With fitness and training motivation at a massive low, I needed a short term goal to try kickstart my training again.

As some of you might know, I very rarely drive to the Tankwa, choosing instead to ride there from my front door. This time though, with very little fitness to speak of, I chose to drive there and tackle a segment I have had my eye on for a while.

If you have driven through the Tankwa you will know it absolutely eats anything and everything you throw at it. So I knew I needed something a bit more hardcore than my station wagon. Thankfully GWM loaned me one of their latest bakkies for the trip...

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I collected the new P Series Passenger Double Cab, loaded up my gear, and headed out into the vast expanse that is the Tankwa Karoo National Park. The segment that I had in my sights was the Gannaga Pass climb.

Most people think the Tankwa is flat but it is anything but. Even the R355 which is the straightest road you are ever likely to ride has what feels like a million undulations in it, throw in a headwind for good measure and you have yourself a proper day out. The Tankwa Karoo essentially sits in a bowl surrounded by large mountains and a few iconic gravel passes that few people know about. The two most iconic are Ouberg Pass which takes you up towards Sutherland and Gannaga Pass which takes you to Williston via Middelpos.

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You might remember the article on the P Series Commercial double cab a few weeks ago, the Passenger is the higher, more luxury specced version. It features an 8-speed automatic gearbox, wireless charging pad, low range 4x4, leather interior, and adaptive cruise control among many other features.

At a distance of 8.8km, it isn’t the most challenging climb in the area but the Gannaga Pass has a few tricks up its sleeve to keep you in the hurt box. An average gradient of 6% gives you 561m of vertical gain on the pass. The trick to this segment is to start hard as the segment actually begins before the road starts to go up. You have a good kilometer or two to bank some high average speeds before it starts to get really steep, once you get here it’s all about hanging on for as long as you can.

I wasn’t too optimistic that I would get the KOM, sneaking into the Top 10 instead felt a lot more achievable.

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What I was most impressed with, though, was the comfort of the ride on gravel roads. If you have been to the Tankwa you will know that the roads are so corrugated and rocky that it feels like your brain could rattle out of your skull. The P Series felt like it was gliding over the ruts and corrugations, it was impressively comfortable.

We stayed over at the legendary Gannaga Lodge on top of the Pass, if you haven’t been there it is definitely worth a visit, so it was an easy roll down the pass to get to the start of the segment. This ended up feeling like a mistake because on the way down I realised how steep some of the sections actually were, but I wasn’t about to ride the long way around via Calvinia.

Once at the bottom I did my best to swallow the doubts and hit the lower slopes at close to max effort. I knew the KOM was at a 13.5km/h average for the climb so my goal was to bank as high a speed as possible on the flatter gradients before hitting the steep bits. I had a 27km/h average by the time I hit what felt like a wall so I knew from here on, it would just be a matter of vasbyt.

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The interior is very comfortable and something you would expect more in a luxury sedan than in a bakkie. The rear-facing and 3D camera are great for avoiding obstacles when parking and the adaptive cruise control works well on the open road, a form of radar detects if there is a car in front of you and automatically slows the bakkie down to match the speed of the vehicle in front.

The climb is pretty spectacular, as you ascend, the Tankwa flows out beneath you for what seems like an eternity before you see the Cederberg mountains popping up over the horizon. The views did well to distract from the suffering. I am not the strongest climber, I prefer to throw down whatever watts I can muster on the flats and undulations.

After hoping for a top 10 on the climb I was very surprised to see I managed to sneak into second place only 53 seconds behind the KOM (Johannes if you are reading this, I’m coming for you).

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The low range 4x4 is electronically activated by the push of a button and the turbo diesel engine gives all four wheels some serious torque over the more gnarly technical terrain. As an offroad 4x4, the P Series did not feel like it lacked in any way. There is a 4x4 route from the Gannaga Lodge to the top of the escarpment and the P Series handled it like a breeze. I, unfortunately, did miss a high range 4x4 option on the gravel roads though, especially for the sections where you need a bit more traction but don’t want to go into low range.

I go into the Tankwa quite often, probably more often than the average person, and I honestly haven’t seen it bursting with so much colour and life, especially on the Gannaga Lodge side of the Pass. We saw Zebra, Rooi Hartebees, Duiker, and plenty Baboons.

The most amount of wildlife I have seen in this dry, desolate landscape. The winter rains, and even snow in some places, have been good for the area and the many dams over the Pass have brought life back to this incredible part of the country.

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It’s definitely worth a visit before the searing heat of summer sets in. There are some great rides to be had from the Lodge, the road out to Middelpos is prime gravel, and you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. A great place to disconnect from the business of daily life.