It was wet, cold, and misty. Potholes, naturally, rule the roost in the former Transkei, and motorists there drive with their own set of road rules.
Then there're the animals. Oh my word. If you're a dog lover it's enough to make you weep: emaciated hounds with haunted eyes and empty bellies were everywhere: big ones, little ones, baby ones and dead ones.
Apart from that depression, a trip with Suzuki through Pondoland and the Eastern Cape was one to remember.
On the upside, the Grand Vitara was sheer driving pleasure through the crappy conditions. And our overnight stay at the gloriously situated Ocean View Hotel, right on the shores, practically, of the Indian Ocean. Perfect.
The manufacturer has come out with two new spec levels for this capable SUV. There's the Dune option or the Summit, the latter being more highly specced, and costing a bit more (R358 900 and R373 900) compared with the R298 900 for the starter Dune or R313 900 for the auto up-specced model.
Apart from the comfort factor, and the extraordinary space for passengers front and rear, the Grand Vitara is quiet, smooth, exceptionally well-specced, and ready, willing and able to tackle anything in its path.
Choose the Dune, and you get electric windows, CD/MP3 player, 17-inch wheels, ABS, new front bumpers and grille, front, side and curtain airbags, and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed auto gearbox.
Both models boast 200mm of ground clearance, which combined with electronically switchable high and low ranges and centre diff lock, makes for a fearless and competent 4x4.
Interestingly, our lead vehicle and navigator/medic was a Suzuki Jimny, and we found it pretty hard to keep up with the spunky little runabout. Not sure what he had under his bonnet...
Loved the Vitara, and loved the fact that the Suzuki staff and their ad people were on their phones the whole way raising funds for the Put Foot Foundation, which provides new shoes for underprivileged kids.