Celebrity caravanner in our midst

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The former high-flying Joburg-based strategist from the Development Bank of Southern Africa has transmogrified into a laidback caravanner – and loves every minute of it.
Although temporarily settled in Howick however, (for who knows how long!) it’s clear that Fikile (originally from North West Province), her husband Mathieu (a professor at UKZN) and their two children have been well and truly bitten by the caravan bug.
They spent seven months trundling around the country with their Jurgens caravan, visiting more than 60 caravan parks and covering more than 25 000km. Their odyssey took them across all nine provinces and even into the Kingdom of Swaziland.
They loved every single minute of it.
Hlatshwayo grins. “My advice to novices is do your research first. You don’t want to end up with a dodgy caravan. We were lucky. We met a fantastic saleswoman at Jurgens in PMB, Glenda Fourie, and she was an absolute star.” The family had camped in a tent, previously, so weren’t exactly strangers to outdoor living, but a caravan, she adds, “is a different ball game”.
The model they bought was not new. “It’s about 20 years old, but had been modified, so we have this fantastic fridge, and air-conditioning ….”
She said there were several stereotypes she wanted to smash. “You don’t need a big flashy 4×4 or a top of the range expensive caravan to enjoy trips like this. We have a little Volvo sedan and an ageing caravan. Second, you don’t need to stay in expensive hotels for a good holiday.”
Some 22 years into democracy and yet black people still think they are denied access to national parks. Hlatshwayo has just bust this stereotype as well.
Black people, she added, “Should stop associating camping with poverty. Living in rural areas is very different from an outdoor camping lifestyle. To not take advantage of this is to deprive ourselves of an amazing experience. Sleeping in a tent allows you to become intimate with nature, and experience the incredible closeness of the wildlife around you. It’s an opportunity to enjoy unbelievable travel opportunities: international tourists pay so much to see this – and yet we have it on our doorstep and don’t appreciate it.”
When you camp, or caravan, you become part of a community that embraces nature, she points out. “I’ve always dreamed about an intervention that will bring South Africans together. I believe that with this book, my dream has come true.” Hlatshwayo is considering the possibility of translating Blacks DO Caravan into Zulu and other indigenous languages.
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