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msafi ri 68 CARS deep sand leading to the Tsodilo hills of the Kalahari using fourth and fi fth gear in low ratio. " You'll go a bit slower," he said. " But you'll never get stuck." I didn't, and I've never forgotten his advice. There is an old saying that the world is divided into two kinds of people: Land Rover folk on the one hand and Land Cruiser ' The car for Africa,' it has often been called, thanks to its simple, but classic engineering, its reliability and hardiness and, as was pointed out to me once years ago, its chassis is higher off the ground than any other sedan car on the road. That simple fact has been one of the most important selling points from the Sahara down to the winding hills around Cape Town. The 404 handles the potholes and the ruts in African roads better than any other two- wheel drive sedan. Production of the 404 came to an end in 1988, but there are still hundreds of thousands of them doing valiant service. It was produced as a four- door sedan, a station wagon, and as a pickup truck. I believe there was even a convertible model, but like the okapi or the elusive aardvark, I have yet to see one! ROVER OR CRUISER? The classic Series I Land Rover which, in the 1980s, became the 110 Defender, is an equally recognisable car of Africa. From their zebra- striped appearance in the 1960s movie Born Free, they have become the symbol of a twentieth- century safari. They have a diabolical turning circle – I remember sweating blood trying to do a U- turn in traffi c in downtown Harare in the good old days; they tend towards being top heavy. They are slow, hard work to drive and air conditioning or heating means either leaning out the window in the heat of the bush or putting on a sweater in the evening chill. But, like the 404, their overwhelming advantage in Africa is that they are doggedly reliable, easy to repair and can travel through the worst conditions better than just about any other vehicle. I'll never forget an old 4WD hand teaching me to drive through the Africa's defi nitive vehicles – from top left) to above) the Land Rover Defender ( the Peugeot 404 ( YANN GUICHAOUA/ PHOTOLIBRARY FRANCOISE DE MULDER/ GETTY MARCO LONGARI/ GETTY

msafi ri 69 The Toyota Land Cruiser – expensive but highly desirable, unless you're trying to park one in a shopping mall in Johannesburg diehards on the other. Well, I'm in the middle here. For comfortable 4WD driving, I'd have to agree with the UN's choice: the Toyota Land Cruiser. It is a very expensive vehicle, but if you can afford one, it is absolutely the best vehicle for driving anywhere in Africa – except for Jo'burg's shopping malls – where it's hellishly diffi cult to park one! The Land Cruiser is comfortable, has a brilliant road-holding capability, great air- con and plenty of room for unexpected extra passengers. It also has Toyota standards of reliability and great access to spare parts across the continent. THE LIFELINE OF AFRICA But one cannot forget Africa's minibuses. They are the cars of the ordinary folk. No matter whether they are choking up the roads in Accra or Cairo, or transporting minibus taxi is the lifeline of Africa. There are so many varieties it is hard to pick out one that stands above all the others, but if I had to choose, I guess it would be shared equally between the Toyota Hiace and the Volkswagen Kombi. It was only in the late 1970s and early 1980s that these started becoming the vehicles of choice for minibus taxis. They revolutionised the way people on the continent lived and worked. Often poorly maintained, and sometimes driven by people with little or no training in public transport, they are all too often a risky means of travelling, but for most Africans there is simply no other choice. They are an African solution to an African problem, that of the vast sprawling growth of the cities in post-colonial Africa. Every day they move tens of other destinations as well. Minibus drivers are virtually a law unto themselves, and a jaunty, cynical humour rules the names of the vehicles painted on the rear windscreens: ' Crazy World', ' God On My Side', ' No Finish Line' or ' Ricochet' are names I once wrote down in a single journey through Mombasa. But for all their chaotic idiosyncrasies, the minibus must be the iconic car of African travel. Every single facet of life is discussed in the cramped confi nes of its worn benches. Birth, death, love, marriage and politics are laid out in the open among their passengers, all day, every day. They are the pulse of the continent and the multitude of faces behind their windows contains all the wisdom and the hope of its future. people from a village in Mali to another one a hundred miles away across the Sahel, the colonial millions to and from work, and to a thousand THE PEUGEOT 404 HANDLES THE POTHOLES AND THE RUTS IN AFRICAN ROADS BETTER THAN ANY OTHER TWO-WHEEL DRIVE SEDAN