The Four Wheel Drive Club of Southern Africa

The FWDCSA has seen some incredible characters come and go over the years which is probably one of the many reasons I have stayed a member for so long. My membership number is 389 but I have seen the club numbers swell to a heady yearly membership of well over 1000 in the past. By no means were all these members active at every gathering. Even with 300-odd members, if they all rocked up at the same time, it would have been a logistical disaster. In fact the largest outing I led was when we had 100 or more vehicles doing the De Wildt trail on a very wet and cold day. That in itself was one hell of an undertaking because all the tracks were like streams and the normally dry river beds were now flowing at an incredibly strong rate.  Visibility was somewhat impaired by the rain and low clouds but for once “convoy rules” were followed and, with unusually good 29 MHz comms, I was able to shepherd everybody to the safety of a local tavern after the run. But I digress.

Gerald O’Brien probably remains in my memory the most out of anyone. He introduced me to the Toyota Desert Race (something I have been involved with for the last 25 years but alas, no more, but that is a different story altogether). Gerald was affectionately known as “Gob” which is not a particularly flattering nick name but those were his initials so that was that. Gerald had the incredible talent of not getting flustered when the proverbial was hitting the fan in a BIG way. In fact even when provoked I don’t recall him ever raising his voice or losing his temper, especially when full of Captain Clever and coke. (Side note: rum and coke tastes exactly the same whether it is drunk ice cold or blood warm which is just as well as we frequently ran out of ice on long periods in the bush. In those days camping fridges were not common amongst members).

Even though I am now living in East London I stay in touch with Geoff Joubert or Jobbit, as he is referred to by a few of us. When I was running outings it was decided that, for a change, we should have our own jamboree at Base 4. The club had never tried this before so we were all a bit dubious as to how well such an exercise would be received by the members. Geoff had for years run the club’s driver training program and I therefore knew he was a dab hand at putting together driving exercises. So, in my wisdom, I entrusted that aspect of the Jamboree to him. As this function was pivotal in the success or otherwise of the event I looked at Geoff’s involvement like this: If the jamboree was a success I would take all the credit but if it was a failure I could blame Geoff. As it was the whole thing went down fabulously and, yes, I did take all the credit.

Dave Schofield also deserves a mention. Dave, or ‘Mad Dog’ as he is more commonly known at the club, got his name completely by chance. As I recall we were all on a driver training exercise at Kallie’s Quarry. Dave was relatively new to off-roading and whilst negotiating a particularly steep descent he regrettably missed putting his van into gear to slow his progress. Instead of bringing his trusty Hilux down in an orderly fashion, Dave hurtled down the slope in neutral, completely out of control. Gob, who was the off-road instructor at the time, in his typical unfazed manner, declared over the 29 for all onlookers to hear that “only a Mal Brak would be foolish enough to go down that slope so fast”. The name, Mad Dog, has stuck ever since.

Then there is off course my nick name, Hawkeye. I would love to have inherited this as a result of my superior vision or my keen eye when shooting but it was not to be.

We had had a particularly wet summer and the de Wildt area had been particularly hard hit. The quarry where we normally started our trail had filled up literally overnight and was unusable. Dongas were everywhere and normally easy climbs had become so eroded by the heavy rain that they appeared too difficult for all but the lunatic fringe to attempt. Our convoy had just crossed an old river bed when it became apparent that the 30-odd vehicles had broken the crust leaving a heaving mass of mud with the structural soundness of jelly. The way forward to the infamous “Tennis Ball Hill” also proved impassable and after I had almost put my van on its side another route had to be found. Fortunately I had driven the area before and vaguely knew of an alternate route though the thick bush and over the mountain. The track was both extremely slow and very, very narrow. Nevertheless we all ground our way along in low range in the now failing light. I was concentrating so hard on the driving aspect that I missed the critical right turn through the bush that would have taken us all safely out. By the time I had realised my mistake it was too late to turn the convoy around as the trail was just too narrow. Eventually, and by a lot of good luck, we made it around the mountain and on to a much needed tar road. Nevertheless I had made the suicidal error of confessing over our 29s that I had unfortunately missed the turn. I don’t remember who was the smart arse that chirped over the radio in a most sarcastic tone “well done Hawkeye” but from then on that was my nick name, like it or not.

Hawkeye( Roger ) Barnes