Shamrock Safari December 2000
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SHAMROCK SAFARI DECEMBER 30/31ST 2000
Christmas should still be near enough the surface of your memory to recall the cards that are an integral part of the festivities. Those artful, but hopelessly unreal, scenes of clean white snow blanketing all in its virginal serenity. Trees with every branch equally bowed with its crisp burden of snow. The sun sparkles and reflects from a million pin point prisms and of course a robin sits chirpily in the midst of it all unafraid of your human presence. In my daughters vocabulary, AS IF!
You curmudgeon, it can be true. The Shamrock Safari started in just such idyllic conditions. Even the most hard bitten, cynical off roader couldn't help being moved by the sheer glory of our surroundings. The roads in the dank depths of the Blackwater valley were dark with freezing fog. However as soon as our bonnets lifted towards the forest the fog belt was soon left behind as we broke out, blinking, into a bright new world of the exact scene I have hopefully so eloquently described to you. The robins were not only cheeky they were plentiful too. A sight previously never even imagined was that of a robin perched on a girder tight winch wire as the great white bulk of Tim Johnson's 110 was sucked from its boggy grave. The robin not only alighted on the wire it rode it for a few feet too before tiring of the game and flying off. I swear there was a lump in the throat as someone pointed out that even the birds had Red Coats!
Our mullockers (a quaint Irish expression) group, or the 'death before dishonour' brigade if you prefer, were at Panzer division strength this year. Harry, Larry and Steve for CoR, and Jimmy and Mick Dean for Off Road Ireland kept order in the mullockers ranks. In years gone by it has to be said the the British motors in this 'hard' group were streets ahead of most of the Irish crews in terms of equipment and preparation. That was in the past however and two years from our last visit to the Emerald Isle, the Irish contingent have moved into a different league altogether. It was obvious they meant business when they actually arrived not just on time, but early, for the briefing and they were fielding a mean and meaty array of Land Rovers with all the right bells and whistles. The Irish lads enthusiasm has never been in doubt so combined with the new technology they were out to conquer all that was put at them.
The UK contingent were, as always, an equally arresting array. Simon Buck and Gavin House were always worth watching as a duo that made Batman and Robin look restrained. Howes, Gaunt, Evans and Pym may sound like a firm of solicitors but actually they were off roaders taking their Land Rovers from the Midlands to their first foray in the Emerald Isle. Shoguns aren't real off roaders are they? Try telling Paul Whitton that. His V6 auto Shogun has an 8,000 lb Warn hydraulic winch lurking under the front bumper. Not only did the Shogun conquer the mullockers route, he did it in comfort too, with only the slightest of panel dents to prove it. That is more than can be said for a lot of the others, specifically Rob Phillipson whose was his consistent self with a journey of self inflicted torture. Quite why his venerable S2 wasn't tested on the day of departure is a matter for some conjecture but better people than I will no doubt have subjected him to a third degree somewhere along the line.
Whilst the mullockers were out trying to prove the impossible isn't, the more genteel, though no less adventurous, safari group were roaming far and wide across the hoar crusted hills. Even here we split into two groups to try and match motors to terrain. Roger Davis brought his venerable Irish registered diesel 2A Station Wagon and then wrestled it manfully around two days of glorious off roading. It was a test of stamina for both man and machine. Neil Rolfe's Land Cruiser, and Stephen Geraghty's Toyota Colorado made much easier weather of it but all of them got to the same places and saw the same sights, some just had to work harder for the privilege. Cath Welburns hysterical laughter came over the CB. They were perambulating their G wagen gently through some snow laden trees when an avalanche of snow from the mighty firs buried the motor, filled the windscreen (and this was the cause of Cath's hilarity) came sluicing through the partly open sun roof. She was still chuckling as we hit the pub in Castletownroche for some well earned vittles that evening.
By now the Mullockers were trailing behind as mechanical problems slowed some of the group. Our Safari group traversed the Nagles forest in the freezing evening air. That didn't cause a problem but the tarmac road did cause a few hairy moments when some of our number went a waltzing. Southern Ireland isn't used to snow and they have a truly excellent method of dealing with it. They stay at home. That means no stress for them and empty roads for 4x4's who look on snow as a gift from heaven. Well it works for us. Our second day had rain instead of the snow. It proved the veracity of my earlier missives confidently stating that as it was Ireland then it would rain, the only question was when and how much. We so nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when, driving up a steep raging torrent of a track in a bid to do just one last exciting loop before finishing for the event and indeed the year, the faithful CoR steed ground to a halt. That wasn't as worrying as the haggis sized boulders that were being washed down with the raging water. Time for a strategic withdrawal. It was a matter of some pride that we approached our exit with just 15 minutes to go to the allotted finish time and meet with Keith Bettis leading our other safari group. Self congratulations on a great event and all back safe and sound were premature however. Fellow Redcoat Steve Soame's Discovery cam belt decided that the year 2000 was to be its last year of service, and with just 7 hours to go to the real Millennium it took early retirement. Not quite the happy ending we had hoped for, but that evenings meal and general New Years Eve frivolities soon put a gloss over that particular cloud and the AA did the rest on New Years day. The Shamrock was a perfect end to the old year and a lively start to the new. The weather, our welcome and of course our 4x4 companions combined to ensure that it really doesn't get better than this. As always I would express my thanks to Maurice, Jimmy and Mick from Off Road Ireland and the full assembled might of the Redcoat crew for their perseverance, patience and plain help.
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