Regular kykNet viewers will be familiar with singer, presenter and all-round nice guy Gerrie Pretorius. He started his own travel series, Leef Jou Reis, early last year and the response has been overwhelming. We chat to him about Season One, and what we can expect in the future.
Was the first season as successful as you were hoping, and what feedback did you get from the viewers?
The reaction surpassed our wildest expectations. Our show was watched more than four million times and even the website received 720 000 hits. It was amazing to meet people in Mozambique, Zambia, Amsterdam or wherever, telling us that they were there because of the show. At the end of the day the public wanted a second season. Many people are afraid to travel and we want to change that. Every person should travel.
What was your favourite time in Season One?
Living with the San in the middle of the Kalahari in Botswana, to see whether they could still hunt with bow and arrow, and make a fire by rubbing two sticks together. They still can!
Were you ever in any danger while filming?
Once or twice. The first time was the result of a winch that was incorrectly mounted, and we didn’t have enough time to test it beforehand. I had to winch a car from deep sand on the Skeleton Coast in Namibia. As a result of the faulty installation, the starter motor burned out and the fuses blew. This happened as the waves started crashing against the wheels of my car. Luckily, we were able to fix the problem before the sea claimed us.
While in Ethiopia, I went in search of a temple where people claim the lost ark is kept. I got within 10 metres of it before an AK47 was pushed against my chest. That wasn’t a nice experience…
Are there problems, filming in other countries?
It’s extremely difficult and expensive to shoot in other countries. National Geographic and those kinds of channels pay big money to shoot in Africa, so people want the same sort of money from us, which just isn’t possible on our budget. The budget for our entire season is probably 25% of one BBC episode.
We travel together as a team and do our own research, filming and editing. We use one camera and a Go Pro. We filmed the second season the same way.
How is the Navara faring?
The Navara knows only gravel, sand, water and mud! It has done more than 60 000km through Africa. There are very few bakkies out there that ride so comfortably while still being able to cope with tough off-road obstacles.
We have only the one vehicle, so it has to be reliable. It’s been through the Namib Desert, the Moremi and Makgadikgadi pans and South-Luangwa during the wet season. It’s done all this while carrying four men, their luggage, filming equipment and camping gear.
What is you favourite destination in Africa?
Botswana, or more specifically the Motopi camp in the central Kalahari. The sunsets there are different from anywhere else.
And outside Africa?
Currently it’s Turkey, because it differs so much from the rest of Europe, although it’s partly in both Europe and Asia. It’s an explosion of cultures and it’s affordable. Istanbul is a wonderful place.
What can we look forward to in the new season?
Easter Island in Chile and the Moai statues have not been seen before on SA television, because it’s so difficult to get there. It’s 4000km by sea to one of the most remote places on the planet. I also visit the driest desert in the world, where it hasn’t rained in 400 years, spend some time with the Masai in Tanzania and visit the gorillas in Uganda. In Argentina, I worked with some cowboys on a farm. There’s a lot to look forward to in Season Two.
Any tips for people who want to attempt their own dream expedition?
I travel light and like to set up my camp as fast as possible. I use a Wild Earth rooftop tent that folds up within a minute and I have one cast iron pot for potjiekos, scrambled eggs or potbrood. The most important tip is to try to do it like the locals. Support the local people as much as possible, as it shows them the value of tourism.
What is the best part of travelling?
The feeling of freedom and the opportunity to explore — sometimes with a map and a plan, but sometimes without. Along with that, the knowledge that you acquire from nature, or interesting places. The most important thing, however, is the stories you collect. I can spend hours listening to people like Johan Badenhorst, Francois Rossouw, Johan Bakkes, Kingsley Holgate and Andre van Vuuren.
The worst part of travelling?
Border posts. It’s sad that the upgrades to border posts aren’t happening faster. I’d like to see some sort of accreditation for regular travellers. It’s also getting more expensive. It’s much cheaper to travel overseas than to many places in Africa.
What’s next for Gerrie Pretorius?
I’m planning a Cape to Cairo trip, but with a twist. I want to research the history of Africa – where did its rivers flow in ancient times, and how did the people of Africa trade with the rest of the world 2000 years ago? I hope to answer these questions early next year.
What’s the next country on your bucket list?
I want to go up the Amazon River, but I also want to try the Trans-Siberian route. Mali is also calling my name…
The second season of Leef Jou Reis started on 4 April at 19.30 on kykNet.