NatGeo series spotlights SA mega-bridge


Although Daniel Ashville has traveled the world, it is South Africa’s hospitable people, picturesque views and delicious food that finally won his heart.

Ashville, a British entrepreneur, presenter and founder of Ashville Holdings, a construction company, was in South Africa to tackle a giant bridge building project in the Eastern Cape. Ashville, together with a dedicated construction team, built a bridge over the Msikaba gorge, near Lusikisiki.

The Msikaba Bridge is a steel deck structure with cable ties that forms part of the N2 Wild Coast road project and will cost around R1.72 billion to build. The road project wants to create a trade corridor that stretches along the coastline of the Indian Ocean and connects Cape Town with Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) and East London, all the way to Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.

An episode about the building project is part of National Geographic’s documentary series, Building impossible with Daniel Ashvilledocumented.

“It was about more than just construction. It was about getting the infrastructure in place, training local residents and connecting two parts of South Africa that had never been connected before,” Ashville explained to RNews.

“This bridge connects people in an economic and social way.”

When Ashville thinks about his South African experience, he thinks it was one of the best places he’s ever visited and one of the nicest countries he’s ever worked in.

What particularly stood out to him was the hard-working nature of the team of builders who built the bridge with him.

“The workers were there to work hard and do the job well. One could see that they were emotionally connected to the project.”

“There was an incredible amount of emotion on the construction site. This is the first time I have been part of a team that gathered together in song to lift their spirits when they were tired or discouraged.”

Ashville admits that he gained quite a few kilograms during his visit to South Africa, and that he now finally knows what exactly a braai is. It is precisely South Africa’s colorful and flavorful food that won his heart.

When he thinks of challenges, he does not see the remote area where the bridge is built or the general challenges that South Africans face on a daily basis in his mind’s eye.

It was the bugs that gave him the biggest headache on the building project.

“I was itching so much, the insects just wouldn’t leave me in the evenings,” he joked.

Ashville was particularly impressed by the infrastructure that was put in place to build the bridge in an effective and productive manner. Remote or not, the area was user-friendly, he says. Everything the construction team needed was at their disposal.

The Msikaba Bridge is just the first of six huge construction projects that Ashville is undertaking worldwide for the series. He toured in Finland, Austria and Italy for this series, among others.

  • Building Impossible with Daniel Ashville kicks off 12 September on National Geographic, DStv channel 181.