Before moving to Jozi, we spent a lot of time talking about what kind of cars we wanted to buy once we got here. I had already decided we needed a 4×4 to help us get the most out of our planned African bush experiences but Yannick was not yet convinced. Eventually we would need 2 cars once we were both working as it was unlikely it would be convenient to carpool. We ended up renting a car for the first 3 months here while we were deciding what to buy and also to get our other car sold back in France.
About a month into our stay here, following on a couple of weeks of heavy rain, Yannick announced that he thought we should indeed buy a 4×4 as soon as possible for our first car to help us navigate through the pothole ridden, flooded streets. Now, of course there are plenty of non 4×4’s successfully maneuvering through Joburg but that is his story and he is sticking to it. And who I am to argue ?
My dream car i.e. what we didn’t buy as it was 3x over our budget
We started visiting some car dealerships and soon came to the realization that most 4×4’s, such as the Toyotas and Land Rovers, were way out of our price range. We test drove a couple of Jeep Cherokees and while not as luxurious as the others, agreed that it was a good fit for our budget. After a bit more searching we ended up buying a gently used 2011 Jeep Cherokee.
Me and our new (to us) Jeep Cherokee
So now we were the proud owners of a Jeep, with absolutely no knowledge of how to drive it in 4×4 mode. Luckily for us, we were offered a free 4×4 training class from a Toyota dealership even though we didn’t buy the Jeep from them. The class was held this past Saturday and I must say we had a total blast.
The class started bright and early at 8am with a tasty, hot cooked breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast and coffee at the dealership. This was followed by 1.5 hours of classroom instruction where we learned all about differentials, traction, tire pressure and a whole lot more. We were instructed on the best methods to tackle many types of obstacles we could encounter while off-road 4x4ing. I found this fascinating as it was well-explained in a way that even a non-mechanically inclined newbie such as myself could understand. But the best was yet to come, the Practicals.
After the classroom phase, we all headed out to the Magaliesberg Mountains in a convoy consisting of a big pack of Toyotas and one Jeep to some private land that has been designed with various 4×4 training obstacles. The next 3 hours would be spent with each 4×4 driver taking their turn at safely maneuvering each obstacle.
The first challenge was a steep incline. The idea was to make it up close to the top, then slowly back down again and finally back up to clear the top.
The group heading out to check out the trail
Checking out the incline. Not everyone was easily convinced that this would be possible.
Studying the others that would go before
Finally it was the Jeep’s turn. I should probably mention that at this point, all obstacles were handled by Yannick and I was the self-appointed photographer.
Receiving some last instructions on how to engage the 4×4 Low
Having some problems getting her into Low
Finally she makes it up
The next challenge was a slope. We were instructed that the window should be rolled halfway up or more to discourage sticking your arms out to try to break the jeep’s fall if we are about to roll. Hmmm…
One of the only times I actually stayed in the vehicule so this shot is of the 4×4’s in front
Up next, or I should say down next, was a steep descent. This looked totally terrifying as you couldn’t see over the edge of the slope. I stayed back and took photos.
The descent, the steepness isn’t totally apparent from the photo
Some really deep grooves in the trail
The Jeep going over the edge on 1.67 wheels. I thought she was going to roll.
She made it down and back up again
Before the final obstacle, we did a short trail ride in the bush. We were instructed that each vehicle was responsible for keeping an eye on the one behind. If you can no longer see them, you stop and wait. And the vehicle in front should do the same for you and so on.
Keeping watch on the vehicle behind
Another incline to tackle
One last obstacle remained and in my casual observer’s opinion, was the most difficult. The dreaded waterhole. In this case you are to leave the windows completely down in case you need to escape the vehicle. Yup… understood.
Inspecting the waterhole
Since this was a training session, the depth of this was already known, however in a real-life situation, the passenger is supposed to get out and walk the path first, to check the depth. As the passenger, I am fairly certain I will NOT be taking on this task in the future.
Getting ready to take the plunge
Water up to the doors and almost stuck in the mud
But she makes it up and out and back in for one last pass
And she made it without getting any water inside, can you believe it ? The instructor couldn’t.
And that was the grand finale of an exciting day. All obstacles successfully tackled, many laughs shared with new friends and overall a terrific day. This was a great intro into the 4×4 world, but I definitely think more instruction is in order before we head off the beaten path again. We have been invited to a 4×4 club open house this weekend so I am sure more Jeep adventures will be soon to come. I will keep you posted.