'A Love Affair with a Continent': Kingsley Holgate team takes message of peace to Somalia

2017-12-08 14:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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Facebook/Kingsley Holgate Foundation

Facebook/Kingsley Holgate Foundation

Cape Town - 12,000 kilometres. Five crew members. Six weeks. Eight countries.

Kingsley Holgate and his expedition team just returned to SA after completing their adventure to the most eastern part of Africa - the cliffs of Ras Xaafun, Puntland, in war-torn Somalia. All that they left behind to mark this feat is a plague in Somali and English, a message of peace and goodwill for the broken country.

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This marks the seventh and final extreme geographic point that they've reached in the continent, which will all culminate in a book written by the famous explorer titled 'A Love Affair with a Continent'. They are the only people to have ever conquered this feat.

The Land Rover-supported Extreme East expedition team took off in their new Discovery vehicles from Kosi Bay in South Africa, taking its waters in a Zulu calabash all the way to Puntland, connecting the two eastern points.

From SA they travelled across rivers in Zimbabwe’s Gonarezhou National Park, where they set up camp for the night under old leadwood trees below the beautiful Chilojo Cliffs on the banks of the Runde River. Then in the lower Zambezi, they grinded up the seldom-use rocky track to the top of the escarpment to join Zambia’s Great East Road, which led them to Lake Malawi in Africa’s Rift Valley and later, through dust and corrugations to the banks of Tanzania’s Great Ruaha River.  

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They also faced dangerous situations in Harar in Ethiopia, Yemen and of course in Somalia - regions locked in political strife and conflict. When they reached Puntland, heavily-armed troops had to escort the team to their destination. Expedition leader Ross Holgate, son of Kingsley, saw this part of the trip as the 'real test'.

"When we crossed into Puntland, we had to go into ‘communication shutdown’ with the outside world, so our lives depended on the speed, reliability and capability of our vehicles to cross the vast, challenging desert landscape as fast as possible."

For Holgate Senior, this was the final piece in a lifelong dream.

"Yes – we must be crazy to travel to one of the most challenging regions in the world at this time, but as always, we’ve been touched by the strength of the human spirit and the goodness of ordinary people we met along the way."

This wasn't just a sightseeing trip. The expedition team got involved in humanitarian work throughout the countries, distributing about 4,150 mosquito nets in malaria areas, 2,590 reading glasses to those with bad eyesight, 1,442 LifeStraw units for safer water, wheelchairs and reached thousands of children with conservation education through their elephant art programme.

PICS: Kingsley Holgate conquers the heart of Africa

The expedition was also the first major test for the recently-launched Land Rover Discovery, braving a literally all-terrain drive throughout the continent.

The other extreme geographic points in Africa that the team reached on previous trips include Cape Blanc, Tunisia in the north, Cape Agulhas, South Africa in the south, Cape Vert Peninsula, Senegal in the west, the 'heart of Africa' in the Republic of Congo, Mt Kilimanjaro as the highest point and Lake Assal as the lowest point.

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