Africa Calling – expedition

One of the things we like about running inaugural trail races for the first time is the unknown and discovery, especially as there are no reference points of others to lean on. It makes the adventure just that little more exciting. There is not much that is unknown, except for each of us personally as we discover life, and in adventure travel there isn’t much that hasn’t been done. Until a pandemic came along…

Adventure is defined in various ways and subjectively so for a good reason. This is simply because each of our races are uniquely and beautifully different and are not worth comparing. Yet while adventure does involve an experience, possibly beyond one’s comfort zone that can evoke internal change, it usually does not involve the need to survive.

                               En-route to Mutukula border with Tanzania, Uganda.

Sometimes the biggest expedition we face as humans is getting over ourselves. Traversing overland via vehicle from Uganda back to South Africa for a season during a pandemic was an expedition. The risks were high, and as much as it was calculated, it was not done before. There were no reference points. Involving a whole lot of people that were not there in our overland traverse from South Africa to Uganda, traversing four African countries in this new reality was exceptional. This Tale goes into a little of what was involved - a true once-in-a-lifetime privilege:

Mission: to cross any South African land border post with 3 people (+ 1), South African registered vehicle and all personal belongings.

Situation: Global pandemic.

Borders to cross: Four.

Border statuses: Closed until further notice.

Countries to traverse: Four.

Country status: Various, from normal to State of Disaster to State of Emergency.

Route: Start - Kampala, Uganda, northern Hemisphere, heading south, crossing the Equator into the southern hemisphere, remote western Tanzania, the length of Zambia and one of either Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe or Mozambique, cross the Line of Capricorn and finish - over any border post into South Africa.

Type: Overland repatriation. Expedition.

Historical known success: Not known.

This Tale is dedicated and with gratitude in thankfulness to the Government of South Africa, the High Commissions of South Africa in Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka and Pretoria; the Department of Health and Foreign Affairs of Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa; the Department of Immigration of Mozambique; fellow Zambian and South African friends on convoy through Mozambique; our extended family and friends for their support and prayers all over the world; to Jesus our God and True Trailblazer. Hero.

                               Epic Tanzanian traverse leg linking two of Africa’s Great Lakes: Sunrise over Lake Victoria, Bukoba town, to sunset over Lake Tanganyika, Kigoma town, 580 kilometres in 12 hours, stopping only when absolutely necessary.

Sound mind, solid perception, self-belief that we can do this; and a ballast in faith in our God, the navigating through the journey from 4 May 2020 to 26 July 2020 involved some of the most intensely challenging, mental and physically taxing times in our life-journey. Digging deep didn’t matter anymore. We were in for the ride of our lives. It was about surviving and getting to South Africa. Expedition time.

                               Dusk, soon after crossing the Tanzania/Zambia border in remote north Zambia near Mbala town.

After a five-day transit through Tanzania, our time in Zambia seemed to be touch and go at times and highlighted the beauty in the exceptional – Africa is a continent of exceptions. It just is and its beautiful. The adventure was like nothing we had experienced before and it was like we were on this most incredible single track trail with absolutely no idea what the next few hours would hold - with drop offs either side of us, a thick mist that makes it difficult not to be disorientated, and at altitude where we felt we were just trying to catch our breath. We had to keep bags packed and we had to be ready to move at any time and go anywhere. But then, as overlanders we were somewhat used to this, but this was different. Joseph came down with his second bout of Malaria in a year and it seemed as if it was one disappointment after another after Namibia denied transit at the last minute. It was challenging to see any good from all this. But we had to keep believing, and just take one thing at a time.

                               The 200 kilometre long road between Livingstone and Katimo Mullio border with Namibia, southern Zambia, usually takes around 5 hours one way.

Exploratory overlanding involves a certain amount of autonomy that we felt was taken away from us, yet we learnt that the freedom to decide is not. We are all still responsible to make our own decisions. Every. Single. Second. God in His sovereignty allows that and as we made decisions, sometimes 50/50 take it or leave it ones, we had no time to question if it was the correct one. We could not doubt ourselves even though nothing was really certain. Nothing?

                               Shapes of Africa: Victoria Falls, standing on the Zambia/Zimbabwe international border line, Victoria Falls Bridge. Alone, except for his Green Mamba (South African passport) in hand, Joseph was permitted to walk to the Zimbabwean side and attempt to obtain permission to transit Zimbabwe within a 10 hour nonstop traverse.



Tears flow as we write this, as they did after we then attempted to transit on our own through Namibia. Was it worth the try? Namibia denied us again in person to transit at Katimo Mulilo border. Gut-wrenched and left wondering how hope really worked, we made our way back to Livingstone, patiently waiting for approval from one of our other neighbours. A week later we attempted the same on our own with Botswana at Kazungula border post and Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls border post on the same day. We were denied at both. More tears flowed like the mighty Victoria Falls and we felt like little mice scuttling along the southern border of Zambia trying to find a gap in the wall to take our chance. There was just no way.

                               Unimpressed with not being able to drive across Victoria Fall Bridge and transit Zimbabwe we decided to still build a replica in Livingstone. The repatriation reminded us that relational bridge building can be eroded so quickly.

Another level. Next level. Another page. We realise that when we find ourselves in situations we think we cannot get out of, that we would not be in them if we would not be able to survive. It’s not that obvious, especially when in them. Our minds can limit us. It is in situations like this that bring about the realisation that experiences and life before the here and now happened for good reason – preparation. And we still did not feel prepared. But we had to believe we were! We had to get through this (and to be honest at the date of publishing this Tale we are not over it).


"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

1 Corinthians 10:31


Had the worst come and gone, or was this expedition not over? Scenario planning, looking at options and just trying to survive mentally was challenging enough, notwithstanding the waiting. Until we got word…



The journey to and through Mozambique was around 3000 kilometres of driving almost non-stop (from Livingstone where we were residing in Zambia), and really not knowing how it would unfold. The important thing is that permission was granted to transit. Take what you can get! Just take it and GO! From Uganda and up to now, border crossings were on average 5 hours long. These durations and now even longer at Chanida border with Mozambique of 10 hours became the norm. No surprises. New reality.

Sometimes we wonder just how much more pressure we can take. We are limited. We ALL are. But we realise that we can take a whole lot more than we think we can. We may look back and see that, or maybe we just have to experience something out of the ordinary. But then again, we question what is ordinary.

IMG 20200724 164844Convoy line up and start, 17:00, 24 July 2020, Chanida border post, Tete Province, Mozambique.

Mozambique involved an escorted convoy of eight vehicles driving pretty much non-stop 1900 kilometres in 46 hours, with 5 hours sleep only permitted in our vehicles. And for good measure one of the vehicles broke down and was towed in the convoy for 1000 kilometres. Radical – by now we were well moulded and broken into a new reality that was as normal as the sun rising and setting, and rising again with pretty much no sleep. All 21 of us stuck together and crossed the South African border with the sun setting in the distance. Real.

                               Line of Capricorn, 04:00, 26 July 2020, Massinga, Mozambique.

Exceptional expedition.

                               Black Panther. Overlander. No instructions, just build. Quarantine, Mpumalanga, South Africa.

This Tale only scratches the surface. It is very personal. The trauma and pain is real and cuts deep. If you just read this you are privileged and a hero in your own right as we know that the pandemic has created your own intensity that we cannot resonate with and nor should we. You are running your own race of adventure, so answer the question:

“What race are you running?”

                               All four of us running to feel the Indian Ocean after quarantine, St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Thank you for reading this Tale. Keep running your race into every sunset. Everyday.

Soli Deo gloria

Africa Calling – Formosa
This is Africa


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