As TV show pitches go, ‘Hitched’ is really kind of out there.
‘Well, what we’re thinking is that we’re going to hitchhike from Durban to the Democratic Republic of Congo to see if there’s anything behind the legend of Mokele-Mbembe – Africa’s own Jurassic version of Big Foot.’
And yet that’s just what cousins Luke MacDonald and Jordan Deall threw in the direction of the Discovery Channel. The result is ‘Hitched: Congo’, a ten-part documentary that follows the two lads over a period of 107 days in which they covered around 15,000 kilometres through ten countries. While they did spring for the odd bus ride, most of the distance was covered thanks to the generosity of complete strangers who offered them a lift.
Naturally, the first question that springs to mind about the pair’s journey is: ‘what on earth made them want to do this?’
“Every time you see a show like this, it’s kind of sensationalized. Young people are given the impression that to try this sort of thing you have to be Bear Grylls,” says Luke. “We wanted to dispel that myth.”
Here’s a bit of a spoiler alert; Jordan and Luke probably didn’t really think they’d find Mokele-Mbembe. It won’t come as a shock that the pair weren’t in the news recently for uncovering a Jurassic specimen in the DRC’s jungle. Rather, the more time one spends in their company, the more one realizes that Mokele-Mbembe was just a convenient excuse for them to sling on a couple of backpacks and hit the road.
Luke and Jordan were bitten by the travel bug after they’d finished their courses at uni around five years ago. According to Jordan, they were sitting with some friends having drinks and someone came up with the idea of seeing how far they could hitchhike into Africa on the smallest amount of money.
“We checked to see how much everyone had,” says Jordan. “I had about eight grand but someone had around five. So we decided to go with the least amount and see how far that would get us.”
It turned out that R5,000 was enough to get the pair of them from Durban all the way to Cairo.
“We even had change left over,” smiles Jordan. “I think that birthed this thing in us that made us think this would be how we’d like to travel.”
To a casual onlooker the pair’s travails sound bonkers. Heading into the great unknown with a small amount of money and some camping gear is a prospect likely to cause nightmares for even the most liberal of parents. It’s also worth noting that Luke and Jordan ran into their fair share of trials – some of which were more serious than battling with the language barrier, dehydration in the African sun, and the prospect of sitting on a stretch of road for four hours at a time waiting for a potential lift.
“I got a couple of strains of malaria,” says Luke. “It’s the sort of thing that is dealt with everyday in Africa but with our background and not being used we weren’t really sure what to do.”
“Also with malaria you’re kind of all right if you catch it in the first couple of days,” says Jordan. “But in our case we got stuck on a sandbank in the Congo for about ten days, which is when Luke came down with it. I lost my bag – it fell off in the water – and I had all the malaria medication. So it was touch and go for a while there.”
Of course, there’s also the fact that the end destination for the two was the DRC, a country that has been wracked by war for decades.
“War was the biggest eye-opener. My generation hasn’t seen war up close that’s been going on so long,” says Luke. “It’s such an every day thing in the DRC that there’ll be a shootout in the village and everyone runs for cover. The next day things go back to normal.”
What makes ‘Hitched: Congo’ so worth the watch is the infectious nature of these hardy travellers. Their journey had its fair share of hardship, but it’s also filled with instances of lighthearted warmth. Jordan and Luke are easy-going guys and the only bone of contention between them is that Luke fancies himself a skilled fisherman and Jordan thinks this is rubbish.
Yes, the two get into some scrapes – at one point they were thrown in jail for a week in the DRC – but these are intercut with episodes such as Jordan having to take his trousers down in order to convince some bar patrons he was neither Luke’s mother, nor the camera man’s wife.
‘Hitched: Congo’ is now in the can – viewers can catch it on Discovery Channel on DStv – but Luke and Jordan are apparently getting itchy feet again. Based on whether their program is a hit, it’s probably not going to be very long before they head off into Africa again. This time, though, Luke vows they’ll be more prepared.
“I’ll be carrying the malaria medicine,” he says. “And we’re both learning French.”
- ‘Hitched: Congo’ is broadcast on Discovery Channel (DStv 121) on Tuesday nights at 8pm.