A land conqueror

Bobby Cheetham

GENERAL Motors South Africa decided to test its new Isuzu bakkie range to the extreme by tackling the tough Baviaanskloof. The Baviaans area encompasses the Baviaanskloof and the Karoo towns of Willowmore and Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape.

It is also the gateway to the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve, which is a World Heritage Site.

The area was originally home to San hunter-gatherers and is situated in a narrow valley, just under 200km in length, bounded by two mountain ranges: the Baviaanskloof mountains on the north and the Kouga mountains on the south side.

Leading the convoy of vehicles and motoring journalists from the Port Elizabeth Airport to the Baviaans was former South Africa champion racing driver and now 4×4 expert trainer, Grant McCleery.

McCleery operates the Isuzu Off-Road Academy, which is based at Gerotek outside Pretoria. Experienced instructors at the academy also include Marius van Vuuren and Fanus Kruger – all qualified to facilitate 4×4 courses – and trained in the specific techniques required for safe and effective 4×4 driving. The academy operates a fleet of sixth-generation Isuzu KB double cabs. These include petrol- and diesel-engined versions of the KB240, KB250 and KB300 diesel.

Entering the Baviaans via Willowmore and Steytlerville was the easy part of the trip. First on the list, once in the reserve, was the infamous 4×4 Goat’s Trail, which is an extreme test for driver and vehicle.

After briefly explaining the capabilities of the vehicles and what gear ranges to select, it was off on one of the most challenging 4×4 trails one can experience.

Goat’s Trail is a steep, loose-gravel, twisty narrow track which rises 305m in just 1.5km and it meant selecting low range and diff lock at times.

There is a spectacular drop off the side of the track, at which one colleague joked: “If we go off here by the time we reach the bottom our clothes will be out of fashion!”

After a hot chocolate drink on the chilly, windswept mountain, it was time to descend – which proved just as challenging. The Isuzus coped magnificently and with hardly a hiccup, we parted company with the convoy to spend the night in various farm guesthouses and lodges in the area.

After breakfast the next morning we made our way through the bottom of the valley, criss-crossing the small, crystal-clear stream many times.

The last part of the 4×4 experience was the steep climb out of the valley via the narrowest of gravel tracks. Then it was on to the N2 back to Port Elizabeth.

GM took a chance by choosing one of the most extreme 4×4 environments in South Africa to showcase the Isuzu range and it paid off.

Not a single breakdown, flat tyre or damage to any of the vehicles proved that the Isuzu KB Double Cabs are tough, dependable and well-built vehicles.

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