Thursday, 4 July 2013

It's hard to go

I'm leaving my beloved country after 39 years, and it's hard.

What will I miss the most? Sunshine, Afrikaaners, being near the bush, African smells, wide open spaces nearby.
What I won't miss? Do I really need to go into that? SA has its problems, like everywhere else. Perhaps there are just more of them here - but who knows.

The South African summers, no matter where you are, are just brilliant. But I live near Cape Town, and the winters are miserable, mostly. When it’s cold, it’s cold and the trouble is, like in the rest of the country, the houses are built for summer. So it's cold even inside, particularly now with Eskom running the country’s economy. So, in a funny way, I’m looking forward to an English winter. I grew up in the South of England, and it’s here that I am moving to, albeit a different part. And my childhood memories are of glorious summer days playing in the Downs of Kent. We walks, fished, rode bikes and loved every minute of it. I draw a complete blank when trying to remember the horrible winters.

Without a shadow of doubt, Afrikaans in the finest language on earth when it comes to descriptive colloquialisms.  One of my favourites is, “Die drol is in die drinkwater”.  It means, literally, the crap (animal droppings) are in the drinking water. And I have come to enjoy the company of Afrikaaner folk I think a little more than my Anglo-saxon counterparts.  Don’t ask me why, but when reminiscing about my adventure in Africa, these people are one of its highlights.

Being near the bush
With fuel prices as they are, getting into the bush for most of us is becoming rarer and rarer. Even I, who has made a job of being in the bush, has found it so hard to get into, and do what I love the most, I’ve had to leave it, to get closer to it. To explain myself – I am going to the head of the world’s non-fiction TV industry to find the funding needed to do more of my shows, and no doubt some of them will be right back here. But the comfort of not being near the bush physically, will I hope, be made up for the fact that I will be closer to it, financially.

African smells
What can compare with the smell of wind sage in the Kalahari?  Or boeries on a braai? Nothing in the world. Nuff said.

Wide open spaces nearby
This is the one I fear the most. England is crowded. Will I be able to find solitude? Only if I go running on the Fells of northern England, or climb mountains. But in my 4x4? No. I doubt it very much.

Leaving soon
I will be leaving early August, after I have shot my YouTube mini-series with Paul March mid July. Meanwhile I have put out eight proposals to motor manufacturers, to produce another series for TV. I’ve approached Mitsubishi, Ford, Isuzu, Suzuki, Land Rover, Jeep, VW and Mercedes Benz. I’m offering two episodes shot in an exotic Southern African location, vehicle exclusive, which includes a vehicle test feature on YouTube. The cost is less than a double page spread in an average magazine – the type that gets chucked away after a week or so. Last year’s TV series vehicle reviews on YouTube alone have received over 200 000 views, and the number still climbing. I think what I am offering is outstanding value.

The reaction after 10 days since sending the proposals is one ‘no’, one ‘no thanks’, six no reaction and one that looks promising. Three yeses means I come back in September and shoot it. Less than that, and it’s not worth it, and all I have to do is the YouTube series, which Alu-Cab and Toyota are sponsoring. Within a few weeks, I’ll know if the TV series will happen.

One of the places I am going to try and reach next week in the Kalahari is South Island, in the Makgadikgadi Pans. Since going there in 2006, I've tried three times to reach it, and failed. This time, I'm determined to succeed. The picture below was taken there - a 2000 year-old baobab.

In case you are wondering, ITSALONGWAY trans-Africa has been postponed indefinitely.  But don’t think I have given up on it. Far from it. I’ll be back!


  1. I wish you the best in England and know this will be good for your family. Certainly hope your dreams come true and the return to South Africa becomes a reality. Will the super Land Cruiser stay put or go with?

  2. Winter in the UK is wet and miserable, an inch of snow brings the whole country to a halt. I'll meet you for a few green lanes when your ready for the lake district.

  3. Hey Andrew, sorry to hear you're leaving SA (you and it were made for each other), but very pleased to hear you're heading for these shores. Get yourself to Scotland (especially the Highlands). All the solitude you could want, plenty of wildlife, stunning scenery and great culture. We're on the east side, where it's DRY! (In fact we could really do with some rain just now.)

    Consider this an invitation to come and stay in our standing camp on our private woodland. Based on the African safari camp model. Be honoured to have you.

    Hope it works out for you.

    (British, but long-time fan, and South Africa-phile)