FORD-SPOTTING IN THE WORLD: AFRICA EDITION By Taylor Steinberg
Reporting from South Africa where the Ford Ranger and many other Ford products are rapidly gaining the reputation as the vehicle of choice. The Bakkie, pronounced “BUCK ee”, also known as the Ute in Australia and as the Pickup in the United States is rapidly taking market share away from the Toyota Hi’Lux and others. The most popular Ford Ranger is the Crew Cab with diesel engine while Ford passenger cars and SUVs are available in gas or diesel. Our ride for about a month in South Africa was a Ford Eco Sport, a small SUV with a five speed manual transmission coupled to a 1300cc gasoline engine. We noticed fine performance in the mountainous regions of the Transkei, Eastern Cape, the Golden Gate National Park in the Drakensberg and Qwa Qwa Region through the Lichen Mountain Pass at 2041 meters (6696 feet). Fuel, in South Africa, both diesel and gasoline was in the 16 ZAR per liter range. The South African currency is the ZAR (Rand) with a floating exchange rate around 14.35 ZAR per US dollar. Doing the conversion of 3.8 liters per gallon the math comes out around $4.24 per gallon making the fuel reasonably competitive with fuel prices in other parts of the world. The history of South Africa spans the centuries from the late 1400s when the Dutch and English colonization led to some very trying times. From the early 1900s, South Africans were segregated by race including White, Black, Colored and Asian leading to
and through the apartheid years. The struggles of Nelson Mandela, from spending 27 years in prison to being elected president of South Africa, is a complete study in itself. My wife, Lorraine and I, studied a great deal before we arrived and experienced even more about the turbulent history during our month long visit to this beautiful country. South Africa, with a population of just over 56 million and an area roughly twice the size of the State of Texas is a land of very friendly and courteous people. Every one in which we came in contact; tour guides, accommodation staff, restaurant employees, business employees and people on the street were all very friendly and helpful. Did we ever feel in danger? No, because we carefully planned where we were going at all times of the day and evening. With over fifty three years of international travel, we simply watch where we are going in every city of the world we have visited. About fifteen years ago we encountered only one minor incident on a subway in Rome while celebrating New Year’s Eve. This did not reduce our international and domestic travel, it just made us wiser to the locations we were going to visit. Would we visit South Africa again? Yes and without question as the great people make you feel at home while the natural beauty of all of the flora and fauna opportunities are endless. But what about the mosquitos, the Malaria and Yellow Fever concerns?
Simply plan ahead with the necessary vaccinations and prescriptions and enjoy your adventure. In over a month of South Africa travel, we encountered mosquitos in the Drakensburg Mountains on a two hour walk in a forest and only after we stopped to wait ten minutes for our guide. We did not encounter a mosquito after two days of travel in Kruger National Park as the repellant must have worked. Ford in South Africa is a real success story based on performance and reputation. With sightings everywhere, Ford market penetration continues to improve. We photographed hundreds of Rangers “Bakkies” with numerous trim levels and specialty vehicle packages along with numerous Ford cars and SUVs. The following Ford sightings from Cape Town to Johannesburg during our multi week adventure illustrate the success of Ford in South Africa.
Kruger National Park, in eastern South Africa next to Zimbabwe, is the size of Belgium and is home to hundreds of thousands of native animals including over 16,000 elephants and over 200,000 Impala antelope. The goal for most visitors is to see and photograph the Big Five game animals, the Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion and Leopard. Big-game hunters refer to these as the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Today the term is used widely by safari tour operators for photography enthusiasts. With the assistance of David, our professional guide and driver, January 9, 2020 was an excellent day to photograph the Big Five. All of images in this communication were taken by wife and I. One might ask, how far were you from the lion in the photograph? Two females killed the cape buffalo, drug it to the shady spot near a well-traveled safari road and retired for a rest in the shade about thirty meters away while the male lions enjoyed their feast. The two females will have their chance at the remains of the kill after the males have enjoyed their fill. Photography enthusiast were able to drive less than three meters from the two male lions enjoying the water buffalo. At least ten safari enthusiast were jockeying for the best shot around the two males. You would wait your turn, move in as needed for the desired photograph and then move on. Game animals recognize the vehicles and not the people inside. If you exit your vehicle, the human image appears and you suddenly become the next good meal as humans don’t run very fast, pretty tasty and pretty easy to catch.
We stopped for a late afternoon latte and pizza at Steve’s Pub and Grill in Port St. Johns, Wild Coast, South Africa located at the end of the road at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River on the Indian Ocean. There were four Ford vehicles in the small grass parking lot with room for only six or eight cars. After enjoying an excellent pizza and a red latte (made with Rooibos tea instead of coffee). Steve, the owner, stopped by driving his Ranger Crew Cab and was proud to share his Ford history. “This is my 16th ford vehicle in a row, no worries.” Great Ford sighting in South Africa at Karmichael Farms B & B in the Drakensberg Mountain Region near Himeville, SA. Received an okay to publish from the young lad’s mother. The driver handled his Ranger with ease and enjoyed all of the appropriate motor sounds while driving.
There are tons of B & B’s in the Drakensburg Mountains area north of Pietermaritzburg, SA as it is a favorite vacation destination for the locals from Pretoria and Johannesburg (with a population of about 10 million) and the Durban metro area (population 3.4 million) as all are within an easy 3-4 hour drive.
Lesotho, a small mountainous country within South Africa, whose main products are angora wool from goats, regular wool from sheep and especially tourism. We elected to get there via the Sani Pass Highway. As you can see by the road images, this adventure reminds me of the Black Bear Road in SW Colorado between Red Mountain Pass and Telluride, where descending in 4 wheel low at an idle is way too fast in some areas. On the ascent we followed a Ford Everest SUV to the summit and found a number of Ford Rangers parked at the highest (elevation) Pub in Africa.
Closing Notes South Africa, one of the great countries of the world, known for its safaris, has so much more to offer any traveler, young and old, adventurous and the not so adventurous. As you walk through the Gateway Mall in Umlanga Ridge, SA with around 300 shops, eateries, kids play areas, a water park and two hotels one finds folks from all over Africa and other parts of the world enjoying themselves like folks do in the USA. Riding in a safari vehicle in Kruger National Park at a safe distance of 10 to 12 feet away from two male lions enjoying a water buffalo provided by the two lioness’. Great people, great food, great scenery of all types should make this one of your “Go To” priorities of the world. Don’t make the mistake and go for two weeks, stay for a month and you will only skim the highlights. We’ll go back! Soon!