Riding rough in the Spirit of Africa
Kosi Bay, in the far northern reaches of KwaZulu-Natal, is the playground for this year's Spirit of Africa Trophy.
Now in its fourth year, the event was moved from its previous home outside Upington to provide contestants with a totally different environment to test their 4x4 driving skills.
"To keep an event fresh you need to add new ingredients and that was one of the reasons we chose this area," said event organiser and racing legend Sarel van der Merwe in a sunny Kosi Bay last week.
In the short time the event has been held, entry numbers have increased from 188 teams for 2005 to over 300 teams this year.
Although the number of black contestants is low, it is something Van der Merwe is working on.
"This year we have more black teams than we do English-speaking teams and this is a good sign.
"At the end of the day we will be relying on the emerging black market to sustain the 4x4 culture," he said.
Steep incline driving, time trials, obstacle courses, swamp driving and a particularly tricky figure eight - which must be driven in reverse - all make for a testing time on drivers' skills.
Not all the contestants last week were die-hard 4x4 junkies. For Moipone Ndaba and husband Wiseman from Brakpan, it was their first time off-road, and one which they thoroughly enjoyed.
"I wanted to give my husband something different for his birthday this year and decided on the Spirit of Africa," said Moipone.
"We are used to only driving in the city, so it is nice to get back to nature."
And the Mitsubishi Triton?
"They are very capable. We are most impressed," said Moipone
So will you buy one?
"Only the National Credit Act and Tito Mboweni is preventing us. But yes, we might buy one."
lThe elimination heats for the Spirit of Africa 2008 end on July 13. The finals will be held in Mozambique in August.
To view a video of the event log on to www.sowetan.co.za