When Fikile Hlatshwayo told her loved ones she wanted to spend three months driving a caravan through some of the most beautiful parks in South Africa, they laughed at her.
It was uncommon for black families, even in a democratic country, to go camping or visit national parks.
But when Hlatshwayo ventured into the unknown in September 2014 with her husband Mathieu, and two children, Lesedi and Leo, she wanted to see the world outside of her comfort zone.
After visiting over 60 caravan parks, covering 25 000km in all nine provinces, she started to pen 'Blacks Do Caravan', a book aimed at encouraging black people to start travelling.
Hlatshwayo scooped the Minara Aziz Hassim Literary Award in the main category this year.
The award ceremony was hosted by the Minara Chamber of Commerce in Durban in honour of the late Aziz Hassim, author of The Lotus People, The Revenge of Kali and The Agony of Valliamma.
“Blacks Do Caravan is about uniting South Africans through travelling. I went into a space that was known to be predominantly ‘white’ and made lots of friends. There were also very odd moments when I was mistaken for a toilet cleaner,” she says.
Since the release of the book, she has used caravan and camping as a vehicle to break down stereotypes that certain things are “only for whites and others are for blacks”.
She says: “Why can’t we all just travel together and enjoy the amazing holiday destinations our country has to offer?
“Every time we were at a particular park, I would make time to write about our awesome experiences, the good and the bad. I wanted to capture South Africa’s rich wildlife, natural heritage and diverse cultures.”
She adds South Africa offers many attractions, from oceans, mountains, waterfalls to the bush veld. According to her, caravan and camping is the most affordable way to see the country.
“South Africa has a diverse range of caravan and camping parks. In fact, every province has well over 100 caravan and camping parks offering excellent facilities.”
When asked about her best and worst caravan experiences, she says: “You can never go wrong with camping and caravanning unless it rains heavily.”
She aims to write two more books, one on travel and the other on health tourism. And if that’s not enough, she is working on a reality TV show.