Love your Nuts!

Bolts, nuts and a whole lot of new friendships.

The whole idea of joining this rally started about 8 months ago and since then my life has not been the same.

The Nuts & Bolts Rally was founded by Pieter Andersen from Malmesbury, a couple of friends with old cars going out to explore some of the 1 625 560 kilometres of unpaved roads on our beautiful continent. A total of 14 cars took part in that first event in 2014. Over the last three years this event has become so popular and successful that the organisers was forced to limit the entries to a maximum of 100 people.

In June this year a friend, Ben Wiggins, and I purchased a 1984 Toyota Cressida with the intention to take part in the 4th Nuts & Bolts Rally from 25 to 27 September. We managed to convince our wives that this is a good idea and since the car only cost us R7200.00 they even agreed to join us on the trip. After all it is all for a good cause. Nuts and Bolts Rally is an initiative that raises money for the Love your Nuts project, a testicular cancer awareness project. An organisation that aims to increase the awareness and dangers of testicular cancer.

We immediately made a list of repairs and improvements that we wanted to do on the car and we also made a list of potential sponsors for this adventure of ours. On closer inspection of our car, that also got christened with the name HMS (Her Majesties Ship) Vaalkatryn, we realised that we might have bitten off a bit more than what we could chew. The damage and wear and tear caused by Vaalkartyns previous more or less 7 owners left us with a lot to do in a short time. Again we made a list – this time of friends that has the knowledge and skills to help us with the work that needed to be done. Of cause they could not charge us for the work they did as this was all for a good cause remember. At this stage Ben and I had become pretty good negotiators/beggers.

As the big day drew closer the picture became a lot clearer of what a huge challenge we created for ourselves. We spent long hours on Vaalkatryn to get her as ready as can be for her maiden N&B voyage. Our usual evenings would consist of a list of things to do for the evening and also a braai in the driveway next to Vaalkatryn. In this time the other competitors were also doing the same as we were and the regular updates and pictures on the rallies what’s app group laid a foundation of excitement that I haven’t experienced for a very long time. We counted down the days and the pressure on us to get her on the starting line kept us awake for long hours at a time.

Before we knew it Saturday September 25th arrived and we set off for Windmeul Kelder in Agter-Paarl with a car that was heavily loaded with all the items and consumables that especially our wives thought necessary for the 4day road trip. On arrival at the start most of the other teams were already there and the electric energy and anticipation was just about overwhelming. Just before the start all the competitors got together for a group photo and quick briefing and eventually after all the preparation we were in a convoy heading for Ceres via Bainskloof pass. In Ceres we filled up with fuel and headed for the R355 towards De Mond campsite where we would spend the first night. As we hit the first gravel road most of the teams stopped at a roadside picnic spot for the first of many roadside braais of our trip. The rest of the route was completed without any major incident and it paved the way for a road trip of a lifetime. At De Mond tents were pitched and again everybody had a braai with meat supplied by the organisers.

Early Sunday morning with very little sleep all the teams got ready for possibly the hardest day of the event. There was a quiet anticipation in the air as all the teams knew that today was the day that we had to cross the Tankwa to Sutherland and conquer the mighty Ouberg Pass. On the route we stopped at the Africa Burn tent sight for a quick braai and then everyone set off on one of the toughest gravel roads that I have ever experienced. Just outside the Africa Burn site we hit our first major breakdown when an oil pipe on the gearbox burst. With assistance from Riaan van Wyk and Ruhan Fourie (Team R&R who was the eventual overall winners) in an immaculately restored Datsun 280ZX we got underway again. About 20kms further down this bad road another one of the gearbox pipes burst leaving us with no spare gearbox oil. Team R&R came to the rescue again as some of the other teams went for a skinnydip in a farm dam next to our injured Cressida. We managed to get some oil from one of the rangers of Tankwa Karoo National Park, unfortunately he had only about half a litre of oil and we decided to fill the gearbox with ordinary engine oil. Anyone that knows a little bit about cars will know that this is not the ideal thing to do, especially if you want to drive over the mighty Ouberg Pass with a 30 year old automatic car that has seen its best days.

At the foot of the pass we caught up with some of the other crews that encountered problems on their way up this majestic piece of landscape that has been used for years to trek livestock to lower lying areas during the harsh Karoo winters. About one third up the pass the inevitable happened and our gearbox started slipping because of the foreign fluids that we fed it. Some of the other teams also stopped along the same stretch of road with a variety of problems and one of the biggest team effort since the great trek took shape right there in the Roggeveld mountains. Now all the teams pulled together to get all the cars to the other end of this major obstacle. About 3 hours after we arrived at the foot of the pass we reached the top of this 23km beast with a huge amount of blood, sweat and maybe even some tears left in our trail. What a feeling when we pulled into the Verlatenkloof campsite for a very welcome potjiekos meal that was prepared, on a fire of cause, by the owners Willie- and Alta de Lange. It was here where organiser, Pieter Andersen told us of something that he saw for the first time in his life on this trip: the enormous hurse piloted by Bokkie Swart and ElrichHerbst coming up the Ouberg Pass with all guns blazing. With tired bodies in the early hours of the morning we got to bed after everyone shared their stories of the days adventures.

After a quick refill of the right fluids and fuel for HMS Vaalkatryn we left Sutherland behind us in the direction of Laingsburg through the Moordenaars Karoo, a very unknown but beautiful part of the Karoo. A section of the rally that was probably put in place for the competitors to recover from the previous days battles. Well, as we settled in for the scenic drive on this winding road we heard a loud bang followed by a very loud scraping noise coming from the underbelly of Vaalkatryn. Team R&R that took up their regular place behind us saw it happen and by the expressions on their faces as we stopped we knew that this was a serious one! HMS Vaalkatryn decided to get rid of her fuel tank and unceremoniously dumped the big tank that was just filled to the brim with fuel on the hard Karoo gravel road. A plan had to be made and two hours later we set off again with the fuel tank fastened to the spare wheel with ratchet straps to the underside of the boot. About 10 kilometres down the road we were welcomed by one of the other teams that went ahead to start a fire for yet another roadside braai, best Karoo lamb on an open fire in the heart of the Karoo…..Priceless! Due to the loss in time we missed one of the other highlights of the event. Most of the cars fell in behind the big hurse and drove slowly in the style of a funeral procession through the town of Laingsburg and then carried on towards Warmwaterberg spa near Barrydale for the night break. We arrived at the spa at 23h30 to find the other teams very surprised to see us after they heard of our earlier problems during the day. A fire was lit for a late supper and we pitched our tents for a well-deserved rest.

The final day of the event broke with a nice fresh cold front that greeted us with much needed rain for the area. All the remaining teams that was still in the event had a nice long breakfast at Diesel and Crème in Barrydale where we all reflected on the events of the past 3 days. By now it felt like a big family reunion, I now realise how friendships develop when you go through tough times and help each other to achieve a common goal. We all set off toward our final destination, The Matroosberg Lodge via the town of Touwsriver. Another beautiful road with yet another roadside braai in a dry river bed. The route went by with no major events and for a change team R&R could also enjoy the journey without having to help us along the way. The day ended with a tremendous prise giving function and in the backdrop of a snow covered Matroosberg range. Festivities continued into the early morning hours with the comfort and quietness of snow falling on all the tired vehicles that completed the event.

It is with great pride and a new found emotion that I can reflect on an event that made me realise what life is about. The saying that a stranger is a friend that you just haven’t met springs to mind when I think of all the wonderful people that we have met on this epic event, all in the name of charity. I can’t wait for the next one! Remember to love your nuts! 

Gordon Robertson