Botswana Special

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Top Gear, Series 10 Episode 4 of 10

Duration: 1 hour

Jeremy, Richard and James face one of their greatest challenges as all three are sent to Africa and each told to buy a second-hand car costing no more than £1,500. It must not be a 4x4 and must not be designed in any way to go off-road. Which could be a problem, since their task is then to drive across the wilds of Botswana, negotiating massive salt pans, treacherous rivers and reserves full of animals, most of which will want to eat them. Along the way they face fierce heat, suffocating dust and an encounter with the Stig's African cousin.

  • From the Top Gear Team

    On born-free Top Gear, we ditched our draughty aircraft hangar and headed for the wide open spaces of Botswana, on a 1,000-mile safari across the spine of Africa. And, as a lesson for the people of Surrey, who think they need a 4x4 just because they live up a lane that sometimes has leaves on it, we asked each of our presenters to complete the journey in a normal two-wheel drive car bought for just £1,500.

    Our story began in a little village on the border between Zimbabwe and Botswana. Unusually, James was the first to arrive, in his 1985 Mercedes 230E. Next up was Jeremy with a 1981 Lancia Beta Coupe. Finally, Richard turned up in an Opel Kadet made in 1963, which he immediately bonded with and named Oliver.

    To reach their destination on the Namibian border, the boys had to negotiate the vast openness and primordial sludge of the Makgadikgadi salt pans, the choking dust of the Kalahari Desert, not to mention the treacherous rivers and hungry wildlife of the Okavango Delta.

    Along the way, they encountered more or less every dangerous animal known to man, including hippos, elephants and the apparently testicle-crazed honey badger - as well as petrol shortages, flying vice-presidents and the Stig's African cousin.

    Incredibly, the cars survived everything Africa could throw at them - including being dismantled, crashed, drowned and shot. Of course the presenters were well motivated to keep their cars moving: anyone who broke down irreparably would be forced to complete the journey in the spare car - an irritatingly unstoppable Volkswagen Beetle.

    Nevertheless, when Namibia came into view some 1,000 miles and almost a week later, the scale of our achievement really dawned on us. Plus we learnt a valuable lesson: if you live in Surrey or need to cross an African country, you don't need a BMW X5 or supercharged Range Rover. All you need is a Beetle. Damn.

    First shown on: 04/11/2007

Credits

Presenter
Jeremy Clarkson
Presenter
James May
Presenter
Richard Hammond

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