South Africa: an awesome safari experience in the legendary Unimog U 406.

Issue 3/2015 of Mercedes-Benz Classic Magazine

includes a detailed story about South Africa.

Here’s a taste of what to expect.

Text and photos: Helge Bendl

From the Drakensberg mountains to the Kruger National Park.

South Africa offers some exceptionally stunning sights, in terms of both landscape and wildlife. A journey through this wondrous natural world in an over 40-year-old 'Universal Motorized Implement', otherwise known as a 'Unimog', gives the traveler plenty of time to enjoy the scenery.

South African Carel Roux joins us for our safari - from the Drakensberg via the Panorama Route along the Blyde River Canyon to the Kruger National Park. The Blyde River Canyon is held to be the world's third-largest canyon. The Unimog allows us to take a closer look at this chasm than would be possible with any other auto.

Carel Roux has restored the U 406 himself.

Not far from the canyon, in the little town of Sabie, Carel Roux and his son run a Unimog repair workshop, where he spent four years single-handedly restoring the 1974-built U 406. Following in the tracks of the pioneers who “discovered” today’s South Africa in the middle of the 19th century, he joins us on our travels through this stunning land. Several decades later, the area around the Blyde River Canyon experienced a gold rush, after precious metal-bearing rocks were found here by the German explorer of Africa, Karl Mauch.

Tiny villages from the time of the gold rush.

Adventurers from every corner of the world made their way to these rugged mountains to pan for gold in the Blyde River. Their primitive tented communities gave way to early settlements such as the tiny village of Pilgrim’s Rest, these days a popular tourist haunt. The first automobile came to the village in 1912, destined for the managing director of the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates.

A Unimog makes the ideal traveling companion.

Carel Roux enjoys every kilometre in his Unimog. It may not be the fastest of vehicles, but it’s definitely the one that will get furthest in this terrain, by far. “You can just let the Unimog trundle through the landscape while you sit back and enjoy the scenery to your heart’s content”, says the 67-year-old. Even at the age of ten, back in 1958, he was sitting at the wheel of a U 411 that his father had ordered for his farm. Roux subsequently trained as an automotive technician with Mercedes-Benz’s South African subsidiary.

The fascination of the Kruger National Park.

Carel Roux has been infected with the Unimog bug for almost 60 years now. Together with his son he owns seven vehicles, among them his father's U 411, now once again in road-going condition. But his favourite of all of them is the U 406.

We travel with him further to the east, to vast areas of farmland and scattered habitation. But here, too, the focus remains on nature: in the Kruger National Park, for example, which with an area of 20,000 square kilometres is about the same size as Slovenia.

Elephants in the wild up close.

The Kruger National Park is bordered by the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, the oldest private reserve in South Africa. Guided tours offer an opportunity to see South Africa’s “Big Five” in the wild: lion, rhino, leopard, elephant and buffalo. Our Unimog is being allowed to join the safari. At the Sand River we meet a herd of elephants – with some of them coming so close that we can smell their earthy aroma.

Encounter with leopards and lions.

We even see a female leopard with her young – a real stroke of luck, for leopards are so timid that they are rarely seen in other areas. And is if that wasn’t already exciting enough, in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve we then also get to see a mighty lion and his lady-love. Further fascinating impressions and background information on the history of our travel destination can be found in Issue 3/2015 of Mercedes-Benz Classic Magazine.

South Africa: fascinating nature.

Travel tips.

Magnificent scenery and wildlife as seen in the picture-books. South Africa is a dream destination.

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