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Duncan Quinn

Bespoke Suits in the Bush: On Location in Zambia with Duncan Quinn
December 17, 2014
By , Contributor

At Galavante, what’s always made us unique is you, our Working Jet Setters.  We are the only travel resource where every single one of our recommendations comes from the bankers, lawyers, entrepreneurs and other professionals, who curate the heck out of every single destination.  The same level of due diligence we perform at work, we perform with even more exuberance on our travels.  This year, we’ll be launching our Reviews, which will be the top resource to get the inside scoop from others who are purveyors of good taste.  Today, we’d like to start to introduce our Working Jet Setters, and their personal experiences on travels.  We couldn’t think of a better person than man-about-town, Duncan Quinn. 

From the attic of the brilliant mind of Duncan Quinn, Founder of the eponymous men’s bespoke clothing line.

The Locale:  Zambia

The Mission:  The Elephant Charge - a driving race that is essentially nirvana for your adrenal glands.

I was running on two hours of sleep.  But we had bacon, eggs, beer and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world as a backdrop.  What more could any man really want?

It would have been better if the sleep deprivation were due to bedroom acrobatics, but sadly it was more a function of the Concorde no longer flying, and thus a 30-hour journey from New York City to the dark heart of Africa. 

Arguably, you may have to be slightly lacking in faculties to give up the glories of Krug and French fries at Balthazar, for camping in the Zambian bush.  But some things surpass even the finest frites and Clos du Mesnil.  And my philosophy is, without stories to tell, there’s little reason to lubricate and consume.

I’ve never been known to sit around watching life pass me by, so naturally, I decided to embark on an adventure to Lusaka, Zambia to take part in an annual car rally in aid of conservation education, otherwise known as "The Elephant Charge".  The race is an extreme 4x4 rally over mixed terrain.  Some of it is like a pleasant game drive.  The rest of the race is a series of, "you have to be kidding me" moments. 

   

 I think about now I should mention that sadly, somewhere along the way, I lost the rest of my US-based team to ill-placed concerns over Ebola.  So I arrived to Lusaka sans car to race, sans teammates and perhaps sans raison. And did I mention that I'd never driven off road before?  Yes, this could have been a recipe for disaster. 

Shortly after I arrived to the race, one of the founding stalwarts, Andy Fleming, greeted me with a cigarette in mouth at 6.30am.  He was every bit the quintessence of the African bush aficionado.  He grabbed the DQ polos I was carrying for the crew, and politely suggested I borrow his brother Mikey's Toyota Landcruiser, which they had used to set the course for the rally.  The last 4x4 I had tested was a Lamborghini Aventador.  So I wasn't exactly the favorite to win.  Or even finish, for that matter. I needn't have worried though.  After much coaching by the expert in residence, Mr. Peter Castle, we had a plan for how to make it home in one piece.

     

Now with a car to drive in the race, all I had to do was find some teammates, which I did with ease after a skinful of Blackbush.  Not exactly the best way to prepare for a 4am wakeup the next day to start the race, where the temperature was set to hit 95 degrees. But effective. 

Bacon and egg sandwich and coffee in hand, Mikey Fleming put the car into "Low-4" for me and we set off with our designated convoy to our starting point.  From there we had a map of checkpoints, a GPS  and eight hours to make it back to where we started using the shortest route possible.

It all sounds straightforward enough.  Until you are straddling a gully with a 50-degree hill with serious camber on a corner covered in trees ahead of you, followed by a death defying 70-degree descent into a river through dense brush and trees (they didn't call it "K2" for nothing).  Don't forget the rocks as soon as you arrive in the river, and the fact that you need to make it through the two flagged boxes to avoid penalties before you get to the checkpoint.

We ended up fine going down the slope.  Heart in throat and rapidly filled incontinence pants, sure.  But fine. It was more the bloody great rock we clanged into as we landed in the river that was the problem.  Luckily Mr. Castle was there at the ready, along with a couple of local friends.  So we winched the car out from trouble only to beach it on another rock.  After letting down the tires for grip and with much jumping up and down in the back, we caught grip and made it a few more feet.  Our next plan went awry and I ended up precariously balanced at 45 degrees with the wheels lodged and my head about a foot from the water.  So much for the missive about not rolling the car.  The roll-cage is great and all, but I would imagine it doesn't help much when you are strapped in under water with the car upside down.

 

        

So there was nothing left to do but to turn into it, and give the throttle the full beans to pull the car around.  Which it did.  Bloody hell.  Another new set of undies required. After that, winching out of the river past the second flag was almost a formality.

The crowds laughed and cheered us on as we collected our check-in mark, and headed up the next obstacle hell bent on grabbing a beer to take the edge off at the next checkpoint.

We finished.  In time. It was by the skin of our teeth after a last minute dash to return to our starting point.  But we finished all the same.  Which is more than can be said for many of the more experienced crews.  Aside from taking out a few trees, losing our fuel cap, rearranging a few panels, and losing the exhaust muffler, we came through it unscathed.

Last I heard we came in fifth out of 15 cars, and won best newcomer.  But I had to run off leaving the festivities behind to make my way back to NYC. So I'll have to find out next year when team DQ returns, to reprise our run and improve upon it.  And yet again help the Elephant Charge raise money for great conservation causes.

              

Maybe we'll throw a DQ black tie dinner party.  With Krug champagne.  Who knows?

Either way, you should come.  Your grandchildren will thank you, as you'll have another story of daring do.

Epitaph

On a personal note, (besides my entire personal story here in print) I'd like to thank Julia Tunney, Mickey and Andy Fleming, Peter Castle and all the Elephant Charge crew for their incredible hospitality.