What is really a true explorer or adventurer? In my work I come across many different types, but seldom what I figure is of the pure breed. Today we are overwhelmed by business styled young men and women who put their egos first, and hope to get famous by exaggerating their adventures. They never stop to stun me with their attitude. The other day I wrote a book review where I brought up a case of a lad who not only suggested that one should sell their four legged partner at the end to the butcher to regain one´s money, but he was sad that I wrote that his claims were not true. Life is too short, so I took away the critique. And I added that I still thought many of his claims where not making me happy. Like record breaking explorer, first to do this and that. He knows this is bullshit, but he still claims this on his homepage. He pretended not to know what I was talking about. I gave up. He is one of these guys I never wanna deal with again. Life is too short. And, seriously, I felt like giving up and find other things to do in life. Because at that stage I also read another story about a self proclaimed explorer traveling, according to himself, by his own force from the north pole to the south pole. Forgetting to mention he had guides and help many times and there´s doubts if he actually have done it all. I know for sure he jumped the Darien Gap, since I have friends there, who have never heard or seen the guy. Why claim things which are not true, when it is good enough anyway? In both circumstances it is a case of fellas who love the media light more than the adventure.
So when I received Christy´s article about this extra ordinary horse Expedition she is doing together with her Billy I was weary. But after reading it I feel full of hope and happiness again! Riding through Africa, I don´t think anyone, except those who have traveled through Africa, like myself on a pushbike, can understand how incredibly difficult and dangerous this is. Yet, Christy hardly mentions this in her article, but talk mainly about the perspective of life they have been given due to all the goodness they´ve come across during their trip. This is a journey who should receive much more attention!
They´re also carrying the Long Riders Guild Flag I carried with me with honor in Yemen. I sent it to them the other week to Uganda.
Pure adventure; Our true Motivation
We are often asked what motivates us to ride through Africa, although generally the question is phrased a little differently and with a heavy accent of disbelief. “Why on earth would anyone want to ride a horse from the most northern point of Africa to the most southern point?” We usually respond with a few standard answers – Africa is changing and we want to see what it is today, we want to meet new people, learn new languages and experience different cultures, we want to write a book, we are researching keeping horses barefoot. These are all true but the essence of this journey is pure adventure – our true motivation!
Many people, although entertained by our stories of different cultures and amazing experiences, cannot see past the discomfort of sleeping in a tent every night, wearing dirty clothes and eating strange food that may or may not make you sick. They think that our motivation must be financial gain or worldwide recognition. Perhaps we are a little crazy and put ourselves through all this for some charitable cause. I would like to think, that after a little time spent with us, that they realise that our determination to complete this journey comes from neither the promise of fortune nor of fame.
Billy, my fiancé, and I started this journey with our two horses, Chami and Ennahali, in December 2005. We have spent the last 6 and half years travelling through Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Southern Sudan and Uganda and still have a long way to go to reach Cape Agulhas, our final destination. We have been hungry, thirsty and penniless. We have endured disease and injury to both horses and riders. We have waded through bureaucratic swamps and have reached the other side with our morals intact. At no point have we lost the desire and drive to finish what we started all those years ago.
I must admit that my main incentive to join Billy on this trip was the knowledge that if I didn’t, I may never see him again! I may have had that standard romantic daydream of all the adventures we would have, discovering new lands and their people, riding off into the sunset together and generally having a wonderful time. Of course, adventure is not all about excitement. It’s about going into the unknown and dealing with whatever is thrown at you, challenging or rewarding. Not knowing what is around the next corner or who you are going to meet next is what makes an adventure all the better!
Billy and I, both being lovers of horses feel strongly that our horses are our responsibility for the rest of their lives, not to be sold or swapped along the road when they get sick or injured. We have already changed our planned route once because we discovered our horses were not allowed into Ethiopia. It is our greatest wish to see the horses safely at home in South Africa. Although it is adventure we are after, we will never put our horses at risk in order to find it! Chami and Ennahali are very much a part of the family now and always will be.
I have come to realise that our motives are actually what decides the type of journey and experiences we have and in fact, the lives we lead. The reasons behind your actions dictate the type of person you are. Who is the better politician, someone who is motivated by power and wealth, or someone who genuinely desires the best for his fellow countrymen? Who will achieve more for the benefit of his country? Who is the better employee, someone who just wants a bit of extra cash to play with or someone who puts his family and their needs before his own? Who will work harder for you, the employer?
We continue to meet wonderfully kind and generous people who welcome us into their homes as they would a long lost family member. We are given sanctuary and food for both us and our horses. These hospitable people, although often poor, do anything in their power to look after us. It’s hard to explain just how humbling an experience this is and we have it every day. I honestly believe that if we were only motivated by money or fame that we would constantly be in the company of like-minded people who are only out for a quick buck, where every contact would be a business transaction rather than the beginning of a friendship.
When first planning this journey, Billy considered taking a cameraman, photographer and a support crew. He soon decided that to do that would only invite problems. We would never be able to meet the real people of Africa because everyone changes when there is a camera around. We would have been fully self-sufficient and have had no requirement for help from the locals, meaning we would never have experienced the kindness of the people of Africa. We may have been targets for theft and abuse – as it is now, we are very vulnerable and people respond not by taking advantage but by offering whatever they can.
Although this journey has been riddled with challenges, it has been equally peppered with opportunities. When we were hungry we were offered food. When we were thirsty we were given water. When we were penniless we were offered work. At every turn we have made friendships that will last a lifetime. When the challenges have seemed too much to overcome we have relied on a little self-belief and a lot of stubbornness – we can do this and we will do this!
The search for adventure, love for each other and our horses, an opportunity to meet people, make friends, learn new things and live life to the full are what keep us going, through thick and thin. We have accepted that we will finish when we finish and not before. One day we will reach home and things will change and we will lead different lives. We will get married and have children and no doubt they will become our motivation for everything we do but until then, our life is a journey and we are enjoying the ride.
27th August 2012
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© Copyright 2013 Explorer Mikael Strandberg | Photos and texts Copyright Explorer Mikael Strandberg