Africa, Australia and Moab
Cape Town, South Africa
"It's hard to believe that yesterday (or was it the day before?) we were skiing," exclaimed an overheated Tim Pickering as he climbed the rocky ramparts of Cape Town's Signal Hill under the full glare of the South African sun. In 36 hours, the 16 G4 competitors had gone from the icy cold of New Hampshire's Mount Washington to the boiling heat of South Africa.
The Land Rover G4 Challenge began the previous week in downtown New York City. From there, it traveled north and east to the base of New Hampshire's Mt. Washington. The competitors had driven Land Rover Freelanders in teams of two in search of hunters, or GPS waypoints, where they faced different physical challenges.
To the Tip of Africa
Now, with each competitor paired with a new teammate, the competition started with a vicious climb to the top of Signal Hill. Footpower was exchanged for pedalpower and the competitors faced a challenging mountain-bike course. Trouble struck Challenge frontrunner Jim Kuhn, of Canada, when a high-speed tumble left him with cuts requiring more than 30 stitches. The severity of his injuries forced Kuhn to withdraw from the Challenge.
Pedalpower was then exchanged for horsepower as the Challenge mounted Land Rover Defender 110s. During the next five days, the competitors would use their Defenders to travel to the southernmost point of land in Africa, collecting as many hunters as possible.
During the Challenge's toughest driving so far, the Turkey/Italy team stuck its Defender on a very difficult ascent. Arriving on their heels, the Holland/Japan team could have gone around them, but teams earned points not only for arriving at each hunter, but by correctly predicting the order in which they will arrive. The Holland/
Japan team helped winch the Turkey/Italy team to the top. Holland/Japan thus secured their predicted arrival slot.
In a show of excellent four-wheeling skills, the U.S./UK team barreled its way to the top of the hill to the cheers of the assembled marshals. Earlier on the trail, the team successfully negotiated a very steep, slippery descent into a deep water hole. Fortunately, the way out of the hole was steep enough to clean the rear window of Defender, allowing Tim and teammate Nancy Olson to see the marker affixed to a tree right behind them. In a scene right out of Laurel and Hardy, stepping out of the Defender, Nancy lost her balance, slid down the muddy track and with a splash, belly flopped into the murky water. This was Nancy's second dunking for the day.
Kranshoek, South Africa
"It's definitely getting harder to get up in the morning," exclaimed Australia's Guy Andrews, as he got the team's Volcano Kettle going for that all-important first cup of coffee. South Africa's wild, undulating coastline, crowned here and there with rugged, rocky hills spread out in front of the competitors. On the way to their first hunter, Italy's Alberta Chiappa and Turkey's Cuneyt Gazioglu had a choice to make. They could reach the hunter via a tricky 4x4 trail or via a longer gravel road. Making the same choice we would have made, they plunged down the 4x4 trail. It turned out to be the toughest driving of the G4 Challenge. They fought deep ruts and waist-deep mud, making slow but steady progress until one mudhole proved too deep. When their support vehicle arrived (a support vehicle travels with each team), Alberta and Cuneyt were busily digging away at the mud getting ready to extricate themselves. When they realized that there were no extra points for picking the tougher route to the hunter, they wisely had their support Defender snatch them back out of the mudhole. We shared in their frustration at having to pass up the opportunity to really put their four-wheeling and recovery skills to the test. At camp that evening, Cuneyt said, "We didn't score many points today, but we learned a lot about the African conditions and had lots of fun."