The Isuzu KB has developed a reputation over the years as an incomparably tough and dependable bakkie, so, in order to emphasise its die-hard nature, Isuzu has selected one of SA’s toughest adventurers to act as a KB ambassadors. We spoke to him about his amazing achievements, as well as his partnership with Isuzu.
Isuzu delivers. With its bold slogan, the company promises dependable service, regardless of the situation. Now, this might have seemed too audacious a statement to make, were it not for the fact that the KB has indeed delivered consistently enough over the years to back up this claim. The KB is an unbelievably tough and capable bakkie.
Who better, then, to personify this slogan and act as the embodiment of all that the KB stands for than one of South Africa’s mountaineering heroes? Sibusiso Vilane was the first black African to climb Everest, and has also trekked to both the North and South poles. We spoke to him about his accomplishments, and his affiliation with Isuzu.
How did you end up climbing Everest?
Well, I was working as a tourism officer at Malolotja Nature Reserve. One Saturday in 1996, I accompanied an Englishman by the name of John Doble on a hike through the reserve. As we hiked, he mentioned that he thought I was a natural climber, and said that I should climb Everest, since I would then be the first black African to do so. It seemed like a fantastical idea at the time, but I said that I would consider it, if I managed to find the money and sponsors to do it. It took me about seven years to get everything together, but I eventually did it.
What was it like to climb Everest?
Every bit as tough as you would expect it to be. Getting to the top is a slow and difficult process. At that altitude, every day is pure agony. The nights were also brutally cold. To make matters worse, we were forced down from just below the summit on two occasions by snowstorms.
You’ve climbed the highest mountains on all seven continents. How did that come about?
That’s right. The first of the seven I summited was Kilimanjaro, which I climbed in 1999. The second one was Everest in 2003. After Everest, I wanted another challenge, and the Seven Summits seemed like a good bet. Interestingly, I climbed all seven in a span of about four years. I went back to Everest in 2005, and summited it again. After that, I also re-climbed Kilimanjaro, and climbed the other five tallest peaks, finishing with Denali in 2008. Denali, or Mount McKinley, in North America was particularly difficult because of the cold. It is known as one of the coldest mountains in the world.
You recently also walked to the North and South Poles. What was that like?
Yes. Since I had been to the tallest point on Earth, it made sense to also go to the poles. In my opinion it was harder than climbing Everest. Walking to the South Pole, for example, required endless eight-hour days of walking. There was no break. When climbing Everest, at least, there are days when you can relax a bit and acclimatise. The area around the North Pole is very difficult to traverse. It’s not as flat as one would expect. There are steep ridges that require a lot of effort to get over.
How did you association with Isuzu come about?
Isuzu contacted me about a television advertisement for the KB that they wanted me to be in. I agreed, and we shot the ad in Cape Town. It was an interesting experience. I never knew how many hours went into a few second of eventual footage. But it was a pleasant experience. Everyone was very professional.
Anyway, that is how it started. Once the ad was done, they started talking about possible ambassadorship. It was a wonderful opportunity, and I couldn’t refuse.
In your opinion, why are you a good fit with the Isuzu brand?
The Isuzu KB is a vehicle built for adventure, and I am an adventurer, so think it is a natural fit. For those with an adventurous lifestyle, the KB is a wonderful vehicle.
What do you think is people’s general perception of the brand?
Oh, people love the Isuzu KB, no doubt about it. Most people, I think, see it as a vehicle that is tough and reliable.
What has your experience with the KB been like?
I have really enjoyed it so far. Its comfortable, SUV-like interior is one of its best points. I have been falling in love with it more and more every day.
Have you spent quite a bit of time behind the wheel of the KB?
Yes, I have. I live in Nelspruit, and need to drive to Johannesburg for business pretty regularly, so I’ve done a lot of open-road driving. I’ve also visited Durban and the Drakensberg in it, and it has done nothing but impress all the way.