jueves, 12 de febrero de 2015

1983 - ZAIRE

El camel trophy se trasladó a Africa por primera vez en 1983 y lo hizo en el extenso territorio de 900.000 kms cuadrados de Zaire, antiguo Congo Belga o Congo Kinshasa. Este año se reemplazon los Range Rovers utilizados en los 2 últimas ediciones, haciendo su debut los LR Series III 88. 11 vehículos incluia el convoy que salio de Kinshasa.
 
Por primera vez , incluyó a participantes españoles – Juan Espinosa de los Monteros y Jose Manuel Rodríguez Bautista (última foto), junto con los equipos igualmente debutantes de Portugal, de Hong Kong y Suiza.

 Con este incremento en el número de países participantes, se vio la necesidad de restringir la participación a un equipo por país, así que un total de 7 equipos internacionales tomaron parte en el evento. La participación del equipo portugués era especialmente significativa, habida cuenta del territorio en que se iba a celebrar la prueba. En efecto, las primeras referencias históricas sobre el Congo fueron suministradas en el siglo XV por marinos portugueses.

 El 6 de abril en Kinshasa, capital de Zaire, se dieron cita los equipos seleccionados para iniciar un recorrido que, tras quince días y mas de 2.000 kms, habria de conducirles hasta Kinsangani, hacia el norte del país. Después de 2 días de camino fácil cubrieron 220 millas y alcanzaron Bandunu sin incidentes. El equipo de Hong Kong lo celebro invitando al resto de la expedición a un festín de pollo.
Como ejemplo de la rudeza de la prueba, sirva el dato de que en muchas jornadas no se logró superar los 40 kms de recorrido. En una de esas jornadas, 4 días después de comenzar, se encontraron un árbol enorme que bloqueaba el camino. 

 Los winches poco pudieron hacer así que hubo que usar las hachas y las sierras. A la vez se recibía un mensaje de socorro del camión que transportaba el combustible de la expedición. Estaba atrapado en el barro 30 kms detrás. 3 vehículos acudieron al rescate, 6 horas de recorrido retrocediendo el camino. Las 12 toneladas de carga eran imposibles de rescatar con los winches, así que se optó por vaciar el camión para rescatarlo. Después de rescatarlo hubo que volver a cargarlo. Los hombres estaban desechos. Y encima había que alcanzar a la expedición de nuevo. Debido a que la expedición se encontro con varios árboles gigantes bloqueando el camino, toda la expedición conectó de nuevo varias horas después.

 Las condiciones que se encontraron los participantes fueron extremadamente diversas, con terrenos que variaron desde profundos barrizales hasta desiertos de arena. Sin embargo, las condiciones del terreno no eran nada comparado con las temperaturas que soportaron de hasta 48º C a la sombra con una humedad sofocante del 95% de humedad. Estas condiciones eventualmente hicieron mella en los participantes durante su camino hacia Kisangani en la recta final. Uno de los españoles sufrió el llamado “golpe de calor”.
 
Para el décimo día las condiciones se endurecieron según entraban en la jungla en la zona de Mai-Ndombe. Hubo varios cruces de rios, algunos se vadearon mientras que otros hubo que construir puentes y en otros pasando sobre troncos resbaladizos.
Además de hacer frente a dicho cúmulo de dificultades, pudieron observar de cerca de una de las etnias más representativas de la zona: los pigmeos. Y así mismo escucharon los peculiares sonidos de algunas de las numerosas lenguas bantúes, cuyos nombres encierran por si solos una poderosa capacidad de sugerencia: el kiluba, el lingala, el kikongo…..

 En el aspecto competitivo, la suerte no favoreció al equipo italiano, cuyos integrantes se desplazaron al corazón de Africa pletóricos de moral y en magníficas condiciones físicas, dispuestos a revalidar el titulo que su país había conquistado tan brillantemente en la edición anterior. Al tercer día de viaje, cuando estaban a punto de finalizar las pruebas especiales, en las que los italianos se encontraban magníficamente situados, se incendio su vehículo y la victoria fue a parar al equipo Holandés formado por Henk Bont y Franz Heij, quienes supieron extraer el máximo rendimiento de sus posibilidades con una inteligente actuación, mezcla de prudencia y tenacidad. El motivo del incendio del vehículo fue un hornillo de gasolina, que tres periodistas italianos usaron para cocinar sobre el capot caliente del vehículo. No hubo extintor capaz de apagar las llamaradas del Land Rover y en un momento se transformo en una antorcha. El tanque de combustible explotó incendiando todo el interior y a continuación quemo los 140 litros de diesel que estaban en los tanques de reserva. Hubo que repartir provisiones, material y ropa de todos los equipos para el equipo italiano que lo perdió todo.

Otro de los días, cuando las provisiones llegaron desde Kinshasa en avión, la expedición tuvo que trabajar duro sobre el terreno. La pista era demasiado corta y el avión no podía despegar. Hubo que ampliar la pista, cortando árboles y aplanando tierra hasta que el piloto pudo despegar.
Una vez más, sin embargo, brilló por encima de todo el verdadero espíritu del Camel Trophy, tal como se desprende de las palabras con que uno de los participantes españoles, Espinosa de los Monteros, resumia la experiencia zaireña: <<lo vivido en estas dos semanas ha sido una aventura plena y gratificante. Nunca olvidare las jornadas de diez horas de conducción, abriéndonos camino, a veces, a golpe de machete; el cruce de los rios por puentes formados tan solo por dos listones; las noches en poblados donde hacia lustros que no veían a ningún extranjero; el ambiente de compañerismo compartido con aventureros de autentica talla, y un sinfín de experiencias mas….>>. Parece ser que nuestro compatriota Espinosa de los Monteros, no solo vivió la aventura tal y como comentaba, sino que la vivio a su propia manera y eso causo grandes disputas entre los 2 españoles. Las desavenencias vinieron por su forma de vida durante el Camel: borracheras de vino, consumo de sustancias toxicas y persecución de mujeres de color.
 
Los 2 médicos del Camel Trophy fueron de gran ayuda no solo a los participantes, sino a las gentes del Zaire, que recibieron en unas cuantas aldeas pequeñas, medicamentos y ayuda medica. Amigablemente se les llamaba “Hot docs” o también Quack 1 y Quack 2.
Camel Trophy - Zaire '83 fue Ganado por el equipo Holandés formado por Henk Bont y Franz Heij.

Video resumen en Inglés:

video


TEXTO ADICIONAL. REPORTAJE EN INGLES.
 
For the 1981 and 1982 Camel Trophies Range Rovers were used (with Series IIIs as support), and from then on Land Rover became a major player and sponsor of the event and its vehicles were used exclusively. For the 1983 event Series IIIs were used exclusively, and that is what concerns us here.

For the 1983 the Camel Trophy came to Zaire in central Africa for a course that ran between Kinshasa and Kisangani. The competitors travelled in 88-inch Station Wagons whilst journalists and support crews used 109-inch models. Both types were standard mechanically and bodywork-wise powered by the 2.25 diesel engine and were fully kitted out with roof-racks, winches, bridging ladders, steering guards, jerry-can mounts and additional lighting, as well as cooking and camping equipment and supplies. Rather bizarrely, considering the off-road nature of the event, Fairey free-wheel hubs were fitted to the the vehicles. Each 88-inch carried 1 team of 2 people.
For 1983 there were 7 teams, with entrants from Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain and Italy.

The Camel Trophies of 1982-1997 are a thing of legend in the Land Rover community- these grueling challenges pitted men and machines into the toughest off-road country in the world in a race to complete a route and complete a series of challenges. The vehicles used on the Trophy are now worth considerably sums on the private market. Many still wear their original transfers, badges and advertising stickers, as well as the dents, dings and scrapes in the paintwork and attract interest and respect wherever they go. They are easy to spot as they all are painted the distinctive Sand Glow Yellow of the Camel Cigarette company.

The Camel company began a re-branding exercise in the 1970s with a collection of outdoor leisurewear and equipment. This emphasis on outdoor activity and exploration strengthened so that in 1980 a contest sponsored by Camel was organised. In this competitors drove Jeeps through the Amazon jungle in a race against the clock. Along the way they had to complete grueling off-road tasks such as bridging chasms or fording deep rivers, as well as some projects related to the area, such as setting up a scientific research post deep in the rainforest. Teams were arranged by country and Points were awarded for completing the off-road tasks, the overall time taken on each leg of the 2-week course and team skills.

For the 1981 and 1982 Camel Trophies Range Rovers were used (with Series IIIs as support), and from then on Land Rover became a major player and sponsor of the event and its vehicles were used exclusively. For the 1983 event Series IIIs were used exclusively, and that is what concerns us here.

For the 1983 the Camel Trophy came to Zaire in central Africa for a course that ran between Kinshasa and Kisangani. The competitors travelled in 88-inch Station Wagons whilst journalists and support crews used 109-inch models. Both types were standard mechanically and bodywork-wise powered by the 2.25 diesel engine and were fully kitted out with roof-racks, winches, bridging ladders, steering guards, jerry-can mounts and additional lighting, as well as cooking and camping equipment and supplies. Rather bizarrely, considering the off-road nature of the event, Fairey free-wheel hubs were fitted to the the vehicles. Each 88-inch carried 1 team of 2 people.

For 1983 there were 7 teams, with entrants from Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Portugal, Switzerland, Spain and Italy.

The route ran for 730 miles through jungle and savannah, mainly along rough logging tracks, with lots of river crossings. There were some sections of tarmac road, and some 'bush-whacking' on no roads at all. The conditions on the route were an average temperature of 45 degrees, 95% humidity and 3 inches of rainfall a day!

The convoy of 11 vehicles left Kinshasa on the 6th April and headed East. After 2 days of easy dirt-track convoy driving they had covered 220 miles and reached Bandunu without incident. The Hong Kong team celebrate by offering the other team members to join them in a chicken-feast- that is, freshly be-headed chickens! This seems to have helped break the ice somewhat......

By the 10th the off-roading got serious as the Series IIIs entered the Mai-Ndombe area of swampy jungle. There were several river-crossings. Some were made by wading, some by bridge building and some by inching across on slippery logs.

The next day drama descended. Some Italian journalists destroy their 109 when they knock over their oil-stove which they were using inside the rear of the vehicle to keep out of the rain. The stove set alight to their on-board fuel supply almost instantly destroying the 109 due to the jerry-cans of fuel strapped to the sides. The fireball actually caused the roof panel to fly off the Land Rover to a height of several feet. Luckily all those in the vehicle survived with minor burns- they had run as fast as they could the second the stove toppled. The other vehicles winched the wreck to level ground and the engine was actually started, but the fried electrics gave way and the vehicle was abandoned.

The convoy continued to wade through door-deep mud pits as they crossed the marshy plain. The mechanical winches saw frequent use. In 6 hours 40 miles was covered on the 12th. With the vehicles running low on diesel the competitors pushed through 6 hours into the night to reach the re-fuel point, only to find that the fuel transporter is stuck in mud 14 miles away. 3 88-inches spend another 6 hours ferrying the barrels of diesel from the stricken tanker to the camp- this racks up more team-skill points!

The 14th was a day of off-road challenges to acquire some more points. Bonnet-deep, fast flowing rivers were forded, winch cables became zip-wires and generally more mudplugging was undertaken. The Land Rovers haven't missed a beat so far and the competitors are fast becoming experts in the use of the 4WD system and winching. By now the Trophy was crossing the Equator in the midst of roadless jungle- the 109s were frequently getting left behind as the 88s squeezed through gaps in the trees as a path was cut through the forest.

On the 16th there were more re-supply dramas. Having successfully made their way out of the jungle. Land Rovers and axes were used to lengthen a runway to allow the plane carrying the much needed food and fuel to land!

The 17th was a 'special task' day- the teams have to ferry the support doctors around the local villages offering basic check-ups and medicines.

Finally, the Series IIIs regain some rough dirt-tracks and (with a fair bit of air getting under the wheels) manage 103 miles in a day- a record average on the Camel Trophy (the Borneo event in 1985 managed 2 miles a day once!).

The 20th saw the competitors crossing some savannah-style terrain with tall, dense grass and corrugations. It hits 60 degrees inside the Land Rovers- and that's with the Safari roof. The engines still go strong and the Italian co-driver even manages to fall asleep in a diesel Series III ploughing over rough ground at 30 mph- surely a unique occurrence.

On the 22nd, 16 days after leaving the Zaire capital, the muddy collection of vehicles reach Kisangani. They have spent the early morning setting up a wildlife monitoring post by headlights. Apart from one 109 undergoing ordeal by fire, all the Land Rovers returned fully operational, once again proving the vehicle's toughness and reliability over the toughest conditions the world has to offer.

The Dutch team (Henk Bont and Frank Heij) were the overall winners, with Portugal and Hong Kong as runners-up.

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