Legendary explorer and Land Rover brand ambassador, Kingsley Holgate, has just returned from his latest expedition up the East coast of Africa. The Extreme East Expedition, using new Land Rover Discoveries, as well as the Holgate Foundation's own stalwart Defender 130, took the team from Kosi Lake, located at the easternmost point of South Africa, to Ras Xaafuun in Somalia, the most easterly point of the entire African continent. In reaching Ras Xaafuun, the expedition drove the entire East coast of Africa, including a secretive and dangerous run through war-torn Somalia.
The expedition has as its core purpose, the delivery of humanitarian aid to remote towns and villages where it is sorely needed. Kinglsey Holgate foundation focuses its humanitarian efforts in three areas that are of great importance to the people of Africa- Mosquito nets for the prevention of malaria, eyeglasses, and Lifestraw water filters for the prevention of waterborne parasites and diseases.
In traveling through Somalia, the team risked being attacked by militant Islamists such as Al-Shabab. Says Kingsley, ‘The threat of our team being attacked by Al Shabab, or kidnapped and held for ransom, was very real. We had to keep the expedition’s destination secret, to the extent that when we left South Africa, we created a false story that we were only going as far as the ancient walled city of Harar in Ethiopia.
The expedition left Kosi Bay in September. After passing through eight other countries, the expedition reached the Somali border just as tensions in the region intensified greatly. There was an enormous terrorist bombing in Mogadishu that killed at least 400 people, and US-launched drone attacks targeting IS terrorists in the Northern region of Puntland.
The expedition was escorted by 25 heavily armed Somali government troops in vehicles with mounted light machine guns, and the Land Rover Discoveries had to travel at high speed to avoid detection.
After a dangerous journey across desert and mountains, the group finally reached Xaafuun, perched on 200-meter high cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean. "We didn’t expect Africa’s extreme east point to be so dramatically wild, empty and beautiful," said Ross Holgate, the expedition leader and son of Kingsley Holgate.
"After six adventure-filled weeks, imagine our sense of relief as we attached a commemorative plaque of Peace and Goodwill written in Somali and English to the crumbling remains of the old Italian-built lighthouse."
"It was a solemn moment for all of us, emptying the expedition’s Zulu calabash of Kosi Bay seawater onto a small cairn of stones that we hurriedly built, and which now marks the most easterly point of Africa."
On their way home from Xaafuun, the expedition had a close call with Somali security officials in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland. The officials accused the expedition of either being spies or illegally prospecting for minerals, threatening them with arrest.
Says Kingsley, "It was a scary situation- they searched our vehicles and checked they weren’t bulletproofed. It was largely thanks to our expedition Scroll of Peace and Goodwill, with its messages of support from across Africa and previous expedition images, including the team with Nelson Mandela and other VIPs, that we were released. The Minister of Security turned out to be a friendly chap and even endorsed the Scroll with the words, 'You are very brave to visit Somalia at this time.'"
With the completion of this journey, the Holgate team has fulfilled two major goals - to explore every country in Africa by Land Rover, and to reach the seven extreme geographic points of the continent, all while conducting their humanitarian work that has touched so many people.
Says Ross, "Both en route and in Somalia, we distributed lifesaving mosquito nets to mothers and children in areas where malaria is rife, provided reading glasses to poor-sighted elderly villagers and in drought-ravaged communities, handed over Lifestraw units that each provide 30 000 liters of filtered drinking water to needy families."
"Yes, we must be crazy to travel to one of the most dangerous regions in the world at this time, but as always, we were touched by the strength of the human spirit and the goodness of ordinary people we met along the way. We had a window of opportunity and took our chances. The ‘Zen of travel’ was most definitely on our side."
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