Kingsley Holgate United Against Malaria Expedition 2010
Famed African explorer Kingsley Holgate will depart from South Africa on World Malaria Day in a caravan of ten Land Rovers to visit seven countries before June 7th and the start of the World Cup to raise awareness about malaria and distribute 5,000 PermaNet® bed nets along his journey to nine African countries. The expedition is being sponsored by Vestergaard Frandsen, Land Rover, Nando's, Motorola, and others. The expedition will culminate with an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro 2-7 June, and the unveiling of a PermaNet® bed net at the “top of Africa” to symbolically show that the 2010 goals of universal coverage can be attained.
- Learn more
about Kingsley Holgate
- Read more about the United Against Malaria Expedition
the expedition on Twitter
- Browse images from the expedition in Mozambique, Burundi and a football game with the President of Burundi
Dispatch 15: In search of Gustav
After having completed our UAM work in Burundi it’s now time to head into the Rusizi Delta by boat with armed rangers, trying to spot the killer crocodile called Gustav. It’s rumoured that he has killed over a hundred people and plenty of livestock. Explorers Livingstone and Stanley were disappointed. They’d hoped that the Rusizi would flow out of Lake Tanganyika to become the Nile Source, but it flows south into the lake instead.
We get startled by a big pod of hippos. The birdlife is tremendous. Still no Gustav. We hit a sandbank where the brown water of the Rusizi meets with the clear blue of Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest fresh water lake. For fear of Gustav the man-eater, no one is prepared to push the boat. Then using a paddle as a punting pole we get off the sandbank into the deep blue of the lake.
Still searching for Gustav, villagers claim they’ve lost goats and cattle. Back into the Rusizi Delta, DRC on the one side, Burundi on the other. Still no Gustav. He’s said to weigh over a ton. Low on boat fuel, we’re forced to give up the search for the evasive Gustav. We’re disappointed.
Despite the travel warnings, Burundi has been overwhelmingly friendly and we’re sad to leave. Thanks to Nando’s support we’ve done great malaria work here and even had a UAM football game with the President – it’s been a great adventure. Genocide-torn Rwanda, here we come.
Don’t know quite what to expect.
Dispatch 16: Genocide-torn Rwanda
Rwandan customs and immigration are friendly and welcoming. No litter, Rwanda must be the cleanest country in Africa. Once a month, all Rwandans help clean up the country, even government ministers get involved. The 2010 UAM Expedition is also about reaching iconic geographic points and the next challenge is to reach beautiful Lake Kivu by following a road that takes us through, the Nyungwi Forest, one of the most pristine rainforests in Central East Africa. Lake Kivu is a beautiful jewel in the necklace of Great African Rift Valley lakes. We explore the lake by boat and come across a herd of swimming cows island hopping, searching for better grazing. At another island thousands of fruit bats darken the sky. We make it to the North of Lake Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo on the one side, Rwanda on the other. It’s got a Wild West frontier feel.
At Kabuye we’re saddened by the mass graves and skulls at the church memorial where thousands were butchered. With heavy hearts we’re struggling to come to terms with the Rwandan Genocide.
Closer to Kigali across the Kagera River where during the genocide thousands of bodies where thrown into the river to float downstream to Lake Victoria, we come across the small brick-built corrugated iron roof church at Ntarama. On display are the clothes of the butchered and their skulls and bones. Even the bloodstains where at a little Sunday school children’s heads have been bashed against the wall. The genocide memorials are here so that people will never forget. It must never happen again. But fortunately at this place of sadness we are able to bring great joy to the local community through an excitingly frenetic United Against Malaria soccer game at a nearby local school together with malaria education, the man of the match wins a bicycle and the kids all sign the UAM scroll that we’ll be carrying back to South Africa in time for the World Cup.
Dispatch 17: At Kigali the expedition splits
Lesley Sutton from Land Rover and a group of UAM expedition volunteers fly into Kigali to meet us. Clean and safe, bustling Kigali is a great post-genocide success story, although once again we’re saddened by the visit to the Gisosi genocide museum where more than 250,000 victims lie buried. MTN has joined forces with us in Rwanda to assist with UAM work and they become part of a soccer day and a visit to a local orphanage. At Kigali the expedition splits with one Land Rover Disco 4 taking the team of Ross Holgate, Mike Nixon and André Bredenkamp to tackle the Rwenzories, the famed Mountains of the Moon. They are going to attempt to take a UAM banner, a soccer ball, PermaNet mosquito net and a vuvuzela to the summit of the 5109 metre high Margherita Peak on Mount Stanley. The Rwenzori range is a huge tilted block of rock, thrust up from the Rift Valley floor. They resemble a crocodile crawling from Lake Albert towards Lake Edward. From its snout near Bwera, its great back rises upwards for over 4,000 metres to snow-tipped spines. The tail then descends steadily for 85kms until the tip disappears into the floor of the Great African Rift Valley.
It’s a tough and dangerous 9-day climb and needs experienced porters and guides. Mike Nixon is leading the UAM Expedition climb – he’s well experienced, together with Andre being only two of the six Africans to have climbed the ‘Seven Summits’ of the world (the ‘Seven Summits’ is the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, including Mount Everest). If all goes well, they will speak to us by satellite phone from the summit. In the meantime, having completed our UAM work, the rest of the expedition will venture into the Virungu’s in search of mountain gorilla – we’ll keep you posted.
Dispatch 18: Gorillas in the mist
We arrive at Ruhengeri in Rwanda, the start point for our trek into the Volcanoes National Park, home of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. “You’re lucky, this was Dian Fossey’s favourite room,” says Peter the hotel porter, as our canvas bags land with a thud outside room 12 of our simple lodgings. I look up at a faded poster of a mountain gorilla riding on its mother’s back. “Dian stayed here just before she was murdered,” continued Peter, who added that now the rain had stopped, we should be lucky to see the gorillas ourselves. And next day we were! After a trek though the rainforest, here we are gazing into the soft brown eyes of a giant silverback and his family of mums and kids. The hour-long sighting passes in a flash of chest beating, frolicking, grooming and feeding activity. Words cannot explain it. It’s undoubtedly one of the greatest interactive wildlife experiences that one can ever have, made even more special by our guide Francois who had worked with and been trained by Dian Fossey. Back around a campfire in Ruhengeri, we share our individual gorilla experiences, look at our exciting visuals and think of the UAM Rwenzori team now on their first day of their long climb to get to the top of the Mountains of the Moon.
Dispatch 19: The beauty of Mama Africa
With the malaria prevention work in Rwanda now behind us, the 2010 UAM Expedition, now travelling by boat, has reached the Kasinga Channel that links Lake George to Lake Edward in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth Park. We’re back in the Great African Rift Valley – it’s a Garden of Eden – pods of fat, glistening hippo lounge around herds of buffalo, who this close to the equator love cooling themselves in the waters of Kasinga. Open-mouthed crocs face the afternoon sun, a spotted hyena stirs from its den, a trumpeting bull elephant with gleaming tusks gives us a toss of his giant head. The birdlife is unimaginable – it’s a show of diving kingfishers, nest building weavers, cormorants with wings outstretched to dry, open-billed storks, herons, fish eagle and tall marabou storks striding around like sinister undertakers, whilst African skimmers glide in front of the boat. We camp wild under the outline of the Rwenzories and gaze up into the mountains, wondering how Ross and the UAM team are getting on. Still no news! We have a wonderful sighting of giant forest hogs and their young – there’s a cacophony of frog calls, and in a distance the roar of a lion. “At least they’ve got a full moon to light their journey by,” says Anna wistfully, glancing up again at the outline of the mountain. “He’ll be fine,” says Mashozi, “he’s got two of the most experienced climbers in the world with him.” UAM volunteer William Gwebu throws some nyama on the coals and we sip our favourite blend of Captain Morgan Renoster koffie. And then comes the exciting satphone news from Ross: “Just two days to go and we’ll summit, it’s tough, but unbelievably beautiful, you can’t believe the vegetation. We’re all strong….” And then the phone goes dead, but it’s all we need to know.
Dispatch 20: They’ve summited!
Two days later and once again we get the news by satellite phone, this time whilst travelling by boat to the Ngamba chimpanzee island sanctuary near Entebbe on Lake Victoria. “Cut the engine!” shouts Mashozi. “Congratulations,” I hear Anna shout over the phone to Ross.
It’s great news, each wearing a UAM bracelet, they’ve taken a UAM banner, vuvuzela, a football and a PermaNet mosquito net to the top of the 5109 metre high Margeritha Peak on Mount Stanley in the Rwenzories. It’s a world first in the fight against malaria, and a great awareness campaign for the UAM partnership. If all goes well we’ll meet them in two days time at Jon Dahl’s Nile River Explorers camp above the Bujagali Falls at Speke’s Source of the Nile where it flows out of Lake Victoria. In the meantime there’s malaria prevention work to do and here on Lake Victoria we’ve been partnered by the reputable safari company Wild Frontiers who operate a camp on Ngamba Island from where we will distribute nets to communities on the outlining islands. Malaria is rife here. Ngamba is a beautiful chimpanzee sanctuary and one of the finest places to view and interact with our closest relatives. Please find out more and when next in Uganda, make a difference by visiting this highly worthwhile destination.
Dispatch 21 – A journey to summit the Mountains of the Moon
Part of expedition life are the colourful stories that unfold – this one, over a few Renoster Coffees around a hardwood fire in the Serengeti is told by Seven Summiter Mike Nixon who with Andre Bredenkamp and Ross Holgate have just succeeded in summiting the Rwenzori’s, famed Mountains of the Moon.
The idea of including high mountain peaks in the iconic African destinations in which the 2010 United Against Malaria Expedition Banner was to be flown was discussed with Kingsley Holgate in December 2009. It was agreed that a small team comprising of Mike Nixon, Andre Bredenkamp (both 7 Summiters) and Ross Holgate would attempt both Mount Stanley in the Rwenzori’s of Uganda, at 5109m the third highest peak in Africa, and a week later, Mount Kilimanjaro, at 5895m, Africa’s highest peak. (The Kili climb would include other team members.) The UAM 2010 Banner was to be flown at Speke’s Source of the Nile (Jinja, Uganda), the most Southern Source of the Nile in Burundi, the highest peak in Central Africa, Sapitwa on Mount Mulanje in Malawi and the Great Rift Valley Lakes of Central Africa. It was only fitting, therefore, that the high peaks in the Rwenzori’s and Kili, the largest free-standing mountain in the world, were added to the list.
And so we find ourselves in Kigali, Rwanda, bundled into a Land Rover Disco 4 with all our climbing kit, Ross Holgate at the wheel, racing for Kasese in Uganda where the guides ominously informed that it was an ‘out of dry season climb’, would be extremely wet, as a consequence we would be the only visitors to the entire Rwenzori Mountain National Park during the 6 day climb of Margherita Peak, the highest point of Mount Stanley, which was covered by Africa’s largest glacier. For Andre this made exciting news, but for Ross who had never worn a harness, crampons or handles an ice axe, the degree of trepidation was obvious, the immediate cure being the discovery at the base camp hotel of a generous supply of Captain Morgan.
The unparalleld beauty of the park was evident immediately after signing in at the entrance at Nyakalengija (1615m), pristine forests, waterfalls, prehistoric plant life awaited our first days and from a strenuous walk to Nyabitaba Hut at 2651m. Our porter team consisted of a contingent of 8 Bakonjo tribesmen (small, wry and exceptionally strong), a cook and 2 guides. The guides were both local tribesmen who had been working in the park for 40 years, prior to which and with the formation of the park, they were hunters. One duiker sold equalling one year of school fees! Their English was excellent so one can only guess at the demise of the duiker population to produce such grammatical accuracy!
As we crossed over the Mubuku River (2600m) on the second day and climbed out of the valley, the weather remained unseasonably dry, however, we were told to prepare ourselves for our first taste of the ‘boggies’. At the ‘Lower Bigo Bog’ we had to pass a flooded vlei of thigh high mud into which bamboo sticks and logs had been thrown on which we were supposed to balance to prevent being submerged. The guides produced their own Wellington boots with wader extensions – an ominous sign to those with just boots and gaiters! There is clearly a knack to bog walking with the porters and guides seeming to float above the ooze with short steps – should not be too difficult, we thought. A waist high “bog bath” ensued with stuck Wellington boots and disappearing walking sticks. The mud of the ‘Lower Bigo Bog’ only relented when we seamlessly entered the mud of the ‘Upper Bigo Bog’. Three hours of bog bashing water we had our first glimpse of Margherita Peak and the Stanley glaciers we reached the John Matte hut at 3505m. The mountain scenery remained breathtaking and we all commented that this was the most scenically inspiring park we had ever seen. Not withstanding the views, the altitude was taking an effect on the temperature which plummeted to near zero at night and down jackets emerged from our rucksacks. The good weather ended briefly the next day as we ascended out of the mountain forests and up to the alpine vegetation of Bujuku Hut at 3962m. It rained only briefly, but ‘how it rained’!
The guides introduced us to some amazing medicinal plants which apparently only occurred in the Rwenzori’s. These plants cured in no specific order such major ailments as excessive female menstruation, piles and a small male penis. After having vigorously convinced our guides that we personally require no such cures we moved on forwards and upwards through the inevitable bogs to Bujuku Lake and the hut of the same name (3926m).
The following day (Day 4) was crystal clear and we were happily informed by the guides that our bog walking would be restricted to the first hour’s walking. We soon realised why this was as after an hour we started ascending 35˚ slope up towards Elena Hut at 4541m. Not even bogs can apparently survive such inclines! The route took us out of the alpine vegetation and into the glacial rocks above 4900m where 30 years ago the entire area, including Elena Hut, had been covered by ice. The ice only now started at 4600m and receding fast, and if current melt pattern persist will be completely gone in the next 20 years. Speke’s famous discovery of ‘snow on the equator’ on the Mountains of the Moon looks doomed to be short-lived.
Elena Hut is built on exposed previously glaciated rock which was stark and barren compared to the rich green forests and plant life surrounding the other huts. Upon arrival for a 5am start the next day, immediate preparations ensued, ropes, ice axes, crampons and harnesses were readied for summit day. After a 4am breakfast, torch lights were on and we made our way up the rocks to the start of the Stanley glacier. While we waited for the sun to rise before venturing on the ice, we were happily informed by the guides in their duiker financed grammar that this was indeed a wonderful place for defecation should anyone need to partake.
Roped together, crampons crunching the ice, we proceeded to cross the Stanley Glacier. The weather immediately started to deteriorate and mist engulfed the mountain peaks. We remained in crampons for crossing the rocky section at 4900m between the Stanley and Margherita Glacier which stretches between the two summits of Alexandre. Margherita Peak is very steep – at times reaching over 50˚ - with no fixed ropes or ‘ascenders’. This was a ‘baptism of fire’ for Ross with his first time on ice but he proceeded well until the group came to its first major unplanned obstacle. A crevasse had opened up and blocked the traditional route to the summit. Judging it to be impassable, we proceeded almost vertically up the ice to an alternative route where fixed ropes had been fixed up a rock outcrop onto the summit ridge. Climbing with crampons on rock is not the easiest, especially for Ross, but we managed to haul ourselves to the summit ridge – the summit was reached after 6 hours of climbing.
The UAM 2010 Banner was unfurled, FIFA soccer ball, vuvuzela and mosquito nets were presented to the guides and photo session completed. The weather was turning worse and the guides keen to get going. After abseiling with crampons down the same rock face onto the Margherita Glacier we found the snow covering the ice had melted considerably and conditions were very tricky descending the steep ice slope. Suddenly there was a shout and Ross was gliding down the ice on his backside. “Arrest, arrest!” screamed Andre and Mike dived his ice axe into the ice face down and the rope connecting him and Ross tightened and Ross stopped. Adrenaline now pumping, the remainder of the descend was methodically slow but safe. One of the most interesting parts of a climb of Margherita Peak is that you can complete an entire circuit of the park and not have to repeat the route of the hike in. Therefore only one hour after arriving at Elena Hut we packed for the descent to 4023m and Kitandara Hut. Kitandara sits on a beautiful lake but we were all feeling the strain of a 14 hour summit day. On arrival, immediate sustenance was required and achieved by a double helping of Renoster Koffie (coffee and Captain Morgan) in celebration of our summit success.
A surprise awaited us the next day with a steep 300m climb to Freshfield Pass, then the inevitable but in this case exceptionally deep bogs, slippery rocks towards Guy Yeoman Hut at 3505m. By this time we were not even attempting to walk around the ‘boggies’ or the branches. Waist high mud ensued but our humour kept in tack! Guy Yeoman Hut was our last night in the park as we intended to start early (6am) and do a ‘double header’ – pass through Nyabitada Camp and back to the park gate in one hit, with enough time to spare to drive six hours to join the expedition team at Jinja for river rafting the next day. This we achieved by running with the porters and slipping our way down the last remaining ‘boggies’ of the expedition. The Rwenzori’s have to be one of Africa’s best-kept secrets. A must do for adventure junkies. The climb was organised by Wild Frontiers, their team was spot on!
Dispatch 22: Using the energy of the World Cup coming to Africa
There’s jubilation as the climbing team and the Land Rover team
all meet at Speke’s source of the Nile where the longest and most historic river
in the world flows out of Lake Victoria, Africa’s greatest lake. Using the
energy of the World Cup coming to Africa, we host a UAM soccer game on the banks
of the Nile and next morning the expedition team takes a UAM banner on a white
water raft down the Nile – Over she goes and the expedition team ends up in the
Land Rover Disco’s, one behind the other in the dust, across the Serengeti and the wildebeest and zebra are massing for the migration. Friends, journalists and UAM volunteers from Nando’s, Nikon and Land Rover fly in to the bush airstrip at Seronera to assist with UAM events. That night around the fire Sherwin Charles from Nando’s gives us the great news: The Nandocas volunteers from Australia who had visited us on Lake Malawi have ordered 250,000 UAM beaded bracelets – wow! That means valuable funding for more malaria prevention work – it makes us feel proud. Our Wild Frontiers tented base camp is deep into the Serengeti and our Land Rover Disco’s travel far to surrounding communities for the distribution of life saving mosquito nets and great fun UAM soccer days highlighted by the fact that the World Cup starts in just a few days time. The &Beyond Foundation assists the expedition with sustainable malaria work in communities close to the Ngorongoro Crater – we have been working with them for years and they tell us that there has been a noticeable reduction in malaria deaths thanks to our previous net distribution visit. At Karatu Secondary School with the commentator sitting with the mic on top of a Disco 4, it’s penalty shoot-out, the winning team holds the trophy high. It’s a floating trophy and the headmaster assures us that there will be more games in support of malaria prevention. Each of the 650 students receives a life saving mosquito net. The UAM 2010 Expedition is proving a great success and the support that we get from every quarter is humbling.
Dispatch 23: Bad news from Kilimanjaro
We get the bad news from Ross Holgate who is part of the team tackling the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Seven Summiter Mike Nixon, who was leading the climb has gone down with malaria on the mountain and has been casavaced to Cape Town. It just shows you, malaria does not differentiate, the minute anopheles can tackle the bravest and toughest of individuals. We count back the days – it’s quite likely that Mike was affected in Rwanda prior to their successful summiting of the Mountains of the Moon. We get hold of Mike in Cape Town where he has just had two nights on the drip in hospital. “Thank goodness Ross had a course of Coartem malaria cure with him and treated me instantly on the mountain, says Mike on the phone, “otherwise, weakened by altitude, I could have died.”
The good news is that apart from two other unlucky climbers who had had to descend because of altitude, the rest of the team, all wearing UAM bracelets and including cricketer Jonty Rhodes, are continuing with the challenge to take a vuvuzela, mosquito net, soccer ball and UAM banner make it to the summit of the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
With only seven days to go until the kick off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it’s important that they make it.
Dispatch 24: They make it to the summit for the end of another great expedition!
Whilst distributing nets, soccer balls and vuvuzelas to delightful little kids at the Watoto Care Orphanage at the village of Mto Wa Mbu, we get the good news via MTN airwaves: With just six days to go until the kick-off they’ve blown a vuvuzela from Uhuru Peak and are on their way down the slopes of Kilimanjaro. We all meet at the Keys Hotel base camp where hospital and maternity clinic officials have arrived for the handover of much needed mosquito nets. It’s a great celebration as malaria volunteers unite for an end of expedition Captain Morgan bash and the end of another successful Kingsley Holgate Humanitarian Expedition – 12,000 life saving mosquito nets in 12,000 kilometers, it’s a net per Land Rover kilometre and given the fact that the average mum shares a net with two or three infants, this could mean more than 30,0000 lives kept safe.
Now it’s a race against time in the Land Rover Discovery 4’s bringing the UAM scroll back to SA for the World Cup. Thanks for all your support, we could not have done it without you!