My friend Richard Atherton and I are keen car enthusiasts and rally drivers and we decided to raise money for Malaria No More UK because, having lived in Angola and worked on the West coast of Africa, we saw the effects of malaria on both locals and expats. The aim to eliminate the disease is clearly achievable with some financial commitment.
We joined the London to Cape Town race in January 2012 in our Volvo 144 which we dubbed “the Camel”. We left the UK on a filthy New Years Day – I got a shoe full of water before we started! Lots of Volvo owners and customers turned up to see us off which was fantastic, including supporters from both our car clubs: The Sporting Car Club of Norfolk and Chelmsford Motor Club.
The first leg took us through Europe: the night section through Kent was pure British night rally stuff: dark, difficult to find junctions, going over private land. The non-Brit crews mainly hated it but we loved it! We did another night drive over the Ligurian hills in Italy with lots of hairpins – fabulous fun.
In Greece several of us got stuck in the mud and in Egypt we got stuck in “soft sand” in the Snake Valley section of Egypt. In Sudan we did a 700km trek mostly in the dark heading south towards the border. With unlit
we saw the effects of malaria on both locals and expats. The aim to eliminate the disease is clearly achievable with some financial commitment.
trucks, people wandering down the road, camels and donkeys everywhere and potholes it felt like an early video game. It was exhausting.
Ethiopia was a beautiful country and we rose to 6th place overall in the race. But disaster struck: our shock absorbers were crippled and we had to remove them before doing 120km across the mountain passes (very bumpy). We got our repairs done in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa but it meant we dropped to 15th place overall. In Kenya we reached the dreaded “Road to Marsabit” described by many as far worse than any road they’d ever seen. We needed to average 22kmh: we couldn’t quite go that fast, although we tried! During the rally’s only rest day we went to Amazon Motors – the capital’s main Volvo dealer – for a full service. The car returned beautifully cleaned and detailed.
Tanzania and Zambia involved huge amounts of mileage. While in Namibia for the first time the temperatures soared in an arid volcanic desert – tough on the crews as well as the cars. We worked hard and returned to the top 10. The overall rally lead changed during the last 24hrs as drivers jockeyed for final position. When the car ahead began to falter, we mounted an attack to try to finish in 8th place but it was not quite enough and we finished 9th overall. Our last day in Cape Town and it was 40º. I returned to Heathrow on the Tuesday morning, and had to dig out a foot of snow from the access to Amazon Cars on Wednesday morning at -8º.
Looking back, we are proud to say we were the only 2 wheel drive car in the top 10 who never received a tow throughout the rally: we got there using only the Volvo and our ability to dig the car out of soft sand. Our car was fantastically easy to repair while others required hours of work and lots of spare parts to be flown in under emergency conditions. And most importantly, we raised almost £4,000 for Malaria No More UK: thank you to everyone who so generously supported us.
Now we are looking forward to seeing “the Camel” return to the UK in mid-March!