Ivan Sonnekus is still in his 20s, but he’s already seen more of South Africa than most people three times his age. This young adventurer is not only dreaming of exploring the world like a Kingsley Holgate or Sir Ranulph Fiennes, he’s living it. And he’s taking some great photos along the way, too.
Ivan Sonnekus once wrote about his relationship with his Land Rovers: “To seek adventure. Living life on the road. Following the journey of the stars. Knowing your compass never tells you truly where you are. For having the ultimate smile on your face. With the embrace of dusty cab or the neat sound when they start in the mornings. The thrill of climbing mountains or crossing rivers. You live, you experience. For with the green badge comes a mutual bond between man and machine.” But Ivan is not only big on words – he’s big on action, too. He has travelled thousands of kilometres through South Africa, taking in all the sights and sounds of his homeland. We spoke to the young adventurer about living life… and the Land Rover thing.
When and in what did you learn to drive? And your first car?
I started on my father’s lap, working the steering wheel, when I was very young. As soon as I was tall enough, he let me work the pedals and gears, too, in a safe environment of course. The first car I drove myself was a Volkswagen Fox 1.8. My own first car was a 1995 Mercedes-Benz C220 that I inherited from my grandmother.
Nowadays you drive a Land Rover Defender. Why a Landy?
I like to think that the Landy chose me. It started with a Defender 90 Tdi and now I own a 1998 Defender 110 Tdi. To own a Land Rover makes you part of a brother-hood, it gives me the sense of true adventure, standing beneath a thorn tree in the bushveld with a setting sun and campfire. It’s all meant to be together and fits in with my lifestyle. To me, a Defender is one of the few vehicles that, if you add accessories like a high-lift jack, they look like they are supposed to be there, and also that the accessories may actually be used.
And there’s another restoration project in the garage, too?
Indeed. On my way home from a trip I saw an old, seemingly forgotten Landy parked on a farm. I managed to track down the owner and it turned out to be a Series 2A 109 pick-up from the ’60s in original condition. After some negotiations I swapped my compound hunting bow for the Landy… done deal! I’m slowly rebuilding it from the ground up, restoring it to its awesome original stature.
Tell us more about your i-LiveWild concept…
i-LiveWild is a long-time dream and vision. From a young age, I knew my passion is to be outdoors and experience things differently. The passion to be free, the freedom to live like there is no tomorrow and to be who you truly are. i-LiveWild is based upon my life, my adventures and campfire stories, my happy moments and deep heartfelt stories. It’s the essence of being truly free and to inspire others from around the world to join in and have fun with their lives, for one should not just merely exist in this beautiful world of ours. One should live.
You’ve must have experienced some interesting things already?
There are quite a few examples. One that stands out was when my cousin said he wanted to go to this specific farm dam to catch bass. So we headed out there on a Saturday morning. We were fine with the kayak on the water, but later in the day a big storm was brewing, with a lot of lightning in the sky. And the sun was setting. I paddled hard back to the Landy, and we packed up our gear in the dark, rain and amid the lightning that seemed to shake even the mountains. Off we went, in the pouring rain. A short while later the rain subsided, and I thought it the perfect opportunity to take a photo of the lightning show Mother Nature was putting up. I had forgotten my tripod at home though, so I improvised by perching my camera on the sandstone corner post of a farm fence. Just as I was all ready to press the shoot button, the heavens opened up again and for the next 10 minutes my camera and I got drenched, with lightning strikes all around us. But I got the shot.
And your day job that pays the bills?
I’m a millwright by trade, working in Newcastle. I spend a lot of time planning my next adventures though, and my clear goal is to be able to explore and work as photographer on a full-time basis.
What is the most amazing place you’ve visited so far?
One of my top destinations is the KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg. We recently went for a hike in the Royal Natal National Park and it was an amazing experience. We are now busy planning to do the Drakensberg Grand Traverse early in 2018.
And your ultimate dream destination?
My dream is to travel Africa, and islands close to the continent such as Madagascar. Ultimately I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and travel through the Great Rift Valley of Africa in Kenya. I am a child of Africa; my roots run deep here.
What advice would you give someone who’ve always wanted to just go explore, but who has been caught up in the rat race in the city, chasing money?
Follow your heart and find your soul. Be who you are and get out there doing things you have always wanted to. So many people think they live life by getting up, going to work, coming home, watching TV and going to bed on a daily repeat. Very few people can say they have seen the sun rise over majestic mountains or a golden ocean, and few people can say they understand what it’s like to truly see the stars and feel like you are in another universe, almost connected with the Earth. My advice is to not be afraid of the unknown. Chase your dreams for life is short and you have only one chance. After all, life is an adventure… don’t miss it.
Where do you see yourself in the year 2037?
I live in the moment. As to where I will be in 20 years… hopefully somewhere in a remote place busy doing what I love most: exploring and taking photos.
And lastly, if money was no object, what 4×4 would you have for overland travel?
Without question a Land Rover Defender 110 or 130 with proper kit to be self-sufficient for at least four to seven days.