KINGS­LEY HOLGATE

It’s been five years in the mak­ing. And now Kings­ley Holgate’s long-awaited new book, a 450-page self-pub­lished work with great im­agery and amaz­ing tales, is just about done and dusted. This month Kings­ley gives us a sneak peek of his lat­est cre­ation.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

Africa’s most fa­mous ad­ven­turer

ALove Af­fair with a Con­ti­nent. That’s the name of my up­com­ing book. A book (I hope) will be­come a bit of a col­lec­tor’s item for trav­ellers in Africa. We’re rac­ing to launch it on 18 July, the cen­te­nary of Madiba’s birth­day.

It’s ded­i­cated to Mashozi, my late wife. As a fam­ily, with Ross our son and a great bunch of ad­ven­tur­ers, we trav­elled Africa for over 40 years and she be­came the most trav­elled woman in Africa.

Five years in the mak­ing, this self­pub­lished, 450-page book has great im­agery and in colour­ful chap­ters, tells the sto­ries of our ex­pe­di­tions to em­brace ev­ery coun­try in Africa, in­clud­ing all of her is­land states. But fear not: we don’t take our­selves too se­ri­ously and the open­ing of the book car­ries a hand­writ­ten note (see pic on op­po­site page).

One of the many sto­ries is the tale of what it was like to travel round the world by land fol­low­ing the Tropic of Capricorn through 10 coun­tries. It was a crazy 18-month Land Rover odyssey with plenty of in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters and anec­dotes along the way, es­pe­cially here in Africa.

One of these was the story of ‘Jompa Jozz’ told by Senor Matais Ngonyama, an ex-Fre­limo sol­dier who bor­rowed his un­cle’s bi­cy­cle to guide Ross and I along ‘the in­vis­i­ble line’ from the flooded Lim­popo River in Mozam­bique to the Kruger Na­tional Park fence line.

Through­out our bi­cy­cle jour­ney, Ross and I no­ticed that all the foot­prints on the path were head­ing west and there were count­less ex­tin­guished camp­fires be­side the track. Some­what sheep­ishly, Matais told us that we were in­ad­ver­tently fol­low­ing the il­le­gal Mozambican im­mi­grants’ trail known as ‘Jompa Jozz’ (‘jump to Jo­han­nes­burg’) – mean­ing to jump over the Kruger Na­tional Park fence to cross into South Africa and head onto the city.

We’d heard that a num­ber of un­for­tu­nate young men who’d used this trail had been eaten by lion as they crossed the Kruger Park. Matais leaned his bi­cy­cle against a tree and ex­plained it this way: “You see, for gen­er­a­tions my peo­ple were en­cour­aged to work on the South African gold mines. It be­came a mtethu, a sort of rite of pas­sage. My grand­fa­ther, my fa­ther, my un­cles and older broth­ers all worked on the mines. They be­came wealthy and had many wives.”

But what about the man-eat­ing lion?” I asked. “Sure, there are many ac­ci­dents,” Matais replied se­ri­ously, “but that is be­cause the young men think they are clever and don’t lis­ten to the san­go­mas.

Be­fore you leave to ‘Jompa Jozz’, you must not have sex for five days, so that your blood will be hot. Then, you must drink the good luck medicines they give you and when you get to your first ele­phant foot­print, you must do like this.” Matais demon­strated by mak­ing a thick cir­cle of grass and plac­ing it on the ground. “You put the grass around the ele­phant foot­print and then step over it care­fully. That way you will sur­vive the lion and ele­phant and bring gifts home for your wives and chil­dren.”

“Have you tried it Matais?” I asked. He seemed about to an­swer then just laughed, picked up his bi­cy­cle and we pushed on through the sand, fol­low­ing the foot­prints west along ‘Jompa Jozz’ to the Kruger Park fence line.

We met Oom Doep at Parr’s Halt in Botswana. The Lim­popo River was still in flood and the border bridge closed, so to stay true to the Capricorn line, I walked across with ex­pe­di­tion mem­bers Mike Yelseth and Troy Wade, leav­ing Mashozi and Ross to take the Landies around via Grob­lers­brug. We

made our way to­wards a ram­shackle old house, with the year 1902 writ­ten on the wall.

A bakkie with its bon­net up was parked in front of the mosquito-gauzed ve­randa and an el­derly white man dressed in shorts ap­peared in the door­way, clearly amazed to find three peo­ple walk­ing through the bush to­wards him. “Where the hell are you okes from?” he asked in a broad Afrikaans ac­cent. “We’re fol­low­ing the Tropic of Capricorn round the world,” I replied. With­out hes­i­ta­tion, he in­vited us in.

The ve­randa was packed with old junk, in­clud­ing a man­nequin with half its face shot off – tar­get prac­tice, I sup­pose. The sit­ting room dou­bled as a bed­room, of­fice and pub, and the dusty, patched, pow­der-blue ceil­ing sagged with age. Old man Du Plessis turned out to be a de­light­ful old codger. “I’m only 82,” he an­nounced proudly. His wrin­kled old cook had a wiz­ened lit­tle bush­man-like face, she was a mere 97 years old.

Oom Doep had es­caped from a pris­onerof-war camp in Italy dur­ing World War II but Rom­mel’s ar­tillery had left him a bit deaf: we had to shout at the top of our voices. I asked him about his with­ered hand. He pointed to the corner of the room.

“It was on that bed that it hap­pened: I was sleep­ing in ‘Adam’s py­ja­mas’ (stark naked) and woke up scream­ing. A co­bra had me by the bloody hand! I pulled the snake’s teeth from my fin­ger and threw it out the win­dow. Us­ing an old sock, I tied a tourni­quet around my up­per arm, then with one hand drove my bakkie – the same one that’s parked out­side – to the Lim­popo border, woke up the border guards, and made it through the night to Nyl­stroom. I was in hospi­tal for a long time and as you can see, I lost a fin­ger. But the new skin that they grafted off my back­side at least saved my hand.”

The old cook kept a stream of cold beers com­ing and then with a tooth­less grin, called us into the kitchen where she’d cooked up a feast of steak, boerewors, thick slices of but­tered bread – and brandy. By the time Mashozi and Ross ar­rived, Mike, Troy and I were red-faced and rowdy. Oom ‘Dop’ called for more brandy. “You’ll need strength for your Capricorn jour­ney,” he shouted.

An­other great char­ac­ter was Kobus Al­berts in his big, white V8 Chevy, with mas­sive sand tyres, ropes and sand lad­ders, who’d of­fered to lead us east to west in our Landy De­fend­ers across the gra­ma­doe­las and the high dunes of the Namib Desert. Wear­ing khaki shorts and veld­skoene, with an hon­est, smil­ing face and pipe in his mouth, Kobus spoke English with a gut­tural Namib­ian-style Afrikaans ac­cent and, best of all, he seemed not to take him­self too se­ri­ously. He’d brought his fox ter­rier Roxy along for the ad­ven­ture and I took an in­stant lik­ing to him.

“Ag, Kings­ley, it’s good to meet you at last,” said Kobus se­ri­ously. “I’ve only seen pic­tures of you in mag­a­zines and I must say, you re­ally looked like a grumpy old f**k.” Ross and Mashozi fell about laugh­ing. It made their day and for the rest of the ad­ven­ture across Namibia, I was sim­ply re­ferred to as ‘GOF’.

The Capricorn ex­pe­di­tion was a long, long jour­ney that then took us over the high An­des, through the trop­i­cal jun­gles of Paraguay and across the Ata­cama of South Amer­ica (dri­est desert on the planet), over the widest part of Aus­tralia through the Simp­son (largest sand-ridged desert in the world) and the red sands of the Gib­son, and then a gru­elling foot-trek across Mada­gas­car, which fi­nally brought us back to north of In­ham­bane in Mozam­bique; a full cir­cle from where we’d started.

Iron­i­cally, one of the big­gest has­sles we had was get­ting the Landies into Aus­tralia when the quar­an­tine in­spec­tors found dead in­sects on the ra­di­a­tors and some old chas­sis mud. Jeez, it was worse than try­ing to smug­gle in a Bed­ford-load of Bin Ladens.

Kings­ley Holgate is South Africa’s most fa­mous ad­ven­turer, a renowned hu­man­i­tar­ian and au­thor. The 71-year-old founded the Kings­ley Holgate Foun­da­tion, which aims to “save and im­prove lives through ad­ven­ture”. He has handed out thou­sands of mosquito...

Op­po­site page: East to west across the dunes of the Namib. It was tough go­ing in the old De­fend­ers. Clock­wise from top left: The 'Capricorn base­camp' where the line leaves the coast of Mozam­bique and trav­els across south­ern Africa to the coast of...

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.