Our Core Bush Babes have had a fair share of 4x4 training over the last year. They’ve had basic training with various trainers and gained experience in various vehicles on various trips. But are they familiar with the Isuzu KB and are they ready to rough it? Since Isuzu is the main sponsor of all Bush Babes projects, the Babes thought it paramount to spend a day at the Isuzu Off-Road Academy to get to grips with these off-roading beasts.
Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Leilani Basson and Jannie Herbst
The Babes were impressed, albeit skeptical at first. They’ve become accustomed to the more stylish and sometimes softer off-roaders that they’ve have taken on, well, soft safaris and adventures in the past. This was their first real introduction to bundu bashing and obstacle conquering in a BJS (Bos, Job en Shop vehicle). This experience is crucial n preparation for the many overlanding excursions they were to have courtesy of Isuzu and the Isuzu Off-Road Academy this year. Navigating the sand on their recent Ponta Ambush was easy. Four high, 0,8 bar and momentum was all it took. But life (and overlanding) is not just one smooth sand road, now is it? So the Bush Babes reckoned that they’ll apply the same logic they do in relationships, since their affair with Isuzu is to be a long, fulfilling one.
This was their reasoning: It’s like handling the man in your life: you really do enjoy them more if you know how their mechanics work and how to get the best out of them. On the said morning, the Babes arrived at Gerotek for their date with the MIR (Men In Red): Grant McCleery, Marius van Vuuren and Chris Prinsloo – the main Mackies of the Isuzu Off-Road Academy. The introduction to the indestructible KBs kicked off with a film production about these vehicles’ role in Operation Rachel, where Isuzu help rid Mozambique of illegal arms caches hidden across the country. Together with the Mozambican and South African Police, Isuzu embarked on a mission and destroyed weapons and ammunition that would eventually find its way to South Africa. Their subsequent mission to Angola and Namibia, Operation Mandume, was equally successful and was proof of how these unstoppable vehicles covered thousands of problem free kilometers in search of illegal weapons.While most men are familiar with Isuzu’s involvement in these projects, women find it both fascinating and admirable. It’s something that few women are aware of.
This alone was enough to make the Babes step back, take a second look at the KB’s truck-like exterior and realize the benefits in having such indestructible, reliable, well-proven vehicles to their disposal to take them to hell and back. As an overlander in Africa, the KB surely demands respect. Another fact that scored high in the Babe’s peace of mind category is that locally produced Isuzu bakkies are made from thicker sheet metal than any other brand. It was time to let the Babes loose on the Gerotek grounds. There were 5 teams of two women per vehicle. Grant and his team paid one last visit to each KB to make sure the radios were turned on, the ladies were clear about convoy rules and knew which button to press on the “walkie talkies” to assist them in doing what they do best: talk. Grant made no secret of his corporal-styled training. He made it clear that things needed to happen in a snappy, orderly fashion. No dragging of feet and dwindling when getting out of the vehicles for a demonstration. Quick-quick on the double! There was a short obstacle course with a few mud pools, steep inclines and sharp bends that that really tested the girls’ clutch control and smooth acceleration. It was however evident that their skills and confidence have improved tremendously over the last year. The Babe Mobile also got its first mud baptism and made it through and over the obstacles with ease.The second part of the day was spent driving around on the farm. Lush trees and thick vegetation creates tunnels of foliage that enfolded the train of Isuzus crawling through the bush. This was real terrain in real time. Our Babes would not be able to reverse and re-do a manoeuvre if they failed the first time. Listening was the most important aspect of the day. Grant, Marius and Chris did an excellent job of coaching and talking the girls through difficult terrain and calming them down when they got panicky.
Trusting the vehicle and keeping their feet off the clutch and on the footrest remained the most difficult skill to master throughout the day and despite Grant admitting that the Babes were the best ladies group he has ever had, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done before our girls would be ripe and ready for the real hard core stuff. At times, the trepidation in the air was almost tangible. While we managed to get a smile from most of our descending Babes, some didn’t dare to take their eyes of the road. All stiff-armed, long-necked and white-knuckled, they sniggered their way downhill. There were many challenges: a few muddy hairpin-bends, studded with enough rocks to have any vehicle’s hind wheels lift off the ground at one stage or another, loose rocks on steep declines, tight bends and lots of muddy crossings. It was all concentration stations as each team listened to Grant’s instructions over the radio and focussed on Chris and Marius’s directing and navigating from the outside. At the end of the day, everyone was a lot more relaxed and started to trust the KBs. They were getting the hang of it and were starting to enjoy this ‘do or die’ approach of learning that is synonymous with the MIR. Calm, collected and confident each team paused before a tricky stretch or obstacle, checked the controls and went through all the steps as Grant talked them through it once more. “As slowly as possible and as fast as necessary.” Although the Babes are not exactly where Grant and the team would like them to be, they are confident that after next month’s hard core training weekend at a Special Forces farm in Thabazimbi – where the Babes will be toughened up to the extreme – they will be ready to tackle more challenging and severe conditions on their future Bush Babe excursions. So, watch this space!
JOIN THE BUSH BABES CLUB AND YOU CAN JOIN US ON OUR NEXT TRAINING DAY FREE OF CHARGE. The Isuzu Off-Road Academy will be hosting ladies training days and weekends in conjunction with the Bush Babes Adventure and Safari Club throughout the year. Join now in order not to miss out!New Bush Babe members receive a Bush Babes t-shirt and cap, 15% discount on all online orders from Mammoth Outdoor