Things change but that doesn’t mean they always get better… at least not for everyone.
Let’s take the development of 4×4 vehicles as an example. They used to be purely functional, but now how they look is often more important than how they perform.
Of course, there have also been improvements in fuel consumption, handling and comfort, but I don’t agree all the changes are improvements.
As a matter of fact, I find some of the developments a bit disturbing, because they rely so heavily on complicated technology.
Fuel efficiency is good, but when it is accomplished with a load of computerised parts that can’t be repaired in the bush, I don’t think the benefits are always worth the price.
I also think relying on technology prevents some people, like the person who drove into the sand trap in the picture above, from developing the skills needed to perform important jobs such as driving.
I got a glimpse of what was to come back in 1985 when I spent half a year working at Croc Camp in Maun.
I did anything that had to be done including trying to maintain two 25-year-old Land Rovers, and driving them into the village to collect supplies.
The vehicles were tired and I was new to the 4×4 game, so I managed to get stuck several times in the sand tracks that passed for a road.
The thing is, both vehicles were very easy to work on and the engines had cranking points – as in, they could be started by hand – so I never stayed stuck, even when the starter motors were not working.
It was slow-going, but I always got to my destination.
That’s not how it worked out for a couple of Germans who hung around the camp for two months while I worked there.
Their plan had been to drive the Jeep they had shipped to Durban from Germany up through Moremi and Chobe and then tour Zambia and Zimbabwe before returning home.
It didn’t work out that way.
In those days Jeeps were just as simple as the old Land Rovers, but Walter and Willy both worked for BMW; so they decided to put a powerful, more efficient German engine in their vehicle.
I believe it performed quite well between Durban and Maun, but less than two days after they set off for Moremi, the boys were back in camp.
The hi-tech engine had conked-out in Moremi’s wet, muddy conditions; so Walter and Willy had to find a ride back to Maun.
They also had to pay to have the Jeep towed to Croc Camp, where I watched them work on it unsuccessfully for three weeks, before ordering several electronic components that had to be delivered from Germany.
They were good fun to have around, but they never managed to do their safari and I think they would have had a better time if they had stuck with the simple engine that was designed for the bush.
That move would also have saved them a whole lot of money and allowed them the pleasure of fixing the vehicle when something went wrong.
Technology is good but so is self-sufficiency and I just hope we will always be able to choose the second option… if that’s what we want to do.