This picture should be hung on the wall in the RMA Motors showroom. Right in the path of incoming customers. Then the RMA suits should go ahead and fire every salesperson in that store and replace them with a mute ageing man with white hair, deep wise ridges running down his face and a smoking pipe hanging from his chapped lips. And it’s with this pipe that the man will point at this picture when a customer enquires about a Land Rover Discovery…then go back to his crossword puzzle. I’m ideally a Mercedes kind of guy. Mainly because the engineering of a Mercedes doesn’t need your nod. The Mercedes is like a girl with long legs and black painted toenails; all she has to do is cross those legs and you will know that is enough. But then there is the Range Rover. The Range Rover is what I will cheat on the Mercedes with. Even the Mercedes will understand. How can she not? This picture was taken deep in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. I was in another Land Rover Discovery, three cars ahead of it. Jaguar Land Rover was launching the 2014 models of Discoveries and Range Rover Evoques which meant a bunch of petrol-heads (and me) test driving these machines from Maun Botswana, through Moremi Game Reserve in Okavango Delta, spending the night in a tent in the middle of nowhere,
picking the Range Rover Evoques from Kavuti airstrip and riding off through Chobe National Park to Kasane, across the great Zambezi River by ferry at Kazangula
and into Livingstone, Zambia, where we end up by the Victoria Falls. [That was a long-ass sentence] Every car had three chaps; a Land Rover guy and two journalists, each taking turns to drive about 1,000kms. Look, you won’t drive a Mercedes in the bush, unless you are running away from Jojo and his boys who want their money back. If you were ever going to go off road, then your best bet would be a Discovery. The 2014 model is fitted with a sick satellite navigation system that covers 90 per cent of roads ever travelled by self-drive tourists in Africa. Amazing shit. (Oh, by the way, a Landie Guy is allowed to say “shit”.) As we set off, from Maun, setting deep into the Kalahari, now wet from the rains, I asked the Landie chap boasting about their navigation system: “So you want to tell me that this system will take me anywhere with anything that resembles a road in Africa?” “Yup!” he said, a big South African Boer with massive hairy legs. “OK, punch in the coordinates for Ka’nyasoro, then.” I said. “Where is Kenyasouro?” “It’s Kanya-so-ro…” “Where is that, brah?” “Kendu Bay. My village, back in Kenya. Go ahead, punch it in.” The Zimbabwean journalist at the back chortled heartily. “These Kenyans are nuts.” Anyway, the Discovery is not a machine. It’s an animal on fuel. You see the Land Rover Discovery in traffic and you think it’s just another enormous car driven by a privileged chap and you wonder if those chaps who drive Discoveries know what their cars are capable of. And you kind of feel sorry for the cars, stifled on our roads with other clichéd city cars in their shiny alloys, while inside they are dying to go to their natural habitat. The Discovery will climb a rock (we climbed on top of one in Meru National Park one day, where we had a sundowner). Turns out that the Discovery can also swim. During the trip we got to this really bad patch in the reserve where the lead car stopped and stared at the water. I remember the Zimbabwean who was now driving, turning to the Landie guy sceptically, “Will we make it?” The Landy guy simply turned a knob, and we felt the Discovery stand on its tiptoes, slip into its swimming trunks and wade through. And this is a car with a truly deep soul; comfortable on tarmac as it is in the wild. There are pictures taken during this trip of a line of Discoveries journeying, their front lights on parking and they look like extra-terrestrials, metal warriors who rule the jungle. They are indomitable, amphibians on wheels, like they were born and raised in the bush. It’s a spiriting sight. In the end it all boils down to this picture. There is nothing that you will ever be told about the capability of the Discovery other than that. I’ve seen promotional videos of this car on some mad decline down some godforsaken hill in Afghanistan (just in case you are thinking of relocating there), pictures of it in deep snow, it’s ass trying not to succumb to the skid and pictures of it on a pristine winding road, framed with the backdrop of a picturesque alpine France. But none moved me as much as this Okavango picture. None said more. And what it says is that the Landie gets the job done. That they are done Discovering, now they conquer. Regretfully the man with the pipe won’t tell you all this. His pipe will.