Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Go, hamba, gaan… Tsamaya!

The Karoo is not normally a place one would associate with a crossover vehicle such as the Kia Seltos. It sounds more like 4×4 country. ANTON WILLEMSE SNR met up with five fellow motoring scribes for a threeday roadtrip to prove that it can, indeed, be done.

It was mid-morning when we arrived in Cape Town to find three Kia Seltos models ready and waiting. I picked the red one and partnered up with Bernie Helberg from TCB Media. We loaded our luggage and headed out of the airport, turning east onto the N2 towards Swellendam.

Just after Swellendam we turned north onto the R324 and passed through Suurbraak, a small town seemingly trapped in the past as there are no new buildings, but most of the houses are well looked after. Travelling further north towards Barrydale, we followed the Tradouw River until we reached the Tradouw Pass. It truly is an absolutely stunning route, with a very gradual rise. Once we reached the pass, we stopped for a quick leg stretch and to take in the views.

We headed further north for a short while until we linked up with the famous R62. It stretches from Montagu to Oudtshoorn through some of the most scenic parts of the Western Cape and although we only did a short stretch on it, the natural beauty of the area once again blew our minds.

As we entered Barrydale we stopped at Diesel & Crème for one of their famous double-thick milkshakes. If you ever find yourself in this region, stop for one of these – trust me! This rustic restaurant pays tribute to an era when cars were huge and their engines even bigger, when a litre of petrol cost 10c and a roadhouse was the place to be on a Friday night.

Our overnight destination was the beautiful Karoo Art Hotel, which almost closed its doors during the Covid-19 pandemic, but has since been restored to its former glory. Here we met Rob Melvill from Melvill & Moon fame and one of the people that had a hand in restoring the old hotel. He invited us for a swim in some hot pools the next morning and, fueled by some red wine, everyone eagerly agreed.

Seeing that we were in the Karoo, lamb chops were on the menu that evening, and they were divine! The area also has a bunch of small distilleries, from gin to brandy, and the pub at the hotel stocks a few of them, so we couldn’t resist having a taste… or two.

The following morning we were up at sparrow‘s for our swim with Rob, but as we headed back to the Tradouw River I started to suspect that we had been bamboozled into taking a dip in its icy waters. As we parked next to the road and headed down to the river my worst fears were confirmed… there were definitely no hot water pools! I had no intention of risking hypothermia so, I gracefully bowed out. However, my fellow travellers stripped down to their shorts and took a dip in the freezing waters, accompanied by plenty of gasping and shivering.

The swim left everyone awake and refreshed and we headed back to the hotel to collect our luggage and continue our journey through the Karoo. Less than 20km outside Barrydale is another ‘Route 62’ icon, Ronnies Sex Shop. We made a quick stop as we were slightly pressed for time. We quickly discovered that this establishment does not live up to its name, though… it did, however, prove to be a first-class pub. Turns out its name stems from the many female undergarments hanging from the ceiling, similar to the famous Panty Bar in Paternoster.

We left Ronnie and his Sex Shop in our rearview mirrors as we pushed further east towards Ladismith, where we turned off to Seweweekspoort. Using prison labour, construction on the road running alongside the Gamka River commenced in the 1850s. It was completed in November 1862 and is still in use to this day. The pass cuts through the Towerkop Nature Reserve and the views are stunning. As we effortlessly wound through the poort in our Seltos, I couldn’t help but think that these were the same areas and roads that men like Thomas Baines travelled on. As we passed through the poort, we turned off towards the Gamkapoort Dam. Lunch was at Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve, where we feasted on ostrich sosaties before rejoining the R323 and heading towards Laingsburg. From there it was on to Matjiesfontein and then our last stop for the day in Sutherland in the Northern Cape, about 400km from Cape Town.

We had a tour lined up at the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), situated at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) field station near the small town. SALT is currently funded by a consortium of international partners from South Africa, the United States of America, Poland, India and the United Kingdom. The telescope has been in full science operation since 2011 and is realising its huge potential as Africa’s ‘Giant Eye on the Universe’. I suspect we all thought we would be looking at the stars, but SALT collects its data very differently than we had envisaged and you need a pretty powerful computer to decode the data before you are able to see anything. That said, the 25m high structure, built on a hilltop 1 800m above sea level in the middle of the Karoo, is still rather impressive!

That night we stayed over at Rogge Cloof, just outside Sutherland. Again, the food, coupled with small-town hospitality, impressed. The next morning, we headed back to Cape Town to catch our flights home, but not before we took a detour through the Tankwa, with a short stop at the Tankwa Padstal for some lunch.

Our roadtrip ride:

While this road trip was great, the Kia Seltos was the true star of the show. It behaved very well on all surfaces, but it was its prowess on gravel roads that really impressed me. Honestly, the Seltos is one of my favourite crossovers in a market segment that is practically bursting at the seams. Apart from the fact that is is a real looker, it is extremely comfortable and offers great fuel consumption to boot.

It’s so much more than a pretty face, though, boasting many superb qualities to make it a stand-out. When it was first launched in 2019, Kia wanted to cover as much of the market as possible, and as a result, it offered a multitude of trim options, engines and powertrains. On this trip, we sampled the EX+ variant, which is available with a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engine.

This particular model has a power output of 86W, which sounds a tad weak – however, the torque figure of 250Nm at 1 400-2 750rpm means that if you put your foot down, the Seltos goes. The six-speed gearbox is fairly responsive and there’s no hunting for the correct gear, which helped a lot on the numerous passes we drove on our trip. The little diesel four-banger works best in its mid-range rev range and tapers down at around 4 000rpm, but there’s no need to rev it to that point. Acceleration is good when you need to overtake.

Apart from its responsive and frugal powerplant, the Seltos also offers great riding dynamics. It hits that sweet spot between ride quality and handling and behaved really well in the winding bits. While there’s a fair amount of body roll it still offers good feedback, which makes you feel comfortable and in control when heading up or down a brutal mountain pass.

Completing the stellar package, the Seltos has a great looking cabin. The EX+ derivative boasts leather trimmed seats that give it a more refined feel and complement the big dashboard layout and the piano black finish. In conclusion, the Seltos is an attractive, affordable and practical option in the crossover landscape, while still being enough of an SUV to confidently tackle the roads less travelled.

Model line-up & pricing

• Seltos 1.6 MT: R436 995

• Seltos 1.6 AT EX: R454 995

• Seltos 1.5D AT EX: R466 995

• Seltos 1.6 AT EX+: R472 995

• Seltos 1.5D MT EX: R484 995

• Seltos 1.5D AT EX+: R502 995

• Seltos 1.4T DCT GT-Line: R532 995

*All Seltos models come standard with a 5-year/unlimitedkilometre warranty, a 5-year/90 000km service plan, and 5-year/unlimited-kilometre roadside assistance.

TRAVEL GUIDE

Karoo Art Hotel

After a wobbly time leading into the Covid-19 lockdown and then an eventual total derailment, the Karoo Art Hotel is back on track, compliments of a radical redo under the baton of new owners and creative directors Rick and Sue Melvill.

While you’re there, be sure to take part in the daily Barrydale 365 early morning swim. The ‘swim club’ departs from the hotel at dawn. The destination… a rock pool on the Tradouw Pass. Along for the trip is a Melvill & Moon Game Drive Ammo Box with fresh ground coffee and a stash of freshly baked New York bagels. Followers of the Wim Hoff cold water swimming movement will relate to all of this. The trip ends back at the hotel, where hot coffee and a full farm breakfast is served.

CONTACT: +27 66 189 7457 / +27 82 441 9143 reservations@karooarthotel.co.za | www.karooarthotel.co.za

Joubert Tradouw Cellar

About 10km down the road towards Montagu lies the high-end Joubert Tradauw wine estate with its award-winning Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Franc wines. As well as their signature R62 brand. Wine maker Meyer Joubert’s wife, Beate, is a sublime cook and published cookbook author. Out of their farm deli restaurant she specialises in platters that are paired with their estate wines. The deli /restaurant is currently open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch on other days is by appointment only, depending on the number of diners.

CONTACT: +27 82 304 9000 | www.joubert-tradauw.com

Warm Waterberg Spa

A visit to Warm Waterberg is a memorable experience. Design wise it may not be everyone‘s cup of tea as it is seemingly stuck in a 1970s time warp, but the effect of its Lithium enriched waters is wonderful.

CONTACT: +27 28 572 1609 | book@warmwaterbergspa.co.za | www.warmwaterbergspa.co.za

Bosch Luys Kloof Private Nature Reserve

For more than a century, different parts of this beautiful reserve were extensively used for stock farming, mainly Merino sheep. Currently, it extends near 14 000ha, but it was even larger before the Gamkapoort Dam was built on the eastern side of the property during the late 1960s. Although many different owners farmed with livestock until approximately 1970, only small-scale herding has taken place since, so the Reserve has enjoyed a lengthy period of natural rehabilitation.

There were four main farmsteads on the present reserve land and there are still remnants of old stone structures used by shepherds of the stock-farmers of the past. There are also a number of old graves from the mid-19th century. An interesting piece of history surrounds the ‘Wagon Route to Beaufort’. Almost half of the trail follows a historic wagon/ horse route inland and was in use in the early 1800s. It was used until about 1862 when the current Bosluiskloof Pass was built, shortly after the road through Seweweekspoort was completed. The new, much more accessible road changed the lives of the many pioneer settlers who were already occupying large areas inland. The road today is a cul-de-sac, ending at the Reserve’s eastern end (at the Gamkapoort Dam). It was the link to Prince Albert and Beaufort (now Beaufort West).

It is also interesting to note that a whole century went by before a road was eventually built into the adjacent Die Hel in Gamkaskloof in 1962, adding to the mystery of the people who preferred to stay there and traversed on foot and by donkey.

CONTACT: +27 23 581 5046 | info@boschluyskloof.co.za | www.boschluyskloof.co.za

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