Seven days, seven cities, thousands of smiles

Seven different cities in seven days. That’s the core of Kia South Africa’s annual SEVEN7 Drive, with a mission to raise awareness and money to combat child cancer via the non-profit organisation Cupcakes of Hope. Adventure Afrika’s Anton Willemse Jnr joined up this year and came away amazed by the drive and humbled by the experience. These are the seven things that stood out for him on this unique trip.

The drive

When I got the itinerary for this trip and saw the ground we had to cover in just seven days, my immediate thought was that our intrepid mission leader, Danie Botha of Wild in SA, must have lost his mind. However, on closer inspection, I calmed down a bit. I mean, if you look at South Africa on an atlas, you’ll find it’s not that big – well, compared to Australia. As it turns out, my initial fears about the distance and the amount of driving were correct. Nothing can prepare you for the vastness of this country, nor for the sheer diversity and beauty of our landscape. We travelled through deserts, forests, and mountains, we passed many coastlines, usually picking the roads less travelled. We saw a vast array of landscapes without crossing a border. And, once again, I realised how privileged we are to call this rainbow nation of ours home. However, as good as the scenery was, the drive was brutal. There were moments when I didn’t have it in me to drive a single kilometre further. I was exhausted.

The cause

Why were we doing this? Yes, we were taken out of our comfort zone having to spend many, many hours each day behind the wheel of Kia vehicles, but our discomfort was not a patch on what these young cancer warriors and survivors have endured in their short lives. Often, I needed to remind myself of this, and simply suck it up and keep going! We drove from city to city, visiting seven hospitals and 11 Kia dealerships. The goal of the drive is to spread awareness for childhood cancer and the struggles families face through this trauma, while at the same time offering some joy to the little ones.

The Kias were filled to the brim with goody bags full of toys, toiletries and basic necessities for the kids, collected by various Cupcake Angels during the run-up to the drive. It was a humbling and special experience walking into the wards and seeing those little faces light up. Simply priceless! Sadly, we could not enter every ward due to Covid-19 regulations but even chatting to the selfless staff manning these wards and getting to understand their challenges was heart-warming.  I distinctly remember a little boy who was over the moon when he opened his gift to see a little toy truck. It filled my heart with joy, making those hours behind the wheel worth it. It made me realise that what we were doing really mattered.

The people

This trip renewed my faith in humanity. This is the sixth year Kia has sponsored this trip, which was initially planned as a Seven days/Seven country expedition, since localised due to the pandemic. Kia dealerships more than came to the party in their aim to reach the R100 000 fundraising target set for this year’s campaign, with dealer contributions reaching a whopping R68 000.

The Kia dealers were amazing. At every dealership stop we were warmly welcomed and supported, with staff even donating from their own pockets. The dealership in Queenstown stands out for me. During our driving stint from Rhodes to Port Elizabeth, I hit a rock on the gravel road and damaged part of the left front suspension. I was devastated, thinking our trip would be hampered, but the champs in Queenstown got us up and going in less than an hour.

The staff and nurses at the hospitals are, of course, the true heroes of the cause. They often become the parental figures for these children, with the single goal of making life easier for them. Always smiling and spreading cheer, they helped us to get into the wards, and if that as not possible, were happy to ensure the kids got their gifts.   

The car

This trip acted as the last showing of the prowess of Kia’s outgoing Sorento 2.2 CRDi AWD and Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD models. We can look forward to updated models in the next few months. The Sportage and Sorento are the only two AWD options Kia currently has on offer, and they did a splendid job acting as our chariots of hope and joy. The vehicles ensured the long hours on the road felt less strenuous thanks to their superb handling and comfort. The packing space also impressed me on both vehicles (with the Sorento being somewhat larger) as did the average fuel consumption of just over 7 litres/100km.

The new experiences

I am a relatively well-travelled and have seen some remarkable parts of southern Africa but have never visited Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) or the mother city. Driving into Cape Town via the N1, passing massive mountains and going through the Huguenot tunnel to emerge on the other side and see the natural wonder that is Table Mountain “in the flesh” for the first time was truly special. Incidentally, this leg of the trip fell on Heritage Day and the pride about our country and its heritage just multiplied. I love our country now more than ever after experiencing more of its facets.

The country – rural South Africa

If you have never been to rural South Africa, you’re missing out on something truly unique and amazing. The people living in more laid-back places like the Garden Route, Tankwa Karoo and the Kalahari, are completely different from most rude and rushed city dwellers. The people at the Tankwa Padstal come to mind. They were eager to treat us to true Karoo hospitality, even inviting us to attend a wedding which was taking place on the day we arrived. Truly amazing.

The Foundation

The Cupcakes of Hope Foundation is committed to assisting people where they need it most – in their communities and homes. The non-profit organisation raises funds through community-driven initiatives, which drive community interaction and grassroots cancer awareness, including ‘baking a difference’ for National Cupcake Day and the #Bake4Cancer fundraisers. Their initiatives are aimed at providing support to close to 120 people each month, from providing toys and food – as we did – to providing medical aid for these young cancer patients.

The founders and supporters show what can be done with a caring heart and a commitment to making a difference. They certainly motivated me to try and be a better person for those who might need it.

*This year’s drive raised a total of R84 000 for Cupcakes of Hope, a few grand short of the target. There’s still time to contribute to SEVEN7 Drive! If you or your company would like to get involved, email Margaret Pretorius at info@matchsticksa.com for more details. Donors will be issued a Section 18A tax certificate.

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