Land Rover AFRICA Magazine - - GEAR -

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!

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