Grindrod Interview by HF Radio 2247 km from Durban

Aug 4, 2005
Grindrod Durban

Malaria 6 to Malaria 1 … do you copy ... over?

“Receiving you … go ahead … over!” came a faint reply from a lone Arab dhow loaded with mosquito nets sailing on the south east monsoon. And so, amidst occasional static and break-up we’re able to bring you the latest on the African Rainbow Expedition in Kingsley Holgate’s words …

How’s your “One Net - One Life” journey going?

“ … At times its tough and the Kusi trade wind blows up a storm. We threw coins into the deep to propitiate the spirits as we rounded “Ponta do Diabo” – Devils Point. Using the “Amina – The Spirit of Adventure” as the mother ship, we off-load nets onto the Yamaha-powered inflatable boats that take us through the mangroves to inaccessible rural villages where there are no health services. There is no doubt that we are saving lives and it’s a great adventure ...!”

Tell me about your team King …?

“ … On the Dhow there is capable Captain Simba who unfortunately snores like a lion … Mahommed the brave has a body which belongs on the cover of Men’s Health – it’s nothing for him to climb to the top of the 45 foot mast with a knife in his mouth to cut jammed rigging in a storm … Zacharia, the ship’s carpenter caulks the planks as we go … Fai Chababe, the interpreter, trades for fish and supplies … Sufo, Juma and Jojo Sulimane are master mariners. Swahili is the language of the Dhow and our days begin with “Salaams!” all round! Also, an old friend, Charles Gornal-Jones from Pemba with his French girlfriend Valerie de Rouge, have jumped on board to help - it’s a great combination. Its incredibly physical work - the wind is our only engine! Johnny Clegg plays from two wooden box speakers and everyone hauls on the ropes! I couldn’t survive without the crew! They are the expedition…!”

What are you guys eating …?

“ … Fish and more bloody fish! Charles is a demon with prawns and giant, red mud crabs – we sit crossed-legged on the deck and eat with our fingers! Its fish with rice, fish with maize meal, fish with village bread and by way of change – calamari, crayfish and octopus! Fresh water is a problem and sometimes we’ll spend an entire day hauling containers by rubber duck from a village well. We finished the last of the Captain Morgan – it just doesn’t keep …!”

And … any magic moments?

“ … Rolling out a bed roll, sleeping on deck under the stars, the creaking and groaning of the hand-built Dhow, schools of dolphins, the occasional whale, the freedom, wind blowing through the beard, sitting, legs dangling from the bowsprit as “Amina - The Spirit of Adventure” - her giant lateen rigged sail pregnant with the Kusi trade wind, ploughs through the swell, the appreciation of the mothers as they receive their mosquito nets and always, there’s the adventure, not knowing what the next day will bring! …”

Any Hassles …?

“ … Well it seems as if sometimes one has to risk lives to save lives – We rolled one of the Landys but she’s back on her wheels and she’s fine – Three of the expedition members including myself have been down with malaria already – Tropical ulcers are the order of the day – There are days when the sailing is a bit scary and then of course, Bruce getting knifed trying to save an outboard engine, he’s recovering well and we’re missing him and of course, expecting to join us again soon…..! Apart from that, it’s a great adventure and entirely worthwhile …!”

Anything strange?

“Yes! One village was being terrorised by a human lion….. Yes!! A human that has been turned into a lion by a witch doctor and had become a hired killer. They say it is not uncommon here and that the most painful part is the growing of the tail. Recently one of these wizards was caught by the villagers and they drove a sharpened stick right through him. Witchcraft and superstition is rife here and an old man tells me that in this area, sometimes the big baboon that walks alone, rapes women. Here people, they tell me, can also turn into elephant and hyenas….!”

Anything wonderful?

“Yes, at the end of the day, it’s the incredible appreciation by the village people for what we are doing. They dance and sing and make up songs about fighting malaria….. it’s wonderful!”

How’s the Land Rover party getting along …?

“ … Relying on GPS and HF Radio, we only see them every few days. They follow goat tracks and sometimes there are no bridges! Mashozi - that’s Gill my wife, is in charge, she drives the one Grindrod branded Land Rover nick-named “Livingstone” while Dane Hewitt drives “Stanley”, the other Landy! Yesterday, we joined forces with Colin Fitzgerald’s team from 4x4 Mega World in South Africa in an exciting exercise. Using their massive inflatable pontoon we floated one of the Landys across the crocodile-infested, Munuwayo River! Over thirty years ago, during the Portuguese days, dug-outs were lashed together to do this crossing but since then, no vehicle has made it across! The villagers couldn’t believe their eyes! And as the wind increased, I had visions of having to explain to the sponsors why a Land Rover of mosquito nets had fallen into the drink! Fortunately we made it! The Land Rover party is doing a great job of the “One Net – One Life” campaign …!”

And finally Kingsley; - are you getting enough support …?

“ … Here, the statistics are shocking, every minute of every day and night; a baby dies from the blood sucking bite of the deadly female Anopheles mosquito! Whilst our slogan is “One Net – One Life” it could also read: “One Net Saves Many Lives” - as very often, a mother with several children will share the net. This campaign would not be possible without the support from Grindrod who clearly demonstrate their care for the people of this continent! We’re getting great exposure through the BBC, the Voice of America, the SABC - Into Africa Service and the South African media at large but at times I am overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem! Getting to a village where not a single mother has a mosquito net and the lack of knowledge … all the death … and when you think that all it takes to save lives, is the educated use of a net! Tomorrow we head North for Mocimboa da Praia and then onto the Rovuma River – the boundary between Northern Mozambique and Southern Tanzania. The wind is in our sails – thanks Grindrod for all your support … We couldn’t do it without you.…!”

Squelch, Squelch, over and out from the African Rainbow Team …… talk again next week.



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