Africa’s most famous adventurer
On the road… er, sea again
Jambo! from Tanzania.
The name Tanzania was created from the words Tanganyika, Zanzibar and Azania, the ancient Greek name for the east coast of Africa. With its friendly Swahili culture, great wildlife and adventure possibilities, ‘TZ’ remains one of our favourite countries in Africa and this journey up its southern coastline, studded with huge groves of baobabs, is certainly no exception.
Gladys Rutihinda allows us to park the expedition Landies and set up camp on the edge of her stretch of beach near Kilwa, where sailing on the Kusi trade wind, fishermen in their small, wooden, cotton-sailed, outrigger-type boats called ngalawas bring in fresh fish and octopus while local women harvest seaweed in the vast, clear blue shallows.
The feeling of freedom is as endless as the beaches and in the cool of the afternoon, after a short dhow ride, we find ourselves among the elephantine baobabs and ancient palaces of the island of Kilwa Kisiwani. We wander among the ruins of domed mosques, lonely tombs, high-walled fortifications, gold and ivory storage vaults, grand living rooms, auditoriums, courthouses and even a stonebuilt, open-air swimming pool.
This great medieval city, immortalised as Quiloa in Milton’s Paradise Lost and once thought to be the site of King Solomon’s mythical mines, was described in 1331 by Ibn Battuta (the greatest adventurer of his era) as “one of the most beautiful cities in the world”.
Standing above the huge market area that once housed a thousand traders, it’s easy to imagine how some 700 years ago, this ancient citadel controlled the gold, ivory and slave trades of Africa’s east coast and played host to buyers and sellers who navigated in and out on the trade winds from as far afield as Monomotapa, India, Persia, Arabia and even China.
We sail back to the mainland on the afternoon tide at sunset, knowing just a little more about another one of the many UNESCO World Heritage Sites that will make up this Cape Town to Kathmandu Land Rover journey.
In the dusty town of Kilwa Masoko, Gladys facilitates our malaria prevention and Rite to Sight work with the local community. The mwenyekiti (village chairman) is fascinated by the expedition’s route from South Africa to Nepal and readily writes his message of support in the Madiba100 Scroll of Peace and Goodwill, as hundreds of brightly clad women, elderly residents and big-eyed children crowd the small courtyard of the village clinic.
Gladys quickly learns the Rite to Sight eye testing procedures and we leave her with a quantity of readers for poor-sighted people who couldn’t make it on the day. Thank goodness Africa is made up of so many good women like Gladys; they really are the backbone of the continent.
We stop for a Landy ‘Tailgate Lunch’ next to the bridge that spans the Rufiji River. Rising as the Kilombero, it is the life blood of the largest game reserve in Africa named after Frederick Courteney Selous, one of Africa’s greatest outdoorsmen who was shot dead by a German sniper during WWI’s East African campaign and buried where he fell at Beho Beho, just upstream from here.
A few years back, we visited his lonely grave as part of a challenging inflatable boat journey down the Rufiji from its headwaters to its massive, 65km-wide, hand-shaped
delta and then across to Mafia Island.
Between mouthfuls of bread, bully beef and banana, Bruce recalls how difficult it was providing Land Rover back-up support: days of slashing through thick undergrowth to reach the river and bring supplies and fuel for the boats. We remember how one of the Selous rangers accompanying us was swept overboard in the fierce rapids of the terrifying Stiegler’s Gorge and the many close shaves with giant crocs and hippos.
Alongside the Zambezi, the Rufiji is definitely one of Africa’s most exciting rivers and already we’ve crossed other Southern African rivers: the Breede, Kei, Great Fish, Umzimkulu and Mzimvubu, the Limpopo, Rio Save, Zambezi and the Rovuma.
Still ahead on this journey to Kathmandu, there are so many more great rivers to cross: Turkey’s Euphrates, Tigris and Kizilirmak all of which are over 1 000km long, not to mention the Indus of Pakistan and India’s mighty Ganges that rises in the Himalayas close to the border with Nepal.
Our departure on Mandela Day seems a long time ago but we’re determined to reach our destination by Christmas. Many people are asking us, why Kathmandu?
When we left from Cape Town, a bloke in a beanie pointed at the Cape Town to Kathmandu signage on the Landies and seeing Kingsley’s beard, shouted out in a typical Cape coloured accent, “So Father Christmas, where’s Kathmandu?”
“It’s in the Karoo,” answered his somewhat inebriated mate.
It does feel strange to be heading for Nepal in central Asia. Normally, our adventures are confined to Africa. Only once before have we done an expedition outside the continent and that was when we tackled the Tropic of Capricorn in a Land Rover adventure around the world.
But this odyssey is part of our new theme of Africa & Beyond and it has so much great symbolism, like linking Cape Town’s 600-million-year-old Table Mountain to the ancient Himalayas and Mount Everest.
And so we brave Dar es Salaam’s crazy traffic to the port and with all the kit moved off the roof racks, squeeze the three expedition Landies into shipping containers. Pray God there’ll be no pirates as they round the Horn of Africa and head up the Suez Canal.
Next stop: Istanbul, and the continued road journey to Kathmandu.
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: One of the AllNew Discovery 4×4s making its way through the narrow streets of a town called Mikinandani in Tanzania. Top: The team stopped over at the Kilwa Ruins.Right: Malaria prevention with some mothers from Kilwa.Below: Traffic accident in Dar es Salaam. Bottom: Driving where no All-New Landy Disco has ever been, on ‘roads’ not shown on any map.