Lesley Sutton from Land Rover is tracking Kingsley Holgate’s expedition to link two oceans, seven transfrontier parks and nine countries.
For once the Holgate party is not lost in Liberia or slogging through the mud of Cameroon as in the last expedition when Die Burger followed their humanitarian and geograpgic journey through 33 countries around the outside edge of Africa.
“Now it’s time to do something for Southern Africa,” said Kingsley when he last met with Lesley at a community day with King Langalibalele II of the amaHlube whilst in the foothills of the Drakensberg.
“This journey might be relatively easy geographically and it’s only a 120 days,” laughed the Greybeard, “but the vision is one of the greatest of all our expeditions. It’s the Peace Parks’ vision of great men like Dr Anton Rupert, Prince Bernard of the Netherlands and Madiba himself, a vision to unite nature, culture and community through transfrontier parks across Africa.” Via a satellite dish balanced on top of one of the Land Rovers, Land Rover receive these Dispatches from the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition.
A Rest Day in Paradise
In Mozambique, just north of Ponto de Ouro, in wood cabins set amongst the Casuarinas, with the waves running up to greet an endless white sand beach, a framed welcome to Ponto Mamoli message reads “Escape, Explore, Experience the magic of Mamoli – a place where one’s soul can take flight and come to rest on the ocean’s calm” This is the sort of place where you take nothing but memories and leave nothing but footprints. Charming Rose Bilbrough and her team are hosting us for a much needed rest day. They are delightfully hospitable. A huge seafood spread under the stars and trays of drinks from the bar – “Who says expedition life is tough?”
Barefoot in the sand, next day we explore this paradise. Once the headquarters of a titanium mine, now a tourism delight dedicated to marine protection and community involvement. We meet with the local kids. They lie on their little stomachs to draw; it’s an art competition.
Their interpretation of life around Ponto Mamoli is delightful; 4X4’s with boats and trailors, beach, dunes and coastal forest, dolphins and every shape and size of turtle (xicambani in Shangaan). I sit down with them. Caring for turtles is an important part of marine conservation – DON’T KILL THE TURTLES – DON’T STEAL AND DAMAGE THEIR EGGS, chant the bright eyed little children.
An elongated man with a big beard also features in their art. “It’s you, Papa King” laughs thirty year old Babu Cossa, our Shangaan/Portuguese interpreter whom years ago I met outside the market in Bilene and who’s been travelling around Africa with me ever since. He’s like a son to me. We hand out whistles, footballs and bright blue Grindrod sponsored laptop desks with a built in screwtop container for carrying clean drinking water to school.
With the sun setting over the distant Lubombo mountain range, Ponto Mamoli’s vibrant bar is filled with a buzz of patriotic excitement as the Blue Bulls from Pretoria anihilate the New Zealand Chiefs in a devastating, humiliating, record breaking 61-17 Super 14 Rugby Final.
Later Eduardo, the resident guitar man, strums a tune whilst beautiful brown-skinned Sandra starts singing the lyrics. It heats up as with her fingers she flirts with the hem of her traditional Mozambican capulana skirt and dances the Samba. Eduardo, not to be outdone, swings his guitar behind his head and in perfect harmony the couple sway enchantingly to a Latin American beat.
Wow! Ponto Mamoli is the sort of place you could lose yourself in. But we’ve got to head on to the Special Maputo Elephant Reserve, all part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation area on our journey to link seven Transfrontier Conservation Areas, two oceans and nine countries across Mama Afrika.
International Children’s Day, Reserva Especial De Maputo.
We’re just the catalysts a humble expedition to link Communities to Conservation across Africa we are joined from time to time by volunteers who share a common goal of using adventure to improve lives. Today fellow pilgrims of adventure Debbie and Martin Finch add these scribbles to the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition Dispatches…
Dif-lock and low ratio, tyres down to one bar, seven Landies plough out of our seaside camp at Milibilangala, led by Peace Parks Marine Specialist Miguel Gonzales, to a high point overlooking a stunning vista of pristine lakes, grassland and forest lining the sea.
Our two hour journey takes us past tranquil Lake Piti, unforgettably beautiful, khaki grass stretching to the fringing coastal forest, a solitary heron standing sentinel, a fish eagle soaring overhead.
Our Landies power on through thick sand and waist high grass – just visible above the grass are the heads of children making their way to Ecole Primaria Gala just three classrooms painted pastel pink, yellow and blue. The old fashioned wooden desks are all outside under the shade of a massive Mkuhlu tree.
Many dignitaries have come: local chiefs from Salamanga, Gilberto from Peace Parks and Nunu from the Ministry of Tourism have all braved the sand track to Gala just south of the Reserva Especial De Maputo (formally known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve. The Chief, a large smiling affable man dressed in a grey suit and a tie, welcomes the assembled crowd and applauds the initiative of Transfrontier Conservation and the international bonds being forged by the Boundless Expedition.
In the shade of two evergreen Mkuhlu trees Kingsley asks Martin and I to judge the Art Competition the work portrays a joyous love of colour, acute observations of life in a Transfrontier Park, and, the need to protect the elephants. There’s certificates and prizes, its an incredible joy for us as volunteers to be involved in grass roots conservation and to be accepted with dignity into community life, a reminder that there’s no place quite like Mama Africa.
The makeshift soccer field is cut by hand, a small postage stamp on an envelope of vast African grassland. Indigenous poles are the goal posts, brightly dressed spectators add colour to the Children’s Day Celebrations. A feisty group of female fans, race onto the field after every goal and then insist on their own game, completely upstaging the boys.
The Boundless Soccer Trophy balls whistles and bibs that are given to this school will not be the exclusive preserve of the boys. An Inguni beast has been slaughtered and the grand finale to the fine day is a huge feast of nyama, shared with every member of the community.
As visiting volunteers we only have 2 more days on expedition but it’s an adventure that will live in our hearts forever – Siyabonga and Well Done. We’ll meet again in the Kgalagadi.
Fellow pilgrims of adventure – we’ll keep you posted!