Words Dylan Watkins, Images Dylan Watkins, Darren Taylor, Jacques Klynsmith & Jarryd Murray
The thought of tackling Baboon’s Pass in Lesotho came to me when I first got my Defender just a few years ago. The idea of driving along this remote pass was by far the most exciting thing I had ever imagined; all I needed for the trip was a partner with another Defender.
After five long years of friends chickening out, I finally persuaded my friend Jarryd Murray to take up the challenge. In December last year, we set off for Baboon’s Pass in two standard Defenders: my old 2000 90 Td5 and Jarryd’s more contemporary 2013 90 Puma.
After the excitement had settled down, we quickly realised that this was not going to be a walk in the park. Horror story after horror story, doubts about whether the Defenders would ever make it through without lockers, and constant negative babble about breaking our side shafts, didn’t put us off the challenge. There was no turning back now. (Even if those comments did remain quietly in the back of my mind).
As one car was travelling from Cape Town and the other from Durban, we decided to meet at Ramabanta Trading Post Lodge in Lesotho. There, we would set up camp and prepare for what lay ahead. It was only then, as we sat around a campfire with cold beers in our hands, looking over the valley and seeing a stretch of the pass, that we really started to contemplate our journey. It was never a matter of whether or not we’d make it, but rather of how the two Defenders would perform.
All in a spirit of good fun, my mate and I set the challenge of which would fare batter: my old-school Defender 90 Td5 with the kind of technology more reliant on driver skill, or the new Puma 90 equipped with modern driving aids like traction control and anti-stall functions.
The next day we packed up camp, said our farewells, and set off. Approaching our first obstacle, we crawled through the river in low range with the diff lock engaged. For once, I welcomed having a bit of water in the footwell to cool me down in the absurd heat of a Lesotho summer. Happy that we had just conquered our first obstacle with no problems, we sped off in great excitement – in the wrong direction.
After retreating and taking the lesser known path, we found ourselves back on the right track, with the Td5 taking the lead on the first day.
When we reached the famous colourfully-worded rock art that is said to mark the start of the pass, we all got out and posed for a picture. It was here that one of the fellow rock-art onlookers noticed my old 90 and commented that, with all of our equipment and gear hanging from its roof, the old Landy somewhat resembled a pirate ship. From this point on, the Td5 was known as The Pirate Ship.
Climbing metre by metre, we edged on, all the while waiting in nervous anticipation for the road to deteriorate.