Organised by the Endurance Rally Association, the rally involved 44 cars in a race to the finish line. Rachel and Suzy chose a 2005 Rover MG ZR 1600 to get them there, deliberately picking a small car to make the challenge even harder. With no support staff, translators or mechanics, Rachel and Suzy had to rely on their own luck, resources and skills to reach South Africa.
The route travelled through 14 countries, including Italy, Egypt, Sudan and Zambia. Rachel says that out of all the countries, Ethiopia really stood out for her. “We all loved Ethiopia,” she says. “It is a particularly beautiful country as are the people who were so happy and welcoming. They live very simple but, apparently comfortable and happy lives. I would love to revisit at a time when I can concentrate more on the scenery and less on the road ahead.”
The rally was not without its challenges. In Italy, their car was involved in a crash, which proved a major setback for the pair. Rachel says: “When we crashed in Italy it was a major challenge because we had to first find the positive spirit to carry on, then actually do it! We did manage to find a garage who were prepared, after much cajoling, to get our car back on the road.”
The effects of the crash continued to affect their journey, as car parts which had been crumpled in the accident began to crack. Rachel says: “We suffered broken shock absorbers and rear axle bushes on the road from Marsabit in Northern Kenya. It was really difficult and quite depressing trying to drive on after Nairobi where we had a 'rest' day to repair our cars, without new shock absorbers which had not been let through customs!”
Rachel is a long-term supporter of SOS Children and was keen to support our work through her challenge. She says: “I have supported SOS Children in a small way for many years and thought that as they do a lot of work in the areas we will be travelling through, it is the perfect charity to support.”
Halfway through the rally, Rachel and Suzy visited SOS Children’s Village in Nairobi, Kenya, to see first-hand the difference the money they raised will make. The Children’s Village here has 16 family homes, where orphaned and abandoned children live with SOS mothers until they reach independence. Rachel says: “Visiting the SOS Village in Nairobi was an extremely humbling yet uplifting experience for us both. In the Village we saw cleanliness and calm with happy children and staff alike. It was even better than we were expecting it to be.”
Rachel was shown round the Village by two of the children living there. “The children in the Village are very lucky,” she says. “It is a wonderful start in life for those who have been so unfortunate. It is like a real family with hand-me-down clothes and magazine pictures stuck to the bedroom wall. They were friendly and well-mannered or well brought up as we might say. They are an inspiration.”
Now back home and rested, Rachel says: “The rally was an amazing experience. It was exhausting and very difficult but we feel an enormous sense of achievement having completed it.”
Find out more about taking on a challenge for SOS Children.