Original post published 1996, summary of my travels. Continually updated.
“15 August 1979, I was a young dreaming idealistic overland traveller on the shores of Alexandria Egypt, setting out to walk the length of Africa for Peace. The sun was hot, the waves of the sea were around my feet, as the salt water was left behind and was not seen again for another two years.
As a seasoned traveller from the previous two years traveling overland from my home country of New Zealand 1977, via Asia and the Middle East and some of Europe, I teamed up with a Londoner on an expedition of a lifetime. Trans Africa Walk Expedition For Peace. George Cunningham had initiated and planned this project as a symbolic break down of barriers by uniting the youth of Africa via walking through all its borders. He had arranged Patrons like the then President Kaunda of Zambia, Sir Geoffrey Arthur, William Benyon MP, David Fanshawe, Colonel Laurens van der post, Ian Player and Oxfam. So I just had to convince him that he needed a seasoned traveller to join a ‘mad Englishman in the noon day sun’. From the high Himalayas, to the private gardens of the Taj Mahal, to eating with the beggars on the streets of Mother India, to the magic of the Sinai Desert, the 14 herbs and fresh water on the top of Mt Sinai, to living in the caves of the Bedouins in Petra of Jordan, a walk through a minefield on the Israeli border and sleeping with ghosts on the top of the great pyramid of Giza, I was set to walk the length of Africa.
With so many traveling type shows on TV lately, (1996), it sometimes triggers memories on special days reinforcing that nature and life is really the same all over the world and life just goes on. So many stories that one-day I hope they get them recorded. But some special places inspired me to write this and forward it to all my web contacts on this anniversary day as I now travel the world via the World Wide Web, rather than on foot.
One of the most memorable areas was Nubia, of north Sudan, south of Lake Aswan. Our journey took us from Wadi Halfa in north Sudan down to Dongola, to Karima and the ancient pyramids of Merowe across the cataracts of the ‘S’ bend in the Nile. These people are a very noble proud race and culture. In an email with David Adams, (TV Journeys to the ends of the earth, he said in his program #11), he followed the footsteps of the ancients through Nubia, and he said life has not changed much there over the last 20 years since I walked it [in 1979-].
With a side trip we did to Eritrea, still in its double decade of war for independence, Mig jets flying over head, it reminded me of when I was in Afghanistan. At the great Buddha’s of Bamiyan, May 1978, when the Russians first invaded Afghanistan, with only a half page mention made in Time Magazine. It wasn’t till ten years later with 10,000 troops that the world cried out. Yet my first introduction to refugee camps in Sudan with uncountable people from horizon to horizon gives a sparkle of hope. One family had swept their little area clear of all dust. It stood out. Why were they different?
At the forks of the White Nile and near the Jonglei Canal project, south Sudan, while sleeping out in the open around an open fire with the nomadic locals, I remember I had a revelation of being thankful for what my parents had done, or actually for what they had not done, as this is what gave me my independence. I can still picture the local naked man who only had an old piece of sacking over his shoulder as his sole possession, and covered with flies. We were all treated as equals around the camp fire.
In Kenya, after a year on foot, some boats, some local trucks where it was not safe to walk, I parted the expedition. I meet up with an Australian midwife and went to help at Tom Mboya Memorial Health Center on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria. (see www Rusinga Island. ” It was here that Mary Leakey uncovered the three million year old skull of Proconsul Africanus. The earliest fossil remains uncovered on this dusty eroded island dates back some seventeen million years. Neighboring Mfangano Island is equally intriguing with some prehistoric rock paintings”. added 2008 see:
http://www.friendsofrusinga.org (these two sites have been unfortunately corrupted) .
George carried on walking, I heard that some two and a half years later with a few government changes, and escorts all the way, he reached Cape Town. His book “Journey to Become a Diplomat”, FPA Global Visions Books, 2005. (I am mention four times by first name only as though I was just going the same direction, yet who took all those photos? (added 2008).
After a nearly a year at the health center, delivering new babies, burying dead, learning so much about leprosy, tropical illnesses, flying with the Flying Dr Service as the famous Dr Anne Spoerry falls asleep over the autopilot controls and wondering what should I do,
( http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/obituary-anne-spoerry-1069846.html ),
( new book 2019 about Anne Spoerry, “In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement” by John Heminway, explained a whole new history showing “what war does to people in order to survive that we can never truly comprehend),
with some side trips to the Mts of the Moon Ruwenzorie’s in Uganda, crossing the great Serengeti west to east, climbing Mt Kenya via the north face and getting to the top as the sun went down in the west and a new full moon rose in the east, I left the middle of Africa. Ended up in New York City six days later in total cultural shock. Jumped when a light switch was turned on as I was still looking to the matches to light a lantern. Staring at stretch limousines…
Back in New Zealand four and a half years later, and today, the world still goes round…
MAX.3rd April 2008, George and I meet up again after nearly 30 years, and we are still the same. He was guest presenter at the Hillary Lecture held on this day at the Auckland Museum. Radio NZ interview with George Cunningham on Trans Africa Walk Expedition for Peace 1979:
NZ TV3 interview:
George’s book of his account of the trip. (I only mentioned by first name four times in it, and as though I was just walking the same way. But who got all the sponsorship of the gear we had, and who took those photos of George, and why are there two packs in the pictures?)