The X3s That Conquered Africa and North America

Overlanding General Grabber X3

Back in late 2019, we were in South Africa after driving our Land Rover Defender all the way from Europe via West Africa.

Cape Agulhas : Southernmost Point of Africa

The next leg of our journey around the world was an ambitious trek from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, to Vladivostok in Russia via East Africa. The set of General Grabber X3s that had carried us from Europe had performed excellently and never let us down; I was convinced that I could use that same set for the drive up to and across Russia! The General Tire team considered my proposal but suggested that I install a new set of X3s for this leg, as replacing tires in East Africa or the Middle East would be a challenge. Reluctantly, we said goodbye to our old set and happily installed a new set in 285/75 R16. New tire day is always a good day.

The Bell family at Cape Agulhas : Southernmost Point of Africa

Little did we know what the world had in store for us all as the pandemic grew from a whisper to a scream. In early 2020, a week after we began our journey from Cape Town to Vladivostok; South Africa imposed a complete lockdown, all travel was prohibited and we had to adapt very quickly. With our dreams dashing against the rocks, we waited impatiently for South Africa’s borders to open. 

General Grabber X3 Crossing Mozambique

Eventually, the South African lockdown eased, and we made a beeline for Mozambique, traveling carefully and ensuring that we never contracted the despised virus. It seemed we might be able to drive to Russia after all, but we would have to jump through bureaucratic hoops and avoid human contact as much as possible. Our route would take us from Mozambique to Malawi or Zambia, up to Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt before making our way to Turkey and the Stans before entering Russia. This was going to be no ordinary overland journey!

The Grabber X3 Crossing Mozambique

In Mozambique, we camped on the beach and drove out into the dunes, deflating the X3s and enjoying the cool breeze off the Indian Ocean; we explored the coastline and enjoyed feasts of freshly caught seafood and spicy peri-peri sauce. Luisa kept an eye on the news and the ever-changing border regulations and determined that we would have to drive up through Mozambique to the coastal city of Quelimane, where we were able to secure COVID-19 tests before heading up to Zambia, as Malawi had recently closed the border to foreigners. Quelimane is the last bastion of order before the volatile north, where Islamist extremists battle the underfunded local forces for control. The N1 national road that leads to Quelimane deteriorates rapidly the further north you drive. Eventually, a potholed strip of colonial-era paved roads gives way to a muddy track that follows the overhead power lines. Potholes are tires’ worst nightmare, and they grow in the shade of the jungle. For hundreds of miles, we stirred through the gears - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, BANG, a pothole, then another, then another. It can be exhausting, and progress is terribly slow. The X3s soaked up the punishment and shrugged off the sharp edges of holes deep enough to swallow a small donkey. When the potholes gave way to the mud track, we breathed a sigh of relief and were soon greeted by deep mud, precisely what the X3s were made for. 

The Grabber X3 Crossing Zambia

After enduring corrupt border and medical officials at the Zambian border, we drove the horrific T6 road that had not seen maintenance since Queen Elizabeth was a teenager. The potholes were likely the worst we had ever experienced, making the Mozambican roads look smooth. It took three hours to drive 30 miles; I was convinced that the X3s would be gouged and sliced by the endless abuse. We reached our camp for the night, opened a cold drink, and checked the tires; they were near perfect! Impossible! As we explored Zambia, news reached us that a war had erupted in Northern Ethiopia, and the border with Sudan was closed and more volatile than ever. We were stuck; there was no way around Ethiopia, we had looked at every angle and exhausted every option, but it was impossible to reach Egypt by land or sea. The decision was eventually made to drive across to Namibia, a country we love dearly (check out the X Overland Africa series, and you will see why we love Namibia so much. Yes, they also swear by the excellent X3).

The X3 Crossing Namibia

From the beach, mud, and potholes of Southeast Africa, we drove the Caprivi Strip into Namibia and entered a desert of sand, sharp rocks, corrugated dirt roads, and precious little water. 

Camping in the Namibian desert

We set off into the Namib Desert to find desert elephants, lions, and solitude; if you are looking for a journey with minimal human interaction, Namibia is the place for you. We traveled alone, deep into the desert, and eventually arrived back in South Africa; realizing that the Ethiopian border would remain closed for at least the next year, we had to abandon our journey to Vladivostok temporarily. 

Namibia en-route to the Ocean

Reluctantly, the Land Rover was scrubbed and put into storage near Cape Town while we flew to the USA to drive an old Range Rover across the country (equipped with the excellent ATX) and then drive a Nimbl camper, shod with the faultless General Tire Arctic LT tires, to the Arctic Ocean in March and temperatures of -50°F!

Collecting the Land Rover from the Port in Vancouver BC

Almost two years after we put the Land Rover in storage, we collected her from the port in Vancouver, BC. While the Land Rover had some pretty bad mechanical issues, the X3s were near perfect, with no flat spots despite standing in one place for so long!

The Defender in Mexico, on Grabber X3's

 With the Land Rover running well enough, we set off to drive down to Mexico, a drive of 6,000 miles that took us from the pristine high-speed roads and mild temperatures of Canada and the USA to the less perfect roads of Mexico and scorching desert heat. We drove eight hours a day for weeks and eventually arrived at our destination; the Land Rover let us down often (faulty cooling and suspension systems the main culprit), but, no surprise, the X3s never let us down. 

Cleaning the Grabber X3's

The General Tire team reached out to us the day after, offering a new set of X3s if we needed them. No, we don’t. That same set that we installed in 2019 has crossed seven countries on two continents and is still up for at least another 20,000 miles. The General Grabber X3 is, without a shadow of a doubt, the undisputed King of overland tires.

At home in Mexico


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