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Roadtrip: A Hungaro-African adventure and how well the Suzuki Vitara tackles tough terrain

2018-11-20 10:00

Miki Almási, Paul van Gass

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

A group of intrepid explorers from Hungary recently embarked on an epic 7 000km road trip to Mount Elgon in Kenya. 

The Hungarians travelled to South Africa to film an eight-episode TV-series on Hungarian people and products across the world.

Well equipped for the road

For this trip, the team visited South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania before reaching Kenya, and in support of this adventure, Suzuki SA made two Vitara GLX AllGrip models, manufactured at the Suzuki Magyar plant in Hungary, available.

READ: Suzuki's giant-slaying Jimny driven: Could this be the toughest little 4x4xfar?

The GLX-models – painted Atlantic Turquoise and Bright Red – were left unmodified, save for a few accessories from off-road specialists, Front Runner.

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

                                                                  Image: Miki Almási/Suzuki SA

Each vehicle was fitted with a roof rack, an additional spare tyre, and jerry cans for extra fuel. The GLX-version, with all-wheel drive and luxuries such as automatic headlights and wipers, climate control, and a panoramic sunroof, proved ideal for the trip.

Hungarian diaspora

The aim of the Hungarian team, consisting of presenters. Dr Dániel Kurucz and Kamilla Szász, logistics specialist Miklós Almási and TV-crew Gábor Greksa and Gábor Bányai, was to find interesting people, places, and stories from the large Hungarian diaspora across the world.

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"For our first season, we travelled through Asia, from Moscow to Bangkok and for the next one, we decided to dig up interesting stories in Africa," said Kurucz.

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

                                                                      Image: Miki Almási

He added that the team insisted on using Vitara's for their trip, because of its Hungarian origins. The Magyar plant is the sole source for Vitara models in left- and right-hand drive and last year produced over 160 000 units. Before this, the plant built the SX4 and Swift, including the three-door Swift Sport.

According to Miki Almási, the team started their journey in Johannesburg and then travelled through Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania to find Hungarian heritage in Africa for a documentary programme called **Hungarikumokkal a Világ Körül**.

"Road conditions were varied – from normal highways to dirt roads and very bad, almost undriveable causeways. It was sometimes tough for a vehicle not really designed for such rough terrain, especially on some roads in Mozambique.

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

                                                                      Image: Miki Almási

"It is advisable to check travel forums on road conditions – as I did before we departed back to Johannesburg from Nairobi – or ask local people for advice and directions. It is also good to check the weather forecast.

"Sometimes you need to trust your instincts. For example, many people told us not to use the T2 main road in Zambia, close to the Republic of Congo, as according to them it was busy and dangerous, but despite these rumours, we found it safe and fast – and it saved us a lot of travelling time," he added.

Famous locations

The team visited many famous landmarks and hidden locations, such as the Fish River Canyon and Sossusvlei in Namibia, Monkey Bay and the shores of Pemba in Malawi, and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. “All these places are beautiful and worth a visit, and during the dry season it is possible to reach it with a vehicle like the Vitara.

So, how did the Vitaras perform? "Well, we found it easy and fun to drive. For casual use and the occasional adventure drive, I can highly recommend it, as it has enough space for three, maybe four people, and their gear.

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

                                                                       Image: Miki Almási

"But if you want to do serious off-roading, a bigger, more purpose-built vehicle will be required. Still, the Vitara stood its ground even in the worst road conditions we encountered during our trip, and we suffered no breakdowns or other mechanical problems.”

Mika reflected that his personal favourite place on the journey was Botswana with its great wildlife, friendly and easy-going people.

"Many a time we had to stop for elephants that wanted to cross the road … Our group also really liked Namibia with its beautiful desert views. For people like us, used to more populated areas, it was magnificent to dive for hours with nothing but vast landscapes surrounding you – wild and free," he said.

Unpredictable

According to Miki, Africa is the most unpredictable place the group has ever visited, so to plan an expedition such as theirs in details, is not possible. 

You need to be flexible, and ensure you have enough spare parts, fuel, and tyres.

"We suffered eight punctures along the way, and a few times we could not fill up, as the service stations have run out of fuel.

RoadTrip October 2018 Suzuki trip

                                                                     Image: Miki Almási/Suzuki SA

"Some border crossings were also difficult since they did not have a **Carnet de Passage** for some of the countries in Central Africa. The crossings to Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique was complicated enough, with armies of guides and self-appointed money-changers rushing you on arrival. 

"So, to hire a guide is important, but fix the price before you start the process and be aware of the real exchange rate to avoid rip-offs. Cash is very important as ATMs are not always working and credit card payments not accepted," Miki added.

While the rest of the group flew back at the end of August, Miki stayed behind and drove the vehicles back to South Africa – a round trip of nearly 15 000km over eighty days … “Some of our members will visit Africa again soon, but for myself, I have other places to visit over the next few years..."

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RoadTrip November Cover 2018

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