The Biggest Scene To Not Make The Cut

August 3, 2019

Easily the biggest scene that ended up being deleted from our documentary The Unjust & Us. Despite our love for this scene, it simply didn't fit within the narrative.

 

 

_______________

The Unjust & Us Is Finally Released!

July 27, 2019

It’s here!!!

 

We are proud to announce the release of our first feature-length documentary, The Unjust & Us.

Almost five years in the making, this project was bigger than we could have ever anticipated. We are so excited for you to see it.

We hope this project inspires you and moves you to be a positive force in the world.

 

 

_______________

This is heartbreaking...

February 23, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sickening statement has been made that a report by cabinet ministers in Botswana has recommended lifting a four-year hunting ban and the introduction of elephant culling.

 

This is disgusting and an absolute disgrace. With poaching for ivory such a horrendous issue in Africa, elephants have been using Botswana as a safe haven due to its ban on hunting, and is home to the worlds largest elephant population.

But shortly after coming into office in April 2018, President Mokgweetsi Masisi asked ministers to review the hunting ban which was implemented by his predecessor Ian Khama in 2014.

 

While recommending lifting the hunting ban, the group also recommends establishing elephant meat canning, for the production of pet food.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has already disarmed the Department of Wildlife and National Parks anti-poaching unit. Which quickly resulted in the finding of around 90 murdered elephants, massacred for their tusks. The largest poaching incident in history.

They deserve better. Mokgweetsi Masisi, shame on you.

_______________

Today is a tragic day...

September 4, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is a sad day, with the tragic and heartbreaking news of 87 wild elephants brutally murdered for their tusks. These elephants were found slaughtered near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, making the scale of poaching deaths the largest seen in Africa.

 

During our trip across Africa we spent some time in Botswana and witnessed first hand the wild elephants living free and roaming the land. It was with no doubt, the most powerful thing we could have possibly experienced. But to hear news like this, we are devastated.

 

It has been estimated that a third of Africa's elephants have been killed in the last decade and 60 percent of Tanzania's elephants have been lost in five years.

 

With poaching for ivory a major issue across Africa, particularly in countries such as Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia. Botswana has the world's largest elephant population of 130,000, largely due to the the country's tough approach to poachers and armed and well-managed anti-poaching units.

Tracking collars revealed elephants had found sanctuary in Botswana from countries where poaching was more prevalent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But with great negative affect, Botswana’s anti-poaching unit was recently disarmed in May, a month after President Mokgweetsi Masisi was sworn into office.

 

A senior official in the president's office, Carter Morupisi, said that the 'government has decided to withdraw military weapons and equipment from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks', but did not explain why.

 

Since then poachers have been breaching the border. The latest killings were found deep in Botswana, close to the protected Okavango Delta wildlife sanctuary.

 

It is heartbreaking and awful, but we cannot lose hope. This cannot go on. People must unite now to end poaching forever. There are people on the ground in these countries fighting for these animals. If you can’t help in person, there are other ways. Research these organizations, groups such as Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit, Vetpaw, Elephants Without Borders, Peta, International Rhino Foundation, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, International Anti Poaching Foundation, and many others. They are fighting and you can help them.

 

It's time to make a stand.

 

It's time to save the animals.

 

International Anti Poaching Foundation - https://www.iapf.org/

Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit - https://www.blackmambas.org/

African Wildlife Foundation - https://www.awf.org/?_ga=2.103084672.1810296504.1569128278-1131844307.1569128278

Vetpaw - https://www.gofundme.com/help-put-a-veteran-protect-rhinos

Elephants Without Borders - http://elephantswithoutborders.org/

Peta - https://www.peta.org/

International Rhino Foundation - https://rhinos.org/

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust - https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/

African Wildlife Protection Fund - https://www.instagram.com/awpf8/

_______________

It's been a long road...

June 16, 2018

Time really does fly.

 

It’s been more than 3 years since we set off on our trip across Africa. Following Dr. Andries Botha on his cycling adventure across the continent and finding inspiring stories of hope along the way.

We set off ready to take on the world. Ready to see what the adventure would offer. Ready to make a change. But for me, I was ready to make a documentary. My first feature-length production as a director. I was excited, I was passionate, I was in my element. How often does a filmmaker get the chance to travel across some of the most amazing and beautiful countries in the world, to tell stories that truly matter?

As the adventure took off and the miles started to rack up, I realized that being behind the lens wasn’t going to protect me from the emotions, the heartaches and the tragedies we would face and document. More than three years on I can look back at these memories with a clear mind. But it took time to get over the impact of such a trip.

I can say now with a degree of certainty that that is why it took me so long to get started on the edit of the documentary. Along with the impact of the trip, was fear. Fear to take on such an epic task. With almost a thousand hours of footage, shot across six countries, 100 days of travel, 6 months away from home, with multiple storylines, and a detachment from the project that I was first so passionate about. Time allowed me to get over the issues that sat in front of me, what seemed like endless footage slowly became less intimidating.

Taking as long as I needed, watching each and every clip, writing notes on the story, concept and edit. The documentary slowly came together in front of me. Exciting sequences, upbeat moments, tragic stories, tales of hope, tears, laughter and agony, all came together on the screen. And just over a year ago came the first rough cut of our documentary The Unjust & Us. Sitting at 3 hours long, a music score taken from other artists that we couldn’t use (for copyright reasons), no voiceover to lead the narrative (which it most certainly needs) and an audio track that needs plenty of work…

 

It was far from perfect, but it was there.

I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could see our documentary, and my passion for filmmaking had returned. Now a year on, the edit is closer but it is a slow progress. Sequences are being worked on or cut out entirely, narrations are being written and recorded, and the powerful moments are being polished. Time is moving by quickly, and what we can spend on the documentary we are.

But for those who are interested, for those that supported us from the start, don’t lose faith. It is coming together and in the end, I know it will be worth it.

 

Stay tuned. Thank you.

~ Ryan

 

 

_______________

The Story So Far - Episode Five

May 1, 2015

All good things must come to an end. That goes for difficult things too. A trip cut short but an epic journey none-the-less.

_______________

The Story So Far - Episode Four

April 30, 2015

They never promised us it would be easy. They only said it would be worth it.

_______________

The Man on the Bike - The Why

April 16, 2015

 

I don't consider myself just a journalist. I see myself as a storyteller and my job, no matter how impossible it may seem, is to tell people's stories in a way that reflects their personal truth. Interviewing people properly takes an incredible amount of engagement and connection. As my brother recently said to me, it is "an exchange of energy."

I'm not a news reporter anymore. My articles are no longer based around politics or crime. My spell has always been cast in the realm of human interest pieces. I always longed more to know the why than the what. While other journalists threw it in as an afterthought, it became my obsession. Why? Why? Why?

But getting the why is always the hardest part.

Sure, every interviewer has their tried and true techniques - planned prolonged silences, certain looks at certain times etc etc. The cornerstone of any good interview, howevever, is always trust.

Does the person you're speaking to trust you enough to be vulnerable? Do they trust you to be fair? Do they trust you with their truth?

Do they see into your heart and know that your intentions are good? You see, people can always tell. They bleed for authenticity and connection...two things that cannot be faked. I have learned that, in order for people to be vulnerable, you must be vulnerable first. It is foreign territory but showing my weakness becomes a show of strength.

I'm used to forging deep bonds and connections with strangers for an hour or two. I'm used to pulling their personal truths from their bones...a surgeon prying into their most private memories to fashion their existence onto a pen and paper world. 

Interviewing my father is always different. I slip on questions. I stall. Sometimes the subtext of his words spill tears across my cheeks - infused with 31 years of memories, moments and milestones. I know his hopes. I know his dreams. 

I know his fear.

And maybe that's not playing fair.

Most of it is saved for the documentary, but here is a taste of what we discussed...

You've completed over 30 major adventures including reaching the summit of Mt. Everest. So far you've cycled over 6,500 km from Cape Town through Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya. How does this current cycling trip across Africa compare?

I've been lucky enough to see the world and attempt many physical adventures. They have all been difficult in some way. I lost my thumbs and toes to frostbite on Everest. I almost died from a bacterial infection in Indonesia and had to have skin grafts where my flesh was eaten away. I've been hit by trucks and punctured various organs.

This trip, however, has been my toughest adventure yet. It has been the most physically, mentally and emotionally difficult thing I've ever done to date. Time didn't stand still. I'm 63 now so that makes it harder but it's also hard because it's in memory of my brother, Nico and because my children are so heavily involved. We are focusing on a lot of strong people battling incredible odds on this trip. Meeting them is emotionally draining but very rewarding. It's not just about the physical aspect...it's about helping create a piece of work that can bring people hope. I can't believe what people out here are battling.

Tell readers a bit about the daily routine on this trip...

Well, we're up between 5:30 am and 6 am to hit the road as soon as possible. This is to avoid three things...mainly the traffic, the heat and the wind which seems to come up later in the day. It's rainy season in most African countries as well but the rain seems to come around later in the day. I try to get in between 130 and 160 km per day but it really depends on the weather.

The support team waits every 5 to 10 km depending on the road conditions, weather and how I'm feeling. Sometimes they stop over 20 times a day timing my arrival. It's stressful work for them as well and it's very tedious. They are clocking me to make sure I don't take too long. If I do, they try to find me in case there's been an accident or a flat tire. When I stop they make me sandwiches, refill my liquids, give me dry clothes etc. They plan the logistics about where we're staying, where we get supplies, border crossings etc. That doesn't include anything to do with the documentary side of things which is another thing completely in terms of work.

What are the obstacles you face on a daily basis?

There are a lot of obstacles. Riding for so many hours a day requires extreme concentration. Because I'm on a road bike, every pebble or rut in the road needs to be evaluated. Big trucks blowing by create a wind that can push me off the road and the traffic in Africa has been bad. Big cities like Lusaka in Zambia and Nairobi in Kenya were dangerous, unpredictable and, to be honest, a bit frightening. 

Of course, I have had injuries to deal with. I came into this trip with a shoulder injury and then three falls - including being hit by a car - which made my left elbow extremely sensitive. An abcess on my behind was painful and put me back mentally. The first few weeks of the trip were beyond bad because I hadn't used my road bike in almost two years and I wasn't physically ready with the shoulder and the abcess. 

The weather is another animal altogether. Botswana was incredibly hot and cycling after 11 am was a constant battle of will. Thankfully ice was plentiful and big trees provided a lot of shade. In Tanzania rain and fog near the mountains was a battle. I was constantly nervous about being hit by a vehicle or of slipping on the wet roads. A heavy rainstorm in Botswana rattled me completely and thankfully a man who couldn't speak any English took me in to his farm stall until the team found me.

So this isn't a holiday then?

HA! This is definitely not a holiday. I challenge anyone to cycle as much as I do and do the interviews and work the rest of the team is doing and consider it a holiday. This is an adventure, yes, but it is not a vacation. This is draining, challenging and frustrating at times. We are happy and lucky to be able to do this work but it IS work.

Can you let your mind wander on the bike?

Most times it's not possible to think of anything else but the ride itself. Like I mentioned, I have to be aware of vehicles, potholes, rocks etc at all times. I spend time motivating myself and I spend a lot of time thinking about why I'm doing all of this.

Why ARE you doing this?

It's a chance personally for me to think about and move on from my brother's death. I made a promise to myself that I would do this in his memory. It is also a chance to see Africa and, of course, it's about bringing stories of hope out of Africa. I haven't attended all of the interviews but the ones I have seen are really powerful and shocking. 

Tell us some of the most amazing moments on this trip so far...

Most days have been non-stop work but doing it with my kids has been the most rewarding experience. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with my kids and reaching the summit with my son made me proud in a way I can't explain. Seeing lions in the Serengeti was unreal. Meeting people like Esnat who have devoted their lives to helping others has been great. It is inspiring to see so many people giving their lives up for a cause. It makes me want to give more and offer my help in some way in the near future. 

Any words for those following the journey and sending messages of support?

Everyone knows I'm not all that clued up on Facebook but Tasha reads me the comments and messages. I am so thankful for the support and I appreciate it very much. When I have a hard day and feel disheartened by something that's happened, just knowing you guys are out there behind me pushes me to keep going. I am lucky in many ways and your prayers, support and encouragement mean a helluva lot. There is no way that I could (or would want to) do this trip alone. I appreciate my teammates whether they are here or cheering from home.

 

_______________

The Story So Far - Episode Three

April 19, 2015

 

Take a quick look at our journey through Botswana and Zambia as we continue the journey of The Unjust and Us...

Thank you for your support! 

 

_______________

An Attitude of Gratitude (Take a Look!)

March 18, 2015

 

When I was seven years-old and a brand new Canadian resident, I scoured the streets of Inuvik looking for a present for my mother's birthday. By scouring the streets, I mean I went into the drugstore and hoped for the best. 

I was lucky enough to find a crystal jewelery holder. It was gorgeous and I couldn't believe it was so cheap. It caught the light beautifully in my little hands and I couldn't wait to wrap it up for my mother - the apple of my eye. 

Turns out it was a glass ashtray. 

You'd never have known the difference based on my mother's reaction. It was worth about $5 but, to her, it was priceless. Her attitude of gratitude has stayed with me all of these years and it's the reason I can't wait to surprise her with anything and everything big and small. Her reaction, her joy and her appreciation makes me want to give her so much more. 

I think the universe works the same way. The more you appreciate the good in life, the more it wants to show you what it's got. Like an artist whose work finds appreciation...once you have the first admirer you want to show them more and more and more to see their reaction. 

I feel like that's what happened to us on Botswana's highway between Kasane and Nata.

 

where wild giraffes, elephants and everything inbetween roam the sides of the road. We were infinitely blessed with all kinds of creatures...an up-close-and-personal experience without a guide, without a safari, without the fences of a game park. 

I couldn't believe my eyes and it is with the most grateful heart I say, "thank you!" Take a look for yourself...

 ^^ Ryan getting the perfect shot...

^^ We came across an elephant carcass which had fresh elephant dung all around. Elephants mourn the loss of their family members and will visit the grave year after year

 ^^ A bike ride with a view...

^^ We just couldn't get over the size of these trees!

 ^^ Ryan's hand in a small elephant's footprint

 ^^ One of my favourite all-time photos to date! Perfect timing :)

Why Sending Toys to Africa is Pointless

March 22, 2015

 

 

 

_______________

(Preface - Dr. Botha is still going strong and is about to reach his 6,000 km mark! We are currently in Tanzania and will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro next week. Dr. B has some minor gout in his elbow but he has lost a ton of weight and his average km per day is quite a bit higher than when we started. Later this week we will have a full logistics update, so stay tuned)

 

This isn’t your typical “let’s visit an orphanage, drop off some toys and make ourselves feel like we matter” post. You see it all the time. People visit Africa and get their photo taken with a bunch of smiling poor black kids. Sometimes they volunteer a week or two of their time which is better than nothing, but usually it’s not with a charity of recognized value. We send our teenagers to volunteer abroad thinking of what they’ll learn…and not asking ourselves what they’ll actually be able to give.

 

Intentions are good. They almost always are in life.

 

Thing is, intentions don’t feed starving children.

 

When we started this pre-production work for The Unjust & Us, finding a smaller reputable charity was next to impossible. I checked close to 100 of them with most having little or no financial statements to view, ongoing monitoring of previous children helped or the ability to show me, in person, where their funding was going. It was a sad state. It left me very disheartened and it showed me exactly why many of us are hesitant to give. I don’t blame people for refusing to give money to pay a CEO’s luxury car loan or to fund exotic “market meetings” at international locations.

 

I get it. I do.

 

Furthering the challenge of finding a suitable charity was that I wanted one started by an African man or woman who had been through difficulty in their own life. I didn’t want the typical story of the outside world saving Africa. There are tons of great organizations doing incredible work…UNICEF, The Red Cross etc etc…but they have big marketing budgets and worldwide recognition. I wanted to find someone who was busting their ass to do good…and someone who could prove it.

 

Enter Esnat Avon. She might be little, but this woman packs a mighty punch straight to the soul.

Born in Zambia, Esnat was taken away from her parents as a young girl. By the time she was returned to them it wasn’t long before they both died leaving her orphaned. She quit school to take care of her siblings – one of whom had polio and was being abused by extended family members. She might have been an orphan, but Esnat was an orphan with a will of steel.

Just like that. A short paragraph encompasses a lifetime of loss but that’s Esnat – she doesn’t like to focus on the hard times. She’s a doer, a giver, a fixer and, above all, she’s now a mother to thousands of children. She’s brazen in the very best kind of way and, ten years ago at 60, when most people are planning their retirement cruises around the world, she decided to start what is now one of Zambia’s largest and most prolific child empowerment organizations - CONTESA.

When Esnat told her husband Roger her idea, he worked overseas for a year so that they could fully fund all the costs for the first year of CONTESA by themselves. Talk about a teammate for life. Since then, they have tirelessly worked to fundraise locally and abroad.

That money is fully logged and financial statements are available to anyone online. I was able to ask Esnat and her staff, any question at any time. I was able to speak to children by themselves and I was able to meet young adults who had graduated from the programs. No interview was planned for me. I was able to pick and choose. No door or avenue was closed to my exploration. CONTESA had nothing to hide from me and desperately wanted our help. The message I received over and over again was always, “Look with your own eyes.”

Most of the children Esnat helps were orphaned when their parents died of AIDS. In Zambia, 16.5% of the population is made up of orphans…that’s over 1 million children left without food, shelter or love. Not only that, but these vulnerable children are easily abused and otherwise mistreated.

Esnat doesn’t start orphanages. She starts feeding programs. Esnat doesn’t give kids stationary. She provides education and skills training programs to handle an actual job market. She doesn’t give orphans pity. She gives them the one thing they can’t find on the streets - respect.

Esnat doesn’t want these kids to survive. She demands they thrive.

CONTESA provides funds and monitors the work of dozens of programs, creating the kind of interlinked organization most charities can only dream of. Her resourcefulness far outweighs her resources and yet no child is ever turned away at feeding time. For almost all of them, it’s the only meal they’ll get all day and CONTESA support 1,500 children a DAY. Last year alone, they handed out over 600,000 meals. Not only that, but CONTESA feeds mothers and their children in local communities – bringing their babies back from the brink of malnutrition and teaching their moms about sustainable nutrition.

Send toys to Esnat and she’ll ask you why. Her kids don’t need toys. They need food and an education. Handing a starving child a toy is like handing a drowning man a cup of water.

Pointless.

Visiting the main feeding and education program in Kabwe was like no experience I’ve ever had. Profound, all-encompassing, life-changing…words I could use but ones that won’t mean much to you until you meet these kids in the documentary. These are kids who have literally been beaten down, starved, forced to beg on the streets from the age of two or three and who’ve had to care for younger siblings at the age of four or five. These kids are survivors.

They are tough as nails when push comes to shove, but reach out a hand or show them a photo and they melt…so badly do they crave love and attention from an adult. They would call my name and when I’d turn around they’d smile and shrink back unable to process what they should do with the undivided attention of an adult. Tell them you’ve heard their teacher say they are a fast learner and watch their eyes gleam because someone actually takes pride in them.

The things we take for granted, they pray for every single night.

Their gratitude spills out of them so completely that it suffocated me with tears. They are so heart-crushingly thankful for the chance to get help that they all speak only of growing up so that they can help their siblings and friends in the same way. Leave no one behind. Save every last one. It’s as though the selfish gene was strategically ripped from them at birth when the universe realized the only way they’d survive was to find and save one another.

“What do you do for fun?” I asked one boy.

“I pray,” he replied quietly.

“What do you pray for?”

“My friends.”

Turns out, no matter what happens to you, becoming an orphan is a life-sentence you serve together.

Those beautiful uniforms you see the kids wearing? They were sewn for them by older orphans. Those smooth desks? They were created by older orphans in carpentry class. The spirit of giving back is engrained in these kids. 

Ryan would chase the kids around the centre and they would squeal with unbridled joy – enthralled by the chance to be kids just for a moment…wondering if this is what normal is…to not worry, to not cry, to be wanted by someone. He played with them until he was red in the face and sweating…only pulling away when we had to continue our interviews before the clock ran out.

Ryan has a softness that drew these kids in close – the kind of authenticity that allows an abused orphan to trust a foreign man they’ve never met before. They felt safe with him because they could see his heart and it is beautiful. It was difficult to watch their faces sink knowing that their imaginary world had ended and it was now back to figuring out how to be a child alone in the unforgiving landscape of an adult world.

And it was on this visit to Kabwe that I looked down and found my heart gone - hundreds of little fingers tugging at my heartstrings until it fell from its perch amongst my ribs. You see, before I started this trip my best friend Jenny told me that purpose doesn’t end, it only evolves. I knew then exactly what she meant. Creating change that lasts, doing work that matters, empowering people who cannot help themselves…what is more important than that?

I am so past giving a shit what people think…so past caring about my hair and make-up…so past listening to pointless gossip from people whose lives are an outward reflection of a bankrupt inner purpose.

They spend their days swimming in the shallow pool of mediocrity – scraping their knees on the tiles of excess, boredom and complacency. They carry with them the ache that something is missing from their life…that somehow they missed the point. Truth is, they did. They missed finding a purpose.

Ryan and I spent two days with Esnat and we stayed at her brother’s house. We were welcomed with open arms and lovingly created plates of homemade chicken and rice. We spoke of many things…how the world is…how the world could be. And if, as they say, souls can be kindred spirits, hers and mine are surely that and more. Ryan and I knew we had to help her. We couldn’t let this documentary, no matter how successful, be the only thing we could offer when she needed so much more right now.

And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? When we don’t have money to give, we assume there’s nothing we can do and that’s the kiss of death for many organizations trying to affect change in a materialistic world.

So instead of money, we are offering Esnat that which she can’t do herself or afford to pay for without taking food from hungry mouths – marketing, content creation and public relations. Inspired Risk will be partnering with CONTESA on a pro-bono basis to create awareness, forward motion and fundraising through a brand new communications and marketing directive which will include video and photography production.

So when people ask me if I’m getting a tan out here, getting up-close-and-personal with wildlife and getting dirty every day, I can only smile.

I’m getting so much more than that. I’m getting a heart autopsy, a soul-ectomy of the highest degree. I am being stripped naked to my core while the universe demands:

“What do you have to offer the world now?”

Turns out, I’m starting to like the answer.

** If you would like to partner with Inspired Risk to provide time or resources to CONTESA, please send us an email. Even an hour a week will help push the movement forward. We will be planning a content creation mission to Zambia later this year and anyone with skills to offer in photography, videography, trades, teaching (all kinds), the medical field, marketing, public relations or anything else, please consider joining us.

Not being able to provide the hard-hitters like teaching, medical, photography/videography, construction or marketing/PR doesn’t mean reading the kids a story, helping clean-up or helping organize resources isn’t just as needed. If you have the heart to help, we can find you a place **

The Infamous Botswana A2 - Lobatse to Ghanzi (& Maun)

February 22, 2015

 

 

 

_______________

Welcome to Botswana! Our first land border crossing was pretty easy – no long lines, no vehicle searches and lots of smiles. Turns out Botswana is a very friendly place! Our first stop was Lobaste and it’s here we had a choice to make – go straight or turn left.

People said it would be easier to stick to the main route through Gabourne and Francistown, but we’ve never been the type to stick to ordinary.

To make sure we hit up Maun in a few days (and the stunning Okavango Delta) we decided to take the A2 which has a desolate stretch of pretty much nothing between Kang and Ghanzi (about 250 km or so of the way). I thought I’d discovered a hidden gem in Lokolane (nothing but a permit station and a big gate there) and Lone Tree (an anti-poaching camp) on my detailed internet map search earlier but alas, we spent the entire day without ice. No one suffered more than Dr. B…

He's been doing exceptionally well cycling. The miles clock on and he sits on the bike for hours and hours...full days roll by...and still he rides. There are moments when he becomes slightly deflated - when the wind is against him, when the sun rages down - but still he doesn't falter. It makes me proud but I also wish he would eat and rest more. He is like a dog with a bone - too consumed to drop the taste from its mouth. And still he rides...

To make sure we hit up Maun in a few days (and the stunning Okavango Delta) we decided to take the A2 which has a desolate stretch of pretty much nothing between Kang and Ghanzi (about 250 km or so of the way). I thought I’d discovered a hidden gem in Lokolane (nothing but a permit station and a big gate there) and Lone Tree (an anti-poaching camp) on my detailed internet map search earlier but alas, we spent the entire day without ice. No one suffered more than Dr. B…

He's been doing exceptionally well cycling. The miles clock on and he sits on the bike for hours and hours...full days roll by...and still he rides. There are moments when he becomes slightly deflated - when the wind is against him, when the sun rages down - but still he doesn't falter. It makes me proud but I also wish he would eat and rest more. He is like a dog with a bone - too consumed to drop the taste from its mouth. And still he rides...

As for the A2, she is unforgiving territory. The first thing anyone notices about this highway is the extraordinary amount of stray animals by the roadside. Donkeys, horses, cows…you name it…they don’t give a flying f*ck about you or your car. I read one guy hit three cows on his way from Jo’Burg to Windhoek on the A2. I believe it. Apparently the donkeys just stare at you but cows are ridiculously stupid. Dr. B has already been chased down by a dog.

Lobatse resulted in an uneventful evening at the Cumberland Hotel. Only it’s necessary to point out that the wait times at restaurants in Botswana are ridiculously long. We have yet to eat with 50 minutes of ordering and, after a hot day in the sun, takeaways just seem a much better option. From Lobatse we lost my dad around Kanye (is this where Kanye West’s name comes from??) but a pair of exceptionally smiley and kind police officers tracked us down to tell us “the old man” was up ahead. Turns out he passed us while we were reading and napping in the vehicle.

The next day, however, we got a really bad flat tire on the way from Kang to Ghanzi and our truck expert Jeff kicked into high gear to save the day! We were blown away by how many people stopped to see if we were okay and I asked one of them to speed ahead to tell my dad what had happened.

Our flat tire was quickly changed and we took the offending tire to a tire shop in Ghanzi (another story for another day...) but, before that, we encountered something truly special.

 

It seems the A2 is not only famous for stray animals and desolate stretches. It also has copious amounts of friendly butterflies (and dragon flies we later discovered). Using some dried fruit we lured them to our hands but soon found out that they were just attracted to people in general. I have to say, it was a surreal and beautifully heart-stopping moment in time to have over 60 butterflies on your hand. Check out our instagram under Inspired Risk to see a video!

We tried to leave Ghanzi on a rainy morning, but were soon met with a heavy-hitting storm. Dr. B was out on the road and we tracked the highway looking for him. When we found him, over an hour later, he had been taken in by a kindly groundskeeper looking after a few shacks and donkeys on the side of the road. Dad was shivering and looked a bit panicked. It was a difficult moment because I felt his vulnerability and the weight of this journey. It must be impossibly difficult to ride again and again.

I thanked the young caretaker and slipped a few Pula into his hands. His smile was bright and beautiful...unassuming, open and whole-heartedly amused by the strangers around him. He had no idea what was happening and neither did we. This kind stranger, we would later find out, was suffering a horrible loss, unbeknownst to him, while helping us. Down the road only about two kilometers the rain had obscured the view of his uncle from his vehicle and he pulled out in front of an 18 wheeler dying instantly. 

We passed the scene of the accident returning to the hotel and I said a silent prayer that no one was injured. Later, when we returned to the caretaker's home, another man had taken his place and relayed the story. 

It stuns me to think that, while someone was helping a dripping wet stranger on the side of the road, the universe was handing them a pockeful of darkness. How strange the world spins...but it continues.

It wasn't long until we ran into a very interesting couple who quit the rat-race in Johannesburg to simply tour around Africa on their bicycles. Married 33 years, Peggy and George now live in Mossel Bay and we caught them near Ghanzi with their Kermit the Frog companions. 

It's difficult to describe the beautiful energy these two have. I can only tell you it's an endearing, crazy, hopeful love and it's infectious! They eagerly regaled us with stories of hyenas chasing them and we just couldn't get enough. Peggy explained how their adventures began...

"I was watching tv and I thought maybe we should sell everything and travel. It took me five minutes to convince George and six months later we owned nothing but two bicycles."

When asked what the secret to a happy marriage is, Peggy instandly answered "Listen to your wife!" and this photo was born. Thank you Peggy and George...for showing us what a lifetime of crazy love really looks like.

And on we went...Ghanzi had a whole set of dramas you'll have to wait and see in the videos but making it to Maun meant we finally had two rest days to spend in the gorgeous Okavango Delta..

It was an excellent day of rest and relaxation in one of Africa's most unique spots...

Dr. B even took a dip in the croc and hippo waters to thank our major sponsor Tiger Muay Thai & MMA (no one noticed the croc on his left until later...)

Stay tuned because we travel through the Nxai Pan National Park in the next two days or so and have heard there are some big animals crowding the roadways there lately. We will have to stay extra cautious and follow Dr. B more closely. Can't wait to see what happens…

 

 

_______________

The Way It Feels To Burn

February 28, 2015

 

They say that, in life, you burn up and out hundreds of times. For those of us less lucky, it feels like thousands.

For the unluckiest of us, it’s none at all.

I think, if you’re doing it properly, life results in a constant evolution of self. There should be no part of us that doesn’t dissolve, rematerialize and bring itself to a stunning shine under the watchful eye of its master. If you’re blessed just enough, you’re given a partner that can light up the dusty corners of your soul and sweep out the bits that just don’t quite fit.

But that is a sweet sentiment that smarts far more than it sounds. Truth is, burning up and out is painful.

When my dad contracted a rare bacterial infection in Indonesia a number of years ago resulting in his near death, part of his leg was eaten away. Skin grafts had to be taken from his thigh and placed on his calf which had its muscles and sinews fully exposed.

It was for his benefit and it would heal, but the graft was exceptionally painful. Shedding our layers of self – whether by choice or by a force greater than ourselves – stings deeply. And yes, we will heal and yes, we will come back more resolute in our determination and dreams…but that doesn’t change the way it punctures and pulsates.

Traveling along Botswana’s A3, the country soon showed us a strange juxtaposition that mirrored my thoughts so completely. Amongst some of the most stunning countryside in the world, lay burnt out cars and trucks and, every now, and then a creature that had lost its battle with life.

Somehow the bush had begun to reclaim its space swallowing up the junky pieces of metal and sharp shards of glass. Little by little, the thorny bushes and leafy ferns snaked their way through the steering wheels and engine parts.

The dead animals became a life force. Creatures nourished themselves on the carcasses leaving only teeth and bones – shiny, white reminders of the frailty we each push away as time ticks forward. Perfectly clean skeletons reminding us that our souls never did quite belong in this place.

They say no one knows the hell it takes to get from the person you were to the person you were meant to be. I believe this is acutely true. There is a space, many times over, where we each get lost. The truth is, you either come out the other side. 

 

Or you don’t.

 

And it’s that in between – the space where no one can follow you – where you are tested. It is there where you’ll find just how much of life’s metallic aftertaste you can bear. It is there where you will realize just how much of this place you are really willing to see.

It is there where you burn up and out. And it is this burning up and out that results in the ultimate rebirth. Little by little, piece by piece, we all burn until only the very best parts of our soul, heart and mind are left.

 

They stay the strongest steel is forged by the hottest fire. 

They just never said we’d have to burn so many times.

_______________

The Ties That Bind

February 17, 2015

 

The Karoo is South Africa’s outback. It’s a harsh, dry landscape with unparalleled skies and breath-taking views. It’s also where my father grew up – born and raised on a farm just outside of the tiny town of Britstown where everyone knows not only your name, but your darkest secrets as well. It was strange passing through and not stopping at the farm that’s been in our family for generations.

Some people don’t understand this project. I know that when it is finished and ready for viewing, our true purpose will come to light and the secret questions will have beautifully open answers.

Before we went through Britstown we drove the craggy pathway to Montana – the Sweiger farm. The landscape leading to it is rough with a steady climb and no available contact with the outside world. Montana lies about 30 km outside of Victoria West – another sleepy town in the Karoo where my parents spent a year when I was still learning to walk.

It’s hard to imagine my stunning mother – her curves, her limber, laughing frame, the glittering, curious eyes of a former Miss South Africa engulfed within the dusty cracks of this small Karoo cage. I wondered if it was here where the pieces of her started falling away or if it was in some other small town in some other foreign place. More than even that, I wondered if I found them and brought them back to her if she’d still know where they fit.

The Sweigers farm is trapped in time – a breathing memory. It felt strange to remember, during trips back to South Africa over the years, my mother with a lit cigarette laughing at the farm’s cracked kitchen counter – the glint of her eye catching the dim kerosene lamp as a dirty joke snaked its way through slightly parted lips.

Those memories were brought to life through the family matriarch Ronel as she reminisced with a glass of wine haphazardly throwing ingredients together for dinner. The Sweigers never eat early. Not once did we eat before 11 pm so much were the jokes, the stories and the ever-flowing sweet brandy. Her larger-than-life personality, funny hats and nurturing demeanour showed me just how her and my mother had bonded so much in a land seemingly forgotten by time.

I couldn’t help the lump in my throat when she pulled me towards her and whispered, “You are like my child.” For someone who was never surrounded by aunties growing up, I always find my world a little brighter when the women I knew as a child nurture me as an adult. I always thought mothers were amazing things growing up. Just how they knew what to do to make everything better astounded me.

And at Montana it was as though a part of my mother was waiting, as she always does, for me. You see, she waits for me in every place she’s ever been…ready to greet me with her lingering scent and the lilt of her voice on an evening breeze…and her laugh…oh that laugh. If I could only keep one memory, it would be the sound of her laughter.

We are born and bred into walking heartbeats of our parents…our claim to fame being that we are either exactly like them or nothing like them at all. The spiderwebs of connection are either too fragile to hold us or too fine and sticky to ever wipe the feel of them from our skin.

One night at one of Montana’s old, unkempt farmhouses named Soetwater, surrounded by the moaning veld and red Earth rocks still warm from the Karoo sun, I crept into the box of our Hilux. I opened my Mac – now only able to spring to life if connected to the inverter – and started transferring files just in case she made the leap into the land of eternal sleep-mode.

 

It was then I rediscovered my dad’s novel – chapters upon chapters – that I had hidden for posterity’s sake. I had read some of them but I hadn’t yet found the courage to read them all. My bond with my father is a deep one and the thought of seeing wounds I couldn’t sterilize and stitch made my stomach lurch and my skin itch with guilt. I was determined not to read them that night but a chapter called Jan Sweigers caught my gaze and my hand betrayed me by clicking it open. Words quickly littered the screen and fractured the silent, dusky sky.

I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.

But the hazy puzzle pieces started to snap into place when I thought of how eagerly my dad looked into the hills to find a glimpse of Montana as we drove up. I could see in my mind’s eye the big grins when the two men greeted each other – a lifetime of trust and memories enveloping them as they wrapped their arms around one another.

I could picture them battling through sleepless, confused nights trying to predict a future that had somehow lost all its shimmer for one of them. I could hear my dad sobbing into his pillow and Jan piling the chess pieces on the board. Another night, another game, another tie that would bind them together in the kind of way only a life split in two can withstand.

 

Seeing them reunited I could see that 17 year-old boy creeping out of the dark to grab the hand of his oldest and best friend. It is strange how things can change and yet stay exactly the same. Jan may be a man who now has hair like Einstein and completely white feet and ankles thanks to the world’s strangest farmer tan…but he is still a man who, none-the-less, holds the only pause button for a heart that still beats slightly out of time.

My dad wrote of his father and my eyes instantly burned as tears pricked them. My father’s mother died when he was only two. As a little boy, they would find him wandering the house halls weeping for her…searching for a mother who would never return. It was his father who held his world together…his father who believed in his dreams and nurtured his spirit…his father who became his best friend and confidant.

And then, at only 17, he watched his father tumble from life into death – the only witness to his last breath in the only home he’d ever known. Even a lifetime of his father’s deepest love couldn’t save him from drowning in the kind of grief that rips the very beat from a heart. Losing his father left him a little boy confused and trapped amongst the gangling limbs of a man in training.

I didn’t know that, growing up, he longed to spend all his time with his dad. I didn’t know he planned to return to the farm and live with him “forever” once he finished his studies as a vet. I didn’t know about the panic attacks that started as soon as life turned him into an orphan…or that Jan was the one who encouraged him to play chess deep into the night at their boarding school to quell his quickening pulse and tire his heartbroken mind.

I didn’t know. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.

But the hazy puzzle pieces started to snap into place when I thought of how eagerly my dad looked into the hills to find a glimpse of Montana as we drove up. I could see in my mind’s eye the big grins when the two men greeted each other – a lifetime of trust and memories enveloping them as they wrapped their arms around one another.

I could picture them battling through sleepless, confused nights trying to predict a future that had somehow lost all its shimmer for one of them. I could hear my dad sobbing into his pillow and Jan piling the chess pieces on the board. Another night, another game, another tie that would bind them together in the kind of way only a life split in two can withstand.

 

Seeing them reunited I could see that 17 year-old boy creeping out of the dark to grab the hand of his oldest and best friend. It is strange how things can change and yet stay exactly the same. Jan may be a man who now has hair like Einstein and completely white feet and ankles thanks to the world’s strangest farmer tan…but he is still a man who, none-the-less, holds the only pause button for a heart that still beats slightly out of time.

 

_______________

Running into Diamond Smugglers in Northern South Africa

February 14, 2015

 

We ran into some shady characters before crossing into Botswana!

 

 

_______________

The Story So Far (Part 2)

February 9, 2015

 

Here's a sneak peek at our first week on the road from Cape Town to Cairo…

 

 

_______________

Has It Been A Week Already?

February 8, 2015

 

Taking a quick look back, here are some photos from our cage diving with Shark Diving Unlimited and Michael Rutzen's amazing team. Highly recommended! Some of us enjoyed the deck time as much as the sharks ;)

This past week has seen us visit a variety of South African hotspots and meet up with the most incredible people. It is tough to find a lot of internet time so I have to keep this post a bit shorter. Instead of telling you the stories right now, I'll let some photos speak for themselves until I can put it all into words...

Riversdale with the wonderful Roos family and their gorgeous farm!

Unforgettable views from Wilderness Views Guesthouse and our dear friends Gill and Brian! Always a treat being spoilt rotten here!

New friends in Oudtshoorn...

 

...and a new fan club for Tiger Muay Thai & MMA - our major sponsor!

With, of course, a lot of cycling inbetween it all...

_______________

...And We're Off! Leaving the southern most tip of Africa...

January 29, 2015

 

It's difficult to grasp that we have actually started the trip! After cage diving with Great White Sharks and staying in a (luxurious) camp ground outside Gaansbai, we finally made our way to Cape Aghulas - the southern most tip of Africa. There we had a lovely breakfast with Olwyn's grandmother (Surita's mom). As many of you know, Olwyn's murder was a big part of why we wanted to do this documentary. It's strange, but not too much was said. I guess sometimes talking is overrated. There isn't much left to say. Now the story will speak for us all.

From Cape Aghulas Dr. Botha began cycling and we stopped a few times to assist with cold water and to double-check that he was okay. We ran into quite a few kind people including a traffic cop who let us blow up his checkstop by parking behind him and a man who just stopped to see if we were okay.

We ended the day in Swellendam with Pieter Uys and his parents. We have been treated like royalty! After taking a farm tour and discussing everything from sustainable farming to traveling, we were treated to the most amazing braai! It was delicious, the company fantastic and we feel very lucky to have met such a wonderful family. Thank you SO MUCH! As my dad would say - you saved our lives by feeding us ;)

 

 

_______________

Episode 1: The Story So Far (Yes, we've been delayed!)

January 23, 2015

 

Take a look at our first update video posted just the other day. Since we made this we have had to delay our trip by just a few days. First the hitch went haywire and then my Mac's battery took a dive. We are now waiting for a new one before we take off.

 

We might leave on Dr. Botha's birthday (Jan. 29th) which was the original plan. It's up to the Mac Gods to let us know how long it'll take (they say we'll know more on Monday).

 

So what do you do when you have everything ready and are just waiting for a computer battery? Why, you go 4x4ing to test out the truck! That's the plan for tomorrow. Video and photos to come....if we don't get stuck ;)

~ Nat

 

 

_______________

Our Core Group Is Almost Ready to Rock!

January 9, 2015

 

The core group has arrived in Cape Town and we are excited to get this journey underway. We will be exploring Africa to tell the courageous stories of those who have turned their experiences with violent crime into lives of hope and advocacy! You won't BELIEVE the incredible people we're about to showcase.

 

This trip will be transformational. Let us show you just how the impossible becomes possible.

 

 Left to right, Dr. Andries Botha (extreme athlete cycling the entire way), Natasha Horrelt (broadcast journalist and producer) and Ryan Jones (documentary filmmaker).

 

 

_______________

Who You Lookin' At?

January 19, 2015

 

It was an incredible day at Boulder's Beach in Simonstown! This is simply a cannot-miss spot for tourists and locals alike. The penguins here are only a few feet away and, when the tide is out, you can actually tan and swim with them on the adjacent beach.

 

Note that there are two entrances and you'll need to walk a wooden bridge to reach both. They are equally unique spots so don't skip out on the five minute walk. Also check the tidal times because there is almost no beach during high tide at the one spot.

~ Nat

 

_______________

A Profound Moment In Time...

December 2, 2014

I have a huge announcement. Today, my aunt testified in my cousin's murder trial and the sentence will be handed out tomorrow. Her words about the murder of her only child made grown men weep and what happened next will forever be one of the most compelling and profound experiences of my life.

 

I walked up to the lawyer of the man who shot Olwyn during the court recess and explained our campaign of hope. She STARTED CRYING right there in the courtroom and told me that she wanted to be interviewed on camera...that she had a lot to say about the terrible state of the South African Justice System.

 

She also led me to the murderer. There was a brief, awkward silence before his lawyer explained The Unjust & Us and what our mission is. He immediately agreed to the interview on camera saying he wanted to tell me everything.

 

There are moments in one's life where the world stops spinning just for a second and your purpose becomes clearly defined. That was one of them for me.

 

We are gaining momentum. We are getting stronger. Last night, as I sat sobbing in anticipation for today, I never in my life could have imagined the strength we would draw from the events this morning.

 

~ Natasha

 

 

 

_______________

A Matter of Purpose

December 31, 2014

 

"Why are you in Africa?"

 

It's a question we hear day after day with the outcome always staying the same. As we explain, it's clear to see the slight widening of eyes, the twitching of lips itching to ask a million questions and the furrow of brows which hide a slight questioning of our sanity.

 

It isn't easy to explain a purpose like this. Sometimes trying is futile, but it is always necessary. There are people who question why we'd want to turn the murders of our family members into works of hope, love and forgiveness. It seems to them, a betrayal of sorts and, while we understand how hard the heart beats for those its lost, we refuse to let those we love slip away under a veil of cold-blooded hatred.

 

There is a Mexican proverb that explains this well...

 

"They tried to bury us. They didn't realize we were seeds."

 

It's time to bloom.

 

 

 

_______________

The Edmonton Sun Article

November 14, 2014

 

The call from the Edmonton Sun came somewhat out of the blue. It's always slightly disconcerting for a journalist to be interviewed. We like being in control of the questions. We like to know what's coming next. We like to mold our own stories.

When the article came out, it felt surreal...like I was living someone else's life. Still feels that way most days.

 

 ~ Natasha

  • White YouTube Icon
  • White Instagram Icon
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon