Accidental adversity for ‘Footprints’ team in Colombia


The Footprintsteam, who are currently traveling through Colombia as part of their tour in South America, had a major setback on Friday when one of their vehicles – for the first time since this travel documentary appeared on the box office in 2000 – was involved in a serious accident .

Johan Badenhorst, producer, director and team leader of footprints, says the accident put a damper on their tour, but he is nevertheless extremely grateful that the team members in the vehicle escaped unharmed.

“The accident happened late on Friday afternoon; we were barely five kilometers from our campsite near Lake Calima, about two hours north of the city of Cali.

“It is a beautiful and peaceful road along the lake and not a road on which you can drive fast. Stefan Sonnekus (videographer and editor) and Norbert Coetzee (logistics stalwart) drove behind.

“We heard at one stage that Stefan was trying to call us over the two-way radio, but couldn’t hear what he was saying. He also tried to call me, but the call did not go through. After that we turned back to check if something had happened – and then we came across the accident.”

Badenhorst says Sonnekus and Coetzee came around a corner when a local resident in a red Toyota Hilux bakkie drove straight ahead with the Footprints-vehicle collided.

“The driver of the Hilux was clearly driving too fast on the road. He couldn’t get his turn and ended up in the wrong lane – causing the collision.

“Stefan says it happened so quickly, when he saw the van it was already too late. None of the vehicles could swerve or brake, there was too little time for that.”

Badenhorst says Sonnekus and Coetzee are both a little stiff and sore after the accident.

“Stefan injured his wrist and Norbert may have hurt his back, but at least they are okay.

“The two occupants of the other vehicle did not walk away from the accident unscathed, but were not seriously injured either. One of the Colombians broke his femur and the other man suffered minor injuries. However, if you see how the vehicles look, you can hardly believe that anyone survived the accident.”

However, the journey for the team in Colombia is not yet over and with less than two weeks left they still have to reach numerous destinations, says Badenhorst.

“The accident hinders our plans terribly. Our vehicles are our homes, our kitchens, our offices. We stay in our vehicles, often sleeping in the middle of the field in the middle of nowhere, especially here in Colombia.

“Unlike in South Africa or, for example, Argentina, there are almost no camping sites here. Sometimes we just sleep in the parking lot of a gas station or anywhere where you might still have access to a toilet or shower.

“Now we only have two vehicles left. The vehicle that was involved in the collision will most certainly not be driving again anytime soon. It will take some time to be repaired – if it can ever be repaired.

“Our tour doesn’t end until July 28, we still have a lot to see. We still have to visit Bogotá (the country’s capital) and a few places in Medellín, including Westfalia Fruit, a South African company that farms avocados in Colombia.

“There is still a lot to do.”

According to Badenhorst, the Footprints– at least make plans soon.

“We have faced adversity in the past, but never at this level. How can you prepare for an accident? We just know we’ll have to make plans when something like this happens.

“The first call I received on Saturday morning was from the senior vice president at Toyota in Colombia, who immediately wanted to know how they could help.”

According to Badenhorst, Toyota Colombia immediately stepped in and towed the broken vehicle to a dealer in Cali.

“They also offered afterwards that we could get a loaner vehicle from them to complete our journey.”

Badenhorst says they will therefore be prepared to leave traces in the rest of the country and that viewers can look forward to all the events that will appear on the box in the coming year.

“Viewers will be able to see how the accident happened, what happened and how we made plans afterwards to be able to move on.

“It becomes part of the story because it is part of our journey. Our program is par excellence a reality programme; what you see on the box is what happened to us. It is part of our experiences and it makes the viewer a part of it too.”

The trip in Colombia is part of the Footprints-series in South America Part 2 which will be broadcast on SABC2 next year.

“It’s a wonderful series. We discovered absolute gems along the way in South America, in Ecuador, but especially also here in Colombia.”