Africa’s most fa­mous ad­ven­turer

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

A new show on the road

In a grove of fever trees on the banks of the Ma­puto River, we spread out some of the maps and ref­er­ence books on the bon­net of one of the ex­pe­di­tion Land Rover Dis­cov­er­ies.

It’s a very long way to Kath­mandu in Nepal, about 17 000km through 19 coun­tries. We all agree that start­ing an ex­pe­di­tion in Africa and then go­ing be­yond to reach ex­cit­ing new des­ti­na­tions is go­ing to be a great ad­ven­ture.

The South African leg of this Cape Town to Kath­mandu ex­pe­di­tion is now be­hind us. On 18 July, the cen­te­nary of Nel­son Man­dela’s birth, in the com­pany of a large crowd of friends and well­wish­ers, the ex­pe­di­tion be­gan at the No­bel Square on Cape Town’s V&A Wa­ter­front, with the fill­ing of our sym­bolic Zulu cal­abash with cold At­lantic sea­wa­ter, and the un­veil­ing of the ex­pe­di­tion’s new Madiba100 Scroll of Peace and Good­will.

Ev­ery­one felt hum­bled by the four bronze stat­ues of South Africa’s No­bel Peace Prize win­ners; writ­ten on the flag­stones are the words, Umuntu Ngu­muntu Nga­bantu: we are only what we are through other peo­ple.

In the spirit of Nel­son Man­dela, the first stop for our con­voy of two All New

Land Rover Dis­cov­er­ies and our old De­fender 130 (the same three Landies that suc­cess­fully reached Africa’s ex­treme easterly point last year) was a visit to the Re­late Trust’s el­derly bead crafters in Gugulethu to help the poor-sighted with Rite to Sight eye-test and spec­ta­cles.

Then on to a nearby crèche for some more ‘Madiba Magic’ with our part­ners Bar­rows, pro­vid­ing much-needed early child­hood de­vel­op­ment teach­ing ma­te­ri­als.

And so started a fre­netic, two-week first leg of the Cape Town to Kath­mandu ex­pe­di­tion.

Cross­ing into Mozam­bique at Ponta do Ouro, our chal­lenge is now the en­tire length of Mozam­bique to the Rio Rovuma in the north.

Mozam­bique is still one of the high-risk malaria coun­tries in Africa and that’s why wher­ever pos­si­ble, we link our ex­pe­di­tions to do­ing malaria pre­ven­tion work.

The sound sys­tem at­tached to the De­fender re­ver­ber­ates to the chants of Tchau Tchau malaria! (good­bye malaria) at the schools in Sala­manga and Bella Vista, where we judge malaria pre­ven­tion art com­pe­ti­tions linked to man-of-the-match soc­cer tro­phy chal­lenges. Lots of great en­ergy and good vibes around th­ese com­mu­ni­ties to work with the Nando’s-ini­ti­ated Tchau Tchau malaria in­door resid­ual spray­ing teams, who are about to ar­rive in the area.

We camp un­der a star­lit sky, the old, soot­black­ened camp ket­tle smok­ing on an open fire as, with thumb and fore­fin­gers, we pull at tasty peri-peri flat chicken cooked on the coals Mozam­bi­can-style, with fresh pau bread. It feels like a new ad­ven­ture is about to be­gin.

Then it’s over Ma­puto Bay on the old Catembe ferry. We thought that last year cross­ing dur­ing the Ex­treme East ex­pe­di­tion to So­ma­lia would be our last but the huge Chi­nese-built bridge that spans the bay is still not open. We’re told it will be by year-end.

Two days later, over the ra­dio static, comes Bruce: “How many are there be­tween In­chope and Caia do you think?”

“Must be mil­lions,” an­swers Ross, as swing­ing crazily left and right, he lurches his ex­pe­di­tion-laden Disco through yet an­other mind­less mine­field of dusty craters. “That one was so deep, I lost cell­phone sig­nal!” Ear­lier that day, at Goron­gosa vil­lage, we heard the shock­ing story of a vil­lager who, drunk on the lo­cal brew, had fallen face-down into one dur­ing the rainy season and drowned. Don’t know if it’s true or not.

There’s no end to them, the worst we’ve ever known. Of course, we’re talk­ing about the hor­rific pot­holes that make up this over 300 kilo­me­tre-long haz­ardous sec­tion of Mozam­bique’s in­fa­mous EN1 from In­chope to Caia.

While there are no longer mil­i­tary con­voys from be­yond the old sus­pen­sion bridge over the Rio Save and then again on the Goron­gosa Road, they’ve been re­placed by an in­va­sion of pot­holes that are equally or more dan­ger­ous, and stretch all the way to the mas­sive bridge that spans the Zam­bezi River at Caia.

You know it’s grind­ingly slow go­ing when even the lit­tle kids sell­ing roasted mealies run along­side the Landy tap­ping on the win­dow, as do the live chicken and naartjie sell­ers, and even two grin­ning trav­ellers on a big-wheeled made-in-In­dia bi­cy­cle, as they over­take you as you slowly lurch into an­other bloody Ve­su­vius and then dodge an an­cient, lop­sided truck car­ry­ing its own band of weary pot­hole watch­ers.

We’ve learnt it’s eas­ier to break th­ese long jour­neys into small bite-size chunks: one day at a time and camp­ing wher­ever we end up. There’s lit­tle to com­pare with the ad­ven­ture and free­dom of roads less trav­elled.

Fur­ther north, we set up camp on the beach. Stand­ing among the an­cient canons of Fort São Se­bastião, mem­o­ries flooded back to the last time we were here, at the end­point of a dhow sail­ing ex­pe­di­tion to the So­mali bor­der and back. And then again as part of a Land Rover jour­ney to track the out­line of Africa.

So many ad­ven­tures over the years, that seem to merge into one.

Will keep you posted.

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 nets to help save peo­ple from malaria and more re­cently, pro­vided peo­ple who are sight-im­paired with glasses. Although he’s driven other brands over the years, he now won’t drive any­thing but a Land Rover. Mind you, the All New Dis­cov­ery is rather comfy.

Op­po­site page: Ross Hol­gate at the wheel of his Cape Town to Kath­mandu ex­pe­di­tion Land Rover, framed in the en­trance to the old fort of San Se­bas­tian, Mozam­bique. Above, clock­wise from top left: Kingsley and Jaguar Land Rover SA mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Lisa Mal­lett at the V&A Wa­ter­front, ahead of the Cape Town to Kath­mandu ex­pe­di­tion. Tchau Tchau (good bye) malaria ed­u­ca­tion. Maps and ref­er­ence books spread out on the Landy’s bon­net. Cross­ing the Kei River in the East­ern Cape.

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