Text: Danie Botha
Photography: Jannie Herbst
Big Bennie Kotze, custodian of the Gura Pan 4×4 route, 120km north of Upington in the Northern Cape, had a knowing grin on his face.
“This besigheid (business) is where the guys jump a bit,” he said matter-of-factly, in Kalahari code, as he pointed out a specific dune.
Jump a bit? Er, sounds great. It would probably make for a nice photograph.
So I meandered the big Nissan Patrol 4.8GRX down a dune, and lined it up to tackle “the jump”.
Ahead of the Patrol was a long run-up, to build up a head of steam to scale the not-so-small and very steep dune. The early-morning sun was directly behind this dune, so it made seeing where I had to go all the more tricky.
One thing for it then: floor the Big Six engine, muscle the Patrol up the side of this dune, over the crest, negotiate “a jump” of unknown proportions, and stop the Nissan before it runs too far down the other side. In theory, I had this one covered.
With the transfer case in high range, and the five-speed Tiptronic automatic gearbox in first gear (selected manually), I floored the gas pedal. All of the Nissan’s 190 kilowatts came to the party. The four-wheel drive system provided the traction. The big Goodyear Wrangler tyres dug in.
The speedometer’s needle dashed upwards.
The Patrol reached the base of the dune, and started the climb. I (generally) aimed for the crest. Up we went. Up and up and up. All I could see was clear blue Kalahari sky.
Then…the Patrol was flying. Flying high!
Eventually, the sky was replaced by a horizon, and sand.
In the load area, the sound of dripping, escaping liquid. In the rear-view mirror, I saw the cooler box on its head. Blimey!
Besides the shattered bottle of beverage in the cooler box, my immediate worry was the Patrol itself. A big 4×4 is not meant to fly. But, as it turned out, it was in perfect fighting shape. This machine is hard, and robust!
Big Bennie had an even bigger grin on his face than before.
“I must hand it to you. I have never seen a 4×4 fly so far,” he beamed.
Well, er, sure, all part of the, er? plan.
Later, we reached another big dune. At the second attempt Big Bennie and his screaming V6 bakkie scaled it. But there was a catch: at the very crest of this big dune, one had to make a very tight right turn – otherwise you went off on the other side. And man, this Patrol is big.
Having added to my frequent flyer miles, I wasn’t keen to repeat my earlier stunt? especially since there seemed to be a drop-off, instead of a landing strip, on the other side. So my approach was, well, a little bit more circumspect.
After “detailed research, and some calculated adjustments to the approach speed”, which took about five minutes to complete, the Patrol made it up and over.
But before we continue with the Gura Pan 4×4 route, let’s talk Nissan Patrol. Or more specifically, LA Sport’s version of the Nissan Patrol.