Four wheelers like to dream. Sometimes they get to act out those dreams. Marc Schreuder is one such person. This January he is checking one item off his bucket list. He’ll gain valuable 4WD experience and do some tremendous good in the process.
The Mountain View, Calif., resident is participating in the Budapest-Bamako rally one of the more challenging expeditions around. And at the end of the ride, he will donate his vehicle and gear to charity.
Held every two years, the rally starts in Budapest, Hungary, and historically ended in Bamako, Mali. Turmoil in that country forced organizers to shift the route to Banju, Gambia. Africa. Next year’s rally runs Jan. 12-28.
Billed as The World’s Largest Amateur Rally, the excursion covers nearly 5,000 miles and includes some very challenging terrain. While some really hard-core drivers participate, it’s really designed for the common man. Amateurs on a low budget can get their entrance fee waived participate. (See the website for all the details.)
Another cool aspect is that the ride has a philanthropic angle. Most of the participants donate their vehicles and gear at the end of the ride.
Schreuder talked about the rally while taking one of my classes. Intrigued, I called him one day for more about him and his plans.
Born and raised in South Africa, Schreuder fondly recalls taking road trips to the country as a youth. “So I’m kind of nostalgically attached to driving around and seeing the country,” he says.
In May 2003, Schreuder embarked on a four-week, 5,000 mile trek around California. At one point he got stuck in snow while on a forest road. Driving alone, he had to come up with a solution. That incident gave Schreuder a taste of being self-reliant.
He’s also done some dirt road driving in Africa. The trails were graded, and the driving didn’t require spotting for lines or other techniques. “I certainly don’t have a wealth of experience before this trip,” he says.
Schreuder has since taken both of my starter classes, along with my Sand & Dune class. He has signed up for Winch & Recovery Clinic and the Self-Recovery Clinic to be held on Sept. 23 and 24.
Bitten by the rally bug
Schreuder discovered the Budapest-Bamako rally while working in England in the early 2000s. He couldn’t participate at the time, but was really inspired by what he saw.
“Some people will travel around the world before starting their careers,” he says. “I haven’t done that kind of thing.” He offers another good reason on his website: “I want to see if I enjoy the adventurer experience – it may become more of a lifestyle.” Schreuder, 43, feels this rally will build his confidence to do something more adventurous—perhaps take off for a year or two by himself somewhere.
Schreuder purchased a 1998 4Runner for the rally. That’s an appropriate choice. Toyotas are durable, and are really popular in many African countries. He should have little difficulty getting parts or help should he need either.
It sports a 3.4L V6 engine and stock 5-speed manual transmission. Though it as 203,000 miles on it, the 4Runner is in pretty good shape. “Engine to me felt it was running smoothly,” Schreuder says. “And the gearbox felt fairly crisp, so I felt it should be decent platform to start with.”
Improvements include installing a suspension lift with modified upper control arms, a heavy-duty clutch and flywheel. He swapped out all the fluids changed the brakes, air filter, plugs and wires, and installed a heavy-duty battery. The 4Runner also got a new steering rack and rods, half shafts, extended bump stops, anti-roll bar and control arm bushings, ball joints, valve cover gaskets and a fresh timing belt and water pump. He chose BF Goodrich Mud-Terrain tires for their deep tread and added a second spare.
His gear includes a Hi-Lift jack and recovery strap. Because he’ll hit sand in parts of Africa, Schreuder has purchase a Pull Pal sand anchor and installed an 8,000-pound winch and an ARB bumper.
Schreuder wouldn’t divulge what he has sunk into his 4Runner. [editor: To outfit for an excursion like this figure 4 or 5x what you paid for a used vehicle. That includes replacement parts and upgrades to the vehicle, as well as your gear.]
Rally entrance fee was about $2,000, and he’s projecting out-of-pocket expenses along the way.
Preparing for the rally
The rally offers five categories: Classic GPS, 4×4 Touring, School Bus to Africa, Touring Adventure, and Bamako Spirit. It’s the last one the offers you the chance to avoid the entrance fee. (Although every team pays the 200 Euro administration fee.) Schreuder is participating in the 4×4 Touring category. Though it’s extremely challenging, he will be driving alone. Not having passengers provides more room for gear and supplies, but means he’ll have no help riding with him. He’s counting on skills learned during the Badlands Off-Road Adventures clinics to help him navigate through sand and other challenging terrain.
If something were to go terribly wrong, Schreuder feels he’ll be able to limp to the nearest village. Doing so may disrupt the day’s plans, “but it won’t be life threatening.”
Schreuder is also hoping to meet two or three other teams he could caravan with. Daily drivers’ meetings will help him decide whether he needs to take a different route at times.
He anticipates some issues with pop-up roadblocks and border crossings in Africa. And language will be a bit of a challenge. Schreuder plans to learn some simple phrases in Arabic and French.
“I feel there is a decent amount of safety nets,” he says. “A lot of experienced folks on the journey.”
The first step in this journey involves getting the vehicle over there. In early October, he will ship the vehicle from Oakland, Calif., to the Port of Felixstowe in England. Friends will collect the car upon its arrival in late November and store it for a few weeks. He’ll pick up the car in January; after a few days of prep, he drives it to Budapest. Schreuder will arrive in Budapest on Jan. 11—the day before the rally starts.
He is required to obtain an export certificate from California. After the rally concludes, he’ll remove the license plates, and bring them back. Schreuder is buying international insurance, and had to undertake a series of vaccinations, including one for yellow fever.
Communications gear will include a satellite phone and CB radio. (Event organizers recommend that.) He has a blog, Fair Winds 2 Banjul, but he’s not sure whether he’ll encounter internet access to allow for updates. If not, Schreuder would like to offer tracking through a Spot transponder or similar device.
The ride won’t be all work. Schreuder plans to take in some of the sights along the way. He’s especially taken in by big trees, and hopes to see a giant Atlas cedar while traveling through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
“I’m counting on the route going through some interesting places,” he says.
Once he reaches Banjul, scheduled for Jan. 28, Schreuder will quickly donate the vehicle and get ready for his return flight on the 31st. In addition to the four-wheeling gear, Schreuder is taking along a 25-person medical kit. He hopes the donated vehicle can be used in a humanitarian manner, perhaps in search and rescue.
“That’s the nicest option,” he says. “Good chance for the vehicle make a decent impact in a lot of people’s lives.”
This rally impressed upon Schreuder the value of 4WD training. “There’s no substitute for practice,” he says. “There’s no substitute for having some confidence of how things are going to work and how much stuck you can get and still get out.” Which is why he is taking my Recovery Class. (The next one is on Sept. 24. You can register for it here.)
On off years, the Budapest-Bamako promotor offers a Baja style amateur event.
Although he hasn’t done the Baja Rally, Schreuder feels it would offer some good training. “Do that before doing the bigger deal further away.”
If you want to dream big, this rally could be for you. Even if you can’t participate, put one challenging ride on your bucket list. Drive out of your comfort zone and enjoy the experience that only a truly challenging route can offer.
PS — Would like to read more about Marc’s modifications and his adventure? Overlandsite interviewed him after his trip. link to their interview.
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Did you miss the previous article?
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- 2017-07-14 Are You a Roads Scholar?
- 2017-06-15 San Rafael A Swell of a Drive
- 2017-05-11 How to Properly Abandon A Vehicle
- 2017-04-26 Wilderness First Aid Training Valuable On And Off The Trails
- 2017-03-17 Complicated Issue? – Trail Spacing!
- 2017-02-18 Driving Off (road) into the Sunset
- 2017-01-11 Resolve To Cook With a Dutch Oven
I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
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