I purchased a beautiful new shiny Daihatsu Terios 4×4 in September 2008 after it became clear that my 4×4 wannabe Corsa was not quite making the cut. I had done some research at the time and read a whole lot of articles on this marvellous little car! After a month or two of doing a couple of road trips on pretty decent tar roads, I came to the conclusion she was a pretty awesome little vehicle! She met all my needs, comfy, spacious, light on fuel, nippy in traffic, all the things a woman needs! Then one fateful Easter weekend on a camping holiday I discovered a secret about my precious ‘Tinkerbelle’, she had a dirty side to her! My son and I decided to put some of those 4×4 articles to the test. We signed ‘Tinkerbelle’ up for an Easter 4×4 track trip. We joined the queue much to the hilarity from all the ‘heavies’ some even came to ask why we had joined the 40 plus vehicles, others kindly offered to tow us when we got stuck. We had no idea what we were in for and were rather surprised by the mud pit and various other obstacles. Once out on the track we managed the obstacles just fine but that mud pit became an irresistible draw, we just HAD to do it! So off we went, WOW the water was deeper than it looked on other vehicles, the bow wave was halfway across the bonnet and she kept going! ‘Tinkerbelle’ received a standing ovation for her sterling performance. We continued the rest of the track over hill and dale and my little princess transformed into a little ‘terror’! She thrived on every challenge. We did try again a week or two later just to make sure it was not beginners luck, sure enough she was up for bigger and better challenges! Amazing!
With this newfound insight it appeared that a trip to Mozambique was in order. We travelled three up and towed a trailer to make things interesting. Ho hum, only tar roads with the odd pothole awaited the ‘terror’! The trip was duly completed without incident or anything exciting to report on the ‘terror’ front!
And so, it was back to a sedate life of driving to work, taking a trip or two to Durban all on boring tar roads. Until one cool winter’s day on a whim to discover if my ‘terror’ could tow a caravan, we went to the Outdoor Expo Show. We chatted to the caravan guys; they said no it was not possible for a Daihatsu Terios to pull a caravan! Fortunately there was a handy Daihatsu stand and we asked them about towing and they thought it may be possible. I don’t understand all the in’s and out’s. Cans and cannots, but I can tell you the ‘terror’ can tow a caravan! On the way out much confused with all this conflicting information, we were asked if we would like to go on a 4×4 track – uh no thanks! But the little sales lady was very persuasive and told us we could take the ‘terror’ on the track!
Now who could turn down an opportunity to get all muddy! As usual the ‘terror’ loved every moment! Little did we know that this would be a life changing moment for both me and the ‘terror’!
A couple of months later an open invitation arrives via email from SA Adventure’s Northward Bound Tanzania Expedition. I was so ready to do something like this, but not too sure if the ‘terror’ would make the cut as an expedition vehicle! I asked everyone who would lend an ear if they thought this foolhardy plan would work. I re-read those articles about the Terios to give myself comfort and based on everything that had been written about this rather special little 4×4 it became apparent that maybe the driver, not the car would be cause for concern! Having decided to join the Expedition, it became a mad dash to prepare both ‘terror’ and driver for 21 Days in deep dark Africa!
On the 3rd December we met with the team from SA Adventure, as well as some of our fellow Expedition members at the Hennops Off Road Trail for our first team meeting before the trip. I am not sure what their thoughts were as the ‘terror’ and I joined the convoy for our day’s 4×4 training. As expected the ‘terror’ performed pretty well, her driver was a bit rough around the edges but nothing Tim from SA Adventure could not put right. Near the end of the course with confidence pretty high we hit the water obstacle! Ooh water, ooh very deep water, driver wants to opt out; the ‘terror’ was up for it! We reached a compromise, let all the other 4×4’s go through first, maybe they will empty the water hole! And then it was our turn, with a deep breath and eyes closed, well only for a short while, we entered the water, and kept going, and going, and soon we were on dry ground! Well how about that! Fun, no, but insightful, absolutely! I now know what we both can do! The cherry on the top was a beautiful picture of the Terios’s amphibious qualities courtesy of Ryan one of the expedition team members! Once the 4×4 course was completed we received our Expedition stickers! We had earned our stripes, eeerrrr well so I thought! It was later decided that my little ‘terror’ had been baptised and renamed ‘Fish’ due to her amphibious capabilities! And so the adventures of ‘Fish’ began………….
It is no mean feat to get everything prepared for an epic trip like the SA Adventure Northward Bound Expedition! 7 Countries, 21 Days, 1 Goal! The potential to be drowned in red tape is enormous, starting in our beloved country of South Africa, letters from Insurance companies, meeting the requirements of the Bank to take your vehicle into another country, the rig-ma-roll to get US dollars makes one feel that you are definitely doing something illegal, this coupled with the horror stories of pirates (you do know I am driving, I doubt I would be a pirate target) makes for an interesting few weeks prior to leaving.
Then there was the all important decision to be made about ‘Fish’s’ shoes! To date she has had the stock standard tyres. Sue, ever the worrier, does not want ‘Fish’ to be the only vehicle with piles of flat tyres! PFFT!!! Anyhow, we asked around, Tim without a doubt recommends Bridgestone! “They will not let you down, you will not regret it!” he says. Finally at the 11th hour, good thing, we waited for the latest new Bridgestone AT Tyre and had them fitted! I was surprised with the good road handling, they were quiet; very little road noise! Let’s see how they perform out in the wilds of Africa!
With visa, legal documents, insurance, credit cards and some cash the big day arrives! Our meeting in the early hours of December 16th was mixed. There were new people, loads of vehicles, and a great deal of excitement, trepidation and thoughts of dreams unfulfilled! After a quick cup of coffee, and collecting our padkos we were on our way, in my first convoy! Follow the leader and keep up ……. simple rules! I am easily able to keep up with all the bigger 4×4’s and the drive was peaceful and uneventful in terms of our convoy.
Our first Country was Swaziland, a first for ‘Fish’, and we were soon through the border posts, waiting for the others to join us! While waiting in the car park, ‘Fish’ received her Swaziland Flag sticker! It joined the lone South African flag on the driver’s door. Our great adventure is under way! We spent our first night at the beautiful Mlawula Nature Reserve.
In the morning we did photo shoot and headed out of the Reserve headed for Mozambique. We came to a section of very steep windy road, driving behind ‘Juho’ our lead vehicle, she set a strong steady pace and I did not disgrace myself. The view from this lofty height was amazing! Onward and upward, we go through the Goba Border and into Mozambique. With our nights stop quite a few kilometres away, we set to getting some cash, coffee and petrol at a small village. Ah and then Sue discovers that her chip credit card does not work in Mozambique! Great! Now what, let’s convert the dollars! A bit at a time – what a stupid suggestion, but still I went with it! ‘Fish’ says to Sue “Do you have any idea how much fuel I will need to cover this phenomenal country?” “You’re standing in the queue not me!” “I’ll wait outside and chat with the other 4×4’s!” There is ‘Juho’, a lovely shade of British racing green, packed to the hilt with just about everything one could wish for – did I mention she is a 110 Land Rover Defender! Then there is ‘Prada’, a very sophisticated lady, with loads of class and every gadget in the book! Another close companion was ‘Tuna’, an interesting Toyota Fortuner – she is pretty cute, but a bit blonde, does some silly things! I am very intimidated by the Penthouse Suite – a Ford Ranger with an elaborate canopy camper. I think we will become very good friends though. There is ‘Elolo Mashodzi Shongololo’ a Land Rover Defender 90, I’m not too sure about her yet, she does have some great girl’s driving her though, and a rather cute teddy on her bulbar! ‘Flea’ is a Defender 90 as well, with loads of character, sadly she only came as far as Swaziland, and so I did not get to know her well. And finally there is ‘Zazu’ the mother hen of the group, you can be sure she will never let you get lost or left behind!
Having negotiated the morning traffic heading to Maputo, thank goodness we could bypass the city, we were finally on the EN1 heading to our night stop at LaGoa Eco Village in Quissico still quite a few kms away. We found with all the bank stops that we were running out of daylight! It is a good thing that ‘Juho’ knows where she is going (actually, thanks to Tracks4Africa) we head to the turn off. I have heard all the stories about how terrible the roads are in Mozambique, and I am wondering what they are talking about, the roads have been very good tarmac, not even a pothole to dodge. I did however manage to break the speed limit and get caught! By this time I am pooped – I am not used to being on the road for such a long time, and Sue’s not much better, I have caught her nodding off when she is driving me! Just when I thought we were in a whole lot of trouble, ‘Juho’ takes the turn off the tar, nearly there! We wind our way through palm trees and small villages. It is dusk so we do not see much except for the light of the village fire. The track is sandy, very sandy, “when do you think ‘Juho’ is gonna stop so we can reduce our tire pressure? (I did read the books you know)”, she just keeps going and the sand gets deeper, so we carry on. We are found by Niels who leads us the last little way to the Lodge. What do you know! I am not the first Terios this far North in Mozambique, there is a little companion here before me! I’m better dressed though! We all parked in the dusty street for the night and felt quite safe – isn’t that interesting? The next morning reveals the beauty of this lovely place! And I don’t want to leave, but Sue says we have to!
After a hearty breakfast we head back to the tar road, my word, the sand was deep, and I made it! Even I am impressed! How about that, must be these supa dupa tyres! Back on the black top and on our way to Vilanculos to Baobab Beach Camp. We soon came across another mile stone, we cross the Tropic of Capricorn!
We were the first to get fuel at Vilanculos and paid for it in US Dollars! They would not accept Dollars from the others but did from us! I am sure they saw my pleading look! Ready cash is now a problem for us, which is stressing Sue out! I had a chat to ‘Zazu’ and she is gonna speak to her owner to make a plan for us, such a loving Mum! The cash problem has been resolved for now, between ‘Juho’ and ‘Zazu’ we have a plan in place, grateful thanks to all involved! We had a lovely couple of days at the Baobab Beach Camp, met a couple of rogue Landys and other heavy 4×4’s, they are surprised to see little me, and are shocked to hear where we are heading! Out come all the stories of shocking road conditions, war wounds and the like! I’m gonna have nightmares tonight!
After two lovely nights at the beach we head inland to Sakkies Camp just outside the Gorongoza National Park, once again the roads are great (those guys are such liars)! Just before we get to the turnoff we go over a magnificent bridge, I hope someone took a photo! Getting to the camp gives us a taste of our first corrugations on the road! Uuuu Uuuu Uuuu not nice! But hey it beats smooth tar! Next morning Uuuu Uuuu Uuuu back up the road, and onto lovely smooth, boring tar!
It is SO hot! Really hot here! It must always be like this. Sue has chosen to join me in the heat and leaves the windows open and does not use my air-conditioning; she does not want to be separated from Africa in a car cocoon! That also helps me a little; I don’t have to work as hard!
Our next destination is Quelimane on the coast and about a 100kms from the main road. We drive down the most stunning road with Coconut trees on either side making a gorgeous avenue. This must be the most awesome camp we have yet to come across. Sadly, it was not at all what we expected. We parked in a hotel car park, and the team members camped on the sand of another car park section. There is an airy sense that all is not well at this site and I am comforted to know I have ‘Tuna’ and ‘Prada’ for protection and company for the night! There were ugly crows around and I don’t like them. I was a bit jealous of ‘Juho’ and ‘Penthouse’ as they were allowed to camp with the team, as it turns out; even that was not much comfort for them. The folk who were supposed to watch over us wanted more money, and we had to make a quick escape plan! I was glad to get the dust off my Bridgestone’s as we left the next morning!
Destination, Veranda camp, I sure hope it is better than the last place, but again it was on the coast so it just had to be good! Am I right or what? Veranda camp no longer exists, and we were directed to Currusca Camp, which was pretty darn awesome! We trekked through beach sand to the most awesome place. I took a wrong turn and got stuck in the soft sand, and would you believe it, Sue panicked and almost burnt out my clutch trying to get me out, silly woman! Tim to the rescue! Straighten my tyres and bingo, no problem at all! It is not what you know but who you know out here! Having parked down a little lane of scrub, ‘Tuna’ parked behind me with a comforting “I’ve got your back!” How were we going to get out, I have no idea, that is a problem for two days time! For now it is kick back, swim, and catch up on our washing! To show her gratitude, Sue checked my oil, topped up my windscreen water, and with great love overfilled my radiator. I did not have the heart to tell her, so just spat it out on the road the next day!
The fuel here is leaded and it is an acquired taste, not the best but it works and I manage to keep moving, without too much difficulty! Let me tell you about some of the fuel stops we have encountered. Fuel stations are few and far between, when you find one, you have to fill up, even if you don’t want to, as you never know when you will next encounter another one. The further North you go the less frequent they become. There are times when they only have diesel, or only gasolina, or neither, sometime rarely though they have both. Then there are the queues, if you happen to arrive around the same time as a tanker there are loads of motor bikes all vying for a spot to get a few litres of fuel, or the folk that have walked miles and have waited in the hot sun with their 2l or 5l container for fuel. We show up in force and expect immediate attention (as that is what we are used to in South Africa). The attendant then tries to service our vehicles, leaving their fellow countryman extremely disgruntled and angry! I completely understand their feelings, but we need to keep moving and do not have the time or place to wait for the next tanker. A station with no motor bikes, is a sad sight, as there is no fuel either! The fuel bowsers are old and probably have never been calibrated, they do not work like the ones back home and most prices are worked out on a calculator at whatever rate the petrol attendant decides, and usually you have little to no idea how much fuel was put in. The attendants are hard to identify in the mass of people around the bowser, as the uniform idea has long ago died. Locked doors and windows are an absolute necessity and being always vigilant essential. Handing over your hard earned cash is also an interesting affair, and are never sure you will get the right change! To tip or not to tip that is the question! Checking tyre pressure is best left to the professionals (our drivers); water and oil checks also feel better when done by our drivers. Everybody wants to touch me, I have big hand prints on my windows, doors and sides! I do chuckle though when locals get too close to me and they notice the snake on the dashboard! They definitely take a step back and generally go and find another vehicle to touch. I don’t like being separated from the convoy to get fuel at another station, but fortunately ‘Prada’ usually comes with me as she also likes petrol in her tanks!
Another interesting thing I have had the privilege of experiencing which I do not think the other vehicles had was I had a few different drivers. Sue was the main driver, but she needed help when she got tired, also driving alone a little company here and there was in order. Each driver had a different style, and having never driving such an awesome 4×4 like me, it took them a while to get the gist of my awesomeness!! Shirley drove for a while, Sue was grateful for her company, naughty girls though they switch off the radio. Jono, was our main back up driver. I really liked him as he knew how to have fun!! When we did finally hit those hectic mud roads, Jono and Sue had a field day in the mud and puddles! One time when we were all completely exhausted Ryan drove, he was pretty good actually, pity he had to go back to ‘Zazu’. Then Timmo drove, but only for a little while and that was to get me in a position help ‘Juho’ out of a spot of trouble. That’s another story though, for a bit later…………….
Thanks for reading all about my Big Adventure, Part 2 will be coming soon!