Land Rover Defender expedition: An Icon with a cause

Posted on 24 February 2021

A Land Rover Defender expedition navigating the Western Cape’s backroads benefits local communities along the dusty way.

Up ahead, the gravel road to the Cederberg meanders into the afternoon haze, like an adder slithering lazily out of sight. This route option, entering the pristine wilderness area from the south, is by far my favourite, 
especially at dawn or dusk. Warm light dances off craggy cliff faces and gnarled rocks, enhancing the red and orange hues with a rich vibrancy.

This journey’s a special one, for myriad reasons. I’m returning to one of my favourite stamping grounds – check. Our dinner companions will include explorer-humanitarian Kingsley Holgate, his son Ross and their crew, and no doubt an outflowing of fireside stories of their epic adventures – check. I’m behind the wheel of what surely has to be the most iconic off-road vehicle ever created, in its newly reimagined guise – check.

Up until now I’ve only seen fleeting glances of the new Land Rover Defender. Now I’m driving one.

he excited 
children at Grootkloof Primary in the 
Cederberg receiving their care packages.

There’s deeper motivation for our trip. Our ‘Defender Mzansi Expedition’ is but a mini odyssey, stitched into the middle 
of the Kingsley Holgate Foundation’s prodigious ‘Mzansi Edge’ undertaking. As the name suggests, their’s is an epic journey tracing the entire perimeter of South Africa – with a lap of Lesotho thrown in for good measure – lasting 70 days and 10 000km. But covering kilometres just for the fun of it isn’t how Kingsley and his crew roll. Their mission is to deliver more than 200 000 nutritional meals, face masks and bars of sanitising soap along the way to communities affected by the global health crisis, most of whom live alongside remote game reserves and wilderness areas. Joining up with them to help distribute aid parcels to two schools in this district is our objective, as well as taking the new Defender along some of the best gravel roads the Western Cape has to offer.

We swing into Kromrivier as the sun flirts with 
the western horizon, and my milkshake from 
Wonderlike Koffiewinkel en Geskenke in Op-Die-Berg from earlier now feels like a distant memory. My 
stomach’s growling but luckily dinner isn’t far off.

Kromrivier is the oldest and arguably most scenic farm in the district. Not only is it still a functioning farm but also a haven for travellers – campers, hikers, rock climbers or those just needing a break from the city. Incredibly, considering the area’s aridness, the river from which the farm derives its name has never stopped flowing in all the years it’s been in the 
Nieuwoudt family. And we’re talking 1856, almost 170 years ago. Music to my ears is that this special 
water is now used in the onsite brewing of some of the best beer you’ll ever taste in the eastern hemisphere.

Behind the wheel of a new Land Rover Defender you’ll 
be able to tackle 
almost any terrain 
you encounter

Comfort-kos fit for royalty soon flows from the kitchen, and before long we’re sitting sated around the campfire, captivated by tales from Kingsley and his team, as their traditional ‘talking stick’ is passed from crew member to crew member. By their standards I’m a novice traveller, and like a dry sponge I soak up all the information they share, archives of knowledge gained from countless 
adventures to every corner of the African continent.

The next morning it’s game-time, as our line of dusty Defenders snakes its way northwards through the Cederberg. We pass CapeNature’s Algeria camp, then turn into Grootkloof Primary School, the modest building already shimmering in the morning heat. With the mercury edging into the mid-30s, sweat streams off me as we heave donated packages from the Landy’s roof rack, but the ripple of smiles from the excited recipients makes me forget about the heat. It’s moving seeing what a big difference such a small contribution can make, but even more powerful is the indelible 
optimism that radiates from these young children.

Smiling faces and clapping hands 
greeted us at Hexrivier Primary School.

We exit the Cederberg via Nieuwoudts Pass, then stop briefly on the banks of the Olifants River, where a splash of water is added to Kingsley’s symbolic Zulu calabash. Its first contents were sourced from Kosi Bay at the journey’s outset, on the border between South Africa and Mozambique. Throughout ‘Mzansi Edge’ water has been added, all of which will be ultimately poured back into Kosi Bay, a gesture symbolising unity of all the regions of our country.

Children and community members welcome our convoy of Defenders at Hexrivier Primary School. Impervious to the heat, chatter is vibrant and their appreciation for the provisions palpable, but deep down I think it’s me that gains more reward from 
the experience, witnessing first-hand the fruits of human kindness.

While entering the Cederberg from the north-west edge (from the tarred N7) makes sense, the gravel road from the south is just so much better.

As our Defender Mzansi Expedition edges to its endpoint, navigating back roads to the coastal 
villages of Lambert’s Bay and Paternoster, then through the farmlands of Darling, it strikes me how travel and adventure needn’t be selfish acts. There are so many ways, big and small, in which you can give back to the areas and communities along the way, while still fully indulging your wanderlust. Plan, and then do – that’s all it takes.

Africa’s most well-travelled man
‘Our journey with the Defenders started in Kosi Bay, with the 
dipping of the calabash into the ocean,’ says 
explorer-humanitarian Kingsley Holgate. ‘We then followed the land border, tracing the 
outline of South Africa, visiting some of the most remote mountain ranges, gorges and 
reserves imaginable. But our primary mission is to deliver nutritional meals to rural families bordering wildlife areas, who have been heavily impacted by the loss of tourism income.’

Where to stay

Cederberg Park Kromriver is a 
good choice when visiting this ancient mountain range. There are luxury chalets and 
campsites, and 
permanent tents are being built along the river. 
Hiking is world class, as are the rock-climbing routes nearby. Chalets from 
R1 900 to R3 400 
(for six). Camping 
from R200. 
Western Cape.

Cederberg Park Kromrivier

A stay at 
Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel makes a visit to the quaint seaside village of Paternoster even more enjoyable. Many of the spacious suites face the ocean while the onsite restaurant serves delicious cuisine. From R3 050 for a Courtyard Room (double) 
in low season, up to R9 200 for an Ocean Suite (double) in peak season. 
Dick Clarke Street, Paternoster.

Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, Paternoster

Motoring Match up

Road Trip motoring

Land Rover Defender D240 S

In summary, the hype around the launch of 
the new icon was not unwarranted. While paying tribute to its heritage, the new Defender is ground-breaking in every way. 
It is costly, though.

177kW @ 4 000r/min
500Nm @ 1 500–2 500r/min

Service Plan
Five-year/100 000km

From R1 065 142

Contender 1

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

A more capable off-roader you’ll struggle 
to find, yet some may baulk at this Jeep’s 
on-road performance. There’s only one engine option, too: a 3.6-litre V6. Still, it looks 
so darn good.

209kW @ 6 400r/min
347Nm @ 4 100r/min

Service Plan
Three-year/100 000km

From R919 719

Contender 2

Toyota Land Cruiser Prado 2.8GD TX

Recent engine and aesthetic upgrades make the Prado an appealing prospect. It’s capable, comfortable, and just as at home 
on tar as it is deep in the desert, or bush.

150kW @ 3 000–
3 400r/min
500Nm @ 1 600–
2 800r/min

Service Plan
Nine services/90 000km

From R939 900

Words: Mark Samuel | 
Photos: Mark Samuel & Jaguar Land Rover SA

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