4×4

This is a post that has had me thinking for the longest of whiles, and eventually I decided to put the proverbial pen to paper…sort of. See, I’ve reached a point where I wonder, when do we stop bothering with something? When do we stop trying to be the change we want to see in the world?

Let’s take a incident a few months ago. We entered a 4×4 Community competition, with my wife driving and me playing navigator. The rules were strict, in some obstacles, the navigator was allowed to walk outside of the vehicle and guide the driver, but at no point were the roles allowed to be swopped, i.e. the driver not driving the vehicle.

Come the prize-giving, and a certain lady ends up in second place, with my wife 4th. So we accept the points, but later, while looking at pictures of the event, we see this very lady walking outside the vehicle, with her husband / boyfriend / male friend driving the vehicle. When I queried it publicly on the thread with the organiser I didn’t get an answer (since a disqualification would have moved us in to 3rd). The other contestants made remarks of “the vehicle wasn’t capable, the driver wasn’t capable or even saying we’re just sour grapes”. Right up to today, I have yet to get an answer.. So, it kind of left a sour taste in our collective mouths about competitions and how they are run. One might think this is a isolated incident but it reminds me of a scenario I found myself in years ago.

I was competitively cycling in the Pedal Power Association’s Sub-Veterans League. Yet I was always upset about how the races were run etc, until I was told to put my money where my mouth is, and I got on to the ‘league sub-committee’. It went quite well and we did make a difference in a race or two, until Malmesbury. See, the head of the committee (let’s call him Frikkie), was second in the points standings for the 40 – 49 group. The particular weekend was the Cape Epic race. Suddenly on Friday afternoon, we are notified that Malmesbury was going to be a league points race. When I queried it, I was told by ‘Frikkie’ that he and the PPA’s CEO made the decision. Fine, but what about the guys riding the Cape Epic, who would lose out on the points that weekend? “No, they would choose the Epic anyway”.. Yes, maybe, but they should have been given the choice long in advance..

Needless to say, ‘Frikkie’ won his category that weekend, and gained an unassailable lead in the points that weekend due to his competition being absent. I resigned from the committee the Monday after the race, and soon after stopped competitive cycling to switch to triathlon. Of course ‘Frikkie’ phoned me to ask why I quit, gave me a ton of excuses but I had it with cycling by then.

Other incidents flaring up on social media lately is people parking in disabled bays, and then attacking those verbally and physically who ask them to move their vehicles. Do you bother with someone parking in a disabled bay because they can’t be bothered to walk the extra 20m to the shopping mall entrance? Or do you just look, shake your head and walk away, allowing those with a sense of entitlement (or just bone idle laziness) to get away with it repeatedly?

One cannot be the change we need in this world when the rest of humanity is out to make sure they are number one. A lot of people say “do something about it then!” when others are unhappy with a situation, but few realise how futile it is. Just ask Mr. H about the responses to his “you’re doing it wrong” talks… Kudus to him for sticking to his beliefs though…

Have you tried to make a difference somewhere and failed miserably? Do you even bother? Or do you sit on the sidelines and watch? Comments below please :)

So, I’ve been surprisingly quiet the last few months. The biggest reason for this has been #evilMsc. During the last weeks of November, and most of December I was finishing up the thesis. Getting it ready was a lot more tedious than I thought, and a few times I did question my sanity for doing this at my age. In the end though, I got the all clear to print and hand in. 19 December 2012 it went off to the university, and now we wait for the results. Hopefully it won’t be too bad, with ‘corrections to supervisor satisfaction’ which I can do in March and then hopefully graduate.

Apart from that, I’ve been relaxing a bit. Reading about web exploit kits every day for the last few months has made me a bit tired of all the negative news in information security. I’ve started getting back in to my gaming quite heavily, playing a lot of titles I bought during the Steam sales which I never installed due to the thesis and being rather committed to handing in on time.

On the 4×4 front we’ve tried to do a few trails, and that’s been awesome to get out and forget about thesis for a bit. Alas not everything goes well and the wife managed to break  a shock-absorber in half on one trail, needless to say, some stronger replacements were bought. Then my old LWB Pajero’s motor finally decided to go…completely. It’s now in for a completely rebuilt engine, but I should have it back before the end of the month. We’re looking at the next few trips, and pondering going through Lesotho again, but this time staying a day extra. Also, looking at going to Kruger for a few days when my leave balance allows it again :)

Right, expect some more updates in the near future, since I’ll have a bit more time to do them now :)

I had the privledge to help out at the Reach For a Dream 4×4 outing on Saturday 29 September at Groenkloof nature reserve. The organiser required vehicles in which the children could drive and I volunteered. Tuffstuff Insurance, One Insurance, Bridgestone and Groenkloof Nature Reserve sponsored the event, while we just sponsored the vehicles and diesel / petrol. Seeing the joy in the kids faces for something so simple as driving on a trail, we sometimes need to sit back and appreciate our health better.

So, for the last few weeks mr. H and myself have been bantering thoughts on how the infosec industry is broken, and how stuff needs to be done differently. I’m more of the point of view that things are not as bad as they seem, while some others have different opinions. This weekend, I got to experience first hand, how broken some things in life really are, and how a big difference a small group of people can make.

In our spare time we enjoy the outdoor life that South Africa provides us, and were part of the largest 4×4 forum in the country. One of the members of the forum posted a thread about two months ago, after he and his wife visited the Abraham Kriel, home how broken stuff there is. Not digital packets being broken, or people doing things wrong (we will get to that though), but just how really fscked things are there. The children of different ages live in different buildings on the premises, and they’re not allowed to use the facilities of the other buildings, including simple things like the jungle gyms etc. Uys from StofPad 4×4 decided something has to be done, and got the ball rolling. A simple post, with the aim of raising R5000 – R10 000 along with a simple prayer to God to help improve the lives of the children went out. He raised R52 000! Next, he needed volunteers to help make things happen. This weekend, we fixed the broken stuff…we did things differently. Here is the story in photos.

Sunset as we arrive on site (we had the use of the lapa area to camp and use as a base of operations).

Around 20 vehicles pitched up camp, while about the same number drove through for the day on Saturday to come and help.

These gift packets contained the simplest items, toothpaste, deo, a bag of sweets etc, but it was something that each child got for themselves. Not to share, each one of the 180 children got one.

Various teams set about building new jungle gyms for the kids to play on. The goal of the weekend was that each and every ‘house’ had their own jungle gym, allowing each and every child, no matter how young or old, to enjoy the same benefits.

I was on the crew that got the task of refurbishing one of the old jungle gyms. This was a hard enough task as the rotted sections of wood needed to be removed, the rusted bolts grinded down and then everything replaced with new sections. To some degree we realised this is more difficult than building from scratch, as we had to work within the confines of an existing structure.

That smile says it all..

For lunch my other half got a sponsorship from two Pick ‘n Pays for 30kg of boerewors and rolls, and then bought the kids 25L of ice cream out of our pockets along with cooldrink to give them a nice little lunch. This was only a taster as mr. “Bos Toe!” was cooking a potjie of note for them!

After lunch on Saturday the projects continued, with various small side-projects also happening. No-one had a chance to sit and do nothing.

Life sized chess board being built for the kids. Another sponsored project from various businesses.

The kids were each given their present, and mr. “Bos Toe!” started dishing up his potjie. A simple lamb, potato etc dish over rice. There was enough for seconds, and the kids all had a full tummy!

The school prepared a present for the forum, in the form of cards from each house. Once everything had calmed down Uys (the guy in the pic receiving it) read the cards to us. It’s strange to see big burly grown men, who just a few hours ago were wielding saws and hammers etc with tears in their eyes.

Sunday morning we continued the work, and myself and the other half left around 2pm. As we slowly drove through the grounds it was amazing to see the children playing on objects we had a hand in building. It was a good feeling, building something new, and fixing something that is truly broken.

So why do this? The one caretaker lady told us the tale of a 10yr old boy. He went home to his parents for the weekend, and returned bruised with some burn wounds on his legs etc. When they asked him what happened he said he played with hot irons or something. Eventually they got the story out of him, and he showed them his chest. He had a burn from a iron (the type you use on your clothes) with the pointy bit right under his sternum! I mean, who is their mind does that to a child? Should we as a society not focus more on fixing that, than argue about how digital packets are broken? Its a terrible comparison, I know, but it does put life in perspective..

Last weekend we had some commitments near Durban (wedding), and we decided a while back that we would return via the fabled Sani Pass through Lesotho. Once the wedding was done, we would travel from Eston through Howick and on to Underberg and then Himeville. We booked the night at St James Lodge in Lesotho, a mere 70km from Himeville in Kzn.

This 70km was something to behold…the 50km from the top of Sani Pass to the lodge took us the better part of 2.5hrs to drive. Yes the roads were that bad. The pass itself was not nearly as bad as we thought, and with some careful driving we had no problems but in Lesotho itself at some stage I could smell the heat of the oil in the transfer case as it worked overtime trying to send power to the correct wheels.

Once we got to the lodge, the pictures vs what actually greeted us were a bit different. Not quite the tranquil setting, with the local village supporting a soccer match. Luckily as the sun set it quietened down and we could enjoy the evening making a potjie and drinking some Old Brown Sherry.

The next morning we were up, packing and getting ready for some more nasty roads ahead. We were headed to the town of Butha-Buthe and the Caledonspoort border post. The route map we had told us it would take about 2.5hrs but the local caretaker of the lodge said more like 4 hours. With this in mind we set off for the border, road bumping and shaking us around in the Pajero.

We stopped at the diamond mine to look at the vast scale of the operation, and moved on to the highest mountain pass in Southern Africa, the Mahlasela Pass. From there the road got marginally better and eventually we got to the Moteng Pass. This magnificent piece of road needs to be experienced in a sports car, not a lumbering 4×4 with mud-terrain tyres loaded to the brim. We dropped down the pass from a altitude of 2800m down to 1700m and words can’t describe absolute beauty of it.

Once in Butha-Buthe we turned to the Caledon’s Poort border post, where within a few minutes we were through on both sides. From there it was off to Fouriesberg for petrol, food, and then the long trip home. Once its tank was full again, the Pajero was happy to run home, with the family asleep and Bruce Springsteen on the radio, with only the beat of the V6 as additional music in the background to keep me occupied.

It was a short visit to Lesotho. The trip showed me the beauty and isolation of this isolated country. The people who live in abject poverty, getting by with subsistence farming. Friendly people, most of them smiling and waving as you drive by with only two or three instances of begging encountered in our stay. I just wish we could have made the trip a few days longer, since I would have loved to visit Katse dam and some other areas. That said, it’s a beautiful country and I would encourage anyone to see it should the opportunity arise…

During our little outing at De Wildt 4×4, the bug bit quite badly, and we were scouring the Junkmail and Gumtree etc for a affordable 4×4. I didn’t want to spend nearly R300 000 or more on something like a Toyota Fortuner, Landrover etc, since I would have been too upset if something broke, or it got damaged.. but luck was with us and we found this little gem. A 1997 short wheel-base Mitsubishi Pajero 3litre V6 petrol with only 168 000km’s for R68 000. It had a bunch of extras, including IPF spotlights, Warn winch, rocksliders and a dual battery system. We bought it and went to play this weekend with some of the other 4×4 forum members.

It is a awesome little vehicle to play with, even if the juice cost is a bit rough. That 3L V6 motor is thirsty!

We found a few problems, mainly that the nose is a bit low and that I really needed rear diff-lock like I have in the bakkie, and not the central lock this one has. Some other changes can help like fitting a better set of shock absorbers and giving it a 40mm lift, to help the axle articulation, and fitting slightly bigger tyres. This will have to wait a bit, since it all does cost money.

Now, if you were to look at this picture, you would think “what in the world…how can anyone fsck up a vehicle like that? The simple truth is that the person doing that to the vehicle probably knows how to drive his vehicle better than you. These guys were also the ones that came to help me when I got the Pajero properly stuck. They hauled out a bag of goodies including properly rated shackles, used a vehicle with proper recovery points, and I learned a valuable trick (opening the bonnet to protect the windscreen and driver) in case of a cable snapping.

Also, the equipment on the vehicles is not cheap! A proper suspension setup is easily R12 000, tyres anything from R2000 upwards, and the list goes on. So, while you might call them ‘knuckledragging oafs without refinement”, I’m sure the day your car breaks down, or you have a puncture you will be quite glad when one of these oafs pulls over to help :) Me, I’m enjoying the knuckledragging scene, it’s a lot of fun and a great way to spend a day outside going something different!

When we moved from Cape Town up to Gauteng towards the end of last year, both me and the fiance realised it would not be easy, but we needed to try. In this spirit, we’ve been actively looking for different things to do on the weekends, trying to get out to actually enjoy a different area of the country. Much as we South Africans lament the current ruling political party governing it in to the ground, we stay here because it is genuinely one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

During the last few weeks I have been spending increased time working on the truck to get it ready for the camping trips we plan to take as the year goes on, ultimately preparing us for the trip to Botswana end of August. I’ve been lurking and posting once a while on a 4×4 forum called the http://www.4x4community.co.za in the hope of seeing how to do different things, from building packing systems to what tyres are good and bad.

This last weekend, there was a bit of a gathering out at De Wild 4×4 track, and we decided that we would go with. With only 4×2 and diff-lock, I was told the vehicle would be fine for the grading 1 to 3 obstacles. We met up with another member in Centurion, and went off to meet a Audi Q7 and its driver before going to the facility. Once we arrived it took about an hour for everyone to arrive, including a older Mercedes Benz ML who would be competing with his future father in law’s Fortuner 4×4..

Once the convoy set off we hit the first obstacle of the day, a axle twister that the ML just managed to do, but it broke a front bumper and popped out a spotlight. For the rest of the vehicles including my Colt Clubcab it was less of s struggle, though I did have the advantage of a very experienced co-driver showing me the lines (this after he did it effortlessly in a V8 Land Rover Discovery 2).

The ML going up the hill

We did another climb and then stopped for a stunning viewpoint, at which turn I asked my fiance if she would like a turn to drive. We then asked Philip (who turned out to be a 4×4 instructor) to drive with her, while I was a passenger in the aforementioned Discovery 2. Little did I know that at this point it would turn in to the day that I lost my keys…

The route takes you through several different types of obstacles, and some we could just not do with the 4×2, like the infamous ‘Gert se Klip’, but I managed to experience it as the passenger of the Discovery 2. Every obstacle that could be done was attempted by the future-wife in the Colt with her co-driver. He patiently walked her through every obstacle, showing her which lines to pick and then driving with her as she attempted it.

The Colt approaching a axle-twister.

The only obstacles she missed on recommendation of the instructor were the mudholes, due to potential damage it can cause to rubber seals, radiator etc.

Alex in a heavily modified 4.7L V8 Range Rover

In the meantime I saw in the passenger seat of the Discovery 2 with Althea in the back seat watching Pieter do the magic with his vehicle. He went through all the mud etc, seeing as he does all the work on his vehicle himself and thus isn’t too worried about damage.

Althea enjoying the idea of playing in the mud

There was a few places that I watched the truck go and thought ‘How is she going to get it out of there?’ but under the watchful eye of a competent instructor she managed fine and didn’t bump, scratch or damage the vehicle in any way (except it’s now dirty as hell again).

The missus being advised by her instructor on which line to take down the donga.

The same donga from the passenger seat of a Land Rover Discovery 2

Roaring out of another ditch.. Might need to wash it now :(

At the end of the day we reached the mud pit and spotted some drunk guys trying to ride up a embankment and doing nothing but damaging the vehicles and their ego’s. The one thing about the forum members, they were very strict about alcohol consumption on the route. No drinking and driving. Once everyone was back at the rest area and the vehicles parked it was fine to have a beer, but not on the course. Eventually I got my keys back as the day wound down, with future-wife smiling from ear to ear having had way too much fun with my car.

We got home around 3:30pm and promptly slept for 3 hours before attempting anything else for the evening. In the end we realised that the move to Gauteng is what we make of it. It’s taking the opportunities that present itself and using them :)

** Due to the theme I use, some pictures are cut off, click on them for the full pic.