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The Gearzette


- July 01, 2022

Alex Shapiro is a South African-based filmmaker and photographer with a passion for reconnecting people with wild spaces. His deep love for adventure and new discoveries is what first brought him to the outdoors and drove him to sharing stories that matter. When not working on branded documentaries and other corporate film projects he’s out on a backroad or exploring the bushveld of his home province, Limpopo, in his Ford Ranger. ​

© Alex Shapiro

Roughly how many kilometers have you done over the past year or so? 

Over the past year, I would say I have done around 80,000 kms or so. I’m not too sure specifically as I’m always on the move and not always keeping track of that, but I've had my car since November 2018 and I am just over 200 000 kms on my clock. I don’t really keep tabs, it's my adventure mobile so we just mission all the time. ​

© Alex Shapiro

Obviously a good mix of weekend trips and longer expeditions? (You’re based in Hoedspruit correct? So lowveld bush missions are easy). How important are those quick weekend trips? 

I would say that we do take a lot of shorter, oftentimes very spontaneous, trips. Thankfully we’ve got quite an adventurous group of friends, we do camping trips in the Kruger National Park and all around. We do plan the longer ones though. We did the Wild Coast and missioned up to Lesotho which was probably one of my favorite places to drive around. On our trips we try wild camp as often as we can or try to camp where you've got to build a bit of a relationship with the locals to let you stay over. ​

Being in the film and photo industry I’m often on the clock, around the clock. The work can also be very sporadic. Sometimes you don’t have projects, sometimes you do, so taking the opportunity to go away on the weekend as much as we can is one of the most important things to my wife and I. We both love being outdoors, whether it's just an hour or two drive away, or a multi-day overland mission. We’re very privileged to live in the Lowveld (in Limpopo, South Africa), so we have some really cool places on our doorstep. And with that, you get to make friends with people in the reserves and get to do some really unique camping.

Out of all the spots you’ve ever camped in, what are your 5 favorites (of all time)? And could you give us a short reason why? 

This is a difficult one. The favorite spots that we’ve camped in are some that you can’t necessarily camp at, they are designated spots where we’ve built relationships with people which allowed us to camp there. I’m very pro wild camping. I have my vehicle kitted out so that we can live from it.  ​

© Alex Shapiro

1. Lazy Lamb, or also known as Nguni Camp in Hoedspruit. ​

It’s a stunningly pristine place with amazing camp facilities. The best part of it though is that if you chat to the owners, you can also wild camp there. There’s no dangerous game - obviously you can't stop leopard and hyena, but you can wild camp there with a fair bit of security.​

© Alex Shapiro

2. Mariepskop ​

There is this very secluded campsite in the Blyde River Gorge that we love. It's very remote, with no cellphone signal and I would recommend taking a form of communication, like a GPS phone or a SAT phone if you can. There are minimal facilities, so you have to be self-sufficient. Here again we have a good relationship with the owners of the accommodation at the top of the canyon. Without that you won’t be able to camp here. ​

© Alex Shapiro

3. Maletsunyane Falls, Semonkong, Lesotho​

The campsite there is really really beautiful. It's not quite wild camping but you are on the river. The drive to get there is pretty wild though. It is accessible for two-wheeled driver vehicles if you go via Qacha's Nek - one of the most underrated and beautiful drives we’ve ever done. What's nice about that campsite is you’re in another country, it is a safe spot and you’re in walking distance from the spectacular Maletsunyane Falls​

© Alex Shapiro

4. Makuya Nature reserve ​

Wild camping along the Luvuvhu River. There are no fences between it and the Kruger National Park, so you are properly in the wilderness. It’s just such a beautiful campsite.  ​

© Alex Shapiro

5. Khotso backpackers in the Underberg ​

Great facility that is also a great leading point into really cool places. You also always meet really cool people there. There are often foreigners overlanding through Africa camping there with the craziest kitted-out vehicles.  

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever had to deal with on an overland trip (in terms of mechanical breakdown or getting stuck etc.)? Where was it and how did you eventually get out? ​

Thankfully I’ve never had any mechanical issues on the vehicle but once (thanks to a misinformed co-driver on a shoot and some bad signage) we ended up at the wrong end of a reserve in which we were shooting. The GPS showed an ETA of 20 minutes for us to get back on track, but we ended up in some very, very soft sand. My vehicle is not a 4x4 so we had to dig ourselves out several times. After the sandy section we had to contend with some seriously rocky climbs and descents. What should’ve taken 20 minutes ended up taking four hours! ​

© Alex Shapiro

Can you give us a brief rundown of the Front Runner products you have on your Ford? ​

Slimline II Roof Rack​

Wind fairing ​

Gas/Propane Bottle Holder​

2 x Wolf Pack Pros​

Pro Water Tank 42L​

20L Jerry Can​

Spare Tire Mount Braai/BBQ Grate​

Easy Out Awning/2M

Pro Stainless Steel Camp Table ​

Ratcheting Spade/Shovel/Paddle mount​

On the inside I have the Cargo Slide

Flip Pop Tent​

2x Expander Camping Chairs ​

© Alex Shapiro

Where to next with the Ford? ​

Plans are changing a bit as work is a little sporadic, we have trips planned to Lekgalameetse Nature Reserve and Wolkberg. We’d like to get to Namibia this year too, but not sure if that is going to pan out. Definitely a lot of spontaneous weekend trips though! ​

© Alex Shapiro

If you could give the everyday outdoor/travel photographer/filmmaker one tip, what would it be? ​

Shoot wider! I often find that people try to shoot too many close-ups that don’t really tell too much of a story. Shooting wider just gives a lot more context as to where you are and what you are doing. ​