Okay, I admit it. The title of this article is a bit deceptive. Firstly, I have never referred to myself as a babe. Ever. The last man who called me that has joined the list of Ex-. But I liked the alliteration and reckoned it would make a few more men click on the “read more” link. Scaley, I know... Secondly, the title should have read “A babe takes her bakkie to the Bushveld Terrace Hotel on Kruger”, but I ran out of allowed character space. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Ranger at the Bushveld Terrace Hotel on Kruger

Let me state this emphatically: I Do Not Camp. No dust, no mud, no insects, no shared ablutions, thank you. I much prefer crisp white Egyptian cotton, room service, hot running water and privacy.

Back to the beginning of this story. A mere day after I took delivery of my shiny new Ford Ranger Double Cab from Paul Maher Ford in Northcliff, I had to travel to the Limpopo Lowveld for business.  On a late-winter Wednesday morning, I pointed the bakkie’s nose North. The first thing I realised was that I had no secure place to put my luggage. A quick phone call to Paul Maher’s sales manager, Louis, solved that. The dealership has myriad Ford approved options to close the load bay, from canopies through hard, retractable and soft tonneau covers, all changing a boot-less car into one with humongous packing space. Sorted. Will check those out next week.  As I will be doing this trip alone, I put my suitcase on the wide, spacious backseat for now. The same backseat that’ll do god-parent duty when I have my nieces over for a weekend.

Early_morning _Bakkie_in_the_bushveld
Early morning bakkie in the Bushveld

Before I set off, here’s another thing you need to know about my car-owning history: I love (and have owned a few) small, low European sporty things, and if the roof can come off, even better bliss. Reality is different though. Opportunities to truly enjoy wind-in-the-hair motoring are mostly spoilt by too hot or too cold or too wet weather and it’s probably also not the safest thing to do in Gauteng.  Also, sitting that close to the tar on low profile tyres can be quite hair-raising. Potholes, minibus taxis, large black SUVs and trucks are an intimidating menace from this perspective. From the pilot seat of my High-Rider Ranger, however, I look these fellow road users straight in the eye. Unflinching. And potholes? What potholes?

A business colleague says a bakkie is like a mobile phone: when you own one, you wonder how on earth you ever managed without it. I love gardening and buying beautiful things for my home. The idea of a multi-purpose vehicle to transport my acquisitions to my house myself got stuck and here I am. 

Until recently, using a bakkie as an everyday and long distance vehicle meant you arrived at your destination tired, sore and poor. Horrible, bouncy leaf spring suspension and atrocious fuel consumption saw to that. Not with my new 2.2 litre automatic Ranger.  It sipped low sulphur diesel at an amazing 7.8 litres per 100 km, meaning I used about 74 litres (less than a tank full) on my 950km round trip – with the air-conditioner on most of the time as the Limpopo province had not received the “it’s still winter”-memo.  The ride quality is superb too. Whether on smooth tar, undulating roads or broken surface secondary roads, the interior remained quiet, smooth and comfortable - James Blunt lamenting another one who got away via Bluetooth from my iPhone through the great sound system. It’s not just good for a bakkie, it’s good for any vehicle, and quite brilliant for anything the size of a small European kingdom.

My luxury room at the Bushveld Terrace Hotel

Frugal as it is, the Ranger has more than enough vooma to climb mountain roads and effortlessly pass slow traffic. All it requires is a quick squeeze of the go-faster pedal. The creamy automatic gearbox takes a fraction of a second to contemplate the instruction and then continues to shift and barrel down at the horizon. Lekker! The go-slower pedal also has plenty of oomph. The truck stops on a dime! Of course it also has all the other safety gedoentes included, from airbags and traction control to all the other acronyms. On this maiden voyage, I had to swerve to avoid a large rock while passing a large truck on a narrow, bouncy road somewhere in the sticks.  A quick adjustment of the steering wheel at speed caused no drama whatsoever.

Less than 5 hours after leaving Jozie, I arrived at the Bushveld Terrace at the Phalaborwa Gate of the Kruger National Park relaxed and checked into one of the hotel’s splendid cool and contemporary rooms, ready for a series of meetings with clients. Parked among fancy German SUVs and other crazy ready-to-cross-Africa trucks my bakkie didn’t look out of place at all. As attractive and smart as the shiny 7-figure price tag cars and just as mean and tough as the overlanders.

The Strijdom Tunnel - gateway to the Limpopo Lowveld

The next day, after a gorgeous dinner, a long bath and a good night’s rest, I had a delicious breakfast, wrapped up my meetings and headed home again, passing through some of South Africa’s prettiest countryside scenery. Every easy kilometre making me like my bakkie better.

So, why would a “babe” from the ‘burbs buy a bakkie? Because I can (and it makes perfect, practical sense). If you’re a woman, you’ll love it. And if you’re a man, for the first time in history, you can buy your wife or girlfriend one and not end up in the dog box. Frankly, she’s likely to thank you properly. You might just not get to borrow it as often as you think you will.

Late afternoon on the Limpopo Drakensberg

Footnote: Words by Magdelene van der Linde - Magdelene’s bakkie is a Ford Ranger Double Cab 2.2 TDCi 4x2 XL High Rider Automatic – quite a mouthful.  It’s a middle-of-the-range vehicle and if you need more information on any Ranger, contact Paul Maher Ford on (011) 431 1781 or www.paulmaherford.co.za

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