Billy’s Groot Trek-tor

Earlier this year, Billy van der Mescht of Indo Trak drove a small Chinese-built tractor on a cross-country trip of almost 1 200km, to raise money for CANSA and prove the reliability of these budget-priced tractors.
Issue Date: 12 October 2007

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The Mayor of Krugersdorp,
Koketso Calvin Seerane,
wishes me well on our departure.

Earlier this year, Billy van der Mescht of Indo Trak drove a small Chinese-built tractor on a cross-country trip of almost 1 200km, to raise money for CANSA and prove the reliability of these budget-priced tractors.

This is his story, as told to Joe Spencer.

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To raise Funds for the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), and to demonstrate how strong and tough Indo Trak tractors are, the team at Trak decided to take their bottom-of-the-range TS240 High Crop model, a single-cylinder 18,3kW tractor, on a marathon road trip. With a basic but quite adequate specification, this is Indo Trak’s cheapest tractor at R37 500 including VAT.

The trip covered almost 1 200km, starting in Krugersdorp, Gauteng and ending at the Wildsfees in Kirkwood in the Eastern Cape, at an estimated average speed of 30km/h. I had a support team of three. Tannie Ester and Oom Appie Pretorius from CANSA were in a back-up vehicle sponsored by Hyundai, Roodepoort. They drove behind with flashing lights to warn other traffic, carrying tools and spare parts. My father Bill van der Mescht Sr, one of Indo Trak’s technical support team, rode ahead in another vehicle, also with flashing warning lights. We started the trip on 22 June, at 5am on a freezing Friday morning at the Krugersdorp town hall, where we were greeted and wished well by the mayor of Mogale City, Koketso Calvin Seerane.

We were then escorted out of town by a convoy of 22 police vehicles. As soon as we got through Randfontein we were on our own. Once we turned onto the highway, it was a straight road all the way to the Eastern Cape. The first 50km were a real killer. It was the middle of winter and with no radio, or anything to keep myself occupied, it was a major effort to stay focused and awake. Some 240km later we made it to Kroonstad, our first rest point, without any trouble. We where escorted into town by the police and directed to a church where the locals were awaiting our arrival. There we were welcomed into the home of pastor Andre van der Berg, where we spent the night. The next day was smooth sailing. Tough at first, but eventually the mind gets used to the slow, steady ride and the sound of that one-cylinder engine. It gives a person a lot of time to think.

The road to Kirkwood
We made it to each town along the way without any hassles. From time to time we filled up the tractor with diesel (sponsored by Total) carried in the trailer (sponsored by Venter trailers of Roodepoort) towed behind the tractor. We budgeted 140ℓ, but used only 70ℓ for the whole journey. Just before Cradock, at about 5am while it was still dark, hit a big pothole which almost caused me to lose control. Luckily managed to hold it and the only damage to the tractor was a broken bonnet hinge. Our equipment included gas bottles, so we just gas-welded it. From Cradock it was just a matter of crossing Olifantskop Pass and we’d be only 150km from Kirkwood. By then we were actually two days ahead of schedule. As we left Cradock at 5am, was greeted by a light drizzle.

The support team. From left to right: Oom Appie and Tannie Ester Pretorius from CANSA, with Bill van der Mescht senior , also of Indo Trak, on top of Olifantskop Pass.

Eventually the drizzle stopped and as it became light, we made it to Olifantskop Pass and trekked through the gap with amazing views of the mountains and wildlife along the way. We finally arrived outside Paterson just ahead of the snow, which apparently started to fall quite heavily just as we left the passes. We stayed the night at a very beautiful guest house, called Monkey’s View, on a farm about 6km out of the town. The next day, as we left at 7am, it was pouring with rain and had to drive along a dirt road for about 4km to get to Paterson. What a trip that was! The tractor wasn’t four-wheel drive and was snaking through the mud. It was a real fight behind the wheel at 30km/h, not to mention the mess. You could hardly see me for mud, but got through and was on my way to Addo, my last stop before Kirkwood.
There we stopped in at an Indo Trak dealer, where the tractor received a bit of TLC including a good wash and a safety inspection. After all, tractors aren’t normally expected to ride on hard roads at high speed for such long distances. We had a well-deserved two days rest, which felt really good after all that travelling. Leaving the Afrikanos guest lodge on 30 June, I was on my way to the show feeling triumphant. I’d driven almost 1 200km on a tractor, raising over R20 000 for CANSA at the same time. We arrived at Kirkwood, where the locals gave us a really warm welcome, and finally made it into the show grounds where we were welcomed by a crowd of over 300.

Looking back
The tractor was still running perfectly. It hadn’t used a drop of engine oil, gearbox oil or water, and the only thing that had gone wrong the whole journey was the broken bonnet hinge from the pothole. The best thing about the journey was that it gave us the opportunity to let people know that the scourge of cancer is still among us, and it was a wonderful feeling to know that all that money everyone was kind enough to donate was going towards a really great cause. Indo Trak would like to put out a challenge, to any other tractor company, to try to do what we did. As long as all funds raised go to a charity organisation, we’ll take them on over a similar run, as we’re ready to prove how strong and reliable Indo Trak tractors really are. To contribute to CANSA contact Billy van der Mescht at Indo Trak on (011) 956 6257 or 072 200 7782, or e-mail [email protected]. |fw