When you drive a vehicle sharing the name of the highest mountain on earth you expect a robust response to the driving challenges presented by Overberg country roads. Seeing my ride approaching I realised that the Ford Everest stands tall and meets expectations when it comes to size. First impressions matter!
Similar to preparations on a mountaineering expedition much research and trial runs were made to ensure that the Ford Everest can stand the test of the elements. The windows are UV protected to shield passenger and interior from the harsh African sun. I am told that South Africa plays a major role in the development and testing of vehicles and believe that the Upington is the southern hemisphere testing centre when it comes to driving compliance.
To get my Everest expedition going I had to press the clutch and the break before the machine actioned engine activity. This is in line with European safety standards and something to keep in mind if you are used to just touching a button to get out of the blocks. We decided that our Everest needs a run in the countryside of the Cape Whale Coast and headed towards Stanford on the R43 with the mission of finding a country market. It was Saturday and a small yet buzzing market on the Stanford Hotel’s stoep was a festive start to the ride. Proteas, fresh vegetables, pies and golden fudge wrapped individually were tempting treats for our road trip. There was much activity in Stanford with people having breakfast at cafes that spill onto pavements while others meandered down Queen Victoria Road browsing at the many decor and antique shops. In Stanford you always have to be on the lookout for a surprise find. Two of my favourite beauty products are also from here – Antjies and Kudu Cosmetica. Who doesn’t need a pre-expedition pamper?
Time to venture off the beaten track and go rough. We turned towards the dirt road. Just off the R43 outside Stanford is a gravel route that runs parallel to the R326 hosting many gems and well deserving of a tour. The entrance is marked by Sir Robert Stanford. A wine estate with tastings and space to cuddle in front of a crackling fire in winter. There is also an on-site restaurant – The Zesty Lemon. We took a shot left with grit to the gravel and saw another favourite eatery – Stanford Harvest. Further along is African Wings where you can hop on board for a flying safari or – if your timing is right and you visit between June and November -you can have an aerial view of Southern Right whales playing in Walker Bay. We needed a coffee stop and Stanford Hills came in sight. A place where I would usually sample wine but not meant for this day. Mission Test Driving Everest needed to be taken on with sober seriousness. After one great coffee and a chat with the Kastner family we explored the property that host a plantation of fynbos as well as the glamping accommodation of AfriCamps. Stanford Hills is a place to play, eat and stay. Turning back onto our dirt track is Welgesind Wines. Coming from the motor trade owner Chris de Witt has named his Shiraz appropriately Welgesind Mechanic. Wine tasting is by appointment and visitors are advised to phone in advance if they want to visit the youngest member of the Stanford Wine Route. With many wine tasting options it is good to know that a variety of accommodation options are available on this same road. Phillipskop Mountain Reserve has self-catering cottages while White Water is a working farm with a Country House and Blue Gum Country Estate offers family run lodging. Phillipskop Mountain Reserve is hiking terrain and a brisk uphill walk will get you to magnificent rock art. Make the climb. It not only lessens the guilt of all the country food and wine indulgence but it is a part of our Overberg history that every visitor needs to see. I was pleased to see some pictures in the Everest cabin as well. Not quite in the league of the rock art drawings but never the less indicative of the different driving adjustments of the Ford Everest. No guess work needed when receiving assistance going form slippery sand conditions to challenging inclines.
Our track made a loop closer to the R326 and we went with it. Heading towards Klein River Cheese Farm we realised how exhausting it can be navigating country roads. Klein River Cheese was perfectly situated to offer wholesome nutrition. Who can resist pausing for our award-winning Overberg cheeses and a stretch on their lush lawn?
Every good expedition comes to an end and we decided to save the attractions beckoning further along the tarred R326 for another day. So much to do when sitting comfortably in the powerful Ford Everest.