My husband came back from the Rhino Charge in tatters on Monday evening. His Car 39 team mates were worse off with legs and arms torn to shreds by thorns, hobbling into their cars and back to their families having survived the ultimate endurance test. But they were also fairly pleased with themselves. They had come fifth.
Meanwhile, I unsportingly stayed home with the kids. Monday was a bank holiday and our lovely ayahs disappeared on Saturday morning in a flash for the long weekend, leaving me in charge for once - it was terrifying! I did the cinema, water slides, friends over for lunch, pizza restaurant, play centre - you name it, in an attempt to pass the time.
My husband had been on the Rhino Charge - a world class off road event that takes place 'somewhere' in the Kenyan bush each year - always a secret location until the actual weekend itself. The event has been running for twenty years and has now raised enough money to complete the fencing of the Aberdare rain forest, Nairobi's water catchment area. The fence keeps animals from destroying farmers land and stops people encroaching into the forest reserve.
Somehow the Rhino Charge competition is addictive. Over the past six years the car that stands in our drive has morphed from a standard long wheel based landrover pickup, to a monster on huge wheels and Unimog axles - and not without some considerable sweat. Weekends of 'tinkering' in the garage have become standard. The run up to the Rhino Charge is always high stress as modifications to the car are completed.
Each team has a driver, navigator and four runners. The idea is to reach thirteen checkpoints hidden in the bush within ten hours, in the shortest possible distance. Each team mate has a map and a GPS each. This means driving down ravines, across river beds, through the bush, in as straight line as possible - like a rhino charging. In all there are around sixty cars competing and each one has to raise as much money as possible for the charity. International journalists attend along with thousands of spectators. One team of rich American tourists this year asked a safari guide to organise them a car and enter them into the event. Teams from overseas also come along. Car 39 raised just shy of 3,000,000 Kenya shillings (27,000 UK pounds).
The event itself seemed to run like a Hollywood movie for Car 39. Highs and lows such as, a flat tyre (try changing one that is the same as your height), helping others stuck stranded on rocks, the car broke, they lost their brakes, the tool box fell off into the bush, in the end they even left their runners in a race to get to the last guard post - only to drive back later and see them emerging from a dusty sunset holding a very heavy metal tool box 'Jack and Jill' and tool roll under one arm. ''We decided that if we came across the spare tyre we might have decided to leave that one" they said.
Team shirts are highly sought after, as there are so many thousands of spectators who want to pledge allegance to one team. Car 39's T-shirts were a distinctive bright orange. First one that was hanging in camp got swiped by a drunken reprobate who the team kept spotting, grinning in the crowd. Then later a wobbly lady brandishing a bottle of wine asked to trade a t-shirt for her booze. One team mate weakened and said yes, then the lady proceeded to stand next to my husband at prize giving so as to look like part of the team. I said to my husband, "So everyone thought she was your ''Rhino Charge'' wife''. Terrific. I think that I might have to go next year.