OWNER’S ZONE

WHEN IT COMES TO OFF-ROAD AD­VEN­TURE, THE OPEN ROAD RE­QUIRES AN OPEN MIND. NO­BODY KNOWS THIS BET­TER THAN BLOG­GER GILDA SWANEPOEL

Toyota Connect/Lexus Life - - CONTENTS -

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!”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.