Only two months into the year, GAVIN MYERS set off for the south coast – paying tribute to one of the country’s most legendary vehicles and classic holiday destinations. An enjoyable drive, fine dining, gob-smacking views, and the inevitable sunburn, made it a trip to remember.
I hate sunburn. It always has a way of finding me – no matter how much I lather up, I will get burnt somewhere, somehow. It’s true: our beautiful, sunny weather is one of the many things that make South Africa so attractive.
Despite inevitably looking like a leather handbag, I do love spending time outdoors.
I also love the opportunity to get away (preferably to somewhere sunny, obviously). So, I couldn’t resist when I was given the opportunity to head to the south coast only two months into the year.
Getting there would be no problem, either. I had the perfect vehicle in mind. As the Toyota Hilux celebrated its 45th birthday (yes, 45!) late last year, and the current model is now up for replacement later in the year, this would be the perfect opportunity to give the current generation one last goodbye, while celebrating what is one of the country’s best-selling vehicles – and perhaps the classic South African double-cab bakkie, at that.
Our silver Legend 45 3,0 D-4D 4x4 double cab arrived and we were off. No sooner had my better half and I set off, though, than we ran into a problem. I, personally, have a principle issue with using Gauteng’s e-tolled highways, so a detour was made through Joburg and Alberton, to join the N3 at Heidelberg Road.
The Gauteng lunch-time rush was no problem for the Hilux, but Harrismith – that classic mid-way pit stop en route to Durban – could not come soon enough for its two hungry occupants.
The Hilux proved to be a surprisingly effortless cruiser … its leather-lined cabin is comfortable, it rides well and that three-litre turbodiesel makes light work of overtaking.
It did, however, prove to be slightly thirstier than expected, but the on-board consumption readout slowly headed down to the eight-point-something level … A sixth gear (no doubt a feature on the forthcoming model) would definitely help with both this and the fact that the engine thrums quite heavily at cruising speed – the only uncomfortable aspect of the Hilux on a long run.
Our destination was Hibberdene on the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) south coast – a classic destination for generations of South Africa’s inland holidaymakers. Only a few kilometres from Port Shepstone, the Umzumbe Chalets on the outskirts of this sleepy little town would be our base for the next few days.
Daylight on day two allowed us the opportunity to get to know our surroundings (there were four of us in the six-sleeper, self-catering chalet) and make friends with the local peacock, buck and monkey population. From our hillside vantage point, we could take in the picturesque south coast forest and sea view. We weren’t too far from the beach and the sun was shinin’ … Only one thing to do, then.
Damn, sunburn! I guess that’s the problem with having a beautifully clean beach practically to yourself for the day … As that unmistakable discomfort began to set in, we headed to Port Shepstone’s charismatic Jaxx Restaurant and Pizzeria for a feel-better dinner. Take it from me, if you find yourself in the area, in a foul mood from harsh sunburn, this place will lift your spirits. The food is outstanding, the staff friendly and enthusiastic, and the drinks, well, I’m just happy we didn’t drive there …
The off-road capability of the Hilux is one of its other legendary characteristics. Just as well, as we had planned to head out to the Lake Eland Game Reserve at the beautiful Oribi Gorge for its canopy zip-line tour … “Yeah, right, you want me to get into a harness with this sunburn?” The weather was overcast, but, even then, it wasn’t gonna happen …
With two of us at the top of the 4,5 km zip-line (OK, I was very jealous!), my partner and I set out for some of the reserve’s challenging 4x4 tracks to see what this Legend could do. The low-down torque (and, on the rougher stuff, the low-range capability) made light work of every track we came across (and there were many).
Happily, our exploration activities revealed a few more of the canyon’s secrets – we couldn’t do the zip-line, but we did find the suspension bridge and its awe-inspiring, free-standing look-out point. What an absolutely gorgeous view! Only 365 million years of erosion, by the Mzimkulu River cutting through the landscape, could create such timeless beauty.
Oh, and if heights make you a bit queasy, you can still appreciate the view from the safety of Africa’s longest longdrop; “The Loo with a View”. I s-h-1-t you not.
All too soon, it was time to head back to the “big smoke” (sunburn beginning to ease marginally). Back on the road, the Hilux covered in a mix of sea spray and mud, we managed to eke out a commendable
8,7 l/100 km average fuel consumption for the 1 400-odd kilometre trip.
Whether on- or off-road, in town (big or small), or driving through the country, the Legend 45 is a reminder of just why the Hilux is such a mainstay in South Africa’s culture. Sure, by now this seventh-generation is showing its age and in many ways lags behind its newer rivals (it is a ten-year-old design, after all).
We know, however, that Toyota takes this vehicle very seriously, and has no doubt taken much notice of its competitors’ latest offerings. Like the KZN south coast, the classics never die; and the forthcoming generation will almost certainly be something worth waiting for …
I foresee another classic road trip, in about a year’s time.
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