Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Have Landy, will travel: Chartwell 2 Chartwell Pt.1

100 days. That is how long it took the intrepid team on the Autobarn Chartwell to Chartwell (C2C) mission to cross 23 countries and 22 000km between Chartwell in South Africa and Chartwell in the United Kingdom. Although only three of the seven vehicles made it to the destination, their story is a riveting one.

The C2C mission was the brainchild of lifelong Land Rover adventurers, Rob Erikson-Miller and Mark McClue. The idea was to drive from Chartwell, in South Africa, across Africa, through Europe and on to Chartwell House, the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill in the UK. One of the objectives of the trip was to raise R5-million through donations for the development of opportunities for youth within sustainable environments. The cavalcade set off in July last year and the plan was to reach their destination in three months.

Botswana

The first stop was Francistown in Botswana. It was a drive of around 15 hours and almost 800km, with a top speed of 90km/h. It was a long drive in the old vehicles and the team was grateful to arrive at their accommodation at Diggers Inn. The next morning was sent shopping and taking photos in town while Rob repaired his vehicle. Then it was on to Nata Lodge in the small town of Nata, approximately 190km away. The evening was spent in luxury and after breakfast the next morning the group tackled the 300km to Kasane. The group was blessed to see many elephants en route to the Chobe Safari Lodge, where they were treated to an amazing cruise on the river. Magnificent sightings of elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, crocodiles, many birds and a variety of antelope species had everyone excited for what lay ahead in the next country on the itinerary.

Zambia

The convoy crossed the Kazungula Bridge into Zambia. The two countries share a building at the border post and while it was a pleasure dealing with the authorities on the Botswana side, the Zambian side was a nightmare.

It took approximately five hours to clear the Zambian side as sniffer dogs and drug enforcement officers searched the vehicles and corrupt officials attempted to solicit bribes. Fortunately, the group had police clearance forms for the vehicles but discovered that you need a copy of the original prescription if you want to take prescription medicine into the country.

The road to Livingstone was horrendous and because the GPS units weren’t working properly, the group ended up at Livingstone Prison. A few locals were on hand to provide directions to the Livingstone Waterfront campsite which was a welcome sight after the tribulations of the day. The evening was spent on the deck at the restaurant, overlooking the river. No visit to the area is complete without stopping at the Victoria Falls and that is exactly what the group did before hitting the road again. However, the next leg of the trip was not without incident.

The roads are in a terrible state of disrepair, filled with potholes, animals and people. One of the vehicles damaged a rim when it hit a pothole, and another was having issues with its gears. A third Landy was accidentally filled up with diesel instead of petrol. So, after driving 304km for the day, everyone was relieved to reach the Moorings campsite, on the Lusaka/ Livingstone Road.

The campsite lies about 2km down a dirt road and is very well maintained, offering both camping facilities and chalets. Beautiful indigenous trees provide shade for weary travellers and – most importantly – the showers have hot water. Unfortunately the group arrived after sunset, so had to wait until the next morning to take in the natural splendour of the area.

Another long drive of 411km lay ahead and the roads were getting progressively worse. The next destination was Bridge Camp, located east of Lusaka at Chipata. This camp offers beautiful views of the Luangwa River and has stone chalets and campsites. Unfortunately, the road down to the camp is filled with deep potholes and is very steep. Cautious and slow driving is required to manoeuvre around the potholes, but due to the absence of streetlamps this became quite a challenge! Leaving the Bridge Camp, the convoy drove to Lilongwe, about 488km away. The morning was spent at the Luangwa Bridge Secondary School, where they learned that there are 650 pupils. They can’t all be accommodated at once, so there are two school shifts… one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Pencils were handed out to the children and after a monetary donation was made to the headmaster, the convoy crossed into Malawi, using the Mchinji border crossing.

Malawi

Woodlands Lodge in Lilongwe was the next port of call. The campsite is set away from the main buildings and has a natural woodland of miombo trees. Much to the delight of the intrepid travellers, the ablutions were clean and well maintained. Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge, which is right on Lake Malawi, was some 184km away. The campsite is beautiful, has lovely green grass, a bit of shade and good ablutions. It was pure bliss to watch the stars and fall asleep to the sound of the waves lapping the shores. The next day, two more group members arrived and after a quick meeting, the afternoon was spent swimming in the lake and playing volleyball with locals.

It was with mixed feelings the intrepid adventures departed for Nkhata Bay. After a sumptuous lunch at the Butterfly Space Eco Lodge, it was time to bid farewell to some of the travellers, who were heading back to South Africa. The rest pushed on to Namiashi Lodge. By all accounts this was a drive from hell. They drove down a long and windy mountain pass riddled with potholes. It was extremely steep and in some places the potholes were almost the same width of the road. There were no streetlamps but plenty of trucks, which had to pull off to make way for oncoming traffic.

The next morning, after a quick swim in the lake, the group walked to the next beach and watched the villagers put their fishing boats in the water. The next leg of the trip was 429km long and would take them to Tanzania.

Tanzania

It was a very long day, with yet another terrible border crossing taking over five hours. Once in Tanzania, the next order of business was finding a place to stay for the night. Ziwa Ngosi was a real find, located in the middle of a forest.

They drove approximately 3km into the forest on a tiny track that had not seen tourists for a very long time and was badly overgrown. The campsite is located in a clearing but has no electricity, water or ablutions, so you have to be totally selfsufficient. That night they fell asleep to the creaking of the branches as the wind whistled though the trees and leaves. Pure bliss!

On the way out of the forest, one of the vehicles tipped over, which caused some damage to the steering rod. This necessitated a stop in Mbeya to do some temporary repairs. Two of the members of the group were sent ahead to find accommodation for the night. They found the Holland Hotel, but with only three rooms available, some sharing and even camping in the parking lot was required. After a strange breakfast of soup, eggs and chipati and after having the vehicles washed, the convoy drove through a game reserve and found an amazing place to wild camp right next to a stream.

The convoy took an uneven, winding road through mountains towards Jakobson’s Beach Lodge. After a refreshing swim in Lake Tanganyika and a braai under the African night sky it was time for some well-deserved rest. This day was a challenging one as the group drove one of the worst sand roads any of them had ever seen. The main road is under construction and with all the trucks, weather and normal vehicles the detour was washed away in parts, with big boulders blocking the way in others. It took more than three hours to do 100km.

They had been travelling for most of the day when one of the vehicles hit a boulder on a bend and overturned. The steering rod and front diff were badly damaged. Luckily there were many construction vehicles on the road and a crane truck-driver helped to get it back on all four wheels. Unfortunately, it was not drivable and had to be left there for the night.

Early the next morning repair work commenced in all earnest and the vehicle was patched up as good as it could be under the circumstances. The next day was spent assessing the damage and discussing the way forward. The team decided to split up, with one vehicle heading to Rwanda and the rest to Uganda to have the necessary repairs done to the vehicles.

Rwanda

The Rusumo border post into Rwanda was a breeze. The entire process took about an hour, despite the fact that the vehicle had to be unpacked and repacked at the checkpoint. There were also no costs involved, unlike any of the other borders they had been through.

They realised that they would only reach Kigali in the late evening, so decided to book into the Eastgate Hotel in Ngoma. The next morning they woke up to thick and heavy mist and decided to wait for it to subside before heading off to Kigali. Even after it cleared the going was slow as the speed limit is generally 50km/h, going up to 60km/h or even 80km/h in a few places.

The drive to Kigali took about three hours, which gave them the opportunity to admire the lush, green landscape. There was a heaviness in the air though, as if nature remembered the awful things that had happened in that specific country. Another hotel stay was on the cards, and after checking in, they decided to go for a walk in the town. Kigali should be known as the place that never sleeps. The locals party all night, and just when you think they’re done, the music starts up again. This meant sleepless nights, with the days spent shopping and mingling with the locals.

A visit to the genocide museum was sobering and heart wrenching. The remains of 250 000 victims of the 1994 genocide are buried there, serving as a stark reminder of the country’s bloody past. Over a period of about 100 days, over 800 000 people – including thousands of children – were brutally murdered by their own friends, family and neighbours. The team stayed over at the Kinigi Guest Lodge before enjoying an incredible visit with the Amahoro family of gorillas in Volcanoes National Park the next day. There are 22 gorillas in the group, including a 25-year-old silverback called Gahinga, and a young baby of two months old. There are a few gorilla families in the park and visitors are only allowed up once a day for a maximum of one hour. Many of the guides and trackers are rehabilitated poachers. After the emotional and magical experience, it was time to head back to camp, pack up and head to Uganda.

*In the next issue we will pick up the amazing trip in Uganda. – Ed.

Meet the Team

Rob EriksOn-miller

One of the organisers of the trip, Rob is a Land Rover workshop owner and has been involved with Land Rovers for 31 years. He drove Winston, a 1982 Series 3 model, which he found in the Cradle of Humankind. He restored it in Chartwell, South Africa, and named it Winston, which gave him the idea to drive across Africa to Chartwell House, the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill in the UK.

Mark McClue

Mark, an entrepreneur based in Chartwell, drove Jan Smuts, which was found on a farm and offered to Rob for sale. Rob bought the vehicle in a derelict state, had it towed into the workshop, and started the rebuild. The paperwork says it is a 1969 model, but it is actually a 1967 model.

Alison Grunewald

Alison Grunewald, nicknamed Alley, is a self-employed photographer. She bought her 2000 Defender 110 TD5 in 2015 along with her life partner Allan Smith, who sadly passed away in December 2018. During lockdown, she had her vehicle stripped down and rebuilt. It now boasts many extras for overlanding and off-roading, including 2” lift, tyre spacers, a water tank, an extra fuel tank, roof rack with rooftop tent, 270 degree awning, ARB compressor, a rear locker, and a Warne winch.

Stephen Leif Dahl

Stephen is a farmer from the North Coast and drove Sir Bhejane, named after his wife’s conservation effort, Bhejane (which means rhino). The vehicle is a 1958 88” Series 1 and after serving in the police in what was then called Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), it became a farm vehicle. It was restored by Louis Powell and reluctantly sold on to Stephen.

Mike EriksOn-Miller

Mike became a Land Rover enthusiast through his brother, who gave him a vehicle so he could get involved in offroading. The deal was to rebuild it and sell it to buy a Land Rover to be part of the team. His first Landy was a BDF 110, and he now has a stable of seven Land Rovers across the range. He drove Thomas, a 1998 300TDI Defender 90 short wheelbase.

Trevor Stiebel

Trevor, nicknamed Tree, used to be a logger (hence the nickname). He was accompanied by his wife Helen, their disabled son, Kyle, and his carer Tim. The Stiebel family would like Kyle to be an inspiration, showing others that being disabled should not prevent you from all sorts of activities and adventures. He drove a 1970 Land Rover Forward Control Series 2B named Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s trusty stead. It has been retrofitted with a 300Tdi engine and R380 gearbox, making it a permanent fourwheel drive.

Rick Currie

Rick is a retired Chartwell resident and wanted to visit his son and friends in the UK. He has owned his 107 Station Wagon for over 20 years. The 1956 model was hit by a bus in the Tanzania in 2004. Although a write-off, Rick brought the old Landy back to Johannesburg. It took 10 years to repair as much of the body had to be replaced.

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