In the Zulu language the word isimangaliso means a miracle or something wondrous, which is exactly how 4×4 fundi, Francois Rossouw, describes his recent expedition to the wetlands area with the same name in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Early in July, Rossouw – at the wheel of his trusty Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed – and a 24-strong group op hardened 4×4 enthusiasts in 12 different vehicle brands and models explored the area between St Lucia and Kosi Bay. After seven days of challenging off-road driving, Rossouw’s Pajero Sport once again came away unscathed, unphased and unbeaten, having gained many new fans in the process.
“Our plan was to avoid all tar roads and this meant that we had to contend with endless two-track trails, a lot of loose sand and many challenging dune crossings,” says Rossouw. “Most of our route required proper 4×4 driving and tested both man and machine to their limits.” The first day of the trip took the convoy to Lake St Lucia for a two-hour boat trip before heading to Cape Vidal, which lies on the edge of the St Lucia Marine Reserve. It is also the site of the wreck of the Dorothea, which struck the reef during a storm in 1898.
Although the road was under construction and the group had no choice but to cross numerous sand heaps, there was no wreckage to report in the convoy as the 4×4 adventurers headed into the iSimangaliso Park the next day. Their overnight destination was Sodwana Bay, but not before taking a detour to take in the spectacular views of the Hell’s Gate Peninsula. “The next day was when the real 4×4 fun started as we tackled a forest dune route on our way to having some fun among the sand dunes, legally of course. As I was at the head of the convoy in the Pajero Sport, I had the unenviable task of making new tracks where the sand had been churned up by tractors and cattle,” explains Rossouw. “Of course the Mitsubishi made light work of the challenge and once the way had been cleared, the rest of the vehicles could follow safely and without too much effort.
“Dune driving is no joke. It’s a true test of driver experience and skill, as well as vehicle capability. Once the tyres had been deflated and 4×4 mode selected, the first few dunes didn’t pose too much of a challenge and we made good progress. However, just as I was starting to relax and enjoy the comfort and mod cons of the cabin of the Pajero Sport, disaster struck,” Rossouw recalls. “A very anxious voice came over the radio, asking for immediate assistance. There was no space to turn around and as I ran back towards the rear of the convoy, I saw that one of the vehicles had failed to make it to the top of the dune and in an attempt to go back down, had turned sideways on the steep slope and was now threatening to roll over.
“Many willing helping hands and sheer brute strength soon had the vehicle’s nose pointed in the right direction again. This was the start of the group’s woes, though, and from here vehicles having to be towed over dunes became the order of the day. And we hadn’t even reached the largest and most daunting of the dunes yet!” According to Rossouw the situation reminded him that if he ever found himself in a similar situation with the Pajero Sport, he would be able to rely on a host of safety features that include seven airbags, active stability and traction control (ASTC), anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and an emergency brake assist system (BAS).
“I seriously doubt that things will ever go this sideways, figuratively speaking, with the Pajero Sport, but it’s good to know that Mitsubishi went all-out to ensure that it’s a very safe machine.” Then came the big dune; high, loose and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Where many others failed, however, this is where the Pajero Sport came into its own, thanks in large part to Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD-II system, which delivers in even the most challenging driving conditions. The selectable off-road modes – Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand or Rock – can be selected to suit surface conditions to optimise engine output, transmission settings and braking for superior traction control.
“At this point I was feeling quite smug about the Pajero Sport’s off-road abilities,” admits Rossouw. “It was clearly superior to many of the other vehicles in the convoy and everyone was greatly impressed by its performance in the dunes.” In retrospect, the entire group agreed that the following day was the highlight of the adventure. The convoy left civilisation behind as they headed past Lake Sibaya along a two-track road to Rocktail Bay, where special permits allowed them access to the coastal forest area. Here the track faded away in the loose sand of the dunes and great care had to be taken not to damage the rare cycads that grow in the area.
The next stop for the day was Black Rock, a volcanic outcrop that extends over the ocean. The group marvelled at the large round holes through the rock and the view these offer of the crashing waves some 20 metres below. This is a privilege enjoyed by very few, mainly because of the remoteness of the area. From here it was on to Banga Neck where the Kosi Bay lakes are separated from the sea by only a narrow dune. Home for the next two nights was Kosi Bay Lodge. The last day of the trip was spent visiting Kosi Bay Mouth, followed by another leisurely boat cruise, this time across all three Kosi Bay lakes.
All too soon the unforgettable 4×4 adventure came to an end and as the group parted ways, many commented on the impressive way in which the Pajero Sport handled every obstacle with aplomb, never missing a beat. “They were particularly impressed by the fuel consumption and the overall performance of the vehicle, particularly when considering its affordability compared to other brands,” says Rossouw. “Frankly, I’m used to this kind of reaction to the Pajero Sport.
“Over the past five decades I have travelled roughly 2 000 000 kilometres in just about every 4×4 vehicle available on the market. Every Mitsubishi product I have driven has impressed me, but this Pajero Sport is in a class of its own. Its transmission is, without a doubt, the best in the business.” Says Jeffrey Allison, General Manager – Marketing at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa: “Francois chose the Pajero Sport based on his experience with the Mitsubishi brand over the years. Two of the deciding factors were the safety and reliability it represents, backed up by the legendary pedigree of virtually unbreakable off-road vehicles.
“We look forward to hearing many more tales of how Francois and the Pajero Sport continue to conquer the great outdoors, while at the same time drawing more true off-road enthusiasts to the brand,” Allison concludes.