‘What matters most is the children are still running, still competing and showing their Pembroke grit’
The Safari Rally was first held in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
Now part of the FIA World Rally Championships, the Safari Rally is held here in the Rift Valley and regarded as the toughest leg of the championships and arguably the most thrilling.
The drivers compete over three days, through Hell’s Gate, along the shores of Lake Naivasha and in the Soysambu conservancy. As the cars race over the rough terrain, leaving plumes of dust in their wake, past curious wildlife and avid spectators, the cars are followed closely by the low flying helicopters shadowing & filming every tight turn at top speed.
One of the most accomplished drivers on the circuit and five times winner, ‘Flash Tundo’ is himself an Old Pembrokian and now current parent.
This annual Safari Rally spectacle is however, somewhat overshadowed by Pembroke House’s own ‘dinky’ safari rally. Not to be outdone, the dinky safari has become an annual fixture in the school calendar and draws as much excitement.
For the preceding weeks, the children start ‘teaming up’ and designing their own safari cars. Next comes the building stage and strict criteria to adhere to – with penalties for those cars that don’t cut the correct measurements, weight or clearance. Then there is the team name to consider, from the ‘Flying Flaming Martlet’ to the ‘Wonky Dinky Donkey’!
The dinky safari is taken very seriously and so every child takes time practising around the school during break times, carefully dragging their car around the tracks, getting used to their vehicle and figuring out how best to get the competitive edge.
First comes the ‘night’ stage when the children gather, head torches on and ready to start their timed laps. Setting off at intervals and with a Y8 or teacher allocated to count every ‘tipple’ (when the car falls or tips over resulting in a penalty point) the teams head off down over the railway track, around the sports pitches and back up to the school, following a path of candles used to guide their path. It’s a beautiful display yet slightly bonkers all at the same time.
Next comes the day stage when the entire school meets around the swimming pool. The parents are gathered; the teams are gearing up for the race ahead. The race starts by first carefully crossing a narrow bridge laid out across the pool itself and once on dry land, off the teams’ dart.
This stage of the race takes the children not only around the pitches but off over the adjoining golf course and finally back into the school grounds after a gruelling 3km. By this point, it’s organised chaos as the children are hot, dressed up in wacky glasses or wigs and are hyped up at each checkpoint. Each station is manned by a team of willing parents, staff or recent leavers who have come back to feel part of the fun. Some stations offer refreshing fruit, others reward the children with sweets and some simply soak the children with giant water pistols.
We’re not sure all the rules are adhered to at this point or that every tipple is accurately noted down yet what matters most is the children are still running, still competing and showing their Pembroke grit.
When it comes to the awards ceremony and podium triumphs (the fastest; the best build; the most outlandish team name) the children are exhausted but clearly will never forget this quirkiest of events in their Prep School list of accomplishments.