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H’berger speaks of her time on Survivor SA

Have you always lived in the Helderberg? I have lived in Somerset West for the last 30 years. I was born here, but my parents were British. I returned to the UK for schooling and came back when I was 22.

What do you do for a living? I own The International English School, which is an English language school where we teach international students to communicate in English. We also offer the TEFL course for South Africans going overseas to teach English. I also own TIES Immigration, where we facilitate incoming and outgoing visas. Both operate out of the Twin Oaks Centre in Main Road, Somerset West

  • Tell us more about your family life.

When and why did you enter Survivor SA? I applied in September last year, and never expected to get through the qualifying rounds. I did it for the adventure and to prove to myself and my children that you are never too old to challenge yourself.

What spurred on your application to the show? I have always been a huge fan of the game. The social and back stabbing game, the camp building, the outdoors, the obstacle challenges . . . What’s not to love?

When were you informed of your successful application? I found out just before Christmas - best Christmas present ever.

How did you go about preparing for your participation? I first signed up at the gym. I had a terrific personal trainer, but hated the indoor environment. I continued to rock climb (my sport of choice and passion). I starved myself by eating only between 09:30 and 14:00 daily, and mostly raw food. And I smoked a lot of marijuana.

What was your strategy when you were on the boat travelling to the islands and how did it change throughout the game? My game plan – I’m embarrassed to say – was to make friends, which obviously didn’t happen with my initial tribe. Second to that, I wanted to play hard in the games and work hard at camp too, which I did achieve. I’ve always been a physical person. I’ve grown up with sports my whole life and I wasn’t worried about that part of my game. My strategy changed when my tribe got tired of me telling stories, so I decided to shut up, which is a pity because I had some great stories!

Tell us more about your time on the island. It was really hard. There is nothing false about the game or our experiences. It rained for 14 days. Nothing could dry out and remained wet throughout. I only had one dry T-shirt and one pair of shorts. When it rained I would take off my dry clothes, put them in my bag to keep dry and sit in my swimming costume. My hands were constantly wrinkled from the damp. Mozzies swarmed all around us – luckily they did not like the taste of me. The games look fun and they are. They also look easy, they are not. When you are starving, haven’t slept well on bamboo and froze half the night just running 10 metres exhausts you. However my starvation diet helped here. I was much stronger than I thought I would be.

Which aspect of the game did you find the most challenging? The challenges were not physically a problem for me at all. I surprised myself. I was never hungry and never felt physically weak. I struggled to connect socially. I was much older than my tribe and was seen as playing and talking too much. All true.

From the start, it seemed you had a target on your back. How did you go about navigating your way through this? It certainly wasn’t the idea of winning and money. I think it was my sheer determination and will power that got me through.

What went through your mind when you were sent to the Island of Secrets, and what did you think when you realised you would survive at least another vote, thanks to your being on the Island of Secrets? The Island of Secrets was a little paradise for me. It got me out of a toxic relationship and gave me time to re-centre and re-motivate and come back with renewed strength. I loved my time on the Island of Secrets. I had dry shelter but still no food.

You dodged many a vote, what went through your mind during your final tribal council? In my heart I knew I was the weakest player, as I had nothing else to offer going forward. But I am an eternal optimist and that 1% of hope was enough for me to try and fight and find alternatives.

How did your family react to what they were seeing on television throughout your time on the show? They are my super fans. They sent me all the positive social media quotes and constantly sang my praises. I am sure in future at least one of them will enter. I hope so.

What lessons have you taken from the game? The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that working is not living. So for me, I want to spend the next 50 years living my life, and not working my life. It’s not about the dollar.

Would you urge others to enter the game? If anyone would like to enter, I would say do it. Don’t wait for tomorrow. To me, if you put your mind to something, you can do anything. You don’t have to be the smartest or the fittest!

How has your participation in the show changed your life? I realised that I need to start living. So when I got back, I put my businesses up for sale and will be living off the grid soon!

Lastly, who do you think will eventually walk away with the title of Survivor SA? I have a special relationship with Seipei and would like her to win, but I also think Jacques could win because he is strategic, has idols and isn’t seen as a brawn player, so he will stay under the radar.

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