By Bennett Oghifo
It is not every day one gets to meet and greet a legend like Kingsley Holgate, unless of course you have something to do with Land Rover. So, it was a pleasant surprise when Holgate showed up in the flesh at the Chiefs Camp, during the launch of The All-New Discovery, telling stories about his relationship with Land Rover. Holgate tells his enthralling stories overnight into the early hours of the next day, drawing his listeners, warmed by open fire and choice beverages, to corroborate some myths and positive stereotypes in their countries. He shared the myth he learned in Nigeria about Calabar women enchanting men who cross their path.
Holgate tells the gathering of crack journalists from the South African and sub-Saharan African region about his exploits driving the Land Rover far and beyond, traversing all African nations.
In all his trips, Holgate encountered some rough terrains that the Land Rover pulled him through and other situations that he needed sheer courage to overcome, like looking down the barrel of an automatic rifle wielded by a child soldier in the Central Africa Republic.
A welcome note Nicola Clarke, the PR Manager of Jaguar Land Rover, South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, left in the tent at the Chiefs Camp in the Big Five territory of Marakele National Park, in the heart of the ancient Waterberg Mountains, promised a night of rare and uncut fun.
“When we said this would be an adventure like no other, we really meant it. This is the first car launch hosted overnight in this fantastic National Park,” Nicola said in her note.
The route and launch location, she said were “chosen to highlight the environments in which the All-New Discovery comes into its own, as a versatile and spacious family car, ideal for exploring the country and as a true Land Rover, with our unparalleled off-road capability.”
Holgate not only left his stories of adventure on the minds of those gathered around the camp fire but also left a gift from the Holgate Foundation- a LifeStraw, an ingenious straw-style filter that lets one turn up to 1,000 litres of contaminated water into safe drinking water.
The Holgate Foundation has distributed these life-saving water purification devices, mosquito nets, among others, to thousands of people in rural communities across Africa, with the Land Rover as partner.
Asked about the dangerous situations he had come across while travelling all over Africa, Holgate said, “Of all the dangerous situations, I bet it always comes to human beings.
We have lions in our camps and crocodiles ripped our boat to pieces, chased by Hippos and all those wildlife things, but it is very hard to negotiate with a child soldier whose body has been cut with razor blade and cocaine rubbed into his blood stream.”
He told about being taken captive in the Central African Republic by a warlord from one of the tribes in Southern Sudan. “And they were going to kill me but I just took three steps and gave him a big hug.
I had an interpreter with me and he told him that we came in peace. We have had a lot of experiences but the bad experiences come from people. But having said that, we in South Africa have a word we say which is Ubuntu, which means we are what we are through other people.
If I were sitting here alone I will be nothing but I am someone because of all of you. My lasting impression of Africa is the sense of Ubuntu that I felt tonight passing the talking stick round the fire.”
Holgate said he always told people whenever he spoke in other parts of the world that there is something that is uniquely African. We don’t believe that Africa is the Dark Continent; we believe that Africa is a continent with an incredible heart.”
He was asked “who are you” by a journalist from the National Geographic Channel, after an expedition from the mouth to the source of the Zambezi River and while they were on their way to the Congo River.
He answered, “We are a mixture of rainbow national people. What we are is just an ordinary bunch of people with an extraordinary passion for Mama Africa.”
Holgate said he is writing a book titled, Africa: A Love Affair with a Continent, explaining that it is about the journeys he had made over 50 years; “we never use the word complete, you never complete Mama Africa.”
“It is a great privilege to do these journeys and it is a great privilege to do them with Land Rover.”
Just before Sunrise, the convoy of beautiful All-New Discovery vehicles made its climb up the seep and narrow path to the Lenongview Point, which is 2,100 metres above sea level.