Quads 4 Quads no ride in the park (But raising 700 grand for charity made it all very worthwhile)
October 16-17 Star Motoring.
OKAY, I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps I underestimated the Quads 4 Quads charity offroad event (that last word should really read challenge), when I signed up for what I thought would be a leisurely thousand kay cruise from Durbs up to Jozi over four days.
And I think it showed when I rocked up at the start – at the Cane
Cutters resort in Ballito – in my jeans, with my two-second pop-up
tent in one hand and my thermal jacket in the other. Event head-honcho Glenn Foley, from organisers Family Adventures, took one look at this and asked if I was actually aware that we had 1 000km to ride, to which I promptly asked: “When are were starting?”
Three kays into the sugar cane fields and I was starting to pick up
what Foley was putting down; this was not going to be easy. They call
this the biggest offroad ride of its kind in the world for a reason,
throw in the word adventure to give it an Indiana Jones feel, and put you through four solid days of riding on every surface known to man.
Luckily my wheels were a lot more impressive than the “Indiana”
riding it. Yup, I’d made sure that if anything I’d have something
afoot to raise a few farmers’ eyebrows, and this came in the form of
a white Polaris Scrambler XP 850, which you hold on to more than actually ride. And man was this the right bruiser for this trip.
My fellow riders may have had tinted goggles, shiny leathers hiding
their fishnet stockings, and Brakpan-spec steel-tipped boots –
but I had Fluffy, one of the most powerful standard production quads on the rally, and that would level the gravel fields. Needless to say
then, once Fluffy had stopped trying to kill me with throttle response
that would make a space shuttle blush, I was happy to let her stretch her legs at speeds generally more akin to highway travel.
The problem was that this “adventure” was not simply about bolting along long gravel stretches, or about pretty scenery as I’d imagined. This was a hardcore trek across three provinces which took us literally over mountains, through forests and farms, across fast-flowing rivers, alongside stony railway tracks, and down the steep sides of rocky trails.
And then there was the curve ball, the weather, which threw rain
and mist at us in bucket loads, only truly relenting with reef altitudes
approaching. You have to dig deep when you can’t see five metres in
front of you through the mist and rain, or when you’re clawing
through slippery mountain slush with sheer drops beside you, or
your goggles refuse to stay clean.
Luckily the Polaris was relishing all this mayhem, offering a button for quick flips between rearand four-wheel drive, and a lowrange setting on the gearbox for absolute reassurance. The weight and size of this monster-quad also helped with stability – both at highspeed or when things got slippery. Its bigger tank also meant less of a frenzy between top-ups, but with 250km distances on average a day there were still a few Hail Marys involved.
The other, and probably most important, survival trick you need to know here is to hunt in packs. Riding alone is not a good idea. Sure, the route is really well marked with little orange dots and arrows spray-painted on everything from rocks to poles, to guide you along.
But a group of little brats sitting on a rock marking, blocking the detour arrow to an offroad section, sent me head-long into rural KZN
with no cellphone signal, hardly any fuel, and a firm rediscovery of
my spiritual side. Luckily I retraced my steps back to the official route.
The nature of the event, from the ride to the camping, is also a very
communal affair – and it’s here that I must thank team Bathroom
Bizarre for adopting this bizarre cuzzin.
Around 840km later Fluffy and I crossed the finish line at Carnival
City. The Polaris, except for a puncture (thanks team Katay Racing for
the MacGyver-style fix), was absolutely bulletproof – pulling
through like it had been possessed and ready to turn around and start all over again.
The best part, though, is that Family Adventures handed over a cheque for a cool seven-hundred grand to the QuadPara Association of South Africa. And that, really, is what makes it all worthwhile.