Kingsley Holgate in South Africa for World Malaria Day
(Cape Town - Wednesday, 25 April 2012) Legendary modern-day explorer and humanitarian, Kingsley Holgate has taken some time out from his latest African expedition in support of malaria prevention and education to visit South Africa around World Malaria Day on 25 April 2012.
The “Greybeard of African Adventure” and his team are currently doing the year long Great African Rift Valley (GARV) Expedition, which started in October last year. It’s a world first humanitarian, 12 month, 9 chapter odyssey penetrating remote regions from its northern point in Djibouti on the Horn of Africa through Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Malawi, to its most southern point near Gorongoza in Mozambique.
Using adventure to improve and save lives, the expedition is a humanitarian journey focused on malaria prevention initiatives. The team is also distributing spectacles to poor-sighted people in remote areas, as well as water filters in areas where contaminated water is a serious problem.
From the beginning of the journey Holgate and his team have carried an expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill to be signed and messaged by heads of state, health and community leaders in each country as a declaration of support for the project.
A dedicated ambassador for the United Against Malaria (UAM) campaign, the 67 year-old explorer has spent the last several years devoting much of his life to raising awareness around malaria and to
raising funds to buy and personally distribute malaria nets across the African continent.
The UAM campaign aims to raise global awareness around the subject of malaria, and bring about a large-scale commitment to ending the disease. Malaria threatens half the world’s population and claims 655 000 lives each year. 90% of those are in Africa, where a child dies from malaria every minute. Yet, malaria can be effectively prevented and treated, and in the last decade alone, global malaria deaths have been reduced by 38%. Ending malaria will improve maternal and child health, education and will significantly reduce poverty in Africa.
For his Great African Rift Valley Expedition South Africa’s foremost malaria foot soldier has gained the support of South Africa’s favourite outdoor store, Cape Union Mart.
The retailer has partnered with Holgate and the United Against Malaria campaign which sees the malaria crusader fully kitted out with Cape Union Mart gear. The company’s Director of Retail Services, Evan Torrance says Holgate embodies sustainable adventure with a purpose, something that Cape Union Mart endorses strongly.
“Kingsley is the authentic traveller who embarks on unknown territory to experience and discover new things, whilst at the same time working hard to improve the lives of people in need. We have a history of supporting local explorers and expeditions and are proud to be associated with Kingsley and this humanitarian adventure,” explains Torrance.
Torrance says their support of the campaign also allows for Research and Development in the field.
“Kingsley is the most travelled man in Africa and our partnership with him gives us a unique opportunity to test Cape Union Mart gear in some of the harshest climates and toughest places on the continent. The expedition team is equipped with lightweight and technical K-Way apparel and we receive valuable feedback from them to improve the gear and clothing. We take this advice to heart and for example recently modified the pocket of a K-Way jacket to be a better fit for Kingsley’s passport, and the passports of our many customers who travel through Africa.”
Holgate says they value Cape Union Mart’s support of their humanitarian expedition.
“We test the gear in some of the most outlandish places in Africa like Dallol in the Danakil Depression, the hottest place on earth. The K-Way clobber gets used and abused, washed in rivers, dried on thorn trees and still looks smart enough for when we meet with dignitaries to endorse the expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill. We send feedback and ideas back to Cape Union Mart so as to assist them with ongoing research and development of the excellent K-Way brand.”
As part of its commitment to ending malaria in Africa, Cape Union Mart stocks the authentic United Against Malaria supporters bracelets and has taken up the challenge to help sell 50 000 bracelets by the end of April. The multi-coloured UAM beaded bracelet has become synonymous with the fight against malaria and close to 500 000 have been sold.
By purchasing the UAM bracelet at a cost of R30, individuals and organisations are contributing towards the purchase of life-saving mosquito nets for thousands of people across sub-Saharan Africa who cannot afford to buy their own. The sale of one bracelet can protect a child from malaria for up to 5 years.
Cape Union Mart’s support has also brought Holgate to Cape Town this week and gives the public an opportunity to meet the man himself. On Thursday 26 April at 18h30 Holgate will be at the Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre at Canal Walk sharing tales of his many African expeditions, photographs of unusual locations and explaining the importance of the United Against Malaria campaign and supporters bracelet.
“It’s like a thud to the heart,” says Holgate, “when you get to a village and a mother is screaming, not knowing what to do, her child dying from malaria – 2 days by dugout to the nearest clinic. I know what it is like, I’ve had malaria well over 40 times and when you think these lives can be saved by a simple mosquito net.”
Holgate says the voluntary support for the expedition has been exceptional and that through the collaborative efforts of corporates, NGO’s and civil society they are certain to make a real difference in people’s lives.
“It’s all about the shared energy of people who care for Mama Afrika,” he concludes.
Share your support for World Malaria Day by following Cape Union Mart, United Against Malaria and Relate on Facebook, and sharing news via Twitter by following @CapeUnionMart, @UAMalaria, @RelateBracelets.
Follow Kingsley's Great African Rift Valley (GARV) expedition through his dispatches or follow the GARV expedition on Facebook.
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Land Rover Dispatch 128 – Action Packed
There’s so much on the ground support. Game Stores in Malawi are back again to assist with United Against Malaria event at a small rural school they have adopted. Once again there’s a United Against Malaria football challenge and a bicycle for the little fellow who takes ‘man-of-the-match’. The pregnant mums and mothers with children under 5 each receive a PermaNet and malaria prevention education. We load up the Landies and head into the night. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 129 – The beauty of Mama Afrika
Wilderness Safaris are again also our on the ground humanitarian partners for this chapter and help to facilitate the break-away leg down to the Luangwa Valley, an arm of the Great African Rift Valley that branches off from the Western Rift. South Luangwa is recognised as one of the finest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. The concentration of game around the Luangwa River is the most intense in Africa. Our research of this beautiful area of Mama Afrika will be mostly on foot. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 130 – The Heat is Building
Veteran Wilderness Safaris game scout Joseph Mfuni lights the dry elephant dung in a tin can punched with holes that hangs from the back of an old open toped green Land Rover. The smoke he says helps stop the Tetsie flies. The Luangwa River is a Rift Valley paradise which we explore by Landie and on foot. Crocodile, Elephant and Hippo, Puku, Impala and the endemic Thornycrofts Giraffe come down to drink. The heat is building for the rains and the sun sets through the haze behind the Muchinga Escarpment. Our camp is on the edge of Kaloma Lagoon, this section of the Great Rift has more Hippo than anywhere in Africa. It's also an endemic malaria area and here Wilderness Safaris assists with our UAM work. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 131 – Suicide season
With the Luangwa valley behind us we are back doing the Malawi section on the Shire river below Lake Malombe where we are using Wilderness Safaris’s Mvuu camp as an expedition base. Big Deon Schurmann, a veteran of many geographic and humanitarian expeditions, is back on board. We head downstream with Mvuu ranger and boatman McLoud Kaliati. Nowhere on this expedition have seen so many crocs! The birdlife is unbelievable. A young bull elephant swims across the Shire River just in front of us. The sun sets behind the tall borrasus palms and all the while the pods of grunting hippo, the cry of fish eagle, African skimmers diving and swooping in front of the boat, the hadeda ibis calling it a day and Ross clicking away on his Nikon catching the last of another Rift Valley day. Tomorrow we wake at sunrise to head for Lake Chilwa, the last of more than 30 Rift Valley lakes! The heat burns down, the build-up before the rains. Some call it the suicide season! During the night elephants are everywhere in camp. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 132 – A crisis
There's a crisis on Lake Chilwa, the drought has dried up the lake and hundreds of fishermen have had to turn to the trapping and hunting of waterbirds. But Dr John Wilson, leading authority on the lake, has organized 28 community bird sanctuaries. We meet the Chief, trappers and hunters. They endorse the expedition scroll; we urge them to not kill everything and to protect the sanctuaries so that their children will also get to observe the vast flocks of waterbirds that make Chilwa a special Rift Valley lake. We continue with the humanitarian work attached to the Land Rover supported expedition. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 126 – The Final Chapter
It’s 358 days since this world first geographic and humanitarian Land Rover supported odyssey departed from the Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS) on the 9th October 2011. It’s been a long haul but we remain upbeat and ready to face the many Rift Valley Challenges that still lie ahead. The United Against Malaria educational pamphlets, a new supply of PermaNets, LifeStraws and Rite to Sight spectacles have all arrived in time. It’s the final chapter – Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 127 – The Unsung Heroes
There is no doubt that the true unsung heroes of this Great African Rift Valley journey are the three overworked uncomplaining Landies. They’ve been through hell. The two tough Discovery 4’s and the constantly overloaded long wheel base Defender 130. They carry everything the expedition needs: bales of mozzie nets, boxes of United Against Malaria educational material and LifeStraws, Rite to Sight spectacles, expedition equipment and supplies, camera gear, extra fuel, water and tyres, Yamaha outboard, first aid kit, personal bags, footballs, bibs, whistles and UAM man of the match certificates, reference books, maps, the ‘Secret Captain Morgan tank’, two Engel fridges, toolbox, camp chairs, the braai grid that lives over the spare wheel, the ever important kettle, pots and pans, a sense of humour (bucketfulls) and still place enough for a local guide and translator, not to mention the Rift Valley volunteers who, like the Landies, don’t miss a beat when it comes to getting the job done. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 118 – Never ever
‘Never ever!’, shouted Mike into the dark as with his mountain bike over his shoulder, he jumped off the boat into the shallows and onto the baobab-ringed beach. ‘Never ever!’, he repeated continuing with his comical Sir Winston Churchill impersonation. ‘Never ever, in the history of this vast inland sea, have so many seasick passengers, been pushed by so few horsepower, across such dangerous waters!’
Mike off-course was referring to our dangerous 14 hour crossing of Lake Malawi, from the mainland to the islands of Chizumulu and now Likoma. It had been a nightmare of bailing and puking as Enoch Unandi, the captain of our hopelessly overloaded wooden dhow had struggled, with only a small 15Hp Yamaha outboard, to keep our nose into the wind and massive waves that threatened to capsize us. One of the first recorded drownings on this great African Rift Valley lake was that of Bishop Chauncey Maples, who, when on his way to the island in 1895, in the darkness his boat capsized in a squall and two weeks later his body was washed up on the Lakeshore, recognizable by his cassock shroud. The worst disaster however, was when the lake steamer Viphya went down in a storm costing 145 lives.
Reaching Likoma Island is an important yardstick for the Land Rover supported expedition. Wet, sunburnt and somewhat exhausted, we are sponsored a night at intriguing ‘Kaya Mawa’, a small, romantic, intricately built lodge, that nestles amongst the baobabs and rocky outcrops, alongside a beautiful half-moon beach. Kaya Mawa (www.kayamawa.com) are our United Against Malaria partners on the island where they will assist with malaria prevention education and the distribution of nets to mums and babies. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 119 – Exploring Likoma Island
Likoma is Lake Malawi’s longest island. Dotted with baobabs, sandy beaches and fishing villages drying small silver ‘usipa’ fish – it’s enchantingly friendly. It’s no wonder that this remote island was chosen by early missionaries as a site to build a replica of Winchester Cathedral in England. Ross clicks away with his Nikon cameras as I scribble this dispatch in the expedition note book. It’s unbelievable – built by hand using mud bricks and carved altars from soapstone, this Anglican cathedral is called St Peter’s complete with stained glass windows, was built between 1903 and 1905 on the spot where suspected witches were once burnt alive. We meet up with ‘Mike the Bike’ – he’s now added Likoma Island to his incredible challenge of mountain biking the Great Rift. Immigration is under a baobab tree. Down comes the Malawi exit stamp. It’s a short hop by boat to Kobue on the shoreline. Down comes the entry to Mozambique stamp. Our geographic objective is clear – it’s to collect a calabash sip full of Great African Rift Valley water from one of the most beautiful beaches on the entire lake South down the shoreline – it’s called Nkwichi. By the way, here on the Mozambican side don’t ever refer to it as Lake Malawi. Here it is and always will be Lago do Niassa – Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 120 – Nkwichi
We’re getting unbelievable support from the people on the ground. Remote Nkwichi Lodge on the beautiful Mozambique shoreline of Lake Niassa had heard about our Rift Valley Expedition and offered their piece of paradise as a base camp for the next few days. Nkwichi is part of the Manda Wilderness Community Trust, started by the Simkin family after the civil war. They do great community work in the area and join us as United Against Malaria partners. Everybody – management, staff, community members, the Simkins and two brave young British adventurers who are sailing the lakeshore in a small sailing dhow, all get involved in the malaria prevention work.
We explore the exquisite shoreline by boat and Mike mountain bikes the steep bush paths that join the lakeshore villages.
At sunset Day 2 we all gather on the sugar white squeaking sands of Nkwichi beach for the ‘calabash’ ceremony to add a sipfull of Rift Valley water from the Mozambique side of this beautiful but capricious Rift Valley Lake. That night I toss and turn, listening to the sighing of the wind through the trees and the crash of the waves on the beach. It’s going to be an interesting boat crossing in the morning back to Likoma Island and then on a dhow to the Malawi mainland. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 121 – Pleased as punch to be on terra-firma
Travelling from Likoma Island the skipper got lost in the dark. This time the dhow was so overloaded with bales of dried fish that the captain had no forward view and had to rely on us to shout directions from the bow.
Fortunately Ross got a brief signal which allowed him to get hold of Nick and Zana Scheltema from Wilderness Safaris at Chintheche who guided us in with a flashing spotlight. We stumbled up the beach with our kit pleased as punch to be on terra-firma and to be reunited with the expedition Landies. Another colourful stretch of Africa’s Great Rift Valley is now behind us – a great adventure as we now head South down the lakeshore.
Land Rover Dispatch 122 – Good vibes
Mark Turner, Africa director for Game Stores, who are also supporting the United Against Malaria initiative attached to the expedition has flown into Lilongwe to assist. We meet with the press and the Malawi Ministry of Health officials at the Game Store in Lilongwe. They all endorse the Rift Valley Expedition scroll. It’s a wonderful positive vibe with Game Stores sponsoring a man-of-the-match mountain bike and footballs for the next United Against Malaria challenge which will take place at Chembe Village near Cape Maclear on the shores of Lake Malawi. Fiona Nixon has also flown in to join Mike, whose next challenge is to cycle from the lakeshore near Salima to Cape Maclear. From the Rift Valley Expedition team, we say thanks again to Land Rover and all involved in this world first humanitarian and geographic challenge – we could not do it without you.
Land Rover Dispatch 123 – The Chauncy Maples
At the port of Monkey Bay Ross and I find the old lake steamer, the Chauncy Maples, named after the Bishop who drowned in the lake in 1895. She was built in Scotland in 1899 and then disassembled into 3,481 parcels, transported to Mozambique, barged up the Zambezi into the Shire River and then carried on porters’ heads for the final stretch with the boiler being dragged by 450 people. Reassembled in 1901, she worked as a mission ship (clinic, school and church). In 1965 she was converted from steam to diesel and converted into the lake steamer that most adventurers got to know until 1992 when she was retired from service. But the good news is that Africa’s oldest ship is being renovated as a mobile clinic to bring basic healthcare to Malawi’s lakeside people. If all goes well, she will be relaunched in 2013. What a great Rift Valley project and one that we will certainly support in the future. (www.chauncymaples.org)
Land Rover Dispatch 124 – Malaria Warriors
Too much smoke from bush fires – visibility isn’t great towards the end of the dry season. Then there’s the crackle of a radio call and a light aircraft comes swooping in over the lake. They tumble out of the plane – it’s Robby Enthoven and his family from London. They’ve broken their safari to have time with the expedition. So it’s into the Landies and then a sunset boat crossing to sit ‘toes in the sand’ around a campfire on Domwe Island. It’s full moon, there’s nyama on the coals, Renoster Koffie and the cry of a bush baby. Through their interests in the worldwide Nando’s operation, Robby has for some years been backing our malaria prevention campaign. ‘Now I want my family to experience what you do,’ he says. Next day they certainly do, as with a team of malaria warriors from Game Stores in Lilongwe, they enthusiastically judge a ‘malaria prevention’ schools art competition, distribute bednets to mums with babies, help with Rite to Sight work and take part in a United Against Malaria football challenge on the beach.
At sunset at the Kayak Africa camp on Mumbo Island, with malaria warriors Mark Turner from Game Stores, the Enthoven family, Richard Anderson, Jurie Schoeman from Kayak Africa and the expedition team, we add a sipfull of Lake Malawi water to the Rift Valley calabash. Life’s a great adventure, isn’t it?
Land Rover Dispatch 125 – The first naval battle of World War I
We reach Mangoche, the old Fort Johnson, a former stronghold for British troops. Near the town’s clock tower a naval gun off the HMS Gwendolin still stands. The boat’s captain Commander EL Rhodes earned a place in history when he captured the German gunboat the Herman von Wissman. This British victory was the very first naval battle of World War I, fought on this virtually unknown lake in Central Africa in 1914. But the story does have a humorous side to it. Prior to this Captain Rhodes had an excellent drinking relationship with the captain of the German vessel, which he found laid up out of the water on the German East African side of the lake. On sighting the enemy the crew of HMS Gwendolin opened fire and eventually scored a hit. The enraged German captain rowed out on a dinghy to demand an explanation for his friend’s behaviour, only to find that Germany was at war with Britain. They really should have let them know!
Reaching Mangoche means that our Land Rover supported expedition have now completed Lake Malawi, our last of the big Great African Rift Valley lakes. The vast inland sea which Livingstone named Lake Nyasa, Lake of Stars, remains one of the most fascinating of all the Great Rift Valley lakes, especially if one includes the Tanzanian and Mozambican shorelines. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 109 – Life on the Liemba continues...
The ship is 100 years old next year and I think back to what she has been through. In the old days of the Imperial German Empire, the canteen probably served schnapps and Eisbein and then once the British had refloated her after the first World War, she would have ferried district commissioners up and down Lake Tanganyika with pink gins being the order of the day. But now the canteen is probably the happiest she has ever been – loud Congolese music and gyrating hips blare from a small TV set with cracked speakers – it’s delightfully chaotic. The bar runs out of cold beers and the galley serves up mountains of fish, goat and chicken, plantains, maize meal and rice. Later I meet Captain Titus up on the bridge. He tells me that the Liemba is their "proud" and is the heart of this Rift Valley lake. He then gives me the unwelcome news that we won't make Mpulungu today, we will tie up for the night below the old German fort at Kasungu. Rumour has that the captain has a girlfriend in the village. I explain politely that whilst the Germans might have built the Liemba in 1913 and that whilst the Swiss might have developed the clock, it is, on Lake Tanganyika, Captain Titus that owns the time! It is a great adventure.
Land Rover Dispatch 110 – Mpulungu or bust!!!!!
At sunrise we cross into Zambia where the Kalambo Falls drops in an un-interrupted flow twice the height of the Victoria Falls. It is said that a mother with her children threw themselves off the top of the falls rather then being taken by slavers. Captain Titus allows me to distribute malaria prevention pamphlets on board. At the port of Mpulungu on the southern shores of Lake Tanganyika, the African Rift valley's longest and deepest lake, 100's of dry fish buyers come running down to meet the Liemba. For the expedition it is mission accomplished. Now my challenge is to sail back up the lake where we will all meet at Chris and Louise Wild's Lakeshore lodge at Kipili. This voyage on the ancient Liemba has allowed us to complete the world’s longest fresh water lake.
Comms have been difficult but with the expedition now reunited we now get the following dispatches describing Kingsley's Rift Valley voyage on the ancient Liemba following the shoreline of Lake Tanganyika from Kigoma to Mpulungu the Zambian port at the South-end of the lake then back to Kipili in Tanzania. It is a story best told in the Greybeard’s words......
The wind picks up, there has been some bad African ferry accidents – a terrible one off Zanzibar just recently. I look at all the moms, tiny babies on their backs, the fish traders knocking back the beers in the pub the grannies curled up asleep with their parcels of trade goods around them. I shudder to think if the old Liemba, built nearly 100 years ago, went down. Here the 32900 sq km lake is more then a km deep. That night a rain squall hits us and the deck class passengers race to cover their goods with bits of plastic and old tarpaulins. Despite the conditions, wooden plank boats sails out from the villages each time the Liemba blows her horn. It is wonderfully chaotic, small babies handed down to desperate mothers in the boats, bales of dried fish been loaded, small boats rocking and rolling in the swell knocking together against the hull of the Liemba - ropes thrown in the dark, a load falls on a women but fortunately one of the back-packers on board is a doctor. Every beat of the Liemba's old engines brings me closer to Mpulungu. Will keep you posted.
To climb back up the Rift the 65 km to Namanyere on a mountain bike was bad enough. The fact that we were deep in tsetse fly territory makes it near impossible. Chris and Louise our hosts at Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili say don’t do it but reluctantly suggest a complete spray down with Dettol Mix to try and keep the tsetses at bay. No black or blue cycling clothing should be worn as that is like a dinner bell for the tsetses! Preparations done, the road winds it way up the escarpment through the Miombo woodlands. As the trail gets steeper my speed slows down and the tsetses gather! They bite like hot needles through my Black Gloves and get under the helmet to Bite through the sweaty beanie. They gather around the black shorts but the Dettol spray seems to be holding out. At one stage I loose balance and fall off the bike as both hands were needed to swat the hungry invaders. After close to five hours of steep climbing the forest is left behind and the eventual arrival at Namanyere signifies a welcome end to the black clouds of voracious flies. It was a short be remarkable ride through the tsetse belt as sitting at a village Coke stand, I survey the hundreds of tiny needle bites inflicted on any exposed flesh. Perhaps I'll listen more carefully next time to local advice about taking on the Tsetse Challenge!!!
We reach the rendezvous point - South African's Chris and Louise the colorful owners of the remote Lakeshore lodge at Kapili welcome the expedition to their special piece of Rift Valley paradise on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. They are a delightfully adventurous couple, ‘Yes,’ they say, ‘the old Liemba Ferry did stop out in the bay this afternoon on its way back to Kigoma from Mpulungu in the South." But still no sign of Kingsley.
This is not good, we'd seen him off, on board the ancient Liemba five days ago and the arrangement was that even if there was a breakdown in comms, we would all meet here at Chris and Louise's place. What now!!! Chris suggests contacting the port authority in Mpulungu or taking one of the Landies back down the road to ask the villagers if they have seen him come ashore from the Liemba in a local rowing boat. And then with a roar of laughter the Greybeard appeared from where he had been hiding behind a mango tree. No doubt he's got a story to tell, will keep you posted!
Land Rover Dispatch 103 – An expedition note from Mike Nixon – On a mission.
The geographic challenges of following the Great Rift Valley are endless. We leave Landies at a fishing village on the eastern shoreline of Lake Tanganyika. We are on a mission to photograph some of the last remaining wild chimpanzees in Africa. In the distance is the 2462m high Nkungwe Mountain. Ross and Congolese expedition member "Hope Rhomulus" negotiate with the chief for a boat. We throw bedrolls tents and supplies into the wooden craft, handmade from forest planks with lots of holes but too late to turn back! The waves pick up and water from Africa's deepest and longest Lake gushes in, then the motor conks out. It's getting dark and it’s a bloody nightmare! We drift onto a deserted beach. The tough-as-nails skipper lifts the broken motor onto his shoulders and bounds down the beach into the darkness.
Land Rover Dispatch 104 – An expedition note from Mike Nixon – Magical Mahale
A sweaty smile appears and the new motor glints in the moonlight. We're on our way! The wind has died and we ply the shoreline looking up for the silhouette of the Mahale Mountains Park. We arrive at the park office to be informed by the warden that if we want to have any chance of seeing the chimps, we must take another boat further down the shoreline. Negotiations are concluded and we set off again into the night. At a deserted beach we land the boat and start the campfire. A park ranger appears at first light to lead our group through the pristine Mahale forest. After a few hours we hear the tell-tale crashing and chatter of the Pan troglodytes (chimps). A group of more than 50 males, mothers and babies entertain us for over an hour at touching distance. They get restless and it's time to leave. A boat with a working engine awaits! Still no news from Kingsley on the MV Liemba. To remain true to the Rift Valley Expedition he must reach the Zambian port of Mpulungu at the southernmost point of Lake Tanganyika – Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 105 – An expedition note from Mike Nixon – what a 4x4 adventure!
Back to the Landies and the even better news is the Mountain Bike is safe! The guidebook said it was impossible to get to the isolated rainforest Mahale National Park by road – the park is remote and thrives on its inaccessibility. If we thought getting in was tough, climbing out of the escarpment through the remote Bamboo forests was to be mind boggling! With the Land Rover Discos in first gear, low range, rock crawl mode, they inched their way up the escarpment. The Defender was on 2 wheels, but managed to recover her dignity. Anyone who considers the Disco to be a Mums taxi, must put it through the mill in such terrain. On top the escapement a smidgen of reception and a cryptic message from Kingsley. "Liemba Ferry holed up in Kasanga, built in Germany nearly 100 years ago but it seems she runs on Africa time". What now??
'Absolute impossible by vehicle', and then we found Tori, the missionary, who scribbles on our map and with Mike leading along a goat track on his mountain bike, we boulder-hopped and rock-crawled the Landies from village to village. Countless river crossings, a pontoon over the Malagarasi River – all in an effort to follow the Eastern shoreline of Lake Tanganyika, destination Mahale Mountains. So remote and seldom visited, that sometimes the villagers would run for their lives at the site of us. But then curiosity got the better of them and soon Land Rover supported UAM and Rite to Sight work got into gear. No news from Kingsley who is still on the Liemba Ferry bound for Mpulungu at the very South of the lake. Will keep you posted.
Land Rover Dispatch 96 – Reaching Bujumbura is a yardstick for the expedition
It’s a yardstick for the expedition to reach Bujumbura in Burundi at the top-end of Lake Tanganyika. The Great African Rift Valley is wonderfully challenging with all its volcanoes (some still active), lakes and rivers, sip fulls of which get added to the expedition calabash, abundant wildlife, ancient tribes, snowcapped mountain ranges, equatorial downpours, mind-numbing heat, deserts, forests, the hyenas of Harar, village markets, rebels, cattle wars and the genocide of the Tutsi, roads that turn to goat tracks, the hottest and lowest places on the African continent and now, the challenge of Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s longest and deepest lake, all linked to the ongoing theme of using this world first expedition to improve and save lives. The expedition is 277 days old and there are still an estimated 88 days in which to bring the yearlong expedition home – we couldn’t do it without your support.
Land Rover Dispatch 97 – Expedition Olympics
Today we get the good news that Seven Summiters (that means they’ve climbed the seven highest points on each of the continents of the world) Mike Nixon and André Bredenkamp, will be volunteering for the next leg of the Great African Rift Valley Expedition. Mike’s challenge will be to mountain bike the length of Lake Tanganyika, Africa’s longest and deepest lake, from Bujumbura in the North to Mpulungu in the South. André will be supporting him in one of the Land Rover Disco 4’s. The plan is that certain stages will be turned into United Against Malaria bicycle races, with local cyclists on their ‘made in India’, single gear, big wheelers competing for prizes with mosquito nets for the mums, Rite to Sight spectacles for the poor sighted, mostly elderly and LifeStraws for clean drinking water. Seems like the expedition will be hosting its own Great Rift Valley Olympics – will keep you posted.
This close to the DRC border there are security concerns so we camp amongst some thatched huts that serve as military barracks. The friendly Ugandan soldiers tell us that over there across the river there is no government and that rebels can make it difficult. The next morning the mythical Rwenzoris throw off their blanket of clouds to reveal the famed ‘Mountains of the Moon’ - snowy sources of the Nile. What an adventure...
We reach the Semliki River. It's wild and beautiful but malaria is rife. We have sent word ahead and each mother and child at the Rwebisengo Clinic receives malaria prevention education and a PermaNet. Malaria kills more people here then anything else. A small ferry boat pulled on a rope takes us across to the Democratic Republic of Congo as armed soldiers look on with amazement as we add a sip full of Semliki water to the expedition calabash.
World Malaria Day is commemorated every year on 25 April. It recognizes global efforts to control malaria. Globally, 3.3 billion people in 106 countries are at risk of malaria and 655 000 deaths are claimed by malaria each year according to the latest statistics, 90% of which occur on African soil.
Herewith the latest Great African Rift Valley dispatch as the expedition team continues to improve and save lives through adventure. Thank you for helping to make a difference!
Land Rover Dispatch 70 – In the footsteps of Gregory
We are still following this massive sear on the earth’s face, visible from over 10,000kms out in space and first explored by the Scottish geologist John Walter Gregory who in 1893 named it the Great Rift Valley. For us it remains a fascinating yearlong chapter by chapter geographic and humanitarian journey – linked to the fight against the killer disease of malaria. So that’s why we’re back in South Africa for a while to support World Malaria Day on April 25, 2012. Please show your support by purchasing a United Against Malaria bracelet from your nearest Cape Union Mart store.
We race the expedition Landies back to Nairobi, truckers have blocked the border on the Kenyan side so we walk through, stamp our papers and get a guy on a piki-piki (motorbike) to detour us through the backstreets of the Namanga border post back onto the Nairobi road. In Nairobi Thomas Hansen and the Vestergaard team who supply us with top quality PermaNet mosquito nets and LifeStraws, put on a celebratory curry. We park the expedition Landies with Sergio Fernandes. Once again it’s South African to the rescue as Sergio puts us onto the flight home and a break for the East African rainy season. Ahead of World Malaria Day, 25th April 2012, we also need to use this as an opportunity to build up the support for the United Against Malaria campaign. You can join the winning team to fight malaria by buying a United Against Malaria bracelet from your nearest Cape Union Mart store. Please make a difference. Will keep you posted.
Chapter 3 of our Great African Rift Valley Expedition comes to an end with the adding of a sipfull of Lake Eyasi water to the traditional calabash that now contains water from every iconic Rift Valley lake stretching from the Red Sea on the Horn of Africa all the way to Eyasi on the Southern end of the East African section of the Great Rift Valley. Behind us now is Djibouti, Ethiopia’s dangerous Afar Triangle, the Rift Valley lakes of Southern Ethiopia, Turkana – the world’s largest desert lake in Northern Kenya, and all the other East African Rift Valley lakes, to now include Eyasi and its small, fragile population of hunter-gathering Hadzabe. It’s proving a magnificent geographic and humanitarian adventure. The next Rift Valley challenge is the Western or Albertine Rift which starts in Northwestern Uganda. And so, as the rain clouds gather over the Eastern Rift, we celebrate our last sunset of this chapter with Nicolas and Fabia, the delightful owners of Chem Chem safari lodge on the Eastern shore of Lake Manyara, who are also assisting with the humanitarian work attached to the expedition.
The heat beats down, the bush is dry. The Hadzabe women dig into the ground with sharpened sticks. There’s excited barking from the dogs. In a second one of the hunters shoots an arrow through a ground squirrel which, using a piece of bark, is tied like a trophy onto a young boy’s waist. A bird is added and then several rats. The women dig for roots and a man climbs into a tree for honey. The hunter-gathering is done with quick, purposeful movements – every person in the team knows just what to do. Old, dry roots are gathered for firewood, tubers are sucked for moisture. Back at their camp we are invited to join the feast – it’s my first taste of roasted rat. I send Tristan off to the Landy to bring a knife and our last piece of wet and fatty biltong. I cut a piece for each of the Hadzabe. The fat will make us vomit, says one, we’re not used to beef. The others laugh and put their biltong pieces on the fire to roast. The Hadzabe endorse the Rift Valley expedition scroll with drawings of trees, rocks and animals which depict their personal names. For us it’s a rare privilege. Life’s a great adventure, isn’t it?
We found a guide during the night and reached a small Hadzabe encampment at sunrise. Just a few make-shift huts of bent sticks and leaves next to a big baobab below a rocky outcrop in which they also used small caves as dwelling places. Just like the San people, the Hadzabe are friendly and full of fun, clicking away in their strange language (Hadzame, along with Africa’s other dying Khoisan languages, might represent one last fading echo of the first human voices to have carried across the African savannah). 11-Year old Tristan Holgate (the expedition mascot on this leg) is in his element as they teach him how to use the fire sticks. A wrinkled old man mumbles from beside the fire. Our guide tells us that when the old man dies they will shoot a Dik-Dik and place it next to his body, so attracting the hyena to come at night and eat the corpse. Arrows and bows are prepared and the dogs run ahead as we leave on foot to go on a typical Hadzabe hunter-gathering mission. I ask what their favourite food is. ‘Baboon’, comes the answer, ‘the meat has magical powers, and when we get married we kill two baboon and have a feast.’ Will keep you posted.
‘Count the legs and divide by four. This is the birthplace of the great wildebeest migration’, says expedition member Brad Hansen (nicknamed Bula Matari) over the radio of the lead Land Rover, as surrounded by tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebra, we cross the short grass plains of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. A cheetah kill and a lion pride add to the excitement of our journey. But our next objective lies South of here. To remain true to the expedition we must reach Lake Eyasi before nightfall, and then wake before sunrise to meet with the Hadzabe, Tanzania’s only remaining tribe of true hunter-gatherers who still hunt in the Rift Valley with bows and poisoned arrows and speak a Khoisan-type click language.
The Hamer Bull Jumping Ceremony
We make it to the ‘Ocean of Salt’
In the footsteps of Count Teleki
Ready for a quick getaway
Peace accord in the bush
Back onto the floor of the Great African Rift Valley
No Sex, no drinking
Jamaica on the Rift
The Calabash Journey Continues
On the Warpath
Two expeditions meet up
A bloody tragedy – we’re lucky to be alive
Chatting up the locals – E’SHI
It’s the 3rd highest capital city in the world
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