There’s always that familiar nervous feeling of anticipation at the beginning of a new adventure. The challenges of visas, money, equipment, sorting out the expedition Landies, carnets for the vehicles, first aid, basic food supplies, reference books and maps, letters of authority, GPS, bedrolls, tents, pots and pans, the old camp kettle, a Zulu meat dish, tools, high-lift jacks, binoculars, cameras, humanitarian supplies – the list seems endless.
But most important is a sense of humour, a passion for Mama Africa and that crazy zen of travel that’s allowed myself to adventure to every single country in Africa, including all of her island states.
It’s taken much of my lifetime, I have had malaria more than 50 times, some hardships sure, but mostly great memories of a wonderful continent that has stolen my heart and that of my son, Ross, and the rest of the band of delightful pilgrims that make these wonderful geographic and humanitarian adventures possible.
This time my adventure is a world first – a journey of discovery to a place at the geographic centre point of the African continent – the rainforests of the Republic of Congo, close to where Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Congo all meet. This journey will be grandly called the “Heart of Africa Expedition.”
The International Geographical Union (IGU) and the Department of Environmental & Geographical Science at the University of Cape Town applied the ‘centre of gravity’ method to determine Africa’s centre point, the same method used to determine the geographical centres of Australia and the United States of America. According to Professor Michael Meadows, Secretary and Treasurer of the IGU, the Geographic Centre Point of Africa is located at 17.05291°E, 2.07035°N, west of the Unbanji River and southeast of the Nouabale-Ndoki National Park.
We don’t know what to expect but our research indicates that the “Heart of Africa” lies in an area home to the world’s largest populations of great apes and forest elephant and is Africa’s most important stronghold for wildlife. Approximately 125,000 lowland gorillas live here alongside endangered pygmy elephants, forest leopard, golden cat, eight species of antelopes, three species of crocodiles, and chimpanzees, many of which have never seen humans.
The expedition route will take us from South Africa through seldom-visited areas of Angola, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the heart of Africa in northern Republic of Congo. Along the way we will carry out humanitarian endeavours in the countries we will be traversing, to include malaria prevention, the distribution of water purification LifeStraws and spectacles for the poor sighted through Mashozi’s Rite to Sight campaign together with much needed community conservation education.
We enjoyed an incredible send off and great solidarity as hundreds of Land Rovers escorted us out from the 2015 Land Rover Festival onto the Lesedi Cultural village where a traditional decorated goatskin gourde of water from the Cradle of Humankind was handed over to the expedition, together with hundreds off messages in an Expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill to be carried forward to the “Heart of Africa.” Mama Africa is full of great symbolism, isn’t it? Even the big Landy Defender supply vehicle that carries the humanitarian items has been nicknamed Ndhlovukazi – The Great She Elephant.
We will be sure to keep you posted about our adventures along the way.