Vehicles

Play at Heights in This Must Do Road-Trip Around Gauteng

Road trips are loads of fun, sure, but they’re also quite exhausting—especially when all but one playlist inevitably fades to static. On your next multi-hour car ride, you can make the most of it with snacks that keep you full longer than two minutes.  Or, you can creatively select the right car to go on an epic journey in.

For my adventurous escape from the concrete jungle, I chose the Ford EcoSport 1.0-litre turbocharged EcoBoost. Here’s my spur of the moment, play at heights, must do road trip around Gauteng.

Thing One: Northcliff Eco-Park, Northcliff

Northcliff is a leafy suburb on top of a hill in the north of Johannesburg. It is the second highest point in Johannesburg (after Observatory Ridge) at a magnificent 1,807m high. It has one of the most spectacular views in the city. So to start my day, I head straight there. About 10 years ago, I had an old, 1.0L engine of a 1983 car which literally got me from point A to point B. I tried to get up Northcliff in that little runt and after 40mins and LOTS of smoke, I made it! Tackling this hill, in the 1.0 EcoBoost was effortless. I even stopped at the side of the road at the steepest incline I could find. Effortless! No roll back. No stress on acceleration. No unnecessary revving. Nothing. The EcoBoost range, which employs turbocharging and direct injection to boost power and economy, now stretches from 1.0 to 3.5-litres in capacity. According to Ford’s estimations, the power on tap in the EcoBoost 1.0-litre is equal to what you’d get with a normal 1.6-litre 4-cylinder. If that’s not worth every penny, I don’t know what is.

Thing Two: Play at Height, Fourways

Duh! My next stop was something I had always wanted to try but hadn’t – a bar in the sky. The thought of being strapped to a chair like a prisoner on the green mile wasn’t exactly encouraging but it intrigued me all the same! This fun establishment is the elegant and less daring sibling of the more popular Soweto Towers where bungee jumping, scad falling and literally playing at height between two decommissioned power plants is a thing! As I sat there, slowly watching the ground tear away from my grasp, I thought about the ride over and how connected our lives have become. Take the EcoSport I was driving. Inside, the new dashboard is home to an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system powered by Ford’s Sync 3 software. Ford is touting its gadget-friendliness with two USB ports and one 12-volt outlet up front, plus another 12-volt outlet and an optional 110-volt plug in the rear seating area. Ford has somehow managed to create an “all the tech you need” station to ensure no matter what you do, or where you’re going, you’re always connected. For someone like me who travels quite often – staying connected in the car is bliss! Plus the car has a bunch of storage pockets, bins, and hooks of varying sizes throughout the cabin to give you extra space whenever you need it.

Thing Three: Hartbeesport Aerial Cableway

Nearing midday, I journeyed to my final activity – Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway. Navigation told me it would take about an hour. Given how much driving I was doing, I thought it prudent to have cash on hand for fuel. I had barely made a dent in the tank of fuel, but getting lost and stranded has happened to me before!

The car has remarkable acceleration but at times had a sluggish pace – probably due to the hefty curb weight. But as a regular road-tripper, singing my favourite songs at the top of my lungs, I barely noticed the pace. The aerial cableway was a quick five minute ride up to the top of the Magaliesburg hill. The top station is 1600 meters above sea level and 354 meters above the bottom station. “Harties”as it’s commonly known, is home to the Nuclear Energy Research Centre and is a stone throw away from the infamous Sun City where over twenty five thousand (25,000) people visit every day. The cableway has two fantastic restaurants (at the top and the bottom), with a great traditional marimba band playing your favourite songs. For additional special service, ask for Lucky, the Food and Beverage Manager.

Looking at the car, I recall there was a time I thought the EcoSport had all the flaws of a tiny car saddled with SUV-ish intent but driving it a couple of times has changed my mind on a few things. The brakes have good bite, and the drive absorbs bumps that threaten to swallow it. Something tiny cars fail to achieve.

Living in Johannesburg, where car safety is a big deal, I was impressed to discover the EcoSport has been rated four stars for its ability to prevent being broken into, and a full five stars for preventing theft at all! I would love to see Ford whip up an EcoSport ST at some point given how decent the EcoBoost has proved to be. Just a suggestion. No pressure.

Gallivant Africa
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