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Conquering Africa’s Roads With More Than Passing Fun

Africa, as the saying goes, is not for sissies. Life on the continent can be harsh, and driving anywhere—even in posh suburbia—is not without its challenges.

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Our roads are peppered with potholes; hijackings are a way of life; wildlife sometimes seems to have a vendetta against moving vehicles; traffic jams can rival the migration in the Serengeti, and all this is when we have roads to begin with! And let’s not forget the plight of the minibus drivers; having to furiously shuttle their sardine tins full of people, who are sometimes laden like hermit crabs with their personal belongings.

What is to be done about the seemingly Sisyphean mountain of obstacles that befall us as regular road users, you ask? Extreme all-terrain vehicles are, in my humble opinion, the obvious answer to Africa’s daunting road conditions. Take for example the Russian-built Viking-2992 from Aton Impulse (brought to you by the people who built some frighteningly effective submarines, so why not surface-dwelling amphibious vehicles too?). This road-legal behemoth is capable of conquering not only the worst tarmac, but it’s just as comfortable in more aquatic climes.

Looking, for all the world, like a bullfrog on steroids, the Viking’s high-flotation boat frame allows it to traverse the water at speeds of up to 15km/h. Equally suited to that leisurely weekend trip across the Vaal dam in South Africa (imagine the stares from those overpriced boats packed with scantily clad women and cigar-chomping businessmen), or those unscheduled flash floods, the car boasts pneumatic front and rear suspension and balloon tyres—equipped to “minimize environmental impact and soil damage”. Exactly what we were concerned about. And, should the humanitarian bug ever bite, the Viking makes a superb search-and-rescue vehicle; coming in a 6×6 wheel configuration that can transport 12 people. Enough to make any taxi driver flush with envy; especially considering the car’s got climate control and a rear-view camera for ease of parking.

Another contender, in our bid to conquer Africa’s unforgiving terrain, is the Mercedes-Benz Zetros. The towering Teuton comes in either a four-liter six-ton payload or seven-liter, ten-ton variety. This truck is perfectly suited to hosting those pesky, end-of-month shopping expeditions with parking posing no problem—that Hummer’s roof will do nicely, thank you. Hijackers will stare agog, contemplating how on earth to scale the sides so they can point their quivering gun at the safely ensconced driver. Twin axles mean the cabin and payload move independently (like a belly dancer working her way through college)—helpful when encountering potholes the size of Australia, as we do after a brief cloud burst. Water reaching up to a height of 1,100mm (with the additional modifications) holds little fear for this übertruck. Let’s see someone try to push in front of one of these at the next intersection.

When it comes to sure-footedness though, nothing beats the insanity of the Chainlink extreme 4×4. Powered by a fuel-injected five-liter V8 engine sourced from a Ford Mustang, the unique feature of this vehicle is that its one-meter-high tires dangle off the end of hydraulically controlled swing arms that can work independently or as a team. This unsurpassed articulation (two meters in total travel) means the Chainlink virtually bounds over boulders, seemingly negating the need for roads at all. While disturbing to look at, and its gait is reminiscent of a drunkard at a twisting competition, the Chainlink gets the job done.

Ever wary of expenditure, we’ve managed to uncover a more cost-effective manner of taming the African wilderness. It comes in the form of the Desert Fox conversion. Designed to fit your existing Toyota Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol (chosen specifically for their impervious nature and easy access of parts), the kit comprises of a fully galvanized platform that simply bolts on (housing eight molded seats protected by three rollover bars) and transforms the ‘bakkie’ into a light infantry patrol vehicle. In addition, the suspension undergoes some radical reworking thanks to new leaf and coil springs, gas-powered shock absorbers, a heavy-duty steering damper and anti-sway bar.

Criminals stand no chance against the Desert Fox’s optional armor plating, and it even comes with its own water supply (100 liters) and dual battery with charging system. Making this kit a must-have for those expeditions to war-torn territories is the optional gun turret. A handy feature, to keep the masses at bay; especially if you’ve opted to purchase another product from the same company—the mobile field kitchen. Simply throw this contraption onto the tow hitch, and you can almost literally make food for Africa; 300 people at a go, and up to 1,000 in total. The kitchen uses diesel to power its hot plates (switching over to solar when hot) and can pump out 24 loaves of bread in 20 minutes. That’ll satisfy the biggest appetite! No wonder military brass, from numerous countries, are showing interest—and it’s exactly what a hungry, take-no-crap, sick-to-death-of-traffic road user really needs.

If the Desert Fox has piqued your interest in military grade vehicles, take a gander at www.milweb.net—apparently they are “the world’s largest and busiest military marketplace for military vehicles”. Nothing says “get the hell out of my way” quite like a tank, which is why we’d simply have to opt for one if we inadvertently won the Lotto. While owning and driving a tank on public roads might be completely illegal, such technicalities haven’t stopped a host of drivers in our laissez faire continent, thanks to the pliability of our cash-strapped authorities. Ah, Africa—the cradle of mankind. We might not have invented corruption, but we’ve certainly come close to perfecting it. And yet, this is our land—diverse, unique, challenging and exciting. If you don’t like it—well, you know the rest…

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