I am not particularly knowledgeable about Land Rovers (there is an understatement!)so before going too far Laura and I thought it might be a good idea to try to gain some exposure by going to South Africa and trying it out. We rented a 2005 Defender from Bushlore, an expedition outfitting company, and took it from Johannesburg in the north-east part of the country and down through Lesotho and back. It was slow, noisy, and wonderfully functional. We had a tent on the roof, propane tanks installed on the rear, a good fridge and lots of kitchen gear stowed in a drawer system inside.
We were most impressed by its road worthiness. In this big, heavily laden vehicle with a relatively small 2.5 Litre diesel engine we climbed the 3,000 metre Sani pass up into the Drakensberg range between South Africa and Lesotho, which is also known as the “mountain kingdom”, on a road that is not really a road at all, rather a very rough steep, track, full of quite tight hairpin turns. As we ascended this valley bounded on both sides by cliffs we honestly could not figure out where the road was going to go to get us out of the steeply walled valley, until we realized we were just going to go over the top.
The road just gets steeper and kind of transforms into a scree slope with tracks until you emerge out the top. Voici lepass. Driving our Defender 110 up that mountain was a delight, it simply clambered up the 40 degree slope, made all the tight, switchback turns and kept going, past other vehicles that had stopped dead in their tracks and were being pulled, by other Land Rovers. In 4WD low it felt as if we could climb straight up. Unfortunately we did not think to take pictures of the road when it really got tough.
When we reached the summit there were only about six other vehicles, all Land Rovers, (I am not joking – there are a lot of Land Rovers in South Africa) parked at the Sani Pass Inn, which bills itself as the highest bar in Africa.