by Thinus Ferreira
Trouble and unexpected surprises are never far from the horizon when you're an intrepid adventurer - both of which cross the path of the explorer raconteur Johan Badenhorst off on his latest adventure, this time through the southern parts of South America, in the 12th season of the Afrikaans adventure travelogue series Voetspore on SABC2.
In the new 13-episode season, the expedition sets out to drive through Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina - the southern cone or "cono sur" of the continent. But, as every seasoned traveller well knows and can expect, not everything goes according to plan.
This time the Voetspore team visits some of the survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash, travels to the Iguazu Falls, the Chaco in Paraguay, The Atacama Desert, see the Pacific Ocean and cruises through the wine region of Mendoza.
There's a visit to the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno glacier, Torres del Paine, the southernmost city Ushuaia, visiting the Afrikaans-speaking community of Sarmiento, the whales of Puerto Madryn and even the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires in another eye-popping and unforgettable journey of dramatic landscapes, exquisite food and wine, exceptional landscapes and interesting communities.
TVwithThinus sat down with producer, director and traveller Johan Badenhorst to find out about the travels, troubles and surprises waiting in the 12th season.
Who's the team this time?
We're always a team of six people. With me this season is Nina Badenhorst my daughter looking after the logistics.
In the second vehicle was photographer Gideon Swart and with him is new cameraman Adam Heyns. In the third vehicle are cameraman and editor Stefan Sonnekus and Norbert Coetzee also looking after logistics.
The last time we sat around a campfire and I asked, you said for the next season you're looking at either Russia or South America as the next overseas destination. But that was before Covid and then Russia's invasion and war with Ukraine.
We were on our way to Russia, everything was organised and we did the recce.
Then the war happened. So we had to switch. Russia would have been one adventure and journey. This is going to be three different journeys, since South America is simply too big to complete and see in one go.
On short notice, we decided to switch Russia for South America and this latest season is the first leg of three different journeys and travel adventures through that wonderful continent.
You arrive in South America from South Africa but immediately there are issues which viewers see play out across the first three episodes. You can't get your vehicles because of issues with customs. You're there but you can start your travels?
It took us 24 days before we could start travelling, simply due to bureaucratic red tape and requirements in South America which are totally different that the rest of the world. We discovered it there!
It made it much more difficult and cumbersome. Our vehicles stood in the harbour but we couldn't get them before the paperwork wasn't absolutely "perfect", and translated and - it was so complicated.
I say about South America, it's the easiest continent to drive in but the most difficult to get into. Once your there it's so easy - especially crossing borders. As South Africans you barely need a visa for most of the countries. But to just get going...
Episodes one and two deal partly with the frustration. On the other hand, we show you what we did with our time and used it while we had to wait. There's a lot to do and discover there.
How stressful was that because time is money in production and travelling and you're sitting in another country very far from home? To what degree did you think things might not work out or were you adamant that it must just happen since you're there now?
We were sure that it would work out but it becomes a frustration, especially after the second week.
The first week you accept it as what normal is. If I return now I'll take an extra week just to get your bearings. The second week we got more and more aware of the issues. By week three it wasn't a joy anymore.
Luckily by week four we started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Things started falling in place and on day 24, day 25 we finally started travelling through South America.
There was never doubt but it was frustrating. you get a bit worn down from staying in one place the whole time and waiting for paperwork and couriers to arrive with documents, waiting for translations.
'Your jaw is on the floor.
I've never seen or experienced
anything like it ever in my life.'
How does this new season differ from those awe-inspiring seasons like going to India and what you experienced in South America? Is there also such a big cultural difference between South America and South Africa?
There are a lot more touchpoints in a certain sense between South Africa and South America but on the other hand the language is a much bigger issue.
In Russia for instance I've seen more English roadsigns than in the whole of South America. There's simply nothing in English. And the further you venture outside of the cities, the less and less anyone is capable of speaking or understanding English.
We with our broken Spanish ... it was a little bit frustrating but lekker in a certain sense to make yourself understandable/ Of course things like Google translating helps.
There are many touchpoints. The people like braaiing like us. We ate a lot of meat. We drank a lot of red wine which is amazing in South America. The people are incredibly warm and friendly and inviting and jovial.
You know, a policeman will stop you at a roadblock and interrogate you and want to know where you're going. The same with customs searching your vehicle. But they do it in such an incredibly friendly way. Usually, you sigh when you reach a roadblock. Not here.
These people are friendly and welcoming. Compared with through Africa, what was different with South America - it's a continent of landscapes, as opposed to wild animals.
Their wild animals are more restricted than what we have but their landscapes are dramatic and beautiful - the Andes which we travelled through is absolutely spectacular.
You also visit the Afrikaans-speaking community of Sarmiento. What was that like?
I was pleasantly surprised. I thought there'd be four or five people still speaking Afrikaans. We discovered a lot more and viewers will see!
They are getting older but through the internet they do have more contact with South Africa.
It was stunning to find people who have never been in South Africa, speaking Afrikaans. it's a different form of Afrikaans, more archaic in a sense - almost a bit Dutch. Remember, they left here 120 years ago and lived there in almost isolation. But it's absolutely one of our biggest highlights of this season's travel.
Surely there will be a lot of surprises again this season. What would you say is one surprise viewers need to watch this season for?
We were at the Perito Moreno glacier. We went to Torres del Paine. These are two very prominent landscapes. Your jaw is on the floor. I've never seen or experienced anything like it ever in my life and I've been in the Himalayas and a lot of other places in the world. This is astounding.
The surprise is really the majestic beauty of the landscapes and nature. You think when you see photos of Patagonia, the southern part of South America, that some of the colours must surely be doctored and filtered - the blues are simply too blue and astounding.
That is until you arrive there and you're shocked to discover that that is really how it looks. That is really how it is. Nothing on the photos are altered. The colours are intense and vibrant and mesmerising. It's a great, great surprise.
We hoped to see and experience certain things, and getting there it's even so much better than what we had hoped for!
'As a traveller you should always
be prepared that you will be
surprised by the situation.'
This season is called South America Cono Sur. You're a widely-travelled and experienced traveller. As a travel connoisseur, what did you learn about travel this time around journeying through Cono Sur?
The Cono Sur of course "southern cone" in Spanish, distinguishing it from the rest of South America.
I think as a traveller you should always be prepared that you will be surprised by the situation and circumstances. I thought we were 100% prepared to go to South America and experience it will all our paperwork in place - exactly as we had travelled through the rest of the world.
It wasn't the case. You must always be aware as a traveller there are surprises around the corner. Bring patience to adapt to unexpected travel surprises. You will be successful eventually, just don't ever give up.
I've learnt a great lesson from one of the people who is a survivor of the Andes flight disaster 50 years ago, Dr Roberto Canessa. He said in Spanish to me "Un paso a la vez" - one step at a time. You can't rush life or travel. It's one step at a time.
It's 23 years we've been doing this and I've learnt anew that you've got to be patient and wait and eventually there will be success.
Finally, travelling with kids - as a dad, you journey through the world with your kids alongside you across the seasons. What does that mean to you?
For many years my son Streicher Badenhorst joined us; he's now in the corporate world - not that this isn't a real career. It still remains such an incredible privilege for me to travel with my children. It's something I can encourage anyone to do.
When you open your eyes, life has passed. Consciously focus on making time to spend time with those who are close to you.
When you travel with your kids you learn a lot. You think you're teaching and showing them things but in truth, you learn a lot from them. They see and experience the world through different eyes.
Voetspore Suid-Amerika Cono Sur is on Fridays on SABC2 at 19:00, starting 10 March 2023