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SA to Lesotho in a Ford Mustang: Powering V8 muscle through the Maluti mountains

2018-03-20 13:06

Charlen Raymond

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Golden Gate, Free State - As morning breaks on the third day of the Ford Mustang road trip, the convoy is gearing up to get the day going at AfriSki resort in Lesotho.

It’s freezing cold as temperatures nudge on 0°C. Facing the cold breath of the mountain, we made our way to one of the lookouts above AfriSki. The activity planned before we sit down for a nice, warm breakfast is monster roller.

Now, for those who don’t know what a monster roller is: imagine a scooter that you stand on with both feet, but with big off-road tyres. Yup. And we’re going down a mountain! Darn, it was fun!

Your posture needs to be right, knees bent a certain way, arms flared like a wild eagle, and your eyes constantly looking for the best route to take on the rocky trail. Being 3km above sea-level does get your teeth chattering but once the adrenaline gets pumping you’ll be warm in a matter of moments. And being the ever-competitive soul that I am, I rolled with the instructor and took his lines as we descended the mountain at an eye-watering pace.

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Back to SA

Unfortunately, our time in Lesotho lasted only for one night, but it was more than enough time to see the country and get an idea of what to expect when you actually do come and visit on an extended trip.

Heading back to South Africa, I saddled into the driver’s seat of the 2.3-litre EcoBoost Mustang. Unlike the burly V8, this engine is turbocharged and develops 233kW and 430Nm. Of course the V8 is the better sounding engine, but at altitudes the EcoBoost can run with the 5.0-litre. That’s because the turbo forces air into the engine, which minimises the thin air’s negative influence on engine performance.

We’ve been warned the day before that it snowed in the Maluti mountains recently and black ice formed on the roads.

And no one wants to be caught on black ice…

Going down the mountain and contending with the drop in air pressure that block your ears, it was a good drive just taking everything in. And because it rained during our drive, there was no way anyone was going to push any of the vehicles to their limits.

The upside was that one could really see the country; see how people go about their daily lives. It was the same the day before, but this time around you are starting your day afresh in Lesotho and observing the locals was a lot more intimate.

The Mustang continued diligently, not missing a single beat as we travelled comfortably at 120km/h. The six-speed automatic gearbox had no trouble hooking the right gear, but using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters helped to take some of that hesitancy away. Thing is, though, the Mustang really highlighted something that some folk would not be aware of; especially this 2.3-litre. And that is that this car is ideally suited to long-distance travel.

It’s a sports car, but despite that credential it is not in unfamiliar territory when hitting the long road. Even the twisting roads coming down the Mahlasela and Moteng mountain passes did not deter or unsettle the car. And those road conditions are pretty bad, except for a few stretches where the roads were exceptionally good.

Once we hit the Calendonsport border post we had our papers checked, passports stamped and let back into the Republic of South Africa. It felt good to be home and to celebrate our return we pulled over at a farm stall for a warm mug of coffee. Or more in the traditional sense of the word, for moer koffie.

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Pouring rains Down in Cape Town, as well as other parts of South Africa, we are pretty starved for rain. And it has a profound effect on everyone. Everyone is turning every drop of water around, making it stretch just that millilitre further.

But in Clarence, some 30km from the border post where we sat down for lunch, it started to rain with menace. Not the drizzle Cape Town has seen the last month or so, I’m talking about the angels pouring buckets of water onto this peaceful little town.

And the Mustangs really looked good: The water dripping off the wheel arches, drops lying dormant on the bonnet. But it was the peacefulness of the town that really made us quiet.

At around 5pm the convoy assembled and made its way to the Golden Gate hotel, a few kilometres out of town. Nestled in the mountains, the resort was the perfect spot to lay down on the last night of our trip. It’s been great and it’s been memorable.

You almost don’t want the sun to break cover on the last morning…

Read more on:    charlen raymond  |  free state  |  mustang  |  road trip

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