Africa’s most fa­mous ad­ven­turer

On the road… er, sea again

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - KINGS­LEY HOLGATE

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.

THE RUFIJI

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.

WHY KATH­MANDU?

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.

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