‘Battle of the Dunes’ 2017, the Ultimate 4×4 thrill adventure

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Donna Collins

The ‘Battle of the Dunes’ excursion through the Namib Desert is gaining momentum as one of the ultimate thrill adventures, drawing die-hard entries from South African 4×4 enthusiasts who line up to participate in this annual competition.
And last weekend saw the first round of four 2017 ‘battles’ kick start on Saturday, with a dozen 4×4’s and some 30 participants gathered outside the Strand Hotel.
The impressive line-up of vehicles of branded vehicles, most of which were Toyota Land Cruisers and kitted out with bull bars, snorkels, roof racks, ‘fat takkies’ were hot to trot for this five-day challenge.
The Vigo sponsored event is organised by Jeep ‘guru’ Werner Schaap, a dune driving maestro from Swakopmund who started the ‘Battle of the Dunes’ series three years ago.
With a total distance of 300 kilometres of slow adventure driving, the pit stop at Lauberville some 50 kilometres outside Walvis Bay formed the base camp for the trip. Described as the “ultimate dune driving thrill”, the ‘Battle of the Dunes is also to feature on the ‘Ignition’ SA Television show, as well as get a full feature spread in the glossy Leisure Wheels motoring magazine.
Schaap is a seasoned off-road driver plus honorary member of the Namibia Jeep Club and coaches participants to master the skill of 4×4 and dune driving. He has made endless trips into the Namib Desert over the past 12 years, and has earned himself a reputation as being one of the most experienced dune specialists behind the wheel.
Schaap explained that the main attraction of this competition is of course the thrill of driving through the majestic Namib Desert scenery, and the challenge of learning how to master the ultimate dune driving experience.
The encounter is a hand on heart moment and, according to the guys, the most fun you can have in a vehicle. It also can be fairly dangerous if not handled properly, with serious vehicle damage and rattled occupants being the outcome, which is why Schaap’s expertise puts all drivers through their paces at their own pace.
It’s a competition at heart, but more novice participants can also tag along simply to check the ‘big dogs’ strut their stuff.
The organisers actively search for the biggest dunes they can find with ten obstacles in total, but if a dune seems too daunting, there is no pressure on the driver who prefers to sit it out.
The trip starts with a quick dune drive, just so competitors can get a feel for the terrain that is about to become their reality for the next five days. The second day is spent entirely on training, which includes techniques, advice and safety.
Thereafter, the size of the dunes and the scale of the challenges build up slowly, with the final test on the fifth day being the infamous Long drop, where everything learnt in the preceding days will be put to the test.
“The successful completion of this obstacle, and the entire course gives you an unrivalled sense of accomplishment and ultimate bragging rights with your friends next to the braai back home,” smiled Schaap. Winner of the competition will drive off with a full suspension kit sponsored by ‘Opposite Lock’ to the value of N$30 000.

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