Africa’s most famous adventurer
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.