The Africa Special is a Top Gear special in which Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May attempt to find the true source of the River Nile in secondhand estate cars on a budget. It was the first special in Top Gear history to be split into two parts and air across two episodes, airing as the sixth and seventh episodes in the nineteenth series. The team traveled through Central Africa to achieve this goal, starting in Uganda and travelling through Rwanda to reach their final destination in Tanzania. The special was originally slated as a Christmas special for 2012 and was filmed in the same year, however it was pushed back and aired in 2013 instead.
Jeremy: BMW 528i Touring
Richard: Subaru WRX Estate
James: Volvo 850R Wagon
Jeremy was the first to arive at the meeting point in a village in rural Uganda. Jeremy's choice of car was a BMW 528i Touring and he talked about the tires, the back tires are made by a company he never heard of. Richard Hammond soon arrives in a Subaru Impreza Sportwagon WRX and they talk about how his age, that he doesn't have grey hair and the way he was dressed. James arrived last in a Volvo 850R Wagon, with very low tires that the other two mock thinking they are not tires. They soon start arguing until their first challenge arrived by a producer. To find the true source of the River Nile. As they drive off, James scratches his front bumper on his Volvo. Jeremy explained about the River Nile but soon apologizes for interrupting himself as they soon faced a problem. They have ended up at Lake Victoria, which was named the true source of the River Nile for years. As they argued about the time, a producer gave Hammond a letter saying Lake Victoria isn't the true source and that Lake Victoria is fed by many rivers, one of which is the true source. They check their map and see that Burundi or Rwanda are possible sources. So to determine the lakes are joined, they make their way to the lakes. During their drive in Uganda and talking about the cars, police cars pass the trio and Clarkson explains a few rules about Uganda: "Number one, if you're a male homosexual and you indulge in your homosexuality, it's life imprisonment. That's very important to know. Also, it is compulsory here for motorcyclists to wear crash helmets, unless you are a woman on her way back from the hairdressers. Then you are allowed to wear a carrier bag on your head instead." Clarkson laughingly promises the carrier bag on head thing is true.
As they keep driving, the producers tell them to stop at the still bullet-scarred Entebbe Airport. In 1976, Israeli special forces staged a daring operation to rescue passengers from a hijacked airline. As they make their way up to the balcony, they see a Ford Scorpio Ghia Estate and discover it is the back-up car. As they try to leave, Clarkson's BMW's throttle suddenly fails. After getting them fixed (didn't work) by gently knocking the engine bits with a hammer, they make their way to the lakes but soon end up in Uganda's capital city, Kampala. In Kampala, they get stuck in a very big traffic jam. While waiting in the jam, Jeremy buys a basket full of bananas and was amazed at how the woman would carry that much weight on her head.
It took all night to try and get through the traffic jam and along the way and buying breakfast, they finally get out of the jam and get onto Chinese-made roads. They soon end up in Jezza (which coincidentally shares its name with Clarkson's nickname) and stop for a while. In an attempt to make sure the Impreza isn't big enough, the boys buy Richard a gift (a chair). As Hammond puts the chair in, they still talk about Hammond's hair and age. After getting the gift (partly) inside, they leave Jezza and end up on a road of speed bumps. May and Clarkson are sick of it but since Hammond's car is lighter and 4 wheel drive, he feels fine from it. Many miles later, they end up in a town with a hotel while it was raining. Being disgusted by the rooms, Clarkson has Hammond stay in Room 2 while Clarkson had a room for himself. But soon, he sees his bed has feces on the mattress, causing Clarkson to yell at Hammond from his room.
The next morning, desperate to redeem himself, Hammond called for an emergency breakfast meeting and says they should turn their cars into mobile homes. They split up and get stuff to turn their cars into mobile homes. During their supply purchasing, Hammond nearly causes a motorbike to crash but backs away very quickly, Clarkson's white cotton material gets dirty when he tries to balance it on his head but it falls off and gets dirty, causing nearby women to laugh at him.
After purchasing the stuff and modifying them, they unveil their cars. Richard turned his Impreza into a small kitchen and has a mattress with leopard skin blankets and had placed his chair on the roof of his car (as his upstairs sitting room), May has turned his Volvo into a library and workshop and has a bed which the blankets that might itch and Clarkson added a toilet seat, working shower and fridge (the fridge runs off the cigarette lighter) and his boot door's automatic release is broken so he has to do it manually, he also bought a coffin to put his stuff in while sleeping in an Egyptian cotton sheeted bed. But Clarkson's car won't start because the fridge murdered the battery and they wait until it has revived.
Along the way, Clarkson reveals that when he brakes, his curtain shuts. Continuing on, Clarkson reveals that the cameramen have trouble when not filming cars. Upon seeing an elephant and telling Jeremy about it, he and James insult an old TV show that Richard hosted and Hammond keeps telling them to shut up. They make it to Lake Edward and stop for the night. During the drive, Hammond's kitchen was made a mess but he cleans it up and May's bed was soon out of alignment but he fixes it. As they watch the sun go down while sipping Clarkson's beer from his fridge, Hammond cooks dinner, which is baked beans and they soon turn in for the night.
The next morning, Clarkson was forced to eat beans again for breakfast and his car had to be mended again, they talk about the map and soon before they leave, they pretend to write a letter to Richard's wife and soon drive off, but along the way, James lost his skid plate. Continuing on, James had to stop as his back gave him a lot of pain, not wanting to waste time, Hammond and Clarkson leave him behind and Hammond pretends to write a letter to James' mother and lies that he wrestled a lion. Hammond and Clarkson look at the lakes and see they go east, along the way, "Captain Backache" caught up and they resumed the lake directions. Upon seeing the last one is going southeast, they scrap the theory about the lakes being connected, that night at camp, Clarkson calls James and Richard over to him, with Hammond accidentally leaving his pot unattended, they look at the maps further.
The next morning, while the crew were waiting to use Clarkson's toilet, Hammond cooked breakfast and 'accidentally' sets fire to a sock and James fits on a piece of scrap metal to replace his skid plate. Seeing too much feces from the side of his car, Clarkson yells in his megaphone that he refuses to have anyone use his car as a toilet anymore. May reveals he stole a piece of Clarkson's door to replace the skid plate and it is working well. Along the way, Clarkson and May pretend they are stuck and Hammond stops and Clarkson soon accelerates, causing mud on Hammond's windshield. Despite that trap, they keep going to the border of Rwanda, with Clarkson's megaphone playing Toto's Africa.
They soon come up to a muddy path which is a problem for May and Clarkson's cars as they are heavier but Hammond's is easy. Then all of a sudden May's car gets stuck and Hammond comes back to help. But while helping him, a branch breaks off and smashes into Clarkson's car, cracking the wind shield. As Hammond pulls James free, Clarkson lectures to a few locals, who came and saw the whole thing, on his theories of off-road driving. Clarkson's car soon gets stuck and the locals help him out and "build" a new road while Hammond worries about them being bare-footed. After giving them a reward for helping before soon discovering they were Ugandan army trainees. Clarkson continues on with the others and along the way, May or Clarkson get stuck and Hammond had to help them out.
Then Clarkson finally notices the door was ripped and he first asked Hammond about it, but he reminds him who has the tools and Clarkson soon finds out. James May. While heading over to question him, Clarkson finds his door piece was used to replace May's skid plate and refuses to help him out of a ditch. Despite the anger, they manage to get out and Clarkson couldn't stop because his handbrake was now jammed and there was 500 miles to go.
As dawn drove on, James May's yelling ruins the quiet and peaceful morning. Jeremy Clarkson had stolen a big piece of May's bonnet to fix the hole in his door. As well as 'fixing' the door, Clarkson added a log, tied to the back of his car for a new handbrake. As they drive along, Richard Hammond says the theft wasn't a proper job. May angrily says the job left it very hard and that it was done with a knife and fork by the Council, not square, not neat, waste of material, left sharp edges and all bent. He doesn't mind the bonnet stolen but yells at the "Ham-fisted oaf" for not having the right tools, Clarkson couldn't find any and May reminds him the back of his Volvo is filled with tools, calling him a tool and gives him a lecture about tin snips. Hearing enough, Clarkson hangs up and upon getting to a up-hill stretch, Clarkson rolls out his log and tries his new handbrake which works well, but forgot to roll it up as it dangles along the road. As they talk about seeing a gorilla, the dangling log soon breaks Clarkson's back window. They are soon forced to pick up the glass shards so the locals don't get cuts on their feet and after cleaning up the mess, they keep going through the amazing view of the mountains.
Along the way, May comments that he is hungry and they manage to get onto Chinese built roads. 50 miles later, they reach the border to Rwanda. Along the way, since they drive on the other side in Rwanda, Hammond and Clarkson are on the right side of the road while May remains left, thinking it is a prank, until an upcoming car makes him turn to the right, causing Clarkson and Hammond to laugh. While continuing on Chinese tarmac, they pass some waving Africans and the trio wave back. After many miles of waving, they end up on the other side of Rwanda and its border with Tanzania. Because they were bored at doing the immigration paperwork, May and Clarkson messed with Hammond's 'SUBARU' sign and changed it to 'U ARSE'.
They soon make camp and May was still mad about his bonnet and has to find a replacement. Clarkson is still mad about his broken window as he managed to get up to 18 million pieces of his glass and wishes it broke in four rather than 19 million as it goes everywhere. While Hammond cooked dinner, Clarkson measured his back window and thinks of something. The next morning, May explains that he found another piece of scrap metal and mended his bonnet. Hammond's bonnet. Hammond was angry when May stole it and decided to steal Clarkson's toilet seat to fix his bonnet and calls the bonnet, the 'Poop Scoop'. Clarkson was angry about losing the seat but stole Hammond's back window and gave the back of Hammond's window some cardboard which causes some problems and Hammond crashes into a ditch. (His car being pulled out wasn't seen). As they make their way, they soon come across a river. In an attempt to find a bridge, Clarkson unveils his invention, the ARU (Aerial Reconnaissance Unit). Clarkson built it at home weeks before and had Hammond pilot it since he had a helicopter license while May looks at the camera and Clarkson controls it. After finding no bridge, they decide to make a raft out of wood, rope and oil drums like the one on the Albanian Road Trip so they can avoid the crocodiles. While getting rope, Clarkson steals the rope from Hammond's chair.
After it was made, Clarkson's BMW was first and they managed to get that to the other side. Hammond's Subaru was next and he chose to reverse in so that the BMW could tow it off and they set off but, the trio get on the left side, sinking the raft a little and they ask Hammond to get in his sitting room, but as Hammond lays a hand on the chair, it falls off and Clarkson confesses he stole the rope as they needed it for the raft and decided to go on the other side. Forced to forget about the chair, Hammond soon notices someone grabbing it and just exclaims 'Enjoy it!' After they get to the other side, Hammond's car soon gets stuck while reversing out and Clarkson pulls him in and plans on using his car to pull the raft, holding May's car. Since the Volvo is too heavy, the raft nearly sinks and Clarkson drags the raft, using his car and nearly sinks it in the river. After getting it to the other side and being shouted at by Hammond and May, he drinks some Coke Zero. After the Volvo gets to the end, they talk as the producers try to get the Ford onto the raft, but since it wasn't secure, it sends the car into the river, much to the trio's amusement and decided to leave them to clear up their mess. As they drive on, the roads they were on, weren't built by the Chinese. There are potholes everywhere and all of a sudden, James hit a pothole so hard that two of his tires were burst. They decide to leave him behind since their back up car is in the river and there is spare wheels on their support truck. While James took them out, he discovered it was more than tire damage. The wheels had shattered and after raiding the support truck for two more, May manages to catch up with Hammond and Clarkson and as they drive in the night, they get caught in a swarm of lake flies, telling them, they were close to Lake Victoria.
At 150 miles, it was too big to make another raft, so they take a ferry, with the lake flies still annoying them. 16 hours later, having to have spent the night on the ferry, they stop at River Gramety where Hammond decided to show the locals his car, but as he drives into the sand, it gets stuck. Forced to leave him, they get off at a proper jetty and back at the beach, Hammond had to get the locals to help him out and after getting out, he had to try and repay them and soon ended up losing his lunch to them. Hammond soon managed to rejoin the others (but in reality he rejoined them instantaneously as the jetty was 10 feet away) and they kept going. May had installed a fan for clean air. They come across a site and look at the map and they think of going 70 more miles and that one source is off road. They soon drive along the Serengeti, animals that the cameramen couldn't properly hold their own cameras again. Clarkson soon sees a zebra and decided to insult Hammond's old TV program again and Hammond tells him to shut up. As they stop to look at the course of their lake, They see some American tourists and after a few minutes of mocking them, they leave and nothing was left to see, except hippos and they continued on for the last few miles of their journey. As they continued on, they stop and find which is the best car and Hammond and Clarkson know theirs wasn't the best and Clarkson says that they are all best. When separate from the others, they each claim that their own car is the best like primary school sports days. Hammond refers to the BMW as "The Fat Kid", the Volvo as 'The Geeky Specky Nerdy Kid' and his own Subaru "The Genuinely Sporty Kid" also finished and finished well. May claims that his Volvo is the best car because it's compromised as it's a family estate pretending to be a BTCC Racing Car and Clarkson says that the BMW is the best because the Volvo has 'been like a seal' and it broke May's back and Hammond's Subaru to be needlessly complicated and the BMW is the familiarity of home in a car as it's a car, a sitting room, a fridge, a bed, a power station that charges up Clarkson's phone every night, etc. They then reach the Serengeti and a very rough road, which Clarkson describes as a true Car-Killer.
One of Clarkson's airbags had been deployed and then Hammond had two punctures, so did Clarkson and May too, but Hammond suffers the worst damage when the lower control arm, which was rusted to begin with, finally snaps apart. He had to try and fix it as the Ford back-up car was no longer available. Clarkson and May discuss what happened to their cars on the road whilst Hammond attempts to mend his Subaru. Jeremy and James decide that the fairest way to determine who 'gets their name in the history books' as the discoverer of the true source of the Nile is to have a race from their current position to the source. They wait at the start line and await the arrival of Hammond with or without his Subaru. When Hammond does eventually arrive Clarkson and May are disappointed with the fact that he had indeed managed to mend his car; they fill him in on their race plans. The three line up on the start line and are given the signal to race by Clarkson. Hammond and James race off while, weirdly, Clarkson drives cautiously his rationale being that he has afraid of getting a puncture. Further up the road May and Hammond battle for the lead with neither being the leader for a long period of time. Eventually Clarkson 'reverts to type' and catches Hammond and May up; all three are then forced off-road onto the Tanzanian savanna to look for the source of the Nile. All three then employ different tactics to find the source of the Nile but eventually they all determine that the source of the Nile should be in a field of boulders at the summit of a nearby hill. The three battle it out on their way to the top with Hammond and May ramming each other and Clarkson attempting to use the music of Genesis to deter Hammond. As they are near the top the suspension of May's Volvo collapses and he is forced to pull over and run into the boulder field. Shortly after, Clarkson and Hammond follow suit, ditching their cars and running into the boulders.
Now in the approximate area of the source of the Nile the three presenters are forced to use their reasoning and logic to determine the source of the Nile. All three quickly discover marks in the ground which they realize marks the existence of a stream. Hammond and Clarkson all race to the top of the hill, following the stream up to the top. May meanwhile decides that the stream does not have to start at the top and starts walking downwards. While Clarkson attempts to chase Hammond down May discovers a small hole in the ground near a series of puddles.
After calling his comrades over, the three declare that they have found the source of the Nile and, as he is the first to find it, James is the official discoverer of the Nile. After pitching a Union Jack and a flag for Top Gear in the surrounding soil the team pose for a photograph by their discovery. The film cuts to the still taken by the camera, the caption reads "James May. Discoverer of the true source of the Nile, and two other blokes".
During the raft build in Part 2, the A-Team theme played in an African sort of sound.
The credits roll in Part 2 had each member of the crew had their name altered with each displaying their surname with "Dr." before and ", I Presume?" afterwards (such as "Dr. Clarkson, I Presume?" and so forth). Presumably as a reference to "Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?"
Damages to the trio's carsEdit
Jeremy's BMW: Throttle was sticky before the trip, piece of the left door was stolen by James May for a new skid plate, brake jammed so he fitted a log which later broke his back window, toilet seat stolen by Richard Hammond to mend his bonnet, airbag deployed on sharp stone roads, BMW badge stolen by James May and replaced with Volvo badge.
Richard's Subaru: His 'Subaru' sign was vandalised by May and Clarkson and turned into 'U ARSE', May later stole his bonnet to mend his own, Clarkson stole his back window and replaced it with cardboard, lower control arm, which was rusted to begin with, finally snaps apart.
James' Volvo: Skid plate lost during drive, Clarkson stole part of his bonnet to fix his door, but did a very improperly theft, suspension collapsed before he discovered the true source of the Nile.