Fortunately we left Mayoka when we did because if we had not, we would have missed out on one of the Golden Moments of the trip. That one extremely coincidental occurrence that we will always remember.
We met Kingsley Holgate – the legend himself and his incredible team, in a coffee shop in Mzuzu. Seriously, what are the odds of that?! It felt like our own version of “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” when Stanley found found David Livingstone on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Definitely not such a big event in his life but for us – truly memorable.
Kingsley has been described so many times as a bear of man but honestly, that is really the only accurate way to describe his physical form. In direct contrast to that, he is such a humble, friendly, sociable guy. The amount of times he must have been approached by star-eyed fans like ourselves must be uncountable, yet he never gave the impression that we bothered him even if we did interrupt his nice lunch and coffee break in this little town in northern Malawi. They were off on their new adventure to the horn of Africa with the new Land Rover Disco 5 (http://ewn.co.za/2017/10/02/kingsley-holgate-braves-the-horn-of-africa) and we caught them just in time before the left for their overnight stop in Chitimba.
We took photos, he wrote a note on Bertus and while I signed his expedition book I realized that this is one of those moments in time I really do not want to forget. If it wasn’t for the bush-note on Bertus I would’ve sworn I imagined it but no, there it was and I had the photos on my phone to prove it! We left Mzuzu still a bit giddy about what just happened, peeking at the bonnet just to make sure that the bush note was still there, that the wind did not wipe it off. We were off to Livingstonia but in my heart I was tagging along with the Holgate team to Ethiopia.
Livingstonia is a small town that, in my opinion, got its claim to traveler-fame from the road leading to it. It has 20 steep hairpin turns over a span of 10km, climbing 700m in altitude. It was a road everyone said we would not be able to do with a beetle. Guys with motorbikes (whose skills I know question), people in 4×4, locals. Everyone. It has been a while since we’ve been told what we cannot do so naturally, it had to be done.
The 10km takes about 1 hour to complete so we estimated it would take us worst case scenario 30 minutes longer. We reached the base just after 15:00 and with the sun setting in a couple of hours we did not feel comfortable tackling the road that late in the afternoon. While it is all fun and games proving people wrong, we are not reckless. This road, if it is half as bad as everyone says, requires the right amount of respect. Besides it was one of those uncomfortable hot days which is not only bad for Bertus but also slightly unbearable without aircon.
As we pulled into Hakuna Matata, a camp on the shores of Lake Malawi right at the base of the mountain we saw the 2 branded Disco 5s and the trusted, old Defender (okay, they might have mentioned something about staying here, and there might have been enough time to get to the top of the mountain but those are very big might haves and we could not be for sure. And it was really hot and the lake was just there, asking us to dip into it! We are NOT stalkers!)
This let to the most surreal moment thus far of the trip: sitting around a campfire with the Holgate team, renoster-koffie in our hands, munching on biltong and listening to their stories and they to ours. What really struck me was that this man who has done so much traveling and seen it all was able to still be interested in our story. He was not anything like I thought he would be, he was better.
It was over all too soon but when we reluctantly went to bed we at least have stories of pygmies in the congo, cops in Tanzania, arts and crafts purchases in Africa, trips to Australia and all their humanitarian projects (malaria net, spectacles and lifestraw distribution) to occupy our minds.
The next morning they were heading to Tanzania and we are going up the mountain but we first had to rescue them. My apologies in advance to anyone who thinks Land Rovers are the bees knees – for a R1.4 million car one would expect that it will be able to at least pull away in sand without having to deflate the tyres. Nope… while they focused on getting the massage chair settings right (yes, the car actually give you a massage while you drive – Bertus does the same although it is more of a sport, deep tissue massage than a nice relaxing hot-stone experience), Land Rover overlooked one crucial part of any 4×4: its off road capabilities. Tsk tsk. So with a quick push, off they went.