Land Rover Dispatch 38 – Great African Rift Valley Expedition: Still on Track and the Landies haven’t missed a beat

We welcome in 2012 by preparing to set off on the 2nd Chapter of our world first Land Rover supported geographic and humanitarian Great African Rift Valley Expedition to complete the Rift from Djibouti on the Horn of Africa to Gorongosa in Mozambique.

Behind us now is Chapter 1 with the colourful expedition send-off from the Johannesburg International Motor Show, the shipping of the expedition Land Rovers and kit around the dangerous Horn of Africa; The successful United Against Malaria event at the Nelson Mandela College in Djibouti at which we handed over a message from Andile Mandela (Madiba’s grandson); Making it to the Gulf of Tadjora on the Red Sea for the geographic start point of the expedition, following Seven Summiter Mike Nixon as he mountain biked across the salt flats of Lake Assal, lowest land point in Africa deep in the heart of Afar Triangle where the dagger-carrying, gun toting Afar warriors once had the unpleasant habit of lopping off the testicles of intruders like ourselves. Behind us now are the mountainous Land Rover testing camel tracks and the journey to the crocodile filled lake that forms the mouth of the Awash River and the Afar smuggling route between Ethiopia and Djibouti. We’ve reached ‘Deset’, the lowest island on earth and on foot through the night with a camel to carry the drinking water and men armed with AK47’s for protection we made it to the rim of the lava spewing active volcano of Erta Ale.

In the Landies we bounced and boulder hopped over solidified lava flows and moonscapes and with tyres down to one bar, crossed the Danakil Desert, got hopelessly lost, but eventually made it to the multi-hued sulphurous wonderland of Dallol near the Eritrean border, in where we followed Mike Nixon on his mountain bike as he battled a headwind across the glaring white geyser spewing salt lake of the Danakil Depression, known as the hottest place on earth. From below sea level we followed the ancient camel track passing hundreds of camels loaded with tablets of trade salt bound for the 2000 metre high Rift Valley escarpment markets.

Dressed in beanies and jackets we zigzagged the overloaded expedition Land Rovers through the hills of Maychew, and then we dashed through the lands of the Nilotic Oromo people to the ancient walled city of Harar where we watched in amazement as Abbas the Hyena Man feeds these carnivores pieces of rotten camel meat from the end of a short stick held between his teeth. He asked us to participate – Bloody scary!.

Thanks to the Zen of Travel, a great expedition team and wonderful support from friends and sponsor partners, we’ve survived chapter one as we crisscrossed across the sometimes dangerous Afar Triangle section of the Great African Rift Valley from Djibouti on the Horn of Africa to Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia.

Throughout the journey we continued to distribute life saving PermaNets to pregnant mothers and mums with children under 5, LifeStraws for safe drinking water and Rite to Sight spectacles to the poor sighted.

Chapter 1 – Mission accomplished. Ahead of us lies Chapter 2 – it’s longer and equally unpredictable and challenging: a Land Rover journey to connect the fascinating Rift Valley lakes and nomadic tribes of Southern Ethiopia all the way South to the inland Jade Sea of Turkana, considered the world’s largest desert lake. Still 9 chapters to go – we’ll keep you posted.