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Mzansi Edge Expedition Continues Tracing South Africa

  • Greg Fitzgerald
  • Dec 4, 2020

Mzansi Edge expedition lined up with their Land Rovers

 

Kingsley Holgate, consummate African adventurer, humanitarian, and Land Rover fan, continues his journey around South Africa's edge with his team on the Mzansi Edge expedition. Using a collection of Land Rovers including the new Defender, they are two months into tracing the boundaries of their homeland.

Holgate took up the Mzansi Edge expedition on the heels of the pandemic, which shut borders. When you can't travel overseas, what better way to explore than to trace the extremes of your own country? And so they loaded up the Landys and headed off, with intent to trace both the outer borders of South Africa as well as the inner border around Lesotho, a separate country completely enclosed by South Africa.

The expedition kicked off on September 18th at Kosi Bay, at the far eastern reaches of South Africa on the border with Mozambique. The team filled a calabash, a traditional Zulu container, with water from the area, to be mixed along the way with water from other parts of South Africa.

 

man filling calabash with water

After some humanitarian work in the area to distribute food, clothing, and face masks, it was off along the Mozambique border to begin the counter-clockwise circuit. They drove the edge of Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), through the world's oldest mountains, the 3.6 billion-year-old Makhonjwa Mountains. The drive was a flurry of 4x4 tracks and stream crossings, keeping Land Rovers old and new in first and second gear, low range, and taking full advantage of the almost-three-foot wading depth of the new Defender and Discovery 5 in the convoy. The team also includes some mountain bikers, who made better pace than the trucks!

They followed historic tracks from mining days in remote parts of the Mozambique border. They ran into issues with border guards several times -- this area is a relatively porous border, and a frequent place to smuggle stolen South African 4x4s across the border for sale. With a convoy of late-model Land Rovers, suspicions were raised. But some radio calls and paperwork soon had the informal rock barricades cleared.

 

border guards questioning the Mzansi Edge expedition

 

The expedition traced the Limpopo River, the border with Zimbabwe and Botswana, where days of rain turned the dirt track into a sloppy mess. That led to the Namibian border, and several days of dune bashing in the Kalahari. It took a week to transit the Orange River border with Namibia, with heat beating down. At the Atlantic Ocean, more water was added to the calabash before turning south and tracing the edge of the Atlantic.

 

Defender driving through mud in the Kalahari

 

Having come back to the province of KwaZulu-Natal where they began, the convoy has currently turned inward to trace the inland Lesotho border. It's a race against the weather. The team was actually able to cross one border, travelling into Lesotho after a Covid test to climb the Sani Pass, an iconic African route that they transited with Series 1s in 2016 to celebrate the end of Land Rover production. With Lesotho also on lockdown for months, the route had suffered, and reverted to perhaps wilder ways.

 

Sani Pass

 

Of course, the expedition has a primarily-humanitarian purpose, and they have distributed humanitarian aid throughout the journey, to many places which have been left somewhat behind during the lockdown. Many times, team members have broken out of the convoy to distribute food and health supplies in villages near the route.

 

recipients of the humanitarian aid from the Mzansi Edge expedition

 

Overall the new Defenders have performed flawlessly, on what may be their biggest test of an expedition yet as the launch year was complicated by the pandemic. They've been more than up to the trails, and have held their own mechanically -- while the two support classical Defender 130s have needed a few traditional bush-style hacks to keep going. Certainly, it's good news for the future of Defenders in remote places.

Mzansi Edge is nearing its end, but keep an eye on the Kingsley Holgate Foundation's Facebook page and website. They are always on some adventure or another around Africa, doing good work and showing off the beauty of Africa in well-travelled Land Rovers.


  • Written By
  • Greg Fitzgerald
  • Adventure addict. '90s Land Rover daily driver. Historic preservationist. Personal vehicles: 1994 Discovery I, 1994 Range Rover Classic, 1961 Series II.
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