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River Run In The Oliphants River

07 October 2019 - Attie Smit
The 2019 River Run in the Oliphants River would prove to be a technical and challenging route with driver and vehicle tested.

A total of 22 vehicles left the overnight camp in Mokopane, shortly after 7 on Saturday morning. The convoy would be joined by the last vehicle near the small town of Roedtan. It was whilst the convoy was negotiating the streets of Lebowakgomo that the first challenge would rear its head.

We brought the convoy to a stop to allow John to have a look at his vehicle. It became apparent that the bearings in his steering pump had collapsed. After a failed attempt to bypass the steering pump with another belt, he decided to rather return home. However, fellow LORC members in the convoy convinced the Stroebels to first try the AutoZone whilst the rest of us carried on. We were delighted when they re-joined us later that day after having found a replacement pump and even a machine shop, who had machined the pulley to fit the pumps shaft.

After a quick stop to stretch out legs and deflate our tyres near Bewaarkloof, the River Run 2019 officially got underway under the guidance of "The Men from the North" (Willem van den Heever, Olaf de Meyer, Marlie and Werner, Hein and Lukas). We were immediately in the thick of it, with from early on in the drive. Whilst waiting on the banks, some decided to fashion wading plugs from brush branches picked up on the riverbank.

Over the next three days, we would encounter and conquer all types of obstacles, water, wet and dry sand, rocks, mud, steep sandy slopes, round slippery boulders shielded from view by the water. It was a technical and challenging off-road drive, with all manner of off-road equipment being used, from high lift and bottle jacks to tow ropes and snatch straps.

The plan on day 2 was to get started at 08H00 and reach our camp around 15H00, but as it would turn out we only made camp at sundown. Whilst good progress was made during the day the last two or so kilometres were far more challenging. Willem and Co had the extra burden of tugging a Discovery 2 Td5, which had lost all its forward gears, to the campsite. They would successfully make it out the next day with nothing more than the engine running, power steering and revers available in the Disco to assist, which in itself is a fantastic achievement.

The third day was a shot day wand we got to enjoy the beauty of the mountains and surrounds. Some even took a little time to visit the confluence of the Olifants and Steelpoort rivers. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful area with a clear view of the Wolkeberg.

Evenings were spent around campfires and for the most part, the hard days drive resulted in many going to bed early. On the last night, the youngsters in the convoy collected driftwood and build a magnificent bonfire, which was fortuitous as the weather changed and it became quite cool. With the wind picking up we would again be off to bed quite early. We left the river on a cool and cloudy day, making our way over the mountain and on to Burgersfort, where we would inflate tyres and then proceed to make our way home.

Some say it was extreme, some say they will be back next year and some declared that this was the best LROC event ever. One member even commented that during this trip he had learnt more about off-road driving and his Defender than he had over the previous 10 years plus of ownership. This is certainly an experience that one does not forget and for many of us will be the subject of stories for many years to come. But remember, what happens in the river, stays in the river!

This event is the brainchild of Willem van den Heever and he and his team have done 4 recces since the decision to run the river was made. Thank you for the privilege of visiting a remarkable wilderness in a world getting smaller by the day, with opportunities like this adventure getting lesser by the minute. Thanks to all who joined us, and I trust that we will meet again sun under the big tree.

- Attie Smit



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