The Mahindra Adventure Challenge took us to Cape Town in South Africa recently, and it didn't take long to figure out that the XUV 5OO and the city we were driving it around in, aren't too different after all
The Third World isn’t what it used to be. There was a time when the term stood for everything rotten – underdevelopment, economic misery, nations in the dump. History has shown us that the downtrodden do rise and the underestimated are the ones who really lead with all their might. This is the time of the underdogs. Quite ironic that a country that is part of the landmass that very clearly is the cradle of human life still falls under the Third World sticker though.
They’ve had their fair share of problems and racism based on colour of the skin was a prejudice that South Africa could do without the memory of. Apartheid has cost the southern most country on the African continent many years of progress and it is only now that all the communities have started mingling, but the moment we set foot outside the confines of the air terminal in Cape Town we knew that things were not as bad as they are portrayed to the outside world.
Our travel advisory had all sorts of warnings that would generally deter anyone from going through with the journey itself – warnings about venturing out post dark mainly, for fear of getting mugged. But let’s face it, there are quite a few places in India as well that you’re asking for trouble if you set foot in there at odd hours. It’s funny really because what the travel advisories should really be talking about is how tourists will get mesmerised by the beauty of the South African countryside and the warmth of its people.
What they should be raving on and on about is the diversity of its wildlife and the immaculate fashion in which it is being preserved. Personal safety should just be everyone’s prerogative in our times – no matter whether you’re in California, Calicut or Cape Town! It is really the geographical location of the city of Cape Town that bestows it with so much scenic admiration from the Gods that you’re more likely to be caught out by that than by a mug in hiding. Move just a few kilometres in either of the four directions and you’ll find yourself either in the mountains, in deep forest, in wineries or bang on the coast and you’ve got a choice there too – you could either enjoy the cooler waters of the Atlantic Ocean or move further east to bask in the warmth of the Indian Ocean.
With so many choices on hand we first head to the mountains and through some awesome countryside to Fransschoek set within the foothills of a mix of high and low peaks. But enroute, and since we are all petolheads more than anything else, we made a what was supposed to be a quick stop at the Fransschoek Motor Museum.
The quick stop stretched on for hours in the confines of four barns at the back of the main building because tucked in them were some of the world’s most exotic examples of classic and sports cars. From the Model T to the McLaren F1, from Maseratis to Ferraris this place has it all and if you’re up to it you’ve got the liberty of going wine tasting as well – this is after all a winery!
That’s probably the only thing that you won’t be able to do if you’re driving yourself on holiday here but for the site of the contents of that car museum, it definitely is worth it. The entire span of the vicinity of Cape Town isn’t much – it’s a drive that you could cover and enjoy thoroughly in the duration of a few days. Of course, you’ll never want to leave at the end of your itinerary and you’ll want to crawl back into the driver’s seat to drive around more and experience the massive dollops of culture, cuisine and charisma that engulfs South Africa.
And that’s the best way to really experience Cape Town – drive around yourself. Of course there are the usual tour operators and the open top double decker buses and even some motorcycle sidecar tours for you to choose from but nothing will give you the experience that driving your own car will. The reason why I’m pressing that point hard is only one – the roads.
Imagine this – perfectly smooth tarmac stretching for miles and miles, curving around mountains, tracing along the coast, rising and dipping as the sun sets on the horizon. With such roads at your disposal, you really don’t want to be chauffeured everywhere and at our disposal was the Mahindra XUV 5OO – recently launched in South Africa and trying to make its mark.
There’s no denying that the XUV is a good looking vehicle and if it manages to catch the attention of the locals in a land that has grown up on a steady diet of Land Rovers then you know that there’s got to be something really special about it. And that’s what this trip was all about – whether we went whale watching to the shores of Hermanus or for an exquisite cuisine of sea food at Hout Bay. Whether it was driving to the quaint little naval dwelling of Simon’s Town or in the actual urban cityscape of Cape Town – the XUV seemed like it was home.
Every country has its dark side and so has South Africa, but overlook the small niggles to concentrate on the true beauty of the land and you know that with cities like Cape Town on its map, there’s a lot to enjoy. Much like the car we were driving then. For years Mahindra has been known as a manufacturer of commercial vehicles and compared to the age of the global automotive industry, the brand is but an infant in terms of passenger cars. But what the manufacturer has achieved over its short tenure is more than just impressive.
The XUV has its faults – it’s not perfect by any means. But look past those and you’ll see the brilliant value that the car brings with it. In the end it’s all about faith and as the road took us over a hill on the last evening we spent around Cape Town – cliffs on either side, it crested and dropped to the valley below. The faint remnants of the setting sun turned into a burning glare reflecting off the Atlantic sprawled across in front. This warmth is probably why they call it the Cape of Good Hope, and we were standing there, on the south-western most tip of Africa – twinkle in our eyes and faith in our souls.