Elephant grass is tall enough to hide an elephant, and can easily hide a bunch of Wrangler
Inside the Dark Continent
Regardless of the new Jeep's pedigree, heritage, or capabilities, the Dark Continent is just that, and the term was coined in 1878 by Henry M. Stanley in his account Through the Dark Continent. Africa was mysterious, unexplored, and unknown to western civilization at the time the moniker stuck, and the land is still thought of in this way. However, the large cities are quite civilized; it's only when you get out into the bush that Africa reveals itself as the true wild country that it has always been.
Our journey started from Los Angeles and lasted for nearly 24 hours in an aluminum tube, interspersed with a brief hike through Heathrow airport to keep us awake. Landing in Nairobi, Kenya (formally British East Africa) we stayed at a 100-year-old hotel reeking of colonialism, which wasn't half bad. But Kenya was merely an overnight stay for our final destination, and after a two-hour morning flight across the savannah we landed in Mfuwe, Zambia, formerly Northern Rhodesia. After a short customs declaration, we boarded a prop plane, flew to the middle of nowhere, and landed in a grass field on the outskirts of Mpika, next to the South Luangwa National Park. Then, the adventure began.
If you can believe this, deep in the middle of nowhere we come upon Mpatu Bakuku, a reader
Driving a lefthand drive Jeep in a righthand drive country isn't too bad, as long as the oncoming traffic stays in its own lane. And on the narrow dirt roads most drivers were oblivious to our convoy of eight Wranglers, even the bicyclists and pedestrians who had never seen such a sight. Once in the park, we stopped and visited the locals who controlled access, and of course we handed out 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazines and swag. The park is not a self-drive tourist trap, and we always had a guard carrying a .475 Weatherby Magnum at the ready--even when a pit stop was made. Tasty journalist can't be too careful around lions!
Most press 4WD trails are pretty weak, simply because the vehicle or the PR folks don't have a clue about wheeling. Jeep is rarely in this category, but Jeep even outdid themselves and found some beautiful rocks and boulders to creep over, trees to scale, and ditches to cross. We luckily had the chance to look on the underside of a JK, even though no hoists or racks are available locally to inspect the running gear of the new Wrangler Rubicon. Later on, a night river crossing with water over the hood proved the Wrangler's fording ability as well as the reason for body drain plugs in a real 4x4. With grub in our bellies and a tent for a shelter, we crashed hard 10 time zones away from home in anticipation of the next day's adventures.
Africa conjures images of rain forests and headhunters for most Americans, but we were in the savannah, a high desert type of locale full of wildlife such as hippos, lions, giraffe, elephant, baboons, oryx, gazelles, and zebras. We saw all of these on our journey, with some animals so perfectly camouflaged that we missed them from 10 feet away. The elephant grass is so named because it's so high it could hide an elephant, and it did a good job hiding us in a convoy of two- and four-door Jeeps winding through the veldt between trails. Another river crossing brought us to a rocky canyon heretofore unknown except for a few poachers and natives. Steep descents and climbs in the Wranglers took us through crocodile-infested pools which we didn't dally in, and high-speed sand washes tested the suspension and performance of the Jeeps in a sand dune sort of way. Our final river crossing took us on a hand-grabbed ferry across the Zambezi Riverwhere our accommodations included running water for showers, which was much appreciated. From there, we left the magic of Africa to board another aluminum tube for 24 hours of hell, wondering why we left the jungle in the first place.
Steep, rocky descents and the following accent were a breeze in a Rubicon, due to the twin
The masters of camouflage were the zebras and this giraffe, which blended into the country
Never ones to say no, the natives have a way with making something out of nothing. To cros
Crossing croc-infested rivers at night is pretty hard-core, but the Wranglers cruised thro
Crossing the stream bed meant going through Flat Dog Pool. No, there weren't any flattened