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Spirit of Africa comes to life

2011-12-12 09:12

'WAGONS, HO!': Ready for the challenge - the VW Amarok fleet lined up and ready for action in the Kalahari. INSET, the Old Man of the Desert, Sarel van der Merwe.

Peter Burroughes

Entries are now open for the eighth Amarok Spirit of Africa, the annual off-road driving challenge that pits drivers of 4x4 vehicles against each other in the toughest of African conditions in a unique combination of competition, adventure and social welfare.
Spirit of Africa founder and convenor Sarel van der Merwe has announced that the elimination rounds of the 2012 edition will take place at Kondowe nature reserve, a Selwane community project in the Limpopo bushveld near Phalaborwa. The finals will be in Botswana.

The elimination rounds will start on May 3 and end on July 2. Entries are limited to 500 two-person teams which will be split up into 25 groups of 20 teams for the elimination rounds before being reduced to 20 for the finals. Once again the official vehicle will be the VW Amarok 2.0 TDI double cab.
"Apart from moving the venue from Kosi Bay in kwaZulu-Natal, where we enjoyed three very successful years, to Kondowe we have made some changes to the format," Van der Merwe said. "It will be a lot more technical and for guys who have competed before it’s going to be like a brand new event."
The legendary former National rally and circuit champion, who also made a name for himself in international sports car racing and won the 1984 Daytona 24 Hour in the US, finds himself at the helm of this unique 4x4 driving skills competition for the eighth successive year.


Previous venues for the Spirit have included the Kalahari desert near Upington in the Northern Cape (four times) and Kosi Bay in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in KZAl (three times).
“We are delighted to be bringing the Spirit of Africa to a new part of South Africa,” Van der Merwe said. “The chairman of the Selwane Community CPA, Lerato Noko, and committee members, together with the Limpopo government departments of tourism and parks and economic development and environmental affairs and the baPhalaborwa municipality have welcomed us with open arms

"We are working very closely with them to ensure the Spirit of Africa brings meaningful benefits to them and their community."
When Van der Merwe and his wife Danielle created the Spirit of Africa in 2005 they had no idea how popular it would become. “Our objective was not only to provide a real test of man and machine in the toughest of African conditions but also to explore some of the beautiful and more remote parts of our country while bringing economic benefits to the nearby communities.
“In the process we have always emphasised the need to ‘tread lightly’ and shown proper respect for the environment.”


The Selwane community, which settled in the Phalaborwa area in the 11th century as part of the baPhalaborwa tribe, has owned the former cattle farm that today enjoys nature reserve status since 2004 and, in partnership with Bluevest, has developed a unique and serene tourism destination in more than 4000ha of mopani woodlans close to the greater Kruger National Park, that has helped to improve the quality of the lives of the community through providing jobs and earning tourism revenue.
To enter the Spirit of Africa, go to www.amarok.co.za or contact Danielle van der Merwe at sarel@isales.co.za or call 082 490 2021.

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