In the second of a three-part story, he tells us of what it was like to find the geographic ‘Heart of Africa’. It’s a story best told from his scribbled bush notes.
KISSING THE TAR
It’s an old expedition tradition that goes back at least 30 years. Imagine the scene as with great relief, a bunch of unwashed, very dusty ragamuffin travellers all pile out of their similarly dirty Landies, to kneel in a line on
the road, whereupon - and generally amidst hysterical laughter bordering on the insane - they make a great show of repeatedly kissing the tarmac. Don’t worry; we haven’t lost the plot - not yet anyway. This ‘Kissing of the Tar Ceremony’ is only allowed to happen after we’ve been subjected to the hardships of extremely challenging bad road conditions that have lasted for days. This can mean goat tracks, no tracks, deep rivers, endless ‘tree to tree’ out-of-the-mud winching, desert crossings, boulder-hopping, wash-away pole bridges, getting hopelessly lost and sometimes the fear of unexploded land mines.
This ‘Kissing of the Tar’ happens in Angola. That’s because behind us now is that supposedly six-hour road that became a two-day nightmare. Some tracks so bloody deep and the ‘middle-mannetjie’ so high that you could do a ‘Look Mom - no hands’ stunt on the steering wheel and leave the Landy to follow the track on its own. A track that has taken us through UNITA coun-try; and to think expedition member ‘Shovashova Mike’ Nixon on his moun-tain bike has attempted this sand track on his own. We find him asleep under a tree, dehydrated, with his head scarf completely pulled over his face to survive the mopani flies. He really has got ‘Heart’.
We push on up the spine of Angola; these highlands are exceptionally beautiful and empty of people – most fled to the cities during the civil war. We ‘camp wild’, enjoying the freedom and breathtaking 360° views.