Mother-daughter duo scores R100,000 abroad adventure on Findus SA competition

Imagine buying a bag of sweet baby carrots from your local Pick n Pay and a few months later your feet are frozen to the floor of a hotel – made purely of ice!

That’s how the lives of Kwazulu-Natal mother and daughter duo changed overnight.

Gloria Khanyile, grand prize winner of the Findus Ice Hotel Competition – a R100 000 adventure abroad chose to take her eldest daughter, Slie Sihiya (26) with after she begged her on Facebook.

The all-expenses paid prize took them on an extraordinary five-day escapade to Sweden, with two nights in plush hotels. The pair was whisked off, after verifying what they thought was a prank call from Findus SA’s business development manager, Willie Wijenberg.

The twosome packed weeks in advance, researching online and gushing to astounded work colleagues. Their only worry – getting their visas on time.
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Accompanied by Willie to ensure a safe journey through 3 stops, the jetsetters boarded their first-ever international flight from Cape Town to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.  To Slie the airport was better than a palace.  “It was a shopper’s dream. I submerged myself in upmarket boutiques,” she said.

Their second flight to Stockholm led them to taking their first steps in a prestigious five-star hotel. “My first thought on arrival in my suite at the Grand Hôtel was to throw myself in the bathtub – it was the size of a double bed,” shares Slie. “But my mom beat me to it!”

“We explored Stockholm for hours savoring the new sights and sipped on decadent hot beverages in an underground bar,” Slie remembers fondly. “We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Prince of Sweden through a lavish restaurant’s window.”

With a mother who makes her laugh continuously, who’s more a friend than guardian, and is often mistaken for her sister, there was no wonder they stayed up all hours.
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Jolted out of bed for a scrumptious breakfast, their next stop was Kiruna Airport just 17km from the majestic Ice Hotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi. They were two of nine guests who had the privilege of being driven through thick snow-capped forests on a dog-sled. They had been looking forward to the hour-long sleigh-ride before they left South Africa. “It felt like we were in a movie,” giggles Slie. “We went so fast, screeching with delight. Not wanting to stop!”

The two arrived wide-eyed at the Ice Hotel, built using only snow and ice from the nearby Torne River. Snow cannons transport about 1 000 tons of ice and 30 000 cubic metres of ‘snice – a mix of ice and snow – to help create this masterpiece.

The awe-inspiring reception and bar area, masterfully crafted in ice, took Gloria’s breath away instilling a fear of venturing up to her room. So she opted to catch a few winks in a reception chair. However, by the time they settled into their luxurious suite with a view of a half-frozen lake adorned with ducks, she didn’t want to leave!

Slie took full advantage of the foreign cuisine on offer at the hotel, even tasting uncooked bear meat. Gloria however, was far more cautious and selected only morsels of fresh fruit, being unsure of exactly what she could be eating.

Even the hotel beds are made of ice, and so the two slipped into ‘arctic-grade’ sleeping bags topped and tailed with reindeer skins for the most peaceful sleep they had ever experienced. “One of the funniest moments was my mother seeing her slippers she had sneaked into the room, plastered to the frozen floor,” Slie laughs.

“Mind-blowing is what I’ll tell my children one day,” Slie explains. “It was only on viewing our photographic memories that my friends believed me.”

New on the cards for Slie is to save towards touring London having seen its enticing city lights from the plane.  Though her boyfriend has other destination planned – Russia.

Gloria summarised her adventure as “A life enriching experience, gifted to us from a higher power.”

And Willie Wijenberg reflects on the trip as a humbling experience, “It was genuinely uplifting to see the degree of appreciation – of every element.” He concludes, “Their delight was my enjoyment.”

Author: Muzi Mohale

Hi there, am your host and I blog about the tourism industry in South Africa. You're also welcome to contribute your expert content on matters affecting the industry. You can reach me on muzi[at]tourismedition.com

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