Old Series Land Rovers are incredibly versatile vehicles. Just ask Mel Henderson and her Nelly.
Nelly, the 1977 Series 3, has been topless, worn a bikini top, and had her sliding door-top windows on and off with both those options. Now she is proudly showing off her ‘new’ hardtop canopy, which is really a Series 2 hardtop but still suits her to a T.
While scrolling Instagram in mid-May, the snow images on Snow Report SA just blew me away. After showing them to Andrew, my adventure-loving husband, Nelly was packed to the hilt with food, water, warm clothing, a 20L jerrycan of fuel and snow chains before I could blink. Off we trundled early the next morning to give Nelly her first taste of Sani Pass in the snow.
The journey from Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, to Underberg was breathtaking. We drove the Byrne Valley, so beautiful with rolling hills and Nguni cattle, and as we chugged along I mused at the beauty of the province. Where else can you spend a Saturday shark-cage diving in Scottburgh; then enjoy the following weekend mountain biking in a nature reserve in Camperdown area between orange-flowered aloes, buck and zebra; and then two weeks later head towards a snow-covered mountain pass that links KZN and Lesotho? I am so proud to be South African.
On passing the Premier Resort Sani Pass, we commented on how long it’s taking to renovate and with our hearts beginning to sing we approached the sandy beginning of the pass itself. But before the fun could truly begin, there came a dreaded sight: gridlock! SUVs with city slickers were parked here, there and everywhere. A shiny Nissan Navara with wet, muddy, smooth tyres was parked off the road to our left. How could he even think those tyres could climb a slippery, snowy pass? Other muddy vehicles were parked (stuck?) left and right to the front of us.
We stopped on the side and hopped out, leaving quite a bit of space between us and the unwanted view in front of us. Nelly was barely stationary for two minutes when two ND vehicles squeezed past us and ‘cleverly’ stopped between Nelly and the cars in front. I bit my tongue to refrain from commenting and ruining our day, while Andrew went ahead to see what the problem was.
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One amusing incident was caused by a fully loaded taxi with a Basotho number plate that worsened the gridlock by inching into the small space that had been created to allow downward-moving vehicles to pass.
While making small talk with the wife of the driver of a Jeep Wrangler, I queried the Baboons Pass sticker on his Jeep’s wheel arch and the obnoxious driver laughed at Nelly and asked, “Your Landy hasn’t been there?” But I wiped the smile off his face when I replied, “Nelly hasn’t been because we must still fit her winch, but we have a 1957 Series 1 Landy that has. He has modified suspension and is built for rock-crawling.”
Our perfect day was a wee bit marred when we encountered a red Basotho-plated Toyota, fully loaded with tarpaulin-covered items, that was stuck at the switchback by the waterfall, preventing any vehicles from passing. The driver was nowhere to be seen, so we had no choice but to turn and head back down.
On the downward trip, we encountered a couple from Camperdown who happily announced that they had just got engaged. Many more photos of Nelly and a few more of the pass and a little further down the pass, we encountered two hooligan Toyotas parked with awning out, a roaring fire on the go with a group of raucous people who laughingly allowed us to pose with their snowman, which was adorned with snorkelling mask and flippers.
Driving a 40-year-old Land Rover on Sani Pass in the snow was one of the best days of my life. When we arrived back that night, we felt a bit bad for leaving ‘Sylvester’, the 1957 Series 1, at home, but his turn at having a fun weekend away is coming soon. Hopefully to Baboons Pass.