A 30,000km geographic and humanitarian expedition through 30 African and European countries
Departing on 27 October from Cape Aghulhas, the expedition involves a 30,000km journey through 30 countries from the southern tip of the African continent to the most northern point of Europe, and then on to the mystical Isle of Anglesey in Wales.
Named the Defender Transcontinental Expedition, it will be the first real-life expedition test for Land Rover’s new Defenders outside of South African borders, across two continents and over some of the most extreme terrain on Earth, undertaken by an experienced team that has already completed 39 gruelling expeditions to every country on the African continent and beyond – many of them world-firsts.
Speaking from Afrika House, the expedition’s headquarters on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast, well-known explorer and author Kingsley Holgate explained that this two-in-one expedition has been almost two years in the making.
“All adventurers will agree, it’s time to move again. In April last year, after months of preparation, we were about to set off on a humanitarian ‘journey of purpose’ from the UK to South Africa to showcase Land Rover’s new Defender ahead of its global launch. But then, along came Covid-19 and put all those plans on hold,” said Kingsley.
“So, optimistically, we decided to turn things around and add even more adventure to the route. This expedition will be the first ‘Hot Cape to Cold Cape’ journey in recent years from South Africa’s Cape Agulhas to Norway’s Nordkapp in the Arctic Circle, which is the most northern point of Europe that can be reached by vehicle. It will certainly be a world-first for the new Land Rover Defenders.
“That’s just one part of the expedition goal. We’re keeping the ‘journey of purpose’ theme and will conduct humanitarian work to assist 300,000 people in sub-Sahara Africa. Then, in celebration of Land Rover’s 75-year heritage, the expedition will end on the Isle of Anglesey in September 2022, where human occupation dates back to the time of the Druids, and where the first Land Rover design was sketched in the sands of Red Wharf Bay by engineer Maurice Wilks in 1947.”
The core Holgate team will be using two expedition-kitted P400 Defenders for the entire journey, with other team members joining the expedition along the way in their own Defenders. The two Defenders are already well-travelled, having completed the Holgates’ 80-day, 16,000km Mzansi Edge expedition to track South Africa’s land borders and deliver humanitarian aid in the height of South African lockdown in 2020.
“After the launch from the Map of Africa monument at Cape Agulhas, we’ll tackle challenging 4x4 tracks through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal with plenty of humanitarian work en route,” said expedition leader Ross Holgate.
“All of our expeditions have the principle of ‘saving and improving lives through adventure’, so with the relaxation of Covid-19 regulations, we’ll be able to once again provide eye-tests and reading glasses to poor-sighted elderly people in outlying areas through our Mashozi’s Rite to Sight programme, which has already assisted over 218,000 people throughout Africa.
“Then in KwaZulu-Natal, we’ll be on a mission to reach the goal of distributing two million nutritious meals, in partnership with the Do More Foundation, to children at impoverished creches in rural communities bordering game reserves, as well as providing storage tanks, reservoirs and pipelines to communities that do not have access to water, before leaving South Africa.
“While there is huge global excitement around the new vaccine trial against malaria – an ancient and terrible disease – the World Health Organisation is still urging the ongoing use of insecticide-treated bed nets as the most effective form of prevention against a parasite that kills an African child every two minutes around the clock. It’s crazy to think that an illness spread by mosquito bites killed at least four times as many people in Africa last year as COVID did. And so, as we zigzag north across the African continent, this expedition will focus on the distribution of long-lasting, insecticide-treated mosquito nets to mothers and children.
“It will also provide access to clean drinking water for drought-stricken communities, continue the Mashozi’s Right to Sight campaign, and conduct educational conservation work with children living close to rhino and elephant populations. And to offset the expedition’s carbon footprint and help combat climate change, the expedition team will support the environmental initiatives of long-term community partners in sub-Sahara Africa, including spekboom and tree planting.
“We’re not setting out to break speed records on the ‘Hot Cape to Cold Cape’ section of the journey, so it’s not going to be a straight-line dash,” continued Ross. “We’re going to seek out demanding driving conditions and tough 4x4 terrain to reach iconic geographic points of interest and really put the technical capabilities of the new Defenders through their paces.
“There are going to be some extreme challenges. The route through central and east Africa will be at the height of the ‘big rains’, so we’re expecting very wet and muddy conditions for days on end. Crossing the dry and hot Sahel and Nubian Desert through Sudan and into Egypt will also be very testing for both man and machine. There are also geo-political issues to face, especially in Ethiopia and the Sudan. And then, there is the route through eastern Europe to Norway; that’s going to be an all new, incredibly diverse and stimulating experience for our Africa-based expedition members, whose last transcontinental journey was from Cape Town to Kathmandu in 2018.”
From Greece, the expedition will traverse eastern European countries and tackle exciting 4x4 terrain on its northerly journey through Russia and Finland to reach Nordkapp in Norway. The route then turns south through Sweden, Denmark and western Europe, before finally crossing the Channel into the UK and ending in Wales.
African symbolism remains a key focus of this new Holgate expedition. As always, the team’s well-travelled traditional Zulu calabash has a prime spot in the Defenders and will collect seawater from where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at Cape Agulhas, the expedition’s mid-point at Alexandria in Egypt on the Mediterranean, the Norwegian and Barents Seas at Nordkapp, and will be symbolically emptied at the expedition’s endpoint at Red Wharf Bay in Anglesey, Wales.
Four iconic ‘isivivanes’ (stone cairns) will be built at key points along the expedition route: Cape Agulhas, Alexandria, Nordkapp and Anglesey. The expedition will also be carrying a new Scroll of Peace and Goodwill from the southern point of Africa to the northern point of Europe and on to Land Rover’s birthplace in the United Kingdom. This scroll will collect hundreds of messages of support from citizens of 30 countries for a new and more hope-filled post-Covid world.
Follow the expedition on the Kingsley Holgate Foundation’s Facebook page and on Land Rover South Africa’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook
Humanitarian objectives include eye tests and reading glasses for the elderly in remote areas, the distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets to mothers and children, the delivery of two million meals to creches, educational conservation work near elephant and rhino populations, and the supply of water to communities with water shortages
The expedition’s carbon footprint to be offset through the support of environmental initiatives in sub-Sahara Africa, including spekboom and tree planting
A grueling real-world test of the new Defender’s off-road capabilities in some of the harshest terrains on Earth
Follow the expedition on the Kingsley Holgate Foundation’s Facebook page and on Land Rover South Africa’s social media accounts