May 05, 2012
Visible from space, The Great African Rift Valley is the world’s largest surface “crack’ formed as a result of seismic activity of galactic proportions carved through the African continent nearly 20 million years ago. This fault line that ripped through Africa from Ethiopia's Red Sea shore to Malawi and Mozambique, has segregated the plains of Kenya and other East Africa countries from the tropical rainforests and deserts of the rest of Africa. Rich in wildlife, cultural diversity and scenic splendour, the Great African Rift Valley forms one of the most fascinating areas on earth.
The clear objective of this expedition is to use adventure to improve and save lives through a continued link to the United Against Malaria partnership. Our mission was to reach as many villages and educate and distribute nets to as many mothers and pregnant women as possible.
Like the old day’s when ever we got a chance “signal in this case” we would send a dispatch ( using modern technology ) to inform those left behind of our journey. Based on my nibble fingers – I was voted the team scribe, where Kingsley and I would sit and he would dictate his thoughts on a couple of lines while I tried to influence every word.
The story of our Journey
Dispatch 1: Safari Ndefu
It’s exciting when a plan comes together, the team have all arrived safely at expedition base camp. New expedition volunteers are Barry and Cedric Leitch, colorful characters who will assist with humanitarian work. Our Swahili interpreter and United Against Malaria educator is Lumbaye Lenguru, a veteran of many Holgate adventures. As they say in East Africa "Safari Ndefu", meaning - it's a great journey.
Dispatch 2 : Tough going in the Big Wet
The big rains have arrived late and we are in the thick of it - 15 people drowned in the Rift Valley whilst others made homeless by mud slides. Rained out last night but the sunrise views over the Rift with Mount Kenya in the distances made it worthwhile. We have commenced humanitarian work – doing what we came to do ... Will keep you posted.
Dispatch 3 : At the source of the Nile
We reach the Lake Victoria source of the Nile, where Jon and Trish Dahl from Nile River Explorers continue to support the expeditions’ humanitarian work. That night the rain drums down on the fly sheets of our tents. Tomorrow we must push to reach the Murchison Falls for the start of our journey down the Western Rift. Will keep you posted.
Dispatch 4: Village of Champions
Chief game warden of Bogoria , William Kimosop leads us in the foot steps of Gregory the Scottish geologist who in 1893 named this jagged rupture the Great African Rift Valley. We make it to the top of the Cherangani Hills to Iten where athletes and counselors endorse the expedition scroll - this high altitude village of champions has churned out a number of Olympic gold medalists. And they thank us for the humanitarian work we have done in the valley below. Uganda and the Western Rift - here we come ...
The ticks in the note book total 257 - our hippo count between Murchison Falls and our base camp. A massive croc, the biggest we have ever seen on any expedition, slides off the bank close enough to splash us. Elephant and buffalo abound. Later in the village of Mubako every mum receives a life saving mosquito net and those that need, right to sight spectacles. South down Albert, formerly Lake Mabutu Sekoseko and on the other side the blue mountains of the DRC - small bites sizes, one day at a time, we inch our way down Uganda's Western Rift ..
Dispatch 6 : Journey down the Western Rift begins
Leon Steyn from Wild Frontiers leads us by boat into the turbulent waters below the Murchison Falls - where the wide languid Nile is transformed into an explosive froth of thunderous white water as it funnels through a narrow cleft in the Rift Valley Escarpment - is easily the most impressive sight of its type in east Africa. And we add more water to the expedition calabash ...
Dispatch 7 :
We reach the Semliki River. It's wild and beautiful but malaria is rife. We have sent word ahead and each mother and child at the Rwebisengo Clinic receives malaria prevention education and a PermaNet. Malaria kills more people here then anything else. A small ferry boat pulled on a rope takes us across to the DRC as armed soldiers look on with amazement as we add a sip full of Semliki water to the expedition calabash.
Dispatch 8 :
This close to the DRC border there are security concerns so we camp amongst some thatched huts that serve as military barracks. The friendly Ugandan soldiers tell us that over there across the river there is no government and that rebels can make it difficult. The next morning the mythical Rwenzoris throw off their blanket of clouds to reveal the famed ‘Mountains of the Moon’ - snowy sources of the Nile. What an adventure ...
Just south of the equator near the foot hills of the Ruwenzori's a cessna caravan bounces down the dangerously wet grass air strip. Out steps Les Sutton who is the media and PR person for Land Rover, she is a veteran of many expeditions and with her are a team of colorful journalists who will leave with stories of our Great Rift adventure. That night to the grunting of hippo, the heavens open and the equatorial rain drums down on the fly sheets of our small expedition tents, pitched above the Kazinga Channel that links the Rift Valley Lakes George and Edward in Uganda's game-rich Queen Elizabeth Park. Drenched to the bone we keep our spirits up with raised enamel mugs of renoster koffie - cheers.
Flooding plays havoc, roads washed away and bridges gone but the ability of the expedition Landies allows us to zigzag along the Rift Valley escarpment to the world heritage site of the impenetrable forest of Bwindi. The Zen of Travel is with us and the team has incredible mountain gorilla sightings. It's a unique privilege to gaze into the soft brown eyes of a silver back. Then it's back down into the Rift where a team of volunteers are coming in for more humanitarian work - will keep you posted.
Dispatch 11: Through the eyes of a volunteer :
The trip lasted 3 weeks, but I had lived a lifetime and served many nations with the hopes of saving one life. As a volunteer on the Great African Rift Valley Expedition I had the privilege to gaze into the eyes of the majestic gorilla's. I drove to places where only a Land Rover could take you and shared in jubilations with people who only wanted to see their children grow up and be proud parents. The raw sophistication of Africa reminds me where true Ubuntu began and what to be truly humble means - the movement was called United Against Malaria but the essence of who we are remains the true message. An experience of a lifetime - a blessing from mother Africa.