Africa, the Outside Edge - the expedition reaches Mombasa

May 1, 2008
Author: Kingsley Holgate

Blog 31

Caring for Africa – Update from the Outside Edge of Africa

The reaching of historic Mombasa on Africa Malaria Day 25 April 2008 is a great yardstick for this Grindrod supported odyssey as we distribute hundreds of life saving mosquito nets to orphanages around the city. The objective of this world first humanitarian expedition to track the outside edge of Africa clockwise through 33 countries in Land Rovers and inflatable boats, is to create awareness for the need to fight malaria – a killer disease that in Africa is killing more people than HIV/Aids.

The Africa Outside Edge Expedition is now exactly one year old, its short life having began with a convoy of 347 Land Rovers that escorted the expedition out from the Cape of Good Hope – a massive act of solidarity in the fight against malaria. Armed with a Calabash of Cape Point seawater and Expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill endorsed by Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, the expedition tracked the coast of the cold South Atlantic over the Orange River and along the outside edge of the Sperrgebiet, the great sand ocean of the ancient Namib and the Skeleton Coast through to the Cunene.

We’ve survived Angola and the slow sweat of the Congo is behind us as are the equatorial forests, chimpanzees, gorillas, pygmy elephants, the Gulf of Guinea and a fascinating river boat journey down the Niger to mythical Timbuktu.

Behind us is the death defying traffic of Lagos, the voodoo culture of Benin and Togo, war torn Liberia and Sierra Leone are distant memories. Guinea-Bissau, The Gambia and Senegal were great adventures as was Mauritania, despite the fact that a family of four adventurers were gunned down in cold blood, leading to the cancellation of the Lisbon – Dakar rally.

The Moroccan Algeria border was closed even to a camel, we backtracked to Tangier, then by ferry over the Straights of Gibraltar to Algeciras in Spain. In a race against time, a dash up the Spanish coast to grab the night ferry back across the Mediterranean to Oran in Algeria where we faced the threat of fundamentalist attacks. With heavy security on board it was back to the other side of the frontier – all this effort and all this time, a detour by land and sea of close to 1500 km for the sake of getting around a 100 metre wide border post. This is the nature of travelling Africa’s outside edge.

Ancient Carthage, Leptis Magna, Cyrene are also behind us now as are modern day cities with exotic names like Calabar, Point Noire, Libreville, Conakry, Nouakchott, Casablanca, Tangier, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli in Gaddafi’s Libya. At Tobruk where there are hundreds of tombstones carrying the springbok emblem we placed wild flowers and a South African flag at the base of a gravestone of an unknown South African soldier.

The reaching of Egypt and more specifically the ancient city of Alexandria was a great highlight for the expedition. The city was established in 332 BC by Alexander the Great, the Pharaohs Lighthouse was one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. It was also a great seat of learning and its ancient library held 500,000 volumes, it was apt therefore that the governor of Alexandria endorsed the Expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill in support of malaria prevention.

The Africa Outside Edge expedition is also carrying a scroll from South African National Parks with a message encouraging a conservation partnership with its neighbours in Africa. With it they have sent three stones to be taken by expedition Land Rover to the three corners of the continent where we will collect stones to be placed at Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa. And so at a ceremony facilitated by the South African Embassy in Dakar we dropped a conservation stone from the southern most tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas, and picked another up at Les Almadirs, the most westerly point of the continent.

We’ve crossed the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, the Greenwich Meridian and just a few months ago we reached the most Northerly tip of the African continent. Danie Meyer, the South African ambassador to Tunisia and a group of VIP’s were there at Ras Angela to meet us. Imagine the scene, the expedition team, worn out and rag tag from the tense journey across Algeria and the Tunisians all dressed in suits as they endorsed the Peace and Goodwill scroll that we are carrying to the countries around the outside edge of Africa. It’s been messaged by presidents, kings, ambassadors, paramount chiefs, and government ministers. If we survive this crazy journey to return to the Cape of Good Hope we would like to hand the scroll back to Madiba, that great man of Africa.

To the flashing of media cameras we handed over another symbolic conservation stone carried all the way from Africa's most Southerly point and picked up one from the North to be taken down to Cape Agulhas.

What the epic journey has been all about. It’s World Malaria Day and Kingsley Holgate hands over another long-lasting mosquito net to an orphan in Mombasa

Over and above the malaria prevention work, one of the greatest scoops of the expedition was taking learning materials, South Africa 2010 World Cup branded soccer balls to children and spectacles to the poor sighted elderly in the Saharawi refugee camps in Southern Algeria. It’s a place where temperatures reach a scorching 57˚C in summer and plunge below freezing in winter. Sandstorms, called siroccos, rip through the refugee camps without warning. Flash floods wipe out entire tent neighbourhoods, destroying everything in their path. Here, nearly 200,000 refugees are struggling to survive in this inhospitable part of the great Sahara Desert.

The president of this little country in exile, Mr Mohamed Abdelaziz, endorsed the expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill with these words:

“I warmly welcome these great adventurers of our dear sister South Africa. We in the Saharawi Republic salute and commend this initiative that promotes peace on the continent and helps to eradicate disease... With your great journey you have united the sons of our continent, and shortened the distance – please continue this great effort.” This was the first time ever that a South African expedition in South African registered vehicles visited the camps – it was one of the most humbling experiences of our odyssey.

With the Sudan and now Eritrea also behind us, the reaching of Kenya puts us one year and 31 countries into the journey, that means 52,730kms of zigzagging to do our humanitarian work, millions of tyre revolutions, thousands of mud holes and countless campfire meals. There’s been hundreds of river crossings, buckets of sweat, thousands of spectacles to the poor sighted, plies of books, pens, pencils and soccer balls to remote schools and tens of thousands of lives kept safe by the expedition’s distribution of life saving mosquito nets to pregnant mums and children under the age of 5 in remote areas.

Friends, we would like to thank you for being part of the longest and most exciting humanitarian expedition ever to have left from South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. The media coverage you are giving to this incredible journey will help create further awareness in the fight against the killer disease of malaria. The shocking statistic is that for every minute of every day and night three African babies are dying from the bloodsucking bit of the Anopheles mosquito.

Best wishes
Kingsley Holgate and the Expedition team



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