, Ian and three other teams headed out into the unknown in April 2009, each team made up of eight persons, and supported by two Land Rover 110s. June 2010 and the irrepressible vehicles are still operational, still moving through areas which have never seen a westerner, let alone a vehicle, in decades.
The vehicles have kept operational throughout this period on the basis that they are very robust, and easy to maintain. Each team has a Zimbabwean mechanic, whom has many years experience on Land Rovers and with some forward planning and ensuring that they carry the right spares, they are able to keep the vehicles moving the remotest areas. At times the teams are anywhere up to five days drive from the nearest habitation that would pass as something like a town, and even in those ‘towns’ they are not guaranteed anything that most would take for granted, certainly not little luxuries like electricity.
Kevan Spies is operating in an area that 15 years ago witnessed a missionary being cooked and eaten, Paul Molam has missed a massacre by Rwandan rebels in South Kivu by 15 minutes, Peter Fuyane was accused of being a head hunter in Dimbelege; this is not easy territory to venture into and yet the teams have done so confident in their ability to get there in a Land Rover; confident that when it does break down, as indeed any machine will do, in these appalling conditions that they can get it going again. Quite simply no other 4x4 on the road today can match the stresses and tests that our teams have put the vehicles through.
All eight vehicles were supplied to TDI by Liveridge in April 2008 where they were in service for 12 months in South Sudan before being driven into the DRC in April 2009. It is quite some feat that all eight are still on the road, and credit for this should be given to both the mechanics who look after them as well as to Liveridge who continue to support us with spares and advice to keep these vehicles running.
click here for Liveridge 4x4