New Defender makes its first Sub-Sahara foray in Namibia’s remote Kunene region
The new Land Rover Defender was tested extensively by a media crew earlier this year, taking the iconic offroader through Kaokoland in the most remote corner of the Kunene region.
The three-day expedition, officially supported by Land Rover, consisted of four Defenders, brought to Namibia specifically to take the adventure writers on an unimaginable safari to see what the car’s fuzz is all about.
Factory fitted with the ‘Explorer Pack’, the Defenders covered nearly 800 kilometres of the roughest terrain imaginable. The offroad part of the exhibition started and ended in the Kunene capital, Opuwo.
Author Heiko Zwirner, recently related the crew’s ordeal in an extensive article prepared for MrIcon, a supplement to the German newspaper, die Welt.
As a foreigner, Zwirner could not believe his own eyes when he first encountered typical Kaokoveld conditions. The crew had to contend with sand so deep that they quickly got one of the Defenders stuck. Closer to the ocean, they again had to drive through very thick sand and got all four vehicles stuck. On other stages, notably the notorious Van Zyl’s pass, progress was often so slow that they covered a mere seven kilometres in one and a half hours.
After a few days in conditions that Zwirner describes as rock and sand, sand and rock, and still more rock and sand, to their surprise the convoy had to wade through a river that still had some water after the early rains.
The convoy of Defenders was led by David Sneath, one of the foremost Land Rover experts who has worked for the company for 40 years.
The man responsible for developing the new Defender, Land Rover’s Vehicle Line Director, Nick Collins was quoted as saying that they realised the car had to come to Africa at some stage. “Like no other vehicle, the Defender helped to explore even the most remote corners of this continent. For many people who grew up in Sub-Sahara [Africa], a [Land Rover] was the very first vehicle they ever saw.”
Caption: The recent Defender safari to the Kaokoveld entered the Skeleton Coast National Park at one of several no-entry points that are only marked by a weathered sign. There are no fences in this part of Namibia. (Photograph by Nick Dimbleby for MrIcon, die Welt)