WHEN IT COMES TO OFF-ROAD ADVENTURE, THE OPEN ROAD REQUIRES AN OPEN MIND. NOBODY KNOWS THIS BETTER THAN BLOGGER GILDA SWANEPOEL
A blog, a blonde and a Hilux
Gilda’s been driving Toyotas all her life. Her first – and second – cars were Toyota Corollas and, for the past 13 years, she’s been the proud owner of a 2005 2.7i raised-body 2x4 Hilux.
“When I travel, I always take the back roads, which means I mainly drive on gravel or sand,” she says. “I’m not one for extreme 4x4s, but my 2x4 has taken me over sand dunes before – I love its strength. I also travel alone, so – as a woman – I need to be safe in my vehicle. I’ve never had a breakdown. I’ve lost a couple of tyres, but had no mechanical problems.”
OUT AND ABOUT IN SA
Having a strong, reliable car to travel in is essential for Gilda, as she’s the travel blogger behind Eenblond and a Hilux, in which she documents her travels around the country. Travelling’s always been her passion and she’d been writing stories about her adventures for her friends for years. But it was only in 2015, when she was forced to close her Johannesburgbased business, that she decided to make a career out of travel writing.
“I felt really down after closing my business, but my best remedy for depression has always been travelling, so I hit the road in my bakkie for almost two years and started blogging about it,” she says. “It was an instant success. Lodges invited me to come and stay and
followers loved travelling with me.”
The name of her blog was a natural fit because her trusted Hilux draws attention wherever she goes. “I’m made an offer almost daily. I once parked in front of a restaurant and, when I got out, a guy was on his knees proposing to either marry me or buy my car! It’s also full of travel stickers and the hawkers at the robots love them – they never ask me to buy anything, they just want to know about the places I’ve been. People love the idea of a woman alone in her bakkie on the back roads.”
Gilda says her first blogging trip was also the most memorable one: five months in Kwazulu-natal (KZN). “It’s my favourite destination, with Kosi
Bay right on top. I love the realness, the wildness, the weather in winter and the nature – it’s magical. The Wild Coast is also a firm favourite.”
NEW BEGINNINGS, OLD CAR
Attempts to find sponsors for her blog fell flat, so Gilda returned to Johannesburg permanently at the beginning of 2018. She’s still a regular blogger, but has now also started a tour operating company under the Eenblond and a Hilux brand, which focuses on food tours, as these are a passion of hers and a fast-growing trend in the industry.
She offers a Fordsburg Street Food, a History & Culture Tour, a Melville Food, Booze & Stories Tour and a Maboneng Food, Sundowner & Art Tour. She also does nature tours (mainly for the foreign market) to Hartebeespoort and Dinokeng, as well as bespoke Jozi city tours. She’s currently working on tours to KZN for 2019.
“I miss being on the road, though, and still hit the road as often as I can,” she says. “Nothing compares with the freedom and the positive side of SA I get to experience, smelling new places, meeting and partying with the locals and inspiring people to get out of their comfort zones.”
“I ONCE PARKED IN FRONT OF A RESTAURANT AND, WHEN I GOT OUT, A GUY WAS ON HIS KNEES PROPOSING TO EITHER MARRY ME OR BUY MY CAR!”