Made for the wild

“The sun is bright. In fact, so bright that I struggle to see out of the front window, thanks to the dust of the Ford Rangers in the convoy in front of us. We’re seriously climbing up this mountain over rocks and ridges…”

“A train to our hotel?” the question comes unanimously from multiple people just as we turn into the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George. An old steam locomotive stands his ground pridefully, chuffed with the thousands of passengers he brought to their destinations in the years of yore. If this was a Cars movie, he’d surely be a soft-hearted grandpa character.

Upon our entry, more trains await inside the building. We have some time to walk around as we wait for the rest of the media party to arrive. Then we make our way to the Outeniqua Power Van which usually makes its way all the way up the Outeniqua Mountain pass. We, however, enjoy the beautiful scenery of George only for a short stretch and don’t do much upward climbing with the van but it a mesmerising experience nonetheless.

We come to a stop in the middle of the tracks and next to the railway we see some of the Ford team waiting with Rangers and vans. We hop off, some more elegantly than others, and make our way to Oubaai Hotel.

Tomorrow would be the day that we see what the new Ford Ranger is truly capable of, so we put our excitement on hold for just a bit longer. 

Power van

The sun is bright. In fact, so bright that I struggle to see out of the front window, thanks to the dust of the Ford Rangers in the convoy in front of us. We’re seriously climbing up this mountain over rocks and ridges and every now and then I sigh with relief when I see a Ford team member stationed at particularly tricky spot, guiding me over it with this beast of a bakkie. Needless to say, nerves are unnecessary passengers, seeing that the new Ranger is a more-than-capable vehicle, offering 230mm of ground clearance and up to 800mm of water wading depth. 

Ranger

To my left, I see not only my co-driver’s slightly contained nervous face, but also the velvety green mountains and valleys, marked with black scars here and there thanks to the horrible fires that ensued not so long ago in the George area. I quickly realise my co-driver gets more nervous when I talk about the mountains instead of the off-road track so I grin on the inside and focus my eyes in front of me. 

Ranger

It’s a slow and steady drive as everyone cautiously makes their way up the mountain – we’re on our way to our lunch spot but before we know it, we are signalled to stop at the peak of the mountain. The Ford team packs out camping chairs and within seconds, cooler boxes with refreshing cooldrinks magically appear. Why would you not want to stop, take a moment, have a cooldrink and take a couple hundred Insta-worthy photos?

Ranger launch

I sigh with pure pleasure as I look out over the endless mountains – their peaks sticking out from under the mist. This is Mzansi. South Africa. Basically, my whole heart. And what a privilege to discover new places like this that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. (Thanks, Ford)

Drivers changed, we head on. As we start our decent, we engage the Hill Descent Control and the car does all the hard work for us – my driving partner simply needs to pilot the vehicle. 

Lunch is at Louvain Guest Farm where we arrive after traversing the rugged mountain. Luckily it’s not the only way to get here. But the Ford team knew all too well that the easy tar road to our lunch destination would be, well, boring.

Louvain is a working farm, situated in the upper Langkloof valley, halfway between George and Uniondale in the Western Cape.

The Langkloof valley is 160km in distance and stretches from Herold, a small village north of George, to Humansdorp near Port Elizabeth. The valley is an important region between the Kammanassie and Kouga mountains on the north and the Outeniqua Mountain range in the south. It also boasts fertile soil for growing fruit.

Our lip-smacking, typical Afrikaans lunch is served under a large marquee tent outside the main house and we have some time to explore the property before we headed off on the final leg of our road trip.

Apart from its homey self-catering cottages, Louvain is also a wedding destination – complete with the farm’s original chapel still intact and tranquil as ever.

Louvain

If not for a wedding, it’s also a fabulous destination for a weekend getaway. Outdoor activities on offer include hiking, mountain biking, bird watching and 4×4 trials, among others.

After lunch, we head on to the airport via the tar road and we see another side of the Ranger. It can totally be a chilled day-to-day vehicle as well. What I find particularly impressive is the suspension update which has improved ride comfort substantially and then also the noise cancelling technology inside the cabin.

While it’s all cool and rugged, okay, and maybe practical, to drive a bakkie in town (depending on what you do for a living and how many dogs or surfboards you have), a proper bakkie like the new Ford Ranger (that makes you want to 4×4 even if you don’t really 4×4), is something that was made for wild, wonderful, off-road tracks. 

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

Louvain Guest Farm: South Cape DC, Upper Langkloof , George

Oubaai Hotel: 406 Herolds Bay Road, George, Western Cape, 6528, South Africa

New Ford Ranger fast facts:

  • Ford Ranger Wildtrak comes with a new 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel engine: Power 157kW and torque 500Nm
  • Ford Ranger XLT comes with a new 2.0-litre (single) turbodiesel engine: Power 132 kW and torque 420Nm
  • Transmission: 10-speed
  • All models come standard with Ford Protect, which includes a 4-year/120,000km comprehensive warranty, 3-year/unlimited distance roadside assistance and 5-year/unlimited km corrosion warranty.
  • Price: R287,100-R678,200

Ilse van den Berg

Ilse is a freelance writer and editor (@WordUp) with a passion for people and their stories and experiencing different cultures and places as she travels. View her online portfolio here and follow her on Twitter (@ilse_vdberg) and Instagram (@ilse_vdberg).