3 days, 3 good deeds and 3 Ford Rangers
Three days, three cars and three good deeds. That is what Ford SA’s #RangerHer #driveswithamission invitation promised, but what transpired was so much more.
This exclusively women-led media ride and drive event was aimed at celebrating South African women who show that toughness comes standard.
It was also a unique opportunity to help support Ford’s charitable causes.
So let me start with the most important part of the trip: the good deeds.
Do me a favour and look up Rietbron on a map. It is literally in the middle of nowhere, in the heart of the Karoo, between Beaufort West and Willowmore.
The town’s pride and joy is Bronvlei Primary School, a beautiful and well cared for set of buildings, which was where day 1 of Ford adventure took us from Port Elizabeth. Our mission was to deliver two much-needed handwashing stations to this school in the middle of a semi-desert during the Coivd-19 pandemic, where hand washing is key in preventing the spread.
A frustrated Principal Tommy Jacobs laid out some of the issues the school faced, an almost complete lack of assistance from the Eastern Cape authorities, 270 pupils being taught by only 7 teachers, and the impossible task of fund raising in a town whose population of about 1,100 souls relies heavily on grants.
Jacobs was overjoyed with Ford’s gift of the handwashing stations, alcohol-free sanitiser, soap and face shields from Ford and joked that he would be the envy of the schools in his district.
After spending the night in the Royal Hotel in Willowmore, day 2’s good deed was the donation of face shields to the Willowmore Clinic. Just days earlier President Cyril Ramaphosa had warned of a resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the Eastern Cape, with the Sarah Baartman district, where Willowmore is situated one of the hotspots.
Nurse Heather Coetzee said that the clinic was under immense pressure since Covid hit. “We sometimes feel that we are going to burn out because it’s just Covid all the time, but during Covid we also have our normal work.
“We are very happy for organisations like Ford that have us on their minds and for giving us this boost.”
Day 3’s good deed was a check in with the Knysna Basin Project, one of the initiatives supported by the Ford Wildlife Foundation. The project is mostly about research aimed at achieving and maintaining the desired ecological state of the Knysna Estuary. The estuary is of course home to the famous - and endangered - Knysna seahorse.
A boat trip around the lagoon showed how this in this tourist hub, the balance between developing to attract tourists and maintaining a conservation standard is critical.
Connecting these three missions was the many hundreds of kilometres we had to cover, talk about taking the scenic route! Luckily we were driving some of the best bakkies in South Africa.
For the trip from Port Elizabeth to Rietbron and our night in Willowmore, my co-driver and I were assigned the Ford Ranger Thunder, a gorgeous beast that made my first time driving a bakkie and my first time driving off road a breeze, even under the harsh - and hot - conditions of the Karoo.
The road holding in 4x4 mode made what could have been uncomfortable and perhaps a little scary ride on some rough terrain, so comfortable that I could enjoy the magnificent and unique scenery.
This is a vehicle that can handle the school run and the savanna, with its red trim and an inside that has all the style of a luxury sedan, I repeat it’s one gorgeous beast.
On Day 2 we navigated the drive from Willowmore to Knysna via the twisting and turning, climbing and dipping 68-kilometre Prince Albert Pass in a Ford Ranger Wildtrak.
Described as the “longest publicly accessible mountain pass in South Africa” and “Thomas Bain’s greatest work” the pass saw us doing our greatest driving work with the Wildtrak absolutely up to the task. With power and control, it didn’t break a sweat and neither did we. Exhilarating!!
Coming off the pass, you enter Knysna from the back of the forest, an unbelievable drive and one I will definitely do again, hopefully in a Wildtrak.
Day 3 was a demonstration of the Ford Ranger performance on a “normal” highway on that summer favourite, the Garden Route. The road from Knysna to Cape Town was 488km of bliss in the Ford Raptor.
I thought I would feel overwhelmed by the size of this bakkie, but we made that stylish cabbie with all the mod cons our home and the kilometres flew by. This is by far the biggest vehicle I have driven, but not once did I feel intimidated or out of control. In fact I felt empowered and tough.
Mission accomplished, Ford!