Monday, 30 April 2012

Is Zimbabwe a safe family destination?

I first came to Africa when I was six years old, fresh from a country village in Southern England. My first taste of Africa was Rhodesia and the Hwange National Park. It's where I first put the name of an African animal together with its picture. That is, I actually saw one. 'Impala'. Then 'Zebra', and so on. And I even clearly remember memorizing my first African word. 'Sinamatella'. It's the name of a camp in Hwange (Then pronounced Wankie) and after 46 years, I'm going back.

I am off later this week for 14 days in Zimbabwe. My mission is to find out for myself if it's ready for visitors again. I will be travelling the western portion, from Beit Bridge to Motopos, Hwange, Victoria Falls, Chizarira, Matusadona, Kariba and Mana Pools. I am travelling with Dave Van Graan of Masezane Expeditions who will be guiding me. And of course I am also shooting for my TV show.

So there will be no new blog until 29th May. Sorry.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

LA Sport, Products-In-Action Show

I'm going to be at the LA Sport, Products-In-Action Show, Pretoria, May 5&6. Look for me. I'll be wandering around with my cameras... Come and say hello. Details:

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

New 4x4 Discussion Forum about to go live

When I launched in 1996, one of the first ideas was to build into the website a discussion forum. And I did. But due partly to a lack of moderation (no time) and complexities with the software I used, after only about six years, I closed the forum part of my website. When began a few weeks later, I ‘gave away’, so to speak, my database of users. But the idea of a forum has never gone away.

Back in 1996, Internet discussion forums were a new thing. But today, they’re old hat. But moderators still have problems keeping out the trash. By trash I mean contributors (If you can call them that) who’s main motive for posting comments seems to be to belittle, criticize or demean another's ideas, the vehicle they drive or their opinions. It seems to give them pleasure. The result, when this spreads out of control, is a forum that users eventually tire of and leave. I believe this is a downfall of many, and it’s particularly bad in 4x4 forums. Strangely, some people can’t handle that another likes another vehicle better. It’s almost like a personal insult, and so they begin trading insults.

Apart from containing some unique topics, a heavy hand will moderate the new forum, which will be launched 1st May 2012.

Our mission statement and warning is clear…

This forum is a place of discussion and learning. It is also a place of friendship.
If you insult or degrade anyone because of what they choose to drive, their race or religion, or use profane language, for any reason whatsoever, you will be banned WITHOUT WARNING. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


For a sneak preview, go to

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Like the idea of exploring the Outback? Beware... Danger lurks!

I am convinced that more new vehicle buyers suffer buyers’ remorse in the 4x4 sector than in any other segment of the motor industry.

If I’m shopping for a pick-up, I first look at how much load it can carry, then how much space and then, how much it costs to run and its resale value. With a sports car it’s all about the Kw, torque, 0-100 and accessories. Only then is it the maintenance plan and size of its rims. A people carrier is about how many seats and how much to run. Only then, is safety and space in the garage considered. No buyer needs any specialist knowledge to make a sound judgment based on these plain and simple things. But with 4x4, it’s far from plain and simple.

With almost all 4x4 buyers the decision is based on two things: How good is it off road? And, is it going to be suitable for use as an everyday car? Because most 4x4s are a compromise one way or the other, without a basic understanding of what makes a 4x4 good or bad, on and off road, the buyer has a problem. And the big problem is, most buyers don’t even know that they have a problem.

Enter the troublemaker question… ‘How good is it off road? So few newbies to the 4x4 scene understand what off-road actually means. This is because they get their info from magazine articles written mostly by equally ignorant writers.  (Specialist 4x4s mags do know the difference but it’s the general lifestyle mags that often don’t) This becomes obvious when I read meaningless platitudes like, ‘It can go everywhere’ or ‘It’s diff lock means that it can get out of the stickiest situation’. While these phrases excite prospective buyers, they also confuse them.

So what does the term ‘off-road’ really mean? To some it means, off a tar road. To others it means off any kind of road – on a track or similar.  And to others it means driving over a place where no vehicle has ever driven before.  And there is no right or wrong answer.

So, if you’re sniffing the breeze of the wild and untamed wilderness, and its tempting to you, then in the next three weeks I will be giving you the ten golden rules of selecting a 4x4. Here are the first three…

Rule 1. Not all 4x4s are created equal.

Few 4x4s are really good at everything. Some are good for almost nothing relating to off-road. Every 4×4 is a compromise in some way: some that are good on road should never leave it, and others good off it, are a test of endurance on it. As a buyer, you will need to compromise just as the designers have done. Decide where your compromises are going to lie as you go about choosing a 4×4.

Rule 2. Know more than the showroom salesperson about 4x4s or you may be taken for an unsatisfactory ride.

It has taken years, but salespersons are at last beginning to learn more about the 4x4s they are selling. But this doesn’t prevent them selling you what you do not want. They will always make an effort to tell you what you want to hear, and rarely what you need to hear. The only way to outwit them is to do some homework and to have made a few fundamental decisions before meeting the sale force. The danger lies in that most of us are easily baffled by bull delivered by an experienced salesperson.

Rule 3. Beware of the phrase, “I don’t want to do anything serious”.
If you hear this in your mind, it’s a danger sign because what does serious really mean? It is vital to be clear on what you expect from your vehicle choice and to know if your choice can do it.

More next time…