Most people love a good story. Especially one that is filled with vivid images, emotion, and life. And that’s one thing Kingsley Holgate can do pretty well: tell a good story. But wait, you’re probably wondering who this Holgate fella is.
He is only one of the most renowned travelers of our time. Just someone who betters the lives of people he comes in contact with through his journeys through the most remote parts of Africa. Ag, he’s only just a 70-something-year-old man who lives and breaths Land Rover. He’s, in all likelihood, Landy’s number one ambassador and an amazing storyteller of note.
Mr Land Rover himself
Kingsley and his family grew up with Land Rovers in Kwazulu-Natal. As he grew older and started his own family, the passion for the British automaker was passed onto his son, Ross. And together, the father-son team, with their trusted squad, are exploring the darkest, most dangerous, parts of the African continent. Kingsley’s late wife also shared in his passion.
But they are not just traveling through Africa for fun and games. No. The Holgates, in collaboration with Land Rover, have made it their mission to aid the under privileged by providing them with mosquito nets (malaria is real, people!), spectacles, devices to purify water… you name it, they’re probably doing it.
And the real kicker in all of this – while they’re traversing ganglands and facing some of nature’s most grueling creations – their mode of transport is a Land Rover Discovery. And the Holgates were present when the all-new Discovery was launched in Lesotho earlier in July.
The next chapter
In a lineage that spans 28 years and four preceding generations, the new Discovery is totally different to what we’ve come to expect from the legendary off-roader. For starters, the design is a lot more contemporary; a move away from the box shape the vehicle has become known for. It also features a heck of a lot more niceties and technology, all aimed at a more leisurely experience. Basically everything is electric now and die-hard Disco fans might frown upon this prospect.
It is also more comfortable for all seven passengers in the three rows of seats and there is a lingering sense that this new Discovery was designed with a great sense of all-roundness. But this is with regards to the experience on the paved road. Road holding and steadiness is solid for a vehicle this size (the Discovery shaved off 480kg over the outgoing model).
And it’s all good and well, but for someone like Kingsley Holgate, his Discovery needs to be able to tackle undulations, boulders, wade through water, scale unholy inclines while towing a trailer, and eat up kilometers of dusty roads that lie barren as far as the eye can see.
Though the new Disco proved itself on the open road, it was time to see whether or not an on-road profoundness received preference over off-road capability.
Kingsley’s journeys ‘replicated’
The fourth-generation Discovery was probably one of the best off-road machines ever built. Having experienced the Land Rover Experience just outside Stellenbosch in a fourth-generation Discovery, I knew what stakes the new vehicle had to live up to. But perhaps better to ask what the new SUV needs to be, is Kingsley himself.
Around the fire, the Adventurer told stories of near-death experiences, how he pondered his death underneath a thousand-year-old tree as blood poured profusely from his arms. This is a man who has seen the best of life, but also experienced the worst that life could throw at him. And through every obstacle he was faced with the last couple of years, he was driving a fourth-generation Discovery. A formidable off-roader that does not have the words “Oh crap, we’re done for!” programmed into its computer.
Given this, knowing that the new Discovery would have to ensure an elderly man’s safety and longevity, the fifth-generation Land Rover Discovery was given a baptism of fire.
With a trailer, loaded with a 480kg weight, hooked on, the Discovery set about the first challenge: scaling down a steep incline and out the other side where loose rocks and dongas laid littered in the road. However, with the now-simplified and more effective Terrain Response II system in the right settings, the Disco crawled forth, navigating its way through and over the challenge.
Then came wading through a stream of water that seemed bewildered by rocks that were probably planted by some satan’s spawn. But with a ground clearance of 283mm and a wading depth of 900mm, this challenge, too, proved to be little trouble for the new Discovery. Just be sure that you have a caller/spotter who knows what they’re doing!
Horn of Africa
Kingsley and his son are heading off on their new mission soon. The destination: The Horn of Africa in Somalia. One of the most dangerous parts in Africa. Kingsley will most likely tackle the journey in a Discovery equipped with the 190kW/600Nm 3.0-litre V6 diesel engine. There is a petrol unit displacing the same size too, but the power figures of 250kW/450Nm are better suited to spirited driving. Both engines send power to all four wheels via an eight-speed gearbox.
Either way, the new Discovery is facing one of its toughest challenges yet: Africa. And yes, it is well-equipped to deliver a comfortable drive over long distances and the off-road capabilities will get Kingsley and Ross to where they need to be. But how well the package comes together can only be told once one of Africa’s greatest living heroes completes his next journey.
Imagine the stories he’ll come back with! Stories underlining the capabilities of a vehicle we sampled at launch over treacherous terrain. Stories of people who received the little gifts to improve their lives – gifts transported in the Discovery! Imagine when he reaches Somalia, when he reaches the Horn of Africa, and he glances over the sea and a calmness washes over him and his son…
Imagine when Kingsley turns around and the Discovery’s diesel engine spurs him on to get the return-leg going. Oh, the stories he’ll tell!