Epic Drakensberg drive – in a Suzuki Eeco!

Haven’t heard? Suzuki has added to their compact commercial line-up with the all-new Indian-built Eeco panel van.

The launch of the Suzuki Eeco was the perfect opportunity for some charitable outreach in the Drakensberg and here is how it went!

Winding roads and breathtaking scenery, the last type of vehicle for the job would be a panel van, however, on this occasion, Suzuki South Africa required the utility for charitable outreach to impoverished communities in the area. Partnering up with Rally to Read, an organisation which has been at the forefront of delivering meaningful contributions to learners in rural areas for almost two decades, the Suzuki Eeco panel vans were loaded up with supplies and taken on the trek from O.R. Tambo International Airport into the heart of the Drakensberg.

Image: Suzuki.

Turning off the N3 at Warden while heading into the south eastern portion of the Free State, the Eecos found themselves more at home trundling by under 100km/h while occasionally mustering up all power and torque to overtake slower-moving vehicles. Guided by a route map, the large distances between turns were filled with cautions of potholes and sinkholes on what are otherwise some of the most scenic routes in the region. The Sterkfontein Dam Nature Reserve served as a pitstop to enjoy the fleeting sunlight before the overnight destination at Little Switzerland was reached.

The following day was when the six panel vans would prove their worth on rutted dirt roads and pothole-ridden tarred sections that required continuous caution. Leaving our overnight stay as the sun peered over the surrounding mountain majesty, the May weather gave a grim preview of the harsh temperatures that the region experiences during the mid of winter. With no time to spare and some perilous roads to venture along, first on the agenda was Kwa Miya Primary School which served 484 learners with 15 teaching staff.

Image: Suzuki.

Several school desks and chairs were handed over along with reflective beanies colour coded to the school uniform. With books provided by the Rally to Read foundation, young learners recited the material which they had been learning from. Several kilometres further was Ogade Primary School, located in a far more remote setting requiring driving on dirt roads. Surrounded by isibaya’s, the community is located at the basin of the surrounding mountain range, meaning the sun rises and sets much earlier during the winter months, greeted with the same orchestral audio of professional choirs, the school comprising 216 learners and 10 teaching staff showed their gratitude for the warm winter garments and new furniture additions.

The final school on the agenda was Ngunjini Primary School which continued several kilometres further along the dirt road lined with shepherds and their flocks. Despite the unrefined surface below, the driving experience in the Eeco remained relatively comfortable, reaffirming Suzuki’s statement of their newcomer being designed to offer the easiest and most efficient movement of goods. Upon arrival to the 384 learners and 13 teachers, the modest school served as a platform for learners of all grades to demonstrate their language abilities through poetry, recitals and short choreographed plays.

Once the handover was complete and the cargo bays of the Eecos was emptied, the convoy commenced the return leg of the journey. Rejoining the N3 and revving the 1.2-litre motor up to its peak power band, Van Reenen’s pass was conquered with an afternoon lunch at the Little Church Tea Garden, adjacent to the World’s Smallest Church.

The verdict of the gift-bearing Eecos? Its frugal running costs and ease of use will surely put as much of a smile on the face of small business owners, equally as much elation as the recipients of the charitable donations in the Drakensberg.

Read the original story on CAR Magazine.

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