#TEP2012 – ShowMe Interview

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With over six months having passed since The EXPEDITION Project left on their maiden and foundation year journey of exploration, re-discovery, inspiration and research, we asked them several of the most popular questions as submitted by their followers:

Have you had any near death experiences so far?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

In fact yes we have. We had been having some car trouble while in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa and after having several people look at it we eventually found a place in a town called Upington that seemed to have fixed the problem. Needless to say we left the car workshop early one evening on route to our next destination and 20km out side of town the car broke down. We called the mechanic out so that he could tow us back to the workshop. First of all the tow-rope he used was only about 2 metres long and secondly he proceeded to tow us at a speed of about 90km/h and as he took a sharp-ish corner we swerved to the side and the tow-rope snapped, sling-shooting us passed the tow vehicle and into oncoming traffic. Fortunately, the road was quiet and there was no immediately danger of a head on collision with another car. We re-gained control and survived the heart –wrenching experience.

Aside from that, and other than popular belief when you mention South Africa to most tourists, we have not had any issues with crime, danger or feeling unsafe – at any time whatsoever and considering what we are doing and where we are going this is a great advertisement for the country.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

There was also the somewhat hair raising hike we took along the Wild Coast that perhaps doesn’t constitute a ‘near death’ experience but was sure as hell scary at the time. We got ourselves lost and had to manoeuvre through ravines, hillsides, jagged rocks and crashing sea. The final scrambles up a vertical mountainside lead us to civilisation and finally, safety.

We know you don’t really like talking about the negatives but we have to ask, what has been your least favourite place?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

There have of course been places and people we have enjoyed less than others, now these kinds of opinions could easily vary from person to person so our bad experience could be the opposite for someone else. As long as we don’t write off these towns and people completely I think its ok. Our first bad experience was in the first Northern Cape Province we visited. The town of Garies felt unfriendly and unhelpful in every sense. Fortunately, we discovered a great community project there so our point of view was slightly redeemed. Then there were a couple North West Province towns such as Mafikeng and Vryburg that visually disappointed us. Lastly, a few misunderstandings with accommodation establishments in Elands Bay, Phalabowra and Mafikeng dampened our frame of mind for those towns.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

For me, it has been the very ‘Afrikaans’ towns where you could be anywhere in the world. The people are friendly and warm but it doesn’t represent Africa in any way for me, and indeed not South Africa. Of course the Afrikaans communities still play a huge role in ‘Africa’ as a whole but in my opinion, the country has so much to offer and these towns are not representing what is out there for tourists, despite perhaps being nice places to live.

What has been the biggest surprise of the journey?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

I think the fact that we have managed to get so much support from accommodation and food sponsors. We have travelled for 6 months now and only had to pay for one night’s accommodation and that was through nothing more than a miss-understanding.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

I have been surprised to see little if not any crime along the way. The media back home in the UK instils quite a negative imprint of South Africa as a country and I have been pleasantly surprised to have experienced the opposite.

What has inspired you?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

We could be visiting the smallest town imaginable and there will be a community member trying to run an orphanage, or a youth centre, or a poorly equipped crèche with no thought for him or herself and purely trying to do something for the children of the community.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

That even though some people have virtually nothing, they are still smiling and laughing and remembering the good things they have in life, such as family and friends and community spirit. As a result, little things are not taken for granted and everything is relished.

What has disappointed you?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

Other than the larger reserves and game farms there has been little visible in the way of environmental projects and similarly the attitude to the environment has been severely lacking with rubbish and litter a frequent sight. We have been surprised to see how few accommodation establishments have adopted solar power or similar energy efficient methods as well as operating in an eco-friendly manner. For example a lot of our trip is spent staying for one night at a hotel or B&B, which we admit isn’t the most environmentally friendly way to travel, but in doing so we have noticed that 99% of the rooms we have stayed in will use a freshly wrapped bar of soap for a new arrival and simply through away the bar after one day and we have even seen housekeeping replace our bar of soap with a newly wrapped one on servicing our rooms if we were staying for more than one night. Not a great example using energy and cost efficient methods of running an eco-friendly establishment.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

The fact that tourists rarely look for community and conservation initiatives when choosing their holiday or getaway. It seems to factor very little in people’s idea of ‘good holidays’.

The All Pay System in South Africa continues to worry me. There needs to be an alternative means to government aid, such as a voucher system that entitles people to food and other amenities. The level of alcohol abuse is also dangerous in most small towns and as much as possible needs to be done to avoid it and stop alcohol from being so easily obtained.

Which discovered project has stood out?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

Nourish is an NPO that helps within rural communities to uplift its people while promoting social responsibility and encouraging environmental education. We were lucky enough to be invited along with her for the day to see what Nourish is all about and it certainly exceeded my expectations I can tell you that for sure. Sarah is only 24 but in my mind she epitomises the perfect person for this job; she has a wonderful attitude, bags of charisma and a wealth of knowledge that is essential for a successful business like Nourish.

We tagged along to a tree planting and educational environmental talk, a wonderful grade R hand knitted dolly donation and to a school uniform distribution in 2 primary schools. The expression on the children’s faces when they were presented with a brand spanking new uniform was magical to watch and it was moving to see just how proud they were. A lot of pictures were taken and a lot of smiles were smiled. It was a truly memorable day and Rog and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.

I wish Sarah all the luck in the world and my fingers are firmly crossed for her that Nourish will continue to flourish.

For more information, please visit the Nourish website and help Sarah in any way you can 

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

Wildebees Eco Lodge in Hluhluwe has founded almost 10 community projects through their Eco Label Initiative since their arrival in South Africa. Native Dutch Martijn is doing a fantastic job maintaining wonderful projects such as a soccer team, a community centre and an AIDS vegetable planting project. Martijn told me that he would only move to South Africa if it meant he could do something worthwhile in the town he was going to inhabit –what an inspirational statement. See more at the Ecolabel website

THANDA in Hibberdene is an after school programme that assists children living with AIDS and other vulnerable children alike. Their centre in the mountains is bright and cheerful and their team of staff are friendly and encouraging. See more at the Thanda website.

What has been your favourite town, village or area?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

From an unexpected surprise point of view – Bray in the North West province was a pleasant surprise. It is a quaint little town on the border of Botswana with a nice little guest house, restaurant and friendly locals.

On the West Coast, Doringbaai and Strandfontein would be obvious choices from a scenic perspective, but I think Hondeklipbaai further north towards Namibia was a great combination of rural Africa on the beach.

On the East Coast, the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape continues to amaze us. It is a real untouched wilderness with splashes of civilization, rugged beaches and poor communities.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

Ballito in KZN was a clean and happy town with stunning beaches and a positive and safe feel to it.

The Wild Coast has been breath-takingly beautiful as well as rugged and authentically South African in its towns. The tribal groups and local people are warm and interesting and towns such as Bizana and Lusikisiki have been very stimulating.

What has been you favourite place you have stayed?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

For sheer opulence, it was hard to fault Tanda Tula in the Timbavati Reserve in Limpopo, Mogalakwena River Lodge in Alldays and Umngazi on the Wild Coast. However, for a feeling of being immersed in the community while still not feeling like you were uncomfortable we would have to say Mbotyi River Lodge. The place was tucked away in amongst the uPonda and Bantu community of Lusikisiki. You are in between local rural huts on either side and you still have amazing views, a river, a beach and all the amenities you could want.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

Coco de Mer in Ballito for its boutique styled hotel and the simple elegance of its rooms. Mogalakwena River Lodge in Alldays for the attention to detail and warmth of its staff along with the many inspiring community projects.

What has been your best meal?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

A few meals spring to mind: the local ‘Bunny Chow’ dish courtesy of Ambercresh B&B in Scottburgh, a fantastic curry at Zizi’s Restaurant at Umdlalo Lodge in Umtentweni, our meal cooked by the local community in Welveriend touched our hearts and our stomachs, and then obviously all the food served at Tanda Tula and Mogalakwena were amazing but we can’t keep mentioning them.

 Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

The steak at Mogalakwena has to be hands down my favourite. Runner ups are the gorgeous spicy coconutty curry at Zizis in Umtentweni and the fig and feta stuffed chicken at Vergelelen Guest House in Kakamas.

Is there an individual that stands out as an inspiring South African?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

Sarah Dawn Bergs is only 24 but she has set up her own NPO based in Limpopo and she is doing so much it is hard to keep track of it all. We salute her and all her hard work and enthusiasm. See more at the Nourish website.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

Tessa from Thabang Children’s Project in Thabazimbi has single handedly set up and maintained a wonderfully organised children’s home which provides a safe and caring environment for countless vulnerable children. See more at the Thabang website

What has shocked you the most?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

On a drive from Bizana to Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape we saw 34 dead dogs on the side of the road during only a 50km drive. Another fact that surprised us on the West Coast was the high impact alcohol and drug abuse is having on the communities. We didn’t see that coming.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

The ANC seem to be sustaining the Eastern Cape as the ‘poor’ province in order to get a good deal of their votes in elections. This subtle manipulation is disgusting and needs to be exposed.

What have you learnt?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

Crime is not as big a deal as people say. A large majority of South Africans still feel let down by the government and although Apartheid is now only a regurgitated memory it is still, and will continue to be, blamed for problems for a long time. Some black South Africans have even gone as far to say that they felt better looked after pre 1994 South Africa. Alcohol and drug abuse is rife. We have learnt that apparently the ruling party – the ANC – may in fact be keeping the Eastern Cape poor, rural, uneducated and undeveloped on purpose to retain votes in this province.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

Education is still the key and most important aspect of progressing South Africa and unfortunately still majorly lacking in most of the 120 towns we have visited so far.

What will the next 6 months have in store?

Project Leader Roger Wynne-Dyke (Cape Town, South Africa)

We will be finishing earlier than expected this year to then retrace some of our tyre tracks in order to do some more filming for our 2013 documentary. So the race is on to fit in all of our 200 identified towns by October 2012 and then re-visit 30 of the towns and finish post production by December 2012. Wish us luck.

Volunteer and Team Member Maddy Savitt (London, UK)

Further exploration is on the cards for the next 6 months and so a good deal of planning is going to go into 2013 and the 2 provinces, Gauteng and the Free State, which we have not visited this year. We will be reflecting on the mammoth task that we undertook this year and will be consolidating all the footage, photography and information that we have gathered.

The EXPEDITION Project relies on not only the support of every community it comes in contact with but also the participation of communities it visits.

It is not just up to the leaders of South Africa to drive transformation; it is up to every South African.

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Journey to drive change