Hid­den Gems to Ex­plore

BMW is tout­ing its first-ever X2 as a Sports Ac­tiv­ity Coupé; a style leader in the com­pact cross­over/suv mar­ket. But is it re­ally a X-model? We took it on a 4 000 km long road trip to the soft sand of Pel­i­can Point in Walvis Bay, Namibia, to find out …

Road Trip - - CONTENTS - Story by Ferdi de Vos | Cap­tured by Ryan Ab­bott | TCB Me­dia

Pel­i­can Point: A brief his­tory

Home to an abun­dance of birdlife, ma­rine an­i­mals, and salt pans, this unique, re­mote stretch of land known as Pel­i­can Point is dom­i­nated by the guardian of Walvis Bay

– a 30,7-me­ter tall tower that has served its pur­pose as a nav­i­ga­tional aid well for sev­eral years. The light­house on the long sandy penin­sula that shel­ters the bay is not sit­u­ated at the edge of Pel­i­can Point as one would ex­pect. This is be­cause the spit which ex­tends into the sea for about nine kilo­me­tres has ex­panded fur­ther North by al­most two kilo­me­tres over the past cen­tury.

The first bea­con on Pel­i­can Point was es­tab­lished in June 1915 by South African troops af­ter they re­cap­tured Walvis Bay from the Ger­man Schutztruppe dur­ing World War I and con­sisted of a small au­to­matic acety­lene gas lantern, mounted on a wooden pile driven into the sand. In 1932 the cur­rent pre­fab­ri­cated cast-iron tower, orig­i­nally or­dered for use at Dur­ban on the East coast of South Africa, was in­stalled at Walvis Bay, then un­der South African ad­min­is­tra­tion. As Walvis Bay grew in size and ship­ping ac­tiv­ity in­creased how­ever, the ex­ist­ing light source was re­placed by a big­ger gas lantern in 1955, and in 1961 a much more pow­er­ful lamp was in­stalled. The tower was up­graded fur­ther with an au­to­matic re­volv­ing pedestal, a ra­dio bea­con, and a mod­ern elec­tric fog sig­nal in 1971. A pe­cu­liar­ity of the tower is its coat­ing. It was ini­tially painted grey, but mariners com­plained it was not clearly vis­i­ble in day­time, es­pe­cially dur­ing the pre­vail­ing misty con­di­tions. Ex­per­i­ments with sev­eral colour schemes was done, and even­tu­ally it was painted in a com­bi­na­tion of black and white, which proved to stand out the best. Over the years the bea­con may have lost some of its nav­i­ga­tional sig­nif­i­cance, but it has not for­feited its ap­peal as the sen­tinel hold­ing watch over the la­goon in Walvis Bay.

But, in the process we did man­age to beach the X2 on top of some deep, churned-out ruts ... It took quite a while, and a Land Cruiser Prado, to free it from the sandy trap.

The sounds of seals and the call of sea birds woke us up the next morn­ing, and af­ter a hearty break­fast we set out ex­plor­ing Walvis Bay and sur­rounds be­fore re­turn­ing to Swakop­mund. Our stay at Pel­i­can Point Lodge was me­morable, as it of­fers the ad­ven­tur­ous trav­eller look­ing for some­thing dif­fer­ent a unique op­por­tu­nity to get com­pletely im­mersed in the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment of the Namib­ian coast­line.

RAIN ON THE PLAINS

Our jour­ney started two days ear­lier in Cape Town, and af­ter overnighted at Grü­nau – 140 km North of the Namib­ian bor­der – we tra­versed the never-end­ing stretches of road lead­ing past Keet­man­shoop, Mari­en­thal, and Re­hoboth. Here the X2 was in its el­e­ment. The slick­ness of its 2.0-litre Twinpower Turbo en­gine and dual-clutch

trans­mis­sion im­pressed, and on the smooth road sur­faces its ride qual­ity was com­fort­able. De­liv­er­ing 140 kw and a mus­cu­lar 400 Nm of torque it was easy to over­take, and with the drive mode se­lec­tor in Eco it sipped only 5.2 litres of diesel per 100 km.

On the road from Wind­hoek to Swakop­mund we again ap­pre­ci­ated the comfy in­te­rior, with dash and cabin lay­out rem­i­nis­cent of the X1 and X3, mul­ti­func­tion steer­ing wheel and op­tional Head-up Dis­play, while the pre­mium sound sys­tem was belt­ing out old and new road trip favourites …

On­wards from Re­hoboth the coun­try­side was lush and green af­ter some good rain, and close to Omaruru we even drove through a thun­der­storm. Here we en­coun­tered road­works and on some of the badly rip­pled sur­faces the ride in the X2 was quite hard, even in com­fort mode. Near Usakos, next to the Spitzkoppe, the clouds cleared, but this quickly changed as we got closer to the coast, and we en­tered a misty, cool Swakop­mund. With its bold and ex­tro­vert styling the X2 looked right at home next to the ar­chi­tec­ture of Swakop­mund.

On our 4 000 km odyssey with the X2 we did es­tab­lish that this coupé-like X-car was a com­fort­able long-dis­tance cruiser, and while it per­formed ad­mirably in the sand, it was not re­ally suit­able for rough roads and sand driv­ing –

mainly due to its low ride-height, low front de­sign, big rims, and low-pro­file tyres. In this sense, to my mind, it is not a real X-model, but rather a make-over of the 2-Se­ries Ac­tive Tourer with a bet­ter­look­ing body kit. So, if sand and rough dirt roads are on your road trip itin­er­ary, stick to an X1, or bet­ter still, an X3.

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