It was a Monday afternoon in May. I climbed into a Datsun with two Finnish gentlemen that I’d very briefly met the Saturday before.
My road trip partners were Vesa Eskola, a motoring journalist and photographer, and his longtime friend, Jarmo Kymenlahti. We packed our bags and gear into a Datsun GO and made our way on the open road. You would think that the car is quite compact, but there was enough space for me to stretch my legs and keep my gear with me in the front passenger seat, and all our luggage fitted comfortably in the boot.
Vesa is somewhat of a Datsun enthusiast. He told me that in Finland Datsun was a popular choice for a first car. His first car was a Datsun, and Jarmo’s first car was too. With Datsun making a comeback with the GO, he wanted to show the world that it still makes a pretty awesome first car. Before doing the South African road trip, Vesa drove the Datsun GO in Russia, India and Indonesia.
The Datsun GO Road Trip
We arrived at a small guesthouse in Malelane on the first night. We wanted to get into the Kruger National Park first thing in the morning. After a long drive, we had dinner at Spur, a South African favourite.
The next morning, we had our breakfast fix at another South African favourite, Wimpy. After fuelling ourselves with a hearty breakfast, we were off to Malelane Gate, where our Kruger National Park adventure began. We refuelled the Datsun GO after travelling a little over 400kms. Not bad for a small car that has three men, their luggage and gear in it. We spent the whole day in the park, and spotted plenty game, including buck, crocodile, buffalo, elephant and rhino. The Finns thought that calling “here kitty, kitty” would attract the big cats, but we weren’t successful.
The next day took us from Hazyview to Parys. We put some solid hours in the car and covered over 500 kilometres. Our mobile map app decided to send us on a detour through some rough terrain, but we eventually made our way to one of Parys’ older hotels, where the old lady at reception handed us a roll of one-ply toilet paper and a small bar of unwrapped soap along with our keys. We decided we might need a drink and headed to the hotel bar after freshening up. There were a handful of salt of the earth locals in the bar, who were eager to offer advice on fastest routes to Bothaville and what we should look out for along the way.
We took a relaxed drive to the Free State town of Bothaville, where we met Freek de Kock, a Datsun and Nissan enthusiast whose collection includes more than 50 cars, and motoring journalists at De Kelder. Freek managed to amass an impressive collection, which includes every generation of Nissan Skyline GT-R, in a short 8 year period.
Once we left Bothaville, we headed to Clarens for the night. We stayed in a small guesthouse that proudly claims to have had Brad Pitt stay over when he was in South Africa. It was my first time in the small Free State town, and I’m sure I’ll be there again soon.
From Clarens, we made our way to Durban through Golden Gate National Park. Being photographers, Vesa and I made sure we took the most scenic routes, while taking photographs of the Datsun GO in action. We had to race against the clock a little, as Vesa was on a tight schedule and the Datsun GO made sure we got to Durban right on time. The 1200 cc engine made light work of reaching and keeping at 120 km/h when we needed it to.
Durban was my final destination on the road trip. We celebrated with a delicious dinner at the House of Curries in Florida Road, after a sunset walk on the pier, armed with cameras, of course. I loved what I saw at sunset so much, that I went back at 05:30 the next morning to shoot more.
A road trip which started as a group of strangers in a car, quickly became moments filled with experiences, stories and laughs that I will remember for a very long time. Vesa is one interesting guy that has so many stories to tell in nearly every situation. He’s extremely well travelled and a talented photographer that taught me a couple of tricks. I can now count Vesa and Jarmo as my friends, and I hope that I can experience a road trip with them again soon.
Thank you Datsun South Africa for making it all possible.