e’re driving along the long tarred road between Riviersonderend and Swellendam in the Western Cape late on a Friday afternoon. Everyone is anxious to get to our tranquil spot on the Breede River so that we can start relaxing. Someone’s phone starts to ring, interrupting my story for the second time. The positive energy in the car evaporates like mist, and the silence that ensues is such that we can hear the stricken tears falling on the other end of the line. For weeks, my 19-year-old sister had been amping for a boozy weekend of partying up the West Coast with her photography group. She arranged to drive up in our trusty Land Rover Defender Tdi – the obvious choice for its kitted kitchen and rooftop tent. My sister set off on that same dreadful Friday morning with her two friends. The road trip began fantastically. The driving, DJ, and snack distribution duties being assigned between the three of them accordingly. They were about an hour from their final destination in Lambert’s Bay when a sketchy piece of unprecedented gravel announced itself. At this point, they were passing the meek town of Aurora. It took a single pothole for the driver to over-steer, sending the poor Landy barrelling towards a drainage ditch where it proceeded to roll across the dusty terrain. The Landy flipped on its side, on its roof and onto its other side and came to a screeching halt. The dazed occupants were left dangling from their seat belts. “I cannot believe that just happened,” stated one of the passengers. Lucky escape All three girls were miraculously not seriously injured, besides the odd bruises here and there. They managed to escape the wreck through the gaping hole where the windscreen once was. A large group of farmers had stopped to assist as the victims of the pothole slowly removed their luggage and anything else that looked expensive and was still intact from the wreckage. A short five hours later, the legend was once again on its wheels. However, the doors no longer closed, the bull bar was bent against the wheels, and both the windscreen and the rear window were in shards. My parents had never felt more grateful for a Land Rover as they noted the cracks along the roof and pillars, which somehow did not cause the roof to collapse entirely. The true mechanical miracle was that the vehicle still started. Its gearbox was still intact and its wheel alignment almost perfect. After tying doors closed and gearing-up in motorbike goggles and Inuit gear, my dad began the three-hour drive back. It was 01h30 on a brisk six-degree morning when the Landy found its way home, the seats wet from torrential downpours and puddles of melted hail. The car is undeniably a structural writeoff, yet is somehow still completely mechanically sound. We all mourned our Landy quietly. If we were snails, that Defender was our shell – having taken us to Uganda and back. However, I know of no other vehicle that could not only withstand this accident while keeping its occupants safe, but could then be driven for three hours back home. Had it been any other car, the consequences would have been horrendous. Our Landy saved my sister’s life. Buy your kids a Land Rover!