Words by Morne Labuschagne Photos by DO IT NOW
le Moegat ersary 10th Anniv 4x4 Challenge Moegatle 4x4 recently celebrated its 10th birthday and to commemorate this special occasion a 4x4 Challenge was held in May this year. Moegatle's birthday wish was to give back to the Lethlabile community, which it has been involved with over the last decade by introducing various projects and initiatives that are the brain child of Kallie Kruger, from EFS Suspension Africa. This was done by asking participants to also donate blankets or old clothes, which they generously did.
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Moegatle is situated in the Northern Province, on the Brits to Thabazimbi Road, and is a 4x4 haven. It's ranked as one of South Africa's most difficult 4x4 tracks and is home to the infamous 'Koos se Klim', as well as many other tricky obstacles. With an emphasis on challenging obstacles and being an avid 4x4 enthusiast myself, I was looking forward to being a part of this 4x4 event for various reasons. As I have been to Moegatle before, I've seen how this terrain has bruised the egos of numerous seasoned 4x4 drivers and I anticipated that this event would be no different perhaps more so.
Chris and I arrived at Moegatle Farm, the starting point of the 4x4 Challenge, on the Friday night. Amongst the group already there was Len Nel, from ONCA 4x4 Fitment Center, an experienced and highly-respected driver in the 4x4 community. He regaled us with the most incredible stories about his previous experiences on this course and the teeth-clenching, eye-popping obstacles - which anyone in their right mind wouldn't attempt - and soon had us all salivating and eager to prove our manhood. Kallie Kruger, the organiser, then went through the driver and navigator briefing, and what the day held in store 15 testing obstacles. In addition to the first three overall winners receiving sizeable cash prizes, there was also a treasure hunt and obstacle prizes up for grabs - the ante had just been upped! With a tough day ahead, it was time to get some shut eye. However, Johan Swart from Innibos Fitment Center, had other ideas and the night had only just begun for him. I later heard that he has quite a sense of humor, even at 2.30 a.m. when he almost managed to tow the base camp's caravan away with its sleeping occupants ... don't ask :)
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The morning of the challenge was chilly, especially if one's choice of accommodation (in winter) consists of a tent and sleeping bag. Fortunately, a warm shower - with ample warm water for everyone - helped to thaw out frozen body parts and we happily headed off to the registration table, where the banter was already in full flow about the vehicles, tactics and what to watch out for. There was a tangible excitement in the air and a feeling of camaraderie that is hard to beat, and for anyone who loves the outdoors and 4x4s, life just doesn't get better than this. Starting at 7 a.m., the first challenge took place in camp; the adrenalin-pumping adventure had begun. The Blind Fold test saw blind-folded drivers being instructed and directed by their navigator, who was outside of the vehicle, to drive to a pole where the driver had to place a cup upside down on it. This exercise was repeated four times and then the driver had to stop the vehicle in front of a barricade without hitting it. The route to the next obstacle meandered through the farm and along the way participants were treated to sightings of game including impala, blesbok, bushbuck, warthog, blue wildebeest, guinea fowl and more. It's a birding paradise too, but unfortunately there was no time for that. With the niceties over, it was back to business as the vehicles faced obstacle two, which was more of an icebreaker. It was a small axle twister up a slight incline. This obstacle, and all the others, saw teams either opting to get out and walk the obstacle to plan their approach and lines, or go for the good old-fashioned method of simply 'putting foot', as was successfully demonstrated by the gent in a 1984 Nissan Safari pickup. There were four really difficult obstacles that offered a 'man of muis' option. But with the testosterone in overdrive, no one was going to back down and take the 'sissy' route. As a result, there were many interesting situations and teams were seen to be frantically strategising how they were going to get through, with their egos and expensive vehicles still intact. To give you an example of what the drivers faced, there was this one beast that had a very steep incline and for approximately 90% of the climb only three wheels touched the ground at any one point. I can tell you that these obstacles were no picnic and I was actually quite surprised to learn that only one unfortunate Fortuner owner rolled his vehicle (without too much damage).
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As the day drew to a close we ended off with the promised treasure hunt, which was tremendous fun. Using a GPS, teams also had to interact with the locals to find the clues hidden in and around the town of Lethlabile - it looked like a scene straight out of Amazing Race. The townsfolk were fantastic in their role here, and they must be some of the friendliest and most helpful people that I have come across. Prize-giving and a delicious potjie concluded the day's proceedings and what an enjoyable day it had been not only for the participants, but for their families and friends too. I can't wait to find out what Moegatle has planned for its 11th celebration!
Moegatle is owned and run by Alex Fullard, an extremely passionate 4x4 enthusiast, who is always keen to give advice and even help out with the odd recovery. He initially bought the farm as premises for his leather business, but his plans changed when he was diagnosed with partial blindness and told that he could lose his sight completely. With a zest for all things outdoors, especially 4x4, he decided that it was time to start enjoying his life to the full and so the 4x4 track was born. The self-drive track is approximately 21km long, with the first 3km running through a very difficult riverbed. Thereafter one has to attempt to overcome obstacles at 'Koos se Klim'. A briefing is held prior to going out, at which time drivers are given the coordinates and different route options; for the intermediate and more experienced 4X4 enthusiast. Moegatle is an extremely enjoyable outing for anyone with a passion for adventure and nature. It's only a one-and-a-half hour's drive from Johannesburg and an hour from Pretoria, and I would recommend it to all 4x4 owners! â€˘
For more information on Moegatle visit www.moegatle4x4trails.co.za/wmenu.php. Also have a look at the action videos on the DO IT NOWâ€™s Off-road category page, www.doitnow.co.za/offroad
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