Mighty Mitsubishi conquers Hell

Bobby Cheetham

AN ICON of the off-road scene, the Mitsubishi Pajero, has just celebrated its 30th anniversary with a trip to hell and back.

The Pajero Legend, now equipped with every possible gadget and gizmo, made the journey to The Hell, near the Swartberg Pass in the Western Cape, a heavenly experience!

Also tackled was an extreme off-road trail the day before near De Rust.

The Hell (population five) is one of those places that must be on the bucket list of serious off-roaders for anyone with a strong vehicle.

Where it gets its name is anyone’s guess.

Some say it’s because it gets as hot as hell there in summer, between 40 and 50°C say locals, or because it’s a heck of a dangerous road to get there.

However, a stock inspector, Piet Botha, is widely credited for the name. He often had to use the steep pass, the “Leer”, to gain access to the kloof in the 1940s.

“Like Hell” was said to be his usual answer if somebody asked him how the trip went.

However, in 1902, the Anglo-Boer soldier Deneys Reitz already referred to the area as “The Hell” in his journal, where he recounted how he hid along with fellow soldiers in the Kloof.

The name was first given to the isolated western corner of the Kloof beyond Kleinberg, and later used for the rest of the area.

And with heat like that, one can forget a trip to the local bottle store for sustenance!

However, as they say in the classics: ‘n boer maak ‘n plan!

At the furthest point deep into the Hell, there’s a quaint old farm house complete with a liquor still.

If it works is anybody’s guess but when we looked at it we detected a very sweet smell or was it just the fragrance from the beautiful trees that were in bloom nearby!

There is a road sign at the dirt road turnoff just below the Swartberg Pass which reads: DANGEROUS ROAD. This road is 40km long and takes about two hours.

It’s virtually cut off from the outside world and there’s no cellphone reception or electricity, except for solar power and generators.

Even the “wild” animals we saw were not afraid of humans.

Two small klipspringers stood a few centimetres away from our vehicle giving us the lazy eye.

No fear or stress on their faces!

The road is single track and once in the mountains one has to keep an eye open for oncoming traffic.

There’s hardly any space to pass, but with careful driving and compromise with the other driver, one can pull over and stop and allow the vehicle to pass.

But be warned, never attempt to drive to the Hell in the dark. It’s just too dangerous.

The drop-off into the valley below is very deep and as one of my friends, Brian Halgreen, once said: “It’s so far to the bottom that one’s clothes will be out of fashion by the time you reach the bottom.”

What is it?

The Pajero Legend is a limited edition vehicle based on the 3.2Di-D GLX specification.

The very impressive 4×4 system is specially specified for extreme off-road performance and also includes ASTC (active stability and traction control).

The Super Select 4WD system has low range, centre differential lock and rear differential lock – all electronically operated.

What is more is the system allows shift on the fly – meaning that the change to 4WD mode can be done at speeds of up to 100km/h.

This is combined with the high torque 3.2 litre diesel engine which produces 140kW at 3800rpm and 441Nm at 2000rpm and a towing capacity of 3300kg (Braked). Over 90% of this torque is available at 2000 rpm.

How does it look?

Pajero, unlike many other models, is slow to change its look and styling and is looking old.

A new- look Pajero would certainly be welcome.

What’s it like to drive?

In spite of its aging looks, the Pajero is among the best in off-road conditions.

We tackled (and completed without any mishaps) an off-road course outside De Rust which is rated 5 (the maximum) by bush busters on the first day and then the dangerous The Hell the next day without much difficulty, which says a lot for the vehicle.

Any special features?

Plenty! Over R120000 worth of extras have been packed in this limited off-roader.

This includes a nudge bar, LED spot lamps, tow bar, rock sliders and under-body protection plates.

There is also branded heavy duty seat covers and an air snorkel, A/T tyres plus a tyre monitor and a Garmin GPS.

For recovering other vehicles on your trips there are a high lift jack, spade and full recovery kit.

Of course every adventure man needs to then set up camp and the Legend comes with a roof rack fitted with a table, gas bottle and two jerry cans for diesel or water, air compressor, dual battery system, Luna 50-litre freezer strapped in place and two heavy-duty soft-arm camping chairs.

Should you buy one?

Yes, but at the price of R619900 it’s an expensive vehicle … but quality and reliability don’t come cheap!

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