London to Cape Town - A World Record Attempt
London has always been renowned for its hustle and bustle – a seemingly endless stream of commuters and tourists flow through the streets on a daily basis. Much like how blood circulates through the human body, this is what keeps the city functioning; what gives it life.
It’s 5am in the city and in a rare occurence, the streets of London are bare. The tourists are presumably still deep in slumber, recuperating from an eventful day of sightseeing, and the 9-5’ers still have a couple of hours left in bed. Through this lens the city may seem like a skeleton of its usual self, but on this chilly January morning it's far from lifeless; beneath the fabled Marble Arch in Oxford Street, two men are about to embark on a journey that will take them 10,000 miles across the world, spanning 18 different countries. This isn't a trip taken on a whim, nor is it an extended holiday for the pair– Paul Hanson and George Coleman are about to set out with the very clear goal of breaking the world record for the fastest time travelled from London to Cape Town by car. This adventure will take them through many of the world’s most fascinating landscapes, ranging from the dipping dunes of the Sahara Desert to the tropical grandeur of the Congolese rainforest. With the current record holders time of 10 days and 3 hours this would be far from a vacation; to break this record there would be no time to stop and smell the roses. Every second of their journey had to count, meaning that necessities such as eating and sleeping had to be streamlined in such a way that it had minimal impact on the journey-time - This is where Vango was able to provide some assistance.
And we're off!
Almost ten days into the trip, tired, battered and nearing the end of their journey, Paul and George were faced with a most ruthless adversary: happenstance. An errant chassis rendered their car unfit to drive, and after attempting to weld it at a number of different checkpoints throughout the African plains, the unforgiving terrain of the Senegalese roads proved to be too much to bear. The travellers were forced to abandon ship in Namibia; with their trusty Land Rover pushed to its very limits, they had no choice but to call it a day on their world record attempt – a frustrating 1,000 miles from their goal. As awe-inspiring as it would have been, sadly, there was no 'Cool Runnings' style ending to this fairy-tale.
Paul and George followed their dreams and attempted the impossible through raw determination; we here at Vango share this ethos with Paul and George and naturally jumped at the opportunity to support them on their journey - as well as their amazing cause. We kitted them both out with everything from the boots they trekked in to the sleeping bags they slept in and the food they ate along the way, making sure they were well equipped for the road ahead. Read on for testimonials on how our gear fared against the elements!
The starting point of Paul and Georges epic journey.
“We tested out their Contor II and Sherpa boots, which were unbelievably comfortable. They felt like slippers on our feet as we trekked through Nigeria, with the hot African sun beaming from above. When I say hot, we’re not talking a sunny summers day in London: the temperature reached 43 degrees at certain points, so you can imagine how difficult it was to trek through the heat with our heavy rucksacks. The boots were our saving grace in the heat, and were so comfortable it helped relieve some of the burden. The boots withstood some abuse, but luckily not too much. Thankfully we did not get stuck in the Congo mud and we didn’t have to get out and push. If it had come to that I'm sure we would have been fine: the boots were tested over Cannock Chase prior to departure and they held some amazing grip!”
A closer look at our Sherpa trekking boot.
Our technical team picked out sleeping bags that they believed would be most effective for the pairs travels, and came to the conclusion that the Ultralite 350 would be a perfect fit. Here’s what Paul and George had to say:
“After a lot of discussion with the technical team, they chose the perfect sleeping bags for our trip: The Ultralite 350 sleeping bag, which is designed for 2 seasons. This bag was perfect as it could compress very small and take up minimal room. It was also very comfortable as we tried to get our rotation sleep of 2-4 hours. At night it was perfect, and managed to regulate our body temperatures effectively. Even when it was 30 degrees outside I could just pull the sleeping bag over me and catch some rest.”
A look at our Ultralite sleeping bag.
Paul and George needed food that they could eat quickly and would keep them susatined for long periods of time. We supplied them with our Wayfayrer food packs, which they were particularly fond of:
“Perhaps the best item Vango sponsored us with was their Wayfayer food ration packs. These were extremely important for the trip. They took up very little room and each ration pack was the perfect size for a meal. When you are driving non-stop for 14 days, you don’t get time to stop and cook your food, or prepare a meal. We had to take it in turns to cook while the other drove. The food packs gave us all the energy we required and kept us not only happy but gave us a little reminder of home cooked food. Due to just sitting down for the whole trip, you tend to lose your appetite, which can result in losing your energy and concentration. These packs kept us going - they were easy to heat, quick to eat and gave us that extra oomph we needed to carry on. Personal favourites between us were the meatballs and pasta and the Lancashire hot pot, though all flavours we tried were very tasty.”
Wayfayrer pasta and meatballs were popular among the pair
The pair also hit a stumbling block when they ran out of gas to cook with, but thankfully came up with a MacGyver like method of heating up their food.
“We had the unfortunate event of running out of gas to cook food. Yes, we should have taken up Vangos offer of supplying us with a cooking kit, but they had already given us so much equipment! On day 10 our gas ran out. It turned out we had 4 days of meals we supposedly couldn’t heat up. The Wayfayer meals you could eat hot or cold, but we were grumpy and wanted them hot. Due to the chassis being bent and twisted it put additional pressure on the gear box which in turn caused increased friction and heat. This was perfect for us, we lifted the gaiter for the gear stick and put one ration pack at a time around the gear box. 10 minutes later we had a hot ration pack! Ok it did smell of oil but wipe that away and you have a cooked dinner. The second option, which we could not do while driving, was pop the bonnet and heat them up on the engine block. All the flavours from Wayfayer were extremely tasty, but we had our favourites and they got eaten first.”
As a side note: Vango Gel Fuel offers a non-toxic and environmentally friendly method of cooking food. The Fuel is safe and easy to pour, and the viscous gel formation has significantly less chance of spilling than liquid, making it a far safer alternative to other fuels on the market. The Gel was designed specifically to address the problem of indoor air pollution in Africa - a noteable cause for Paul and Georges trek!
A look at Vango Gel Fuel
Lastly, the pair opted for Vango Cargo Pacs to carry all of their gear:
“When we abandoned the Land Rover in Windhoek we had to only take what was important to us. We had great use of the Vango Cargo 90 hold all bags, which ended up being filled with random expensive land rover parts. These bags proved to be robust; with over 30kg in each bag, they showed no signs of wear and tear. We opted for the bright orange packs which look fantastic and easy to spot when coming off the aeroplane. The only marks they showed were that of spilled diesel and oil from the Land Rover.”
Fate may have had other plans for Paul and George on this occasion, however the pair have vowed to return, and plan on giving the world record attempt another go at some point in the future. We here at Vango admire what they have achieved on their adventure, and wish them the very best of luck – have a look at our Q&A with the pair, and keep up to date with their future travel plans here!
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