The South African-based Kingsley Holgate expedition team has reached Nordkapp in Norway's Arctic Circle after nine months and close to 35 000km since setting out from Cape Agulhas on the southern tip of Africa.
It is the first “Hot Cape to Cold Cape” transcontinental expedition to travel the length of Africa and Europe in recent years, and was two years in the making. The expedition is also the 40th geographic and humanitarian odyssey by the renowned explorer.
Speaking from Nordkapp, a jubilant Kingsley Holgate said, “At the latitude of 71º north, this is the most northern extremity of Europe you can drive to. Here, 300-metre-high sheer cliffs plunge down into the Arctic Ocean, which stretches to the North Pole.”
Holgate said they arrived in the midst of an unseasonal Arctic storm with howling winds, thick mist, freezing rain and near-zero temperatures.
“But despite the severe conditions and over 270 days of hard travel since leaving Cape Agulhas, it was a momentous moment for the entire team as we proudly flew the South African flag at Nordkapp's famous Globe monument, which marks the 'top' of the world,” he said.
To give the occasion some African flair, the team built an isivivane (stone cairn) on the Nordkapp cliffs topped with pebbles from Cape Agulhas, and symbolically emptied seawater collected from Africa’s southern tip where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet and carried the well-travelled Zulu calabash.
The team travelled in three expedition-kitted new Land Rover Defenders and conducted humanitarian work that assisted 300 000 people along the expedition’s route through Africa.
Kingsley Holgate’s son Ross Holgate, expedition leader and logistics expert, revealed that travelling through Africa was not without challenges.
“When we started from Cape Agulhas, cross-border travel was extremely difficult because of Covid-19 restrictions. Add to that, wars and uprisings across the breadth of North Africa meant that for the first time in decades, Africa was pretty much off-limits to overland travellers,” Ross said.
Ross revealed that they had to reroute to avoid the civil war in Ethiopia and travel through disputed territories between South Sudan and the Republic of Sudan. In doing so they inadvertently became the first expedition in 30 years to cross Africa from south to north through the two Sudans.
Upon reaching Europe, the expedition travelled though Greece, North Macedonia and the western Balkan countries of Kosovo and Serbia. It also rerouted through Montenegro to reach Hungary and Slovakia.
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 in an effort to avoid the war in Ukraine.
“The challenges of these past nine months were all the more worthwhile when the three battle-hardened Defenders finally reached the cliffs of Nordkapp and ‘Shova Mike’ Nixon, who cycled much of the route from Cape Agulhas, arrived on his gravel bike in the freezing Arctic mist and rain,” said Ross.