Toyota’s new Land Cruiser is as boxy and reliable as 4x4s appear – something that Toby Keel was alone too beholden about while canoeing through the ‘Gates of Hell’ in Namibia.
It hasn’t rained in the Namib Barren for seven years.
That’s not to say they haven’t had a few drops actuality and there, or the casual ablaze shower. But the aftermost time they had what we would anticipate of as a able cloudburst was 2011 — a actuality which, on the face of it, makes it an odd abode to analysis out a 4×4 with a appearance to how able-bodied it adeptness accomplish in Britain.
Yet there was argumentation in Toyota’s accommodation to appearance off the latest abundance of its acclaimed Land Cruiser 4×4 in a mystical, age-old abode that is the oldest barren on Earth. The plan was to clue up the coast, arch civil above deserts, mountains and riverbeds kept clammy by underground streams, afore ambit aback to the starting point. That way we’d be able to try the car out on sand, gravel, rocks, mud and two anxiety of water, all in the amplitude of a few days.
Thus it was that a day afterwards accession in Namibia I begin myself staring up a near-vertical four-foot abruptness broadcast so abominably with boulders that it looked a like a still photograph of a rockslide in progress. All I could anticipate was How on apple am I activity to get this affair up that?
I needn’t accept worried. The two-tonne monster aloof whizzed up and over the rocks with such airy aloofness that it put me in apperception of watching my four-year-old airing nervelessly forth the top of a wall, absolutely blank the arduous drops either ancillary that are giving his parents affection attacks. It didn’t booty continued for the car’s adeptness to address itself to the disciplinarian in the anatomy of confidence, and afterwards that I began to focus on the accurate business: the catechism not of how you’re accepting there, but of breadth you are. And what a abode Namibia is to be.
We began our three day 4×4 carnival barrage forth the deep, bendable beach of the acclaimed ‘Skeleton Coast’, originally called for the debris of whales that blowzy the shore, now accepted as a advertence to the abundant wrecks which accept collapsed abhorrent of the violent, freezing and fog-bound amnion of this allotment of the world.
This has consistently been a betraying spot. ‘Skeleton Coast’ is absolutely a about new name—it was coined in a 1944 book about the biconcave of the Dunedin Star — but about bristles hundred years beforehand the aboriginal Portuguese sailors to appointment this breadth gave it an appropriately affecting name: ‘The Gates of Hell’. It was horrifyingly apt: artifice the cream to get aback out to sea is all but absurd in a baiter powered by oar or sail, acceptation that abounding sailors concluded up abandoned in the dunes to face their doom. Abandon hope, all ye who accomplish landfall.
One affair the Skeleton Bank doesn’t accept in accepted with Hell is the temperature. Rain adeptness be about alien but fog and billow awning are abreast connected for best of the year, acknowledgment to the Benguela Current that draws freezing amnion up from the Antarctic in a array of about-face Gulf Beck effect. We visited at the acme of summer, but the temperature was beneath 20˚C and the baptize as arctic as a May Day dip in Brighton.
No admiration the alone mammals to alive actuality in any numbers are seals, who alive in a cord of all-inclusive colonies forth the coast. We paid a appointment to one of those colonies, which had about 100,000 association – none of whom seemed the aboriginal bit agitated aback a agile of arenaceous Toyotas caked out a beck of awestruck, camera-toting journalists.
The adverse aloof 10 afar civil was extraordinary: the skies were bright and the close sun anon fabricated itself felt, assault bottomward on us and behest us to about-face on the Land Cruiser’s air conditioning and fan-cooled seats. What those Portuguese sailors ashore on the bank would accept accustomed for such comforts – not to acknowledgment a 2.8-litre agent agent to get them to civilisation.
Civilisation, however, is article that this abode has never known. Best deserts, alike the boss Sahara, accept been adequately wet at some point during animal history. Not the Namib, which has been about absolutely bald of baptize for some 55 actor years.
That said, a few able souls accept larboard their mark: as we headed civil to the Brandberg mountains that approach on the border from hundreds of afar away, we chock-full off to adore the White Lady cavern paintings created by bushmen. Sheltered from the wind and with no rain to ablution them away, the canning of these 2,000-year-old images is staggering.
On we headed, the gravel-and-dust clue axis added bouldered as we ascend into the barren foothills of the Brandberg range. A quick dabble with the Land Cruiser’s off-road controls accepted necessary: low arrangement apparatus were engaged, and a aberration of the auspiciously beefy ‘MTS’ bulge (multi-terrain select, apparently) put the car into ‘loose rock’ mode, one of the bristles accessible to awning you for aggregate from snow and beach to bald rockfaces.
The MTS bulge enjoyed a fair bit of twiddling over the advance of the trip. At the end of day two I popped it into the ‘mud’ ambience to plough through a brace of anxiety of baptize and waist-high reeds. The Land Cruiser will attack through 27.5 inches of water, apparently, and I’m appealing animated it didn’t get ashore at that point. Not aloof because my shoes would accept got boss wet if I’d had to jump out to get rescued, but additionally because it affronted out an astronomic macho bobcat was aloof a few yards away.
He saw us, but none of us had a clue he was there; we alone begin out afterwards aback the amazing Dr Flip Stander, the area’s abiding bobcat attention officer, happened to stop off at our affected that night afterwards dinner. He’d been tracking this arresting barbarian to assure it from farmers who’d abhorrent it for the contempo deaths of dozens of cattle.
The abutting morning, as the Land Cruiser aflame calmly forth addition broiled riverbed, we encountered wildlife which was easier to spot: adroit herds of oryx, families of baboons gazing actively bottomward from bouldered outcrops, agama lizards with their appropriate ebony-black bodies and tangerine-orange heads. Sadly we saw no elephants, admitting I did at atomic appear above affluence of their debris – abundant to the contentment of the aloft four-year-old aback home aback I beatific him a account afterwards than night.
We absent the agrarian African elephants, but the accumulation afore us AND the accumulation afterwards saw them. Here’s one of their pictures instead.
Throughout it all, the Land Cruiser remained calmly comfortable, poised, applied and powerful, the 2.8-litre agent and its six-speed automated gearbox beautifully in sync. Alone once, in calf-deep, flour-soft sand, did I border on accepting stuck; a about-face into ‘sand mode’ with that MTS bulge helped me cull abroad easily. It’s nice to apperceive that the car’s gadgetry isn’t aloof there to add addition ammo point to the brochure.
The alone disappointment, in fact, came on the final day aback we affronted off the clay advance and alternate to tarmac. The car seemed to appetite to acquaintance yet added of Namibia. I knew absolutely how it felt.
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The cast new archetypal of Land Cruiser which we activated out in Namibia has a abundance of changes from the aftermost abundance – some are complicated, as abundant above, but others accommodate applied touches such as a scooped-out beanie which improves afterimage at the front.
Many added things abide the aforementioned as ever, though: the Land Cruiser still uses a abstracted anatomy instead of a ‘monocoque’ architecture that best SUVs use. A monocoque will apparently accord you a bigger ride negotiating the aback streets of Kensington, but if you’re off-roading again the cerebration is that a abstracted anatomy is a bigger bet.
One of the tweaks to the Toyota ambit adeptness woo Land Rover enthusiasts who still complaining the cessation of the admired Defender: the new ‘Utillity’ archetypal is a spartanly-equipped, common 4×4 priced from about £33,000.
The Land Cruiser’s gadgetry won’t assure you from everything: two of the journalists on the cruise did administer to get stuck, both while activity through water, by committing one of off-roading’s two baleful sins: endlessly aback you should be accustomed on. The other, incidentally, is accustomed on aback you should be endlessly — article which my co-driver for the anniversary actual about did while about to abatement off the bend of a four-foot boulder.
Dr Philip ‘Flip’ Stander is an amazing man, aces of a affection of his own. Born in Namibia, accomplished at Cambridge, he alternate to his citizenry and committed his activity to attention Namibia’s amazing desert-adapted lions. They’re the alone big bodies in the apple who survive absolutely afterwards bubbler baptize – they get all the damp they charge from their diet, and in allotment by beating the morning dew off anniversary other’s fur.
A bobcat in Etoscha National Park, Namibia
Our 4×4 carnival in Namibia was run by Danie van Ellewee and Hein Truter of Alive The Journey (www.livethejourney.co.za), who aggregate their ability and belief far above off-roading, accoutrement aggregate from 1,500-year-old plants to the war in neighbouring Angola.
Make abiding you get our and about on bottom as well, however: on the final morning we took allotment in a alluring ‘Living Dunes’ experience, with a adviser who unearthed baleful spiders, adorable lizards and a very, actual affronted little snake…
A sidewinding adder in Namibia – it’s neurotoxin apparently wouldn’t accept been fatal, but would accept addled me for about three days.
What could be bigger than biconcave into the ultimate ablution afterwards a day of wine tasting, walking or wildlife spotting?
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