Lounge at Andersson’s Camp, which is close to Etosha National Park, Namibia’s premier wildlife destination.
Supplied to Verve, The Star, for feature on African destinations, 2010.
Lounge at Andersson’s Camp, which is close to Etosha National Park, Namibia’s premier wildlife destination. Supplied to Verve, The Star, for feature on African destinations, 2010.

The Put Foot Rally proves that it is possible – and safe – to taste the exotic cultures, traditions and languages of southern Africa without a 4x4 and the luxury of all the modern conveniences that come with it.

And this year’s rally, which will explore six countries in 17 days, also proves that there is a keen interest around the globe to hit the road in this out-of-the-ordinary tourist attraction – entries sold out within just 28 minutes.

Sixty teams of between three and five members from all over SA, as well as from Norway, Canada, America, the UK and Sweden, will cover 6 999km, roughly 450km per day, in what has been dubbed the most epic social adventure on the face of the earth. There is no vehicle specification and entrants may drive any car of their fancy from a mini or a VW van to an old Toyota or a Mercedes Benz sedan.

There are no first places nor prizes, just the thrill of discovering the continent, and stopping off at check points such as Namibia’s Etosha Park, Zambia’s Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe’s Kariba Dam, Malawi’s Lake Malawi and Tofu/Inhambane in Mozambique.

Founder Daryn Hillhouse said he had combined the concepts of the UK-based Mongol Rally and the Gum Ball 3 000 to create the Put Foot Rally. About 230 people will hit the open road, leaving from Joburg and Cape Town on June 20, in crews of between three and five members in 60 vehicles.

“The difference between the two is the Mongol was a budget rally using any car to travel across Europe and the Gum Ball was an A-list type race where people brought in their top vehicles and stopped every night at a check point and had a party,” Hillhouse said. And that is what Put Foot Rally entrants will do each night as they stop off to soak in the beauty of the southern African countries.

“The objective of the rally centres around encouraging people into Africa and showing that you don’t need a 4x4 to travel – you can use any vehicle – and it’s safe. What people don’t realise is that in the last two years the Chinese have built brand new tarred roads through all these countries and… you now have entire villages of Chinese people living there in northern Botswana, all over Zambia and in some places in Malawi,” Hillside said.

The Put Foot Rally, in partnership with Mountainshak Adventures, will deliver SA-made, genuine leather shoes to underprivileged children at pre-identified schools along the route via the Put Foot Foundation charity founded by Hillhouse, online digital media guru Mike Sharman and blogger Daniel Nash. The event has also partnered with Project Rhino to raise awareness of rhino poaching. Entrants are expected to raise funds for the charities.

Durbanite Michael Brunner, his sister Ursula Brunner and friends Jon-Paul Parker, Marshall Lambert and Helen Reeves are members of a Durban team that was lucky to get their entry in on time. True to their roots they have entered the rally as “The Quarter Bunnies” in a nod to the famous Durban cuisine.

“We are really excited about it and what is nice is that it exposes people to what southern Africa has to offer when people usually want to go to Europe to travel,” Brunner said.

“We are going in an older 1983 200e automatic Mercedes Benz and thought it would be great fun because we are all great friends. We did the Camino de Santiago in Spain three years ago, an old religious pilgrimage… “ Brunner said.

Now they are counting down the days to the start of the rally when they can once again experience the freedom of the open road.

“We thought we are not going to get an opportunity like this in our lives again. There is a huge variety of landscapes and people and cultures and we are getting actively involved in the process of giving back,” Brunner said. - The Independent on Saturday