Gecko Rock Lodge is a very special place if you are the outdoorsy type.
The lodge is hidden away in a valley of its own in the Central Karoo near Touwsriver. Nestled in the Nougaskloof Valley is Gecko Rock Private Nature Reserve complete with three trails, cottages, cabins and two 8-bed houses as well as two campsites.
We stayed in the very rustic Echo Valley campsite. For amenities it offers a hot shower, toilet and a kitchen area. That’s it. No power, water, mobile phone signal. Just you and nature.
The trails on offer range from a pleasant drive which you could manage with a softroader to the very challenging 4×4 Seattle trail, best tackled with more than one vehicle and with a guide if you are not experienced.
Gecko Rock also offers a number of walking and MTB trails.
We took the longer route via Bonnievale, as I wanted to buy wine from the cellars and cheese from Mooivallei Dairy which makes the most sublime mature Gouda. This route is 250 km but budget 4 hours as you will stop to admire the views, especially at Langdam.
The Mahindra Karoo is an excellent choice in this context. Its a comfortable cruiser with the little luxuries you want on a longish trip.
Mahindra’s double cab 4×4 bakkie in S11 trim is badged Karoo and it fits the vehicle.
I found the S11 pleasant to drive and very capable in the bush. It is a truck, built to work in tough conditions, but the rough edges have been softened. It is no Amarok or Ranger when it comes to handling or interior design but it is very functional with a high level of standard equipment at the price. Nifty little luxuries like follow me home lights, light sensing headlamps, rain sensing wipers and start/stop function are all standard on the S11.
The bakkie we drove came with a rubberised loadbay and a rollertop cover, which is neither rain or dust proof but does provide good security.
It is well equipped with front fog lights, dual projector headlamps, heated rear window and more.
The leather covered steering wheel has cruise control and audio function controls.
The roomy cabin has got a touchscreen infotainment centre, integrated audio system with USB, Aux and Bluetooth as well as Satnav and a rear camera. It has a proper climate control system, trip computer and electric windows. I thought the door handles were a little flimsy and it just does not have the storage space of the newer bakkies. I also missed a grab handle on the A pillar for the front passenger.
The S11 has nine safety features including ABS and EBD, two airbags and collapsing steering column.
The steering is a little mushy at speed but once you leave the tar its just fine although it is a challenge to park.
Expect fuel consumption to be just under 10L/ 100 km.
The Mahindra S11 automatic, especially in Karoo guise, is a successful development and enhancement of the original Pik-Up. The 2.2 turbodiesel and the six-speed auto box work well together delivering just what you need and lifting the bakkie to a new level.
The S10 and S11 trim bakkies are really good value for money. The S10 costs R394 499, while the S11 as tested here costs R429 900.
The warranty is for 4 years or 120 000 km and the service plan is for 5 years or 90 000 km.
If for some reason you don’t like the Karoo take a look at the GWM Steed and Nissan NP 300 (Hardbody).