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Poles go solo round Africa in a Fiat Panda

An interesting story:

Big 4x4? Poles go solo round Africa in a Fiat Panda

Readers in Europe and West African countries – including Namibia – might have seen, perhaps chuckled at, a tiny Fiat Panda covered in sponsors' stickers and mud but buzzing generally south in areas where even Dakar racers might fear to put tread.

Had you seen it, the young people in the cab were Jolanta Czupik and Dominik Stoklosa, two young Poles who have taken it upon themselves and their tiny Fiat Panda Cross 1.3 Multijet turbodiesel with its miniature wheels and rudimentary (but standard) all-wheel drive to drive anti-clockwise around Africa in six months.

That's a roughly 70 000km journey through some of the most inhospitable – but almost most beautiful – terrrain on earth, often without metalled roads and frequently without suitable diesel fuel. And, unlike most African odysseys, Jolanta and Dominik are travelling solo – no heavy-duty back-up such as accompanied the recent South African Toyota and Mini safaris.

And no satnav – "Just good maps," petite Jolanta grinned, "and Dominik has excellent intuition." Though they did come short: after 311km down an appalling, slippery, muddy road they came up against an actual brick wall where Gabon was barring entry due to yet another African conflict – so another 300km back and find another route.

The result: a 1000km detour – but there was still Angola to come…

If they make it – hey, wait up, there's no "if" for these two – they believe they will be the first to circle Africa in a private car
If - dammit, when - they make it home they will have been the only private car to circle Africa
. That's one for the guys from Guinness.

So, the first three months have been tough and a brief layover in Cape Town for rest and recreation, not to mention a touch of civilisation and a well-earned service for the Panda, were welcome and it was there that motoring.co.za caught up with them over breakfast at the Town House hotel in the city centre.

The two adventurers – no, there's no close relationship here; regard them as long-distance drivers who gave up their big-company careers in Poland to work together on a project – have kept careful data about their journey so far:

Distance travelled: 31 180km.

Average speed: 67km/h.

Average daily distance: 421km

Days travelled: 74.

Actual driving time: 466 hours.

Fuel used: 1831 litres.

Average fuel consumption: 5.8 litres/100km.

Kinda tops anything your average South African off-roader might manage, hey? And most of the time they were living off dried foods and pasta, the meagre boot of the little Panda packed instead with fuel containers, minimum spare parts and a tool kit – that last used only once when Fiat Poland had to fly in a starter motor to replace the original that burned out after being soaked during a particularly rought tow along a flooded mud road.

Here's how some of their journey went:

Mauritania: They covered 650km on desert sand.
Nigeria: Serious along-the-road corruption – perhaps €100 a time - but at least the fuel was good.
Gabon (Libreville): It's the African equivalent of Kuwait for oil but the only fuel they could find for retail sale was on the black market.
Angola: After years of civil war, the country has no roads left outside of towns – and precious few in them either.

"This was where we nearly gave up," Jolanta said. "I was in tears with frustration at the state of the roads, which almost made us give up our journey but, in the end, the beautiful scenery made up for it."

The journey through Angola was also the only time the two had a serious disagreement: four days of no-speak only ended when they exited the country.

"We drove through Angola for 14-17 hours a day at an average speed of about 10 or 15km/h, sleeping in a tent along the road for six days because we only had a seven-day transit visa," Dominick said.

"We covered 2316km in a country without roads."

Good heavens, where does all that oil, gold and diamonds money go to?

Who did the driving? Mostly Dominik; Jolanta took care of the navigation, data collection and photography.

Where did they get the most help? In the poorest countries along their route. Sometimes they prayed, if they were stuck, for help to come along and, always, it did with friendly smiles, willing muscle and a tow out of trouble.

So far they have driven through 14 countries, including Germany, France and Spain, across the Mediterranean by ferry to Morocco then through, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, Angola and Namibia and, of course, South Africa.

'Joburg? No, too dangerous...'

They left the sanctuary of the Mother City on Sunday, heading for Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Russia and the Ukraine, before arriving back in Poland.

We wish them well on their journey and hope to carry future stories on their progress, but there was one final question as the breakfast dishes were cleared...

"Not going to Johannesburg?" I asked. "No," said Dominik, suddenly looking worried. "We understand it is far too dangerous..."

Now there's something for our self-opinionated ANC panjandrums to get between their well-padded ears. Jozi is more dangerous than the minefields of Angola, the roving gunmen of Nigeria, the burning and limitless sands of the Sahara and the metres-deep potholes of central African "highways".

Bloody hell - and I'm going there today. By air... help!

Source: http://www.motoring.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3781096&fSectionId=751&fSetId=381