Take a bunch of crazy, insane drivers, and let them loose in the bundus with super-modified monster trucks and cars, and you have yourself a rhino charge.
It’s not that simple really, but from my spectator point of view, that was exactly what happened – drivers went crazy in the workshop, ended up with monster trucks, then brought them out to the wild to bash it out.
I was in Il Ngwesi, in the middle of the vast wilderness of Samburu.
Getting there wasn’t easy – I think the organizers make it deliberately difficult. Bags and camping gear packed, we set out as a team of almost 40, with Xtrym Adventures, in a couple of huge overland trucks. The first lesson I learned is that when you put 40 people into two trucks, they’re bound to make interesting company during the trip. From the jokes and stories that were told it was an easy time driving through the countryside, and getting our way to Samburu.
After making stops through Karatina, Nanyuki and Isiolo, we followed the well crafted map into Il Ngwesi, just as the sun dropped down behind the hills to our west. Traffic was decidedly heavy, and there was the expected holdups. Eventually we spotted a suitable camping area, and pitched tents there.
The first and biggest disappointment of the weekend came in when we realized that Tarpo Ltd had gone MIA on us, and we had no bathrooms and water. Lucky for us, the overland truck had a water storage tank big enough to cater to our group, and we made do with that. Well, at least I got to wipe down the dust each day, there was no luxurious shower out there.
Grinning and bearing the dust and dirt, I slept through the night without any mishaps, and woke up to a blazing sunrise in the hills of Il Ngwesi. In the far background I could spot Mt. Ololokwe in the distance, reminding me of a trip I had made just the other day. But that’s a story for another day. We quickly had our breakfast and set out to follow the rally cars as they had already started the race, with dust whirling in the distance signaling their location.
The Rhino Charge is a Kenyan annual off-road event in which competitors are required to visit 13 points scattered over approximately 100 square kms of rough terrain within a 10 hour period. Competitors are supplied with a 1:50,000 scale map of the venue, co-ordinates of the 13 Control Points and their Start position (at one of the Controls). Each competitor must plot the Control Points on the map and decide his/her route. Navigation is by compass/GPS and the winner is the competitor who visits all controls in the shortest distance (GPS measured).
Held in Kenya since 1989, it is a unique and exciting competition that requires bravery and a high level of skill in off-road driving and navigation. The event, organized by The Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, is held to raise funds for a very noble cause – conservation of Kenya’s Aberdare Ecosystem.
We made it to the headquarters’ location, which simply is a mass of tents by main sponsors and event organizers. At this point, the overland truck was not allowed beyond, as it would probably get stuck in the rough terrain. Before I could say “rhino!”, a couple of pickups pulled up going our way and we hopped onto them and hitched a ride to a huge lagga where the water had dried off. Here, we spotted an army truck making the crossing through the sandy bottom, and we again hitched a ride to ‘the gauntlet’. It was either we hitch the rides, or walk through 4km of bush.
The gauntlet is a tough piece of land that competitors charge through defying all odds. Crashing through the bush, winching cars up rocky slopes and through murky waters, the drivers managed to either get firmly stuck, or succesfuly navigate the treacherous landscapes to the thrill of the crowd.
In the end, Rhino Charge 2012 raised Ksh 84,627,119.33. This beat last year’s figure of Ksh 77.3 million adding another Ksh 7.3million to secure another all-time record.
The event was won by Terry Childs (Braeburn Seven Squared) in car 49 with a distance of 47.6km. The course’s straight line distance was just less than 30 km.
In a tough contest at the gauntlet, Peter Bonde-Nielsen (Team Garmin) in car 64 took the first position with a distance of 1.29 km. Second position went to Mahesh Bhatti in car 7 with a distance of 1.32 km. Third place was taken by Adil Khawaja (AK 44) in car 44 with a distance of 1.44 km.
I can’t really explain what drives the competitors to do this other than with a little crazy, high and with a desire to raise money and conserve the Aberdares Ecosystem, they fix cars and then bash them through the landscape.
See you at the next rhino charge, wherever that may be!
View more pictures on the Xtrym Adventures album
Get more details on Xtrym Adventures
Read more on Rhino Charge and why they do it on their website
From Nairobi, you can either fly or drive to Il Ngwesi. Il Ngwesi Lodge is reached using a 4WD from Borana Ranch or a short flight from Nanyuki. You can also drive from Lewa Conservancy to Il Ngwesi.
Read more on Il Ngwesi, and where to stay.
Il Ngwesi Group ranch (14, 500 Hac), is located at northwest edge of the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and is owned by Il Ngwesi community of the Mukogodo division of Laikipia district.
Il Ngwesi Lodge lies adjacent to the Ngare Ndare River on the edge of the Mukogodo Hills with commanding panoramic views across Northern Kenya.