The latest Voetspore television series started on SABC2 in January. This is Series No 11, and it is called Voetspore: a Reunion. It is a series in which we look back at 10 previous journeys on the African continent. Voetspore’s Johan Badenhorst elaborates more on the new series.
It was time for the Voetspore team to reflect on everything they experienced since we started travelling the African continent in 2000.
Twelve guys in five Cruisers retraced our original route from Cape Cross in Namibia to the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. It was without doubt the most enjoyable of all our journeys. Never before did we have so much fun during any of our expeditions.
The terrain was not that challenging, it was mostly familiar sites. Not only did we visit them during the first trip, but many of us have since returned during holidays with friends and family. There weren’t the challenges of the difficult terrain of central Africa. The little bit of dune driving we faced was nothing compared to the massive dunes of the Namib or the tricky dunes of the Sahara.
We did this journey during June/July. It implied that Southern Africa was dry. This time there was no playing in the mud, no snatching and winching for days on end. It was a walk in the park. In 2000, our journey was done just after the devastation of cyclone Demoina. This time round we had favourable weather condition.
Cooking the famous Voetspore meals was a bit more of a challenge. Not because of a lack of ingredients or scarcity of cooks. On the contrary, there were too many. It was a problem keeping the guys out the kitchen.
Every Voetspore team member (like any South African male) believes he is the best when it comes to a braai. There are various techniques to getting the steak, chops or chicken just right. All of these were on display. Add to this the best way of doing chips, cooking potatoes, baking bread and making a salad… Voetspore: a Reunion can be a whole recipe book by itself.
The wildlife experience was good, but for what we have seen over the past 17 years, perhaps average. There were the lion mating at Rietfontein in Etosha, the wild dog outside the gate at Moremi and the herd of more than 200 buffalo at Sinamatella in Hwange. But we have been exposed to the tree climbing lion of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the gorilla of the Impenetrable Forest in Uganda, the red elephant of Tsavo and the leopard of Amboseli with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop.
Was this trip through Etosha, Khaudum, Moremi, Mapungubwe, Kruger and Hlane boring? Not at all. Any game drive is a highlight, whether you see the big five or not. We have learnt over the years not only to look for the big five, but to seek the small five as well, and everything in-between.
And what about out vehicles? This is by far the question we get asked most: what is the best 4×4? We drove Land Rovers, Nissans, VW Amaroks and Toyotas over the years. Is there a preference? The cynics would say that I will always praise the current vehicle. When we were behind the wheel of the Amarok, we sang its praises. So too with the Nissans. When we finally decided to once more drive Toyotas in 2015 on the Madagascar expedition we claimed that there is nothing like a Cruiser. When are we to be believed?
The short answer is “every time”. Never have we had to lie about the qualities of a vehicle. Never did we have to hide its flaws. Never have we had to reach an agreement with a manufacturer that we will drive their cars and not speak the truth. Therefore, if we had a breakdown, it became part of the story. Not one of our expeditions was intended to be an advertisement for a specific brand.
I must stress that with the main brand it becomes a question of taste. There are many ardent Land Rover enthusiasts who will never drive anything but a Landy, no matter how many Land Rover jokes circulate. There are Nissan Patrol owners who claim that there are the chosen ones: they know something about 4×4s that we mere mortals will (perhaps) discover one day. There are Amarok owners who just shake their heads in disbelief that at this day in age, there are still people who think you must drive a manual vehicle on an African safari.
So what do we say?
I was very comfortable when approached by Calvyn Hamman of Toyota, asking if I would like to reunite with Toyota, and more specifically, the Cruiser. Our second journey was with Toyota 4×4s. Voetspore op die Strand was completed with a 4.2 diesel Cruiser, a Prado and a Hilux KZ-TE.
The Casablanca to the Cape expedition was behind the wheel of three Cruisers. Our last three journeys (two of which still need to be broadcast, starting with the Reunion trip), was undertaken with V8 Cruisers.
I can safely say that we have hit the sweet spot. The Cruiser is not without critique.
It is not particularly fuel efficient. The window control on the driver’s side has the habit of irritating your right knee.
An auto ’box would have been much more comfortable. There is some issue with the handbrake cable mounting on the rear axle. A few more points of critique can probably be added, and we are not blinded by: “It’s a Cruiser thing”. But of one thing there is no doubt: this is by far the most reliable vehicle we have ever driven.
Get behind the wheel of a Cruiser, and you immediately feel comfortable on the challenging roads of Africa. And to justify your confidence, you only have to look around you. This is what the people of Africa drive. Ambulance drivers, shopkeepers, government officials, NGOs, United Nations ambassadors, even war mongers: they all put their trust in a Cruiser.
The Reunion trip was something special. We had 12 guys who, at some stage over the past nearly two decades, have all been part of Voetspore. It was good to have Francois, Streicher, Rey, Norbert, Stefan, Pierre, Gideon, Andre, William, Lourens and Simon retracing In die Voetspore van die Grotes with me.
The stories around the campfire every night were something special. We had a few cameras there, and recorded these conversations and experiences.
I believe you will enjoy it as much as we did, and experience the changes in Africa as positive as we do.