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 …
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.