DISCO’S CAN DO IT – An Expedition Dispatch from Kingsley Holgate

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Modern Day adventurer Kingsley Holgate and his expedition team have reached the halfway mark of their latest expedition to link 2 oceans, 9 countries, 7 Transfrontier Conservation Areas, more than 30 Nature Reserves and Game Parks and more importantly the communities adjacent to and within these areas.

Backed by the governments of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, this world first Land Rover expedition will map out a Boundless Southern Africa adventure route that other 4×4 enthusiasts can follow.

As in all Kingsley Holgate led expeditions, there’s a link between nature, culture and community. Projects that include One Net One Life malaria prevention, Rite to Sight spectacles, box libraries and writing materials to remote schools and this time round the distribution of LifeStraws for purified water, especially important in high risk cholera areas.

To further connect with communities alongside conservation areas the expedition is holding regular Boundless Art Competitions for conservation and a series of Boundless Soccer Challenges – part of a rural world cup for conservation leading up to 2010. There’s even a team of 4×4 adventurers that go ahead to mark out fields, put in goals and nets and provide balls, trophies, bibs, whistles and man-of-the-match certificates.

As on all Kingsley Holgate journeys the expedition started with the collection of Indian Ocean seawater water into the much travelled Zulu calabash that has become a trademark of all expeditions. Iconic bits of water are being added from along the route. Tugela River water from the lip of Africa’s highest waterfall high up on the Drakensberg Mountains, from the Bushman’s, the Senque, the Umhlatuze, the Umfolozi, Hluhluwe, uMkuze and Pongola Rivers in KZN and from lakes Bangazi, St Lucia and Sibaya. There’s Mozambican water from the Futi Corridor and a pan in the beautiful Reserva Especial De Maputo.

There’s water from the Usuthu River in Swaziland, the Crocodile, Sabi and the Olifants in the Kruger National Park. There’s water from the Masangir Dam in Parque do Nacional do Limpopo and in Gonarezhou, the Runde, Save and Mwenezi. Too many to mention – the Luvubu at Crooks Corner, water from the flooded Shashe as Kingsley and a team risked the crocs to swim and wade across to Greater Mapungubwe. There’s water from the Makgadikgadi Pans and from amongst the elephants and hippos on the Boteti River, the Chobe, Zambezi, Kwando, Linyanti and Okavango.

The interest from the nine governments for the expedition community days is phenomenal with ministers, community leaders, soccer players, school children, volunteers, anybody with a passion for nature, culture and community getting to endorse the Scroll of Peace and Goodwill that is being carried from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. The story of the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition is being told in a series of dispatches taken from Kingsley’s expedition journal. This one is all about 4×4’s and is best told in his own words…

With all this activity, extra Land Rovers and a number of volunteers have joined in to help and, as always after a hard day around the campfire at night, we get to discussing 4×4’s – the fastest, the toughest, deep water crossings, mud and deserts, tyres, roofracks, bullbars, suspensions and loading capacity. Another enamel mug of Captain is poured and some goat sizzles on the coals. Tonight I’m having my leg pulled. “You look great in an old Landy Defender. But now you’re pulling the ring out of it,” laughs Hugh Roe, who’s just flown in to the Zambezi from Cape Town, he’s a great guy to have on expedition. He’s even been with us down the Niger to Timbuktu as a volunteer on the recent Outside Edge Expedition when we took three Landy Defenders on a 448 day journey through 33 countries around the Outside Edge of Africa. “But to see you and Ross leading the convoy in Land Rover Discoveries – isn’t that an incredible break in Defender tradition?” questions Hugh again with a broad grin. “You’re bloody right,” I reply, as I throw another piece of Camel Thorn on the fire. “It was a huge leap in faith, but I’d figured we’d done our time in old Landy Series 1’s, 2’s and 3’s, forward controls, TDi’s and remember Hugh we even took two Defender TD5’s around the world on the Tropic of Capricorn. We’ve had the shake, rattle and roll, the familiar growling of the engine, the hum of the transmission, rain leaking onto the accelerator foot, the hand-brake wedged against your left calf – Landy Defenders will always be part of our lives, we love them. Look around you, Hugh. On this expedition there’s an old 130 long-wheel base TD5 that has spent seven years on various journeys in the footsteps of famous explorers – she became part of a book and a documentary; there’s even a little canvas top 90 shorty that’s doing the mapping for Garmin; and as part of the convoy, the old battered Grindrod branded Africa Outside Edge TDi that now carries the mosquito nets, libraries, soccer balls and a PA system that’s used at the Boundless soccer games. She’s joined by an old green TD5 double cab that’s loaded to the hilt with expedition supplies.”

But Hugh won’t give up. “Be honest, how are the Disco’s really doing?” he niggles. “Can they really do the job or will you go back to Defender?” I call expedition photographer Mad Mike over and ask him to flip open his smash proof laptop on which there are hundreds of great expedition visuals. “Here’s the proof, Hugh – have a look at these…” He can’t believe it – pics of the Discos’ piled high with equipment, boulder hopping over high mountain passes in Lesotho, carrying kit for community days, ploughing through soft sand, wading through rivers, lying side-ways in gooey mud on the Angolan border, bouncing over Mopani pole bridges in first gear low ratio and being scratched and bruised as we follow the overgrown Old Cattle Trail from Nxai Pan to Pandamatenga – more than three months of tough expedition work already behind us, and they haven’t missed a beat. I nudge Hugh in the ribs. “We’ve earned it my friend, no more back-ache, you flick a switch and the air suspension rises, flick another and you’re into high or low ratio, twiddle a knob and you’re into rock crawl, mud ruts, sand or gravel – you can even move over to command shift. 3rd‘s great – it eats up the soft Kalahari sand tracks, just click off the DSC and idle along at low revs which means you don’t chow diesel. When it comes to doing a bit of towing and recovery work, she’s a demon.” We’ve never had it so good, and in keeping with the exploration nature of our journeys, we’ve now nicknamed the two Disco’s Livingstone and Stanley…

Next day I hand Hugh my Disco keys. “Here Hugh, you’ve got Livingstone for the afternoon.” I squeeze behind the wheel of the old Defender 130. There’s that old familiar smell and feel, the grunt and growl of the engine and the pitch and roll as we make our way forward along a rutted track through flooded pans. It’s not 20 minutes and Hugh’s excited voice comes over the radio: “Jeez Boss,” he says excitedly, ” now I understand what you mean…