“The stars are like individual notes in the grand symphony of the universe, each shining brightly to create a harmonious melody.” – Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos

A recent excursion took Driven on a captivating three-day adventure to the Cederberg with the Land Rover team, which proved both exhilarating and memorable. Journeying through diverse landscapes, the Defender luxury vehicles effortlessly conquered various terrains, unveiling hidden gems at every turn. Our final destination – a serene retreat perched elegantly on a rocky mountain top, a haven for panoramic views over rugged yet tranquil terrain, blanketed under a star-studded canopy. Here, under a celestial expanse, the significance of each meticulously curated experience was accentuated by the regal presence of our ‘Defenders of the Night Sky’ – each model a distinguished note and shining star in its own right, perfectly composed to create a harmonious melody that would resound in our memories for a lifetime.


You held it in your hand

The unique location of Durbanville Hills Winery, a mere 20-minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre, offers spectacular views stretching from Table Mountain to the sun-kissed shoreline of Table Bay, making it the perfect departure point for this experience of a lifetime. Having met the team and getting acquainted over a delicious breakfast at the award-winning restaurant, The Tangram, we were ushered to our line-up of ultimate overlander vehicles, a symphony of opulence and rugged distinction.

The Land Rover Defender 110 D250 SE County, powered by a 3.0-litre turbodiesel, delivering 183 kW power and 570 Nm of torque, proved to be the ideal chariot to grace the initial stretch of our journey. From the Cape Winelands, we traversed Mitchell’s Pass as it meanders through breathtaking scenery, winding past astonishing rock formations, often likened to a moonscape, as it leads toward Ceres, where we stopped for lunch. 

Dressed in “County” decals, illuminated door sills, and gloss black mirror caps and side vents, the Land Rover Defender 110 County stands out as the epitome of Defender allure. Its exterior, uniquely adorned with standard 20″ white steel wheels and a choice of three striking body colours, including our tester in Tasman Blue with a contrasting white roof and tailgate, commands attention.

Despite its simple appearance, the Defender 110 County is far from basic. The standard leather-wrapped steering wheel is a testament to its premium status, while the cloth or grained leather seats provide luxurious comfort. Durable, Robust Woven Textile adds a rugged yet refined touch to the centre console and doors, maintaining the Defender’s iconic legacy. The infotainment system seamlessly integrates with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and integrated satellite navigation.

Behind the wheel, the Defender impresses with its easy-to-use switchgear and ergonomically placed controls. While getting used to the digital rear-view mirror takes some time, the 360-degree surround-view camera system is invaluable for navigating tight spots.

Despite its formidable size, the Defender offers ample space for passengers and cargo. The panoramic sunroof adds to the airy feel, while the generous legroom and expansive boot space ensure comfort and practicality for all adventures. With its blend of classic charm and modern features, the Land Rover Defender 110 County is a premium SUV that delivers on both style and substance.

Lunch at Homegrown Bakery Café was as surprising as it was satisfying. This charming dining establishment, tucked under ancient oak trees with the rocky and stately Ceres mountains as its backdrop, resembles a refurbished barn at first glance, but on entering, reveals sleek modern interiors. This delightful local bakery and restaurant, known for its comforting home-style food and unique gifts, is a welcoming pitstop, seducing its visitors with the irresistible aroma of freshly baked goods. 

Following a delectable dining experience, the Land Rover Defender 110 P400e X-Dynamic HSE eagerly awaited the exhilarating ascent, anticipating the discovery of a hidden treasure at the end of our day’s colourful journey through rainbow-hued landscapes.


You Just Flew

Transitioning from smooth highways to a mix of tar and gravel terrains, the carefully curated route proved to be an ideal playground for the Defenders, particularly for our tester on this first leg of our trip, the Defender 110 P400e. 

With its 2.0-litre turbo petrol-electric hybrid powertrain, the Land Rover Defender 110 P400e plug-in hybrid is an impressive all-rounder, particularly for female drivers like me. It handles beautifully on the road, proving exceptionally capable off-road, boasting an electric range of up to 44 kilometres, and a remarkable towing capacity of up to 3,500 kg.

Regarding performance, the Defender surprises despite its size and weight. With a power output of 297 kW and a substantial 640 Nm of torque, it accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in under six seconds – placing it firmly in hot hatch territory. Additionally, its comportment at motorway speeds is remarkably refined and comfortable.

However, the Defender truly shines when put through its paces off-road, which is a primary focus of its design. Our test included a variety of off-road terrains and challenges, all expertly tackled thanks to Terrain Response 2. This innovative feature allows drivers to select from various drive modes tailored to different surfaces, including Ruts, Grass, Gravel, Snow, Mud, Sand, and Rock. Furthermore, the Defender’s Wading Mode, capable of handling up to 900mm of water, ensures no terrain is too daunting.

The Middelberg Pass traverses the Middelburg mountain range and treated us to breathtaking views. Although intimidating for the driver, navigating its hairpin bends and steep drop-offs turned out to be a breeze for the Defender 110 P400e, negotiating every turn, incline, and decline with comfort and ease.


Underneath the Stars

Our overland adventure led us into Citrusdal, where we briefly stopped for a much-needed caffeine boost at Oppi Hoek coffee shop. The cosy ambience and warm hospitality from the staff provided a delightful break before we continued our expedition to Clanwilliam.

Turning left off the newly tarred N7, our ‘tar-studded’ convoy began to ascend a twisting driveway. Beyond a dusty crescent up ahead, we were instantly engulfed by the serenity of nature’s symphony that unfolded.

Perched at the edge of the crest of the mountain top, surrounded by the untamed splendour of sweeping vistas adorned with incredible rock formations, pristine fynbos interwoven with an array of wildflowers, endless blue skies and, off in the distance, the majestic Cederberg Mountains, the luxurious Simbavati Cederberg Ridge greeted us. Promising delectable cuisine, heartfelt hospitality, and a plethora of excursions and activities, this lavish and tranquil retreat maintains the perfect balance between adventure and serenity.

With 11 exquisitely appointed private suites, each offering sweeping views of the untamed landscape, a renowned restaurant showcasing breathtaking vistas, two swimming pools, and indigenous gardens seamlessly merging with the veld, this luxury lodge epitomises idyllic tranquillity enriched by unparalleled natural grandeur.

Following sundowners in the scenic fire pit, as the sun set over the wilderness wonderland, we were ushered to our exclusive dining experience for a night underneath the stars, where we were seated at a solitary dining table that graced the expansive lawns of the lodge. This gourmet, ‘berg-to-plate’ culinary feast, infused with fresh farmed produce and local flavours, perfectly set the tone for a memorable night.


You Saw the Whole of the Moon

With our solar-powered dessert torches in hand – a deconstructed pudding topped with sweet tonka bean créme, creatively served in a luminous solar-powered glass jar – and the wind at our heels, we eagerly made our way to chauffeur-driven Defenders to embark on our next adventure, the “stargazing activity”, which we would soon discover, was no “ordinary” activity by any means.

The Defenders whisked their excited passengers from the rugged moonscape plateau of our lodge to a secluded clearing on the outskirts of a private vineyard perched high above the Cederberg mountains. 

Spellbound by the route and its diverse landscapes, intricately quilted across the tapestry of the Cederberg, we were welcomed by none other than the renowned lecturer and obsessive astrophotographer, Peter Dunsby, Professor of Cosmology at the University of Cape Town. As we eased into the plush camping chairs strategically placed to offer one of South Africa’s darkest skies, free from urban light pollution, we (and our Defenders of the Night Sky) found ourselves in an ideal setting for a mesmerising evening of stargazing. 

Using a laser pointer, Professor Dunsby gave a brief tour of the night sky. With the crescent moon and Jupiter setting in the North-West and the celestial duo of Canopus and Sirius, the brightest stars visible from Earth, commanding attention in the expansive diamond-like star-studded evening blanket that engulfed its awestruck onlookers, the words of another revered astronomer, Carl Sagan, resonated: “The stars are silent witnesses to the vastness of the universe, reminding us of our own place in the cosmic order.” 

Turning our gaze Southward, the Magellanic Clouds became clearly visible. Professor Dunsby pointed out that these are, in fact, not actual clouds but satellite galaxies to our home galaxy, the Milky Way. This led to the sighting of another vast star-forming region within the Large Magnetic Cloud – The Tarantula Nebula, which we witnessed through the lens of the powerful telescope and photographic proof of what we had witnessed.


And You Know How it Feels

After partaking in one of the most unforgettable, unique, and genuinely once-in-a-lifetime experiences, before we headed back to our luxury retreat for the night, we found ourselves not only enriched with newfound knowledge about the universe we inhabit and a few of its most profound mysteries, but also fulfilled with a sense of humility. It served as a poignant reminder of the boundless diversity of the universe, and that in the grander scheme, we are but mere stardust, humbly traversing the vast cosmos. An experience that urges us to discover our individual significance within life’s grand symphony.


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