a review by Nalini Haynes
‘The Great African Adventure’ is a mockumentary; comedy with cars and three of the Barmy Army. The Beeb says, ‘Clarkson, Hammond and May saddle up three tired old estate cars and set off to find the source of the Nile’ in this episode of Top Gear.
In the opening scene the trio pull up in their second-hand cars, two station wagons and a hatch back, apparently called ‘estate cars’ and all costing under 1500 pounds (British currency). While they Barmy Army bicker good-naturedly at the starting area, the locals stare at them as if to say ‘WTF?! These white guys are INSANE!’
I’m not a car person so I made a point of writing down the makes of the cars: a Volvo, a Beamer and a Subaru. The Volvo kept scraping the road, the Beamer had throttle issues really early on and, after heroically towing the other two cars out of trouble, the Subaru’s thingummy holding the wheel to the axle eventually gave out. I thought it was interesting that the brand with the least prestige was the most suited to the terrain. Woot! I sound like I akshully know something about cars!
You may be forgiven for assuming this was an actual documentary, but the mockumentary part kicks in very early on.
The trio are given instructions to find the source of the Nile river, which has eluded scientific experts to date and been the cause of much debate. So these petrol heads are going to locate the source within the space of a double episode on TV? Yeah, right.
They head off to Lake Victoria and arrive within the first five minutes of their journey (on TV). That was too easy so now they’re suddenly all eddycated and KNOW STUFF about the hunt for the source of the Nile and how it needs to be the other side of the lake from the Straits of Gibraltar, with rather flimsy justification.
So they set out on a road trip.
It’s fun, they diss each other all the way, using two-way radios when they aren’t actually within normal speaking insulting distance.
Hotels were pretty disgusting so they built features for the cars and slept in them. The Subaru hatch had a sofa chair on the roof, a bed and kitchenette inside. The Volvo had a toilet seat hanging off the window (as if the door would survive a single use!) and a combined bedroom/workshop in the back. The Beamer was all fluffy white doona and bedding that inevitably changed colour but its saving grace was a fridge filled with beer.
The Volvo bottoms out ALL THE TIME, and loses the bit that is supposed to protect the underside of the car from scraping along the road. So, as you do, the Volvo driver pinches a bit of metal (a LARGE bit of metal) from the passenger door of the Beamer. At night, while the Beamer driver is either sitting around the campfire or asleep in his bed.
That bit of thievery caused great hilarity among the team so they escalated. The results were really funny.
Like I said: MOCKUMENTARY.
The only time I recall intentionally sitting down to watch Top Gear before this was when it featured some actors from Doctor Who. ‘The Great African Adventure’ was funny and I learned a few things, including that Subarus are better than Volvos and Beamers for African road trips. And the Chinese give great roads. I enjoyed this in spite of not being a car person and not being a regular viewer of Top Gear, so the ‘Great African Adventure’ has really broad appeal. Recommended*.
*I suspect this will be best enjoyed with rowdy friends forming a peanut gallery. Serve the alcoholic beverage of your choice. (I watched alone. [sniff])