Explorer series captured life off the beaten track

Engaging and sumptuously illustrated travel writing was an important part of Weekend Post’s reader offering every Saturday. 

Former Weekend Post features editor Brett Adkins remembers the Explorer series of travel features with much fondness. 

“The Explorer series came about as a result of brainstorming sessions when Weekend Post was being totally revamped — and now published on a Saturday morning as opposed to afternoon and evening — in 2003,” Adkins said. 

“Stephen Haw from the Sunday Times was brought in as a consultant for a good few weeks.

“The idea behind the Explorer travel pieces was to go completely off the beaten track and discover spots to visit, places to stay, eateries and so on that werent at all well known, if at all, except by locals.

“Photographer Mike Holmes and I did many trips, including the first one which was the Baviaanskloof. 

“What struck me the most — I had never been there — was this untouched and untamed stretch of wilderness area that was literally on our doorstep, with its incredible sights and hair-raising but adrenaline-pumping roads (if you can call them that) and routes, which Mike’s images captured perfectly. 

“We found the most delightful but isolated guest house at which to stay, which of course was the whole idea.

“One that also stands out is our trip to Orania, a destination which completely fascinated new Weekend Post editor Jethro Goko who was determined we should visit and which turned out, indeed, to be quite intriguing. 

“This was a fiercely yet relatively calmly grounded grouping of inhabitants intent on clinging to a policy of division and derision — seemingly but also knowingly and steadfastly oblivious to the changing world and country around them. 

“We managed to fill three pages of this ‘other’ world that appeared impossibly entangled in its own history.

“I think this is where Mike and I worked so well as an Explorer team. 

“Having done assignments together for decades, we could immediately see the visual and the story as one — Mike especially. 

“When he discovered that a statue of former apartheid prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd which overlooked the town was little more than a metre high, he took both a magnificent sunset picture of it with an imposing imagery, and then matched it with a separate picture of me next to it to reflect the reality. 

“As I stood there, the small statue quivered in the evening breeze and I was immediately reminded of British PM Harold Macmillan’s “winds of change” speech from years long gone.”

The Explorer vehicle sponsored by Isuzu high up in the Baviaanskloof
RIDING HIGH: The Explorer vehicle sponsored by Isuzu high up in the Baviaanskloof 

This, Adkins said, was when photographer and reporter worked so well together — “seeing how the different entities of images and words so often gel ideally into one by taking in the entire scenario around them”.

Trips to the former Transkei followed a similar pattern, he said. 

“It’s so important for any journalism team of photographer and writer to look and understand what the other is doing and communicate that information to each other.”

Former news editor John Harvey said Explorer trips with Holmes were among his best memories.

“Mike’s wry sense of humour always made life interesting. 

“His photographer’s eye was of huge benefit to me as a writer, because he would spot things I hadn’t.”

Holmes was very knowledgeable about bird species of the Eastern Cape, he added: “I learnt about peregrine falcons, the ‘twitcher’ community and all the rest.

“And we both enjoyed rugby, so Mike would regale me with tales from his playing days in Italy.

“Working with ‘Big Mike’ was very cool,” Harvey said.

“We both have a curiosity about the world around us and I think that’s why we gelled so well.” 



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