“Please don’t cry,” says Greg Cox at the fork in the dual carriageway farm road where none of us quite remember which way to turn…
I bristle. “You know I only cry over animals that are in pain,” I grumble at the photographer I’ve shared several salt shots with over the past 12 years. The sun is long gone, cell phone reception too, and the full moon hangs over the Theron’s farm outside Strydenburg.
I pull myself together and survey the veld behind us on the nav screen before backing onto the dual carriageway a third time – but not before engaging low range with a twist of the dial next to the gear lever. . The ingenious terrain management system is much easier to use than the rough gearbox of the vintage 4×4 I grew up with.
The interior is just as sporty as the bodywork. The clouds on the other side of the Huguenot tunnel make us wonder if we will be able to take pictures.
It’s the second day on the road, and three days since the heavy rains colored the whole landscape green. The junction of the dual carriageway farm road was certainly not there yesterday – and on the other side of Britstown, Jan Sauer Lambrechts and his braai fire await our arrival in vain.
Half an hour later we are back on track and I can let Jan Sauer know that we are hopelessly behind. The puddles we navigated yesterday are still deep, as are the tracks of our Ranger. But tonight the pools glow dark and eerie in the moonlight.
The Ford Ranger Raptor SE is designed for high-speed off-road driving, and in its wide “takkies” it is 51mm longer than the standard model. The General Grabber AT3 all-terrain tires keep us on track on loose surfaces. The world is wet but our gear and luggage stay dry, thanks to the sturdy lockable roller shutter at the back.
The days on the road are long, and the days at work even longer, which is why I have rules for road trips like these. Number one: no long faces (nearly broke that one with my sag at the fork in the road!). Two: work hard, play harder (we handle that well). Three: Travel comfortably and stress-free with the right tires and ground clearance (that’s where the Ranger comes in).
So I happily dropped Greg with his camera in the biggest mud puddle we could find so he could take some fun pictures of our posh ride.
“Faster! More mud! Now in the middle of the pool! Greg would lead. And we would shout with delight.
I don’t leave home without my “MacGyver bag,” which contains everything from a multi-tool to cut-resistant gloves. We always braked for a prickly pear.
Back to the present and the dark N12 towards Britstown. Thanks to a 10-speed automatic transmission, the tension of the dual carriageway is quickly forgotten. The 157kW 2.0L Bi-Turbo diesel engine is powerful and I’m grateful for the full moon light and reliable off-road tires.
It is 9:30 p.m. when we arrive at Jan Sauer’s host farm, where we are spending the night. The Ranger was a muddy road dream.
As I lift my weary body from the leather seats, I spot a bakkie in the parking spot next to ours. It also looks like a mud monster, but there is a difference. Our Ranger doesn’t have a flat tire.