Nine months ago, Land Rover ambassador, Kingsley Holgate, and his humanitarian expedition team set out from Cape Agulhas on the southern tip of Africa with the objective of reaching the birthplace of Land Rover on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales. Now, 40 000km later, they have successfully completed the Defender Transcontinental Expedition.
This was Kingsley’s 40th geographic and humanitarian odyssey. His previous world-first expeditions include circumnavigating the world following the Tropic of Capricorn, a 449-day journey to track the outline of Africa through 33 countries, discovering the geographic centre-point of Africa deep in the rain forests of the Republic of Congo and being the first exploration team in history to reach all seven ‘extreme’ geographic points on the African continent.
He and his team brought their latest epic journey to a ceremonial finish by driving their three expedition-kitted new Land Rover Defenders onto the beaches of Red Wharf Bay. This is the very place where the first Land Rover design was sketched in the sand by engineer Maurice Wilks in 1947. Seawater collected from Africa’s southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, was symbolically emptied onto the beach from the team’s iconic Zulu calabash, which accompanies the Holgates on every trip.
The Defender Transcontinental Expedition was also a journey of purpose though. The six-member team conducted humanitarian work that assisted around 300 000 people along the route through Africa. The mission focused on malaria prevention, working with Goodbye Malaria in Mozambique, and assisting thousands of pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of five years in other countries where malaria is rife.
Humanitarian efforts also included the provision of eye tests and reading glasses to elderly people in remote communities, upgrading early childhood development centres, and delivering clean drinking water to draught-stricken regions of northern KwaZulu-Natal.
“When we started from Cape Agulhas, cross-border travel was extremely difficult because of Covid-19 restrictions,” explained Ross Holgate, expedition leader, logistics expert, and Kingsley’s son.
“Uprisings across North Africa meant that for the first time in decades, Africa was pretty much off-limits to overland travellers. We had to re-route to avoid certain areas and in doing so, we inadvertently became the first expedition in 30 years to cross Africa from south to north through the two Sudans.”
Reaching Europe, the expedition traversed Greece, North Macedonia and the Western Balkan countries of Kosovo and Serbia, including a re-route through Montenegro, to reach Hungary and Slovakia. To avoid the war in Ukraine, the team took roads less travelled through eastern Poland close to the border with Belarus and into the Balkan states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
From there they crossed the Baltic Sea and traversed the length of Finland, before crossing into Norway and reaching the most northern border point in Europe. Heading south, the team then drove through Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands before crossing the Channel into the UK.
“What has been an overwhelming experience of this journey is how ordinary people in every country we’ve journeyed through, no matter their age, nationality, culture, race or religion, just want to live in peace,” remarked Kingsley. “The expedition’s Scroll of Peace and Goodwill is full of hundreds of heart-warming messages.
“That’s one of the best things about expanding your horizons through travel and adventure; it gives one hope for the future.”