Small car Big adventures

Following the recent media launch of the KIA Picanto X-Line, our intrepid team of young explorers – Anton Willemse Jnr and Lizaan Snyman – took the fiery red X-Line on an adventurous Mossel Bay trip to test its limits

When you think about any adventure travel magazine, you would be forgiven to think it’s only those extreme trips requiring a big 4×4 that would make the cut. However, we believe that the only person that can and should define your adventure is you – and with KIA’s latest edition, the Picanto X-Line, you can without a doubt “go there” (to steal from their pay-off line).

A few weeks ago, a team member was impressed with the 1.2 Automatic X-Line she drove during the media launch in Pretoria, saying it packs a tech-heavy, comfort-focused and surprisingly adventurous punch. With such a review, we simply had to take it on a more extended and more adventurous trip to really test its capabilities.

Our gameplan for the trip was to make it adventurous both inside and outside the X-Line, and what better place to go than the picturesque harbour town of Mossel Bay on the Garden Route? This was our first solo trip for the magazine, and much like the X-Line, we had a lot to prove. Luckily we both were born to be brave, never backing down from a challenge.

Day 1: Make a plan!

Our first day starts rough and not according to plan at all – we are running late. Our plan to take on the long drive from Kempton Park to Mossel Bay at 09:00 is foiled due to some unforeseen logistical challenges. While we wait for the car, we change our plan. Instead of driving through to Mossel Bay, we will overnight at Onze Rust Guest House & Caravan Park in Colesberg, as we are most likely not going to make it to Mossel Bay before the 00:00 lockdown curfew. At approximately 12:30, we finally collect the fiery red X-Line, quickly pack, and start the just over six-hour drive to our overnight stay in Colesberg.

KIA’s popular four-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol engine used in the X-Line generates 61 kW of pure power and 122 Nm torque. It is coupled with a five-speed manual transmission, making overtaking a dream and the time fly by. Before we notice, we are unpacking at Onze Rust. We seek out Die Plattelander, a peaceful and unique restaurant, for dinner and have amazing burgers and chips.

Tip: Be adaptable and prepared to change your trip itinerary when required, as things will not always go according to plan. However, remember it does not have to ruin the rest of the trip.

Day 2: Take in all the beauty!

To make up for some lost time on day one and due to some restless sleep, we pack the X-Line and, at approximately 04:00, we take on the 582 km to Mossel Bay via the Beaufort West route. At sunrise, we stop at a few places to take some beautiful photos of the X-Line and marvel at its good looks. Even petrol-head Anton Jnr, who is admittedly not a fan of A-segment contenders, concede to the handsome appeal of this little giant.

As we glide through the picturesque mountain passes, we stop at Meiringspoort, the wonderfully scenic gorge and mountain pass that is often overlooked as most people are too intent on their journey through the Swartberg Mountains to stop and explore. We decide to stop at the main rest stop and take the easy climb to a beautiful waterfall, where we did not just take in the breath-taking scenery, but Anton Jnr also braves the cold rock pool. Local legend will have you believe this pool was once home to a mermaid named Eporia, but she was washed out of the pool in the 1996 floods and floated downriver to the coast, never to be seen again.

Feeling energised after taking in the natural beauty of Meiringspoort, we drive the last stretch to Mossel Bay. We quickly drop our bags off at the fantastic Sea Villa @ Diaz Beach, our home for the next few days and drive 30 minutes to Indalu Game Reserve. At the reserve, the X-Line was put to its first real test as the off-road trip to see elephants had us negotiating some loose rocks and some uneven terrain. The X-Line, however, showed its class as its 15-inch wheels and slightly increased ground clearance at 156 mm made it relatively easy to negotiate the terrain.

The breath-taking opportunity to get close to two elephant bulls that were rescued did not disappoint, and we even got the chance to take some nail-biting photos of the elephants, mere millimetres away from the Picanto. What a way to start our adventure!

Tip: Try and take your time to soak up as much as you can while you travel; even if it means being on the road longer. You will not regret the memorable experiences and memories made.

Day 3: Leap of faith!

With a busy and exhilarating day ahead, we wake up early. Our first adventure of the day is driving the breath-taking Knysna passes. Driving these passes by himself was always a dream of Anton Jnr. I have to agree that these passes – with the diverse scenery ranging from the lushness of the jungle and the fynbos-stained streams to all the small towns along the way – have an indescribable beauty, too often overlooked by holidaymakers rushing from Mossel Bay to Knysna using the main roads. The improved ground clearance of X-Line once again came in handy as it made it possible for us to traverse through the gravel roads of the Knysna passes with relative ease.

Back on the N2, halfway between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, we stop to stretch our legs at the lush, green Knysna indigenous forest, known as the Garden of Eden. The short 1 km circular wooden board trail with its beautiful yellowwood trees, thick green foliage and running streams can only be described as biblical.

Our next stop is at the spectacular Knysna Heads. The pair of sandstone cliffs separate the Knysna Lagoon from the sea beyond. This famous landmark is known for its breath-taking viewpoints overlooking the channel, Indian Ocean, the Knysna Lagoon and estuary and the Outeniqua Mountains. Similarly, the X-Line impresses with its good looks, with bespoke design accents on the front and rear bumper transform the regular Picanto into something eye-catching. The interior is equally lovely and much more comfortable than anticipated, sporting two-tone artificial leather seats, a rear camera, an easy-to-use navigation system, and an eight-inch colour touchscreen.

After getting a little more comfortable with heights, we make our way to the Bloukrans Bridge to take the plunge of a lifetime. The Bloukrans Bungee, now known as Face Adrenalin, opened in the same year I was born (1997). The highest commercial bungee jump from a bridge in the world at 216 m above the rocky riverbed below, it is home to numerous world records. These include Veronica Dean’s 19 jumps in one hour in 2008, and Bill Boshoff’s 101 jumps in 24 hours. Bill’s world record was subsequently surpassed, but in 2011 Face Adrenalin facilitated Scott Huntley to regain the world record with 107 jumps in 24 hours.

After arriving and booking in at the office, you get strapped into your harness and anxiously wait for your group’s turn (groups are taken every hour for their jumps). However, before you can take the leap of faith, you need to zipline to the platform in the middle of the bridge. Once your whole group make it to the platform, they go over the procedure and the form you need to maintain when you finally make the jump. I have been wanting to take on this daring jump since my last visit to the Garden Route about five years ago and as such I was more than happy and excited to be the first to jump.

The friendly operators attach all the necessary equipment to your legs and harness in record time, and before you can blink, you are standing with your toes over the edge of the jumping platform with your heart in your throat and your mind in a scramble. I spread my arms beside me, look up, bend my knees as I hear the guides scream 3…2…1…Bungee! At bungee, you take the adrenalin-fuelled leap into an indescribable free and peaceful feeling and experience. During your jump and while hanging upside down, you take in the beautiful Bloukrans valley from a completely different angle.

When the whole group is done with their jumps, you take the skywalk (a mesh walkway) back to solid ground – for me, this was the worst part of the entire experience and I am happy we zip-lined to the jump as this walk could scare potential jumpers off.

If, like Anton Jnr, you suffer from Acrophobia (a fear of heights), his advice is to commit and do it anyway as it is one of the most exhilarating experiences of your life. It is something you must experience for yourself to truly understand it! Drained from the adrenalin-fuelled jump and the trip, we make our way back to Mossel Bay and enjoy a simple calamari and chips dinner at the popular The London Bus Fish and Chip company, overlooking the beautiful harbour landscape.

Tip: There is no such thing as too much adventure! Plan your day ahead so that you can pack it full of fun and commit to all the activities you have planned for the day.

Day 4: Remember to relax!

After the jam-packed adventurous and adrenalin-fuelled day before, we sleep in a bit. Rested and ready for our final big adventure in Mossel Bay, we make our way to the longest over-ocean zipline in the world. At 1 100 m in length, the zipline is a mere 90 m above sea level. Since you start at the top of the cliffs above a part of the Saint Blaze hiking trail going downwards, you can reach speeds of up to 80 km/h (weather and safety dependent). The trip down is breathtakingly beautiful, but after yesterday’s Bungee jump, it was a walk in the park. Even scaredy-cat Anton Jnr could relax and enjoy this treat which offers a completely different vantage point of the famous Mossel Bay Point.

With all the adventurous places and activities ticked off our list, we eat arguably the best braaibroodjies in South Africa for lunch at Kaai 4 Braai restaurant while taking in the amazing views. Later – as we sit and relax on the beach, mesmerised by the waves hugging the shoreline – we agree that we are blessed to call this lifestyle our job.

Tip: Take some time for yourself and rest even if there are many other activities and places you can visit

Day 5: The perfect end!

On our final day, we get up very early to drive over 12 hours back to Kempton Park, this time via the George route. This route is scattered with beautiful passes and little towns such as Uniondale and Willowmore and farmstalls such as Jagtpoort, where you can stop to stretch your legs and enjoy some local art, food and drinks. The long road trip was manageable thanks to the picturesque views and the X-Line’s infotainment system which comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, allowing us to blast our favourite rappers at maximum volume to keep us wide awake.

The X-Line glided through the lovely landscapes with ease, feeling safely planted and comfortable when driving at highway speeds and around the numerous bends of the passes. This is due to KIA upgrading the rear torsional, which improved the X-Line’s stiffness by about 32%. One “complaint” would be the small 40-litre fuel tank which meant we had to refuel three times on our 1 400 km road trip despite the X-Line’s frugal 6.1litre/100 km. This took some planning through the vast Karoo where fuel stations are few and far between.

Tip: Regularly stop to take breaks, even when you don’t feel tired or need to fill up the car. If you can, divide the driving hours or kilometres evenly between all drivers on the trip to ensure nobody drives while fatigued.

Final thoughts

Mossel Bay and the Garden Route is a special place for us, as we now have many memories sprinkled around the area. Besides the places and activities we enjoyed on the trip, there are many more alternatives to explore. These include visiting the Bartolomeu Dias Museum, the aquarium (where you can even enjoy a shark experience), taking on the Saint Blaze hiking trail, taking a sunset cruise or the wilder wave rider for a spin around the harbour; or visit the nearby Jakkalsvlei and Boplaas wine cellars for wine and beer tasting. There are also many more adventurous activities like skydiving, sandboarding and quad biking; as well as a stunning 4×4 trail on the beach at Vleesbaai (about 20 km away).

The KIA Picanto X-Line is a reminder that you do not need the biggest and toughest vehicles to take adventurous trips – never underestimate the punch of smaller cars. So, define your adventures and just Go There.

The KIA Picanto X-Line is available in a 1.2 Manual and Automatic for R237995 and R251 995, respectively.

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