Three weeks into the epic, five month Tracks of Giants expedition, the team is getting accustomed to the physical demands of the course as well as the harsh Namibian environment.
The Tracks of Giants expedition kicked off on the Atlantic coast of Southern Africa in Namibia on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 and will see the team transverse Southern Africa to finish their journey on the east coast in KwaZulu Natal on 5 September, 2012. Conservationists, Ian McCallum and Ian Michler will be doing the entire journey without the use of mechanical transportation.
The team reached the 1000 kilometre milestone on Saturday, May 19. There was much celebration amongst the team members on completing one fifth of the journey. They hope to cross the Botswana border on Tuesday, May 29.
The toughest part of the journey so far has been dealing with the extremely high daytime temperatures which have forced the team to travel in the early hours of the morning, rest during the heat of the day, and continue their travels in the early evening. The average daytime temperature has ranged between 38 and 42 degrees Celsius.
The first five days following the launch on May 1, saw a group of eleven “trekkers” travel on foot from Rocky Point on the west coast of Namibia to Puros. The group was made up of Chris Bakkes and Festus Mbinga, both from Wilderness Safaris, and Mandla Buthelezi from the Wilderness Leadership School who led the group. For this leg, the team were also joined by Vance Martin from the WILD Foundation in the USA, John Kasaona and Boas Hambo from the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC), Jerome Mukuyu, a university student from Windhoek, and Robin Uatokuuta who works at the Puros Conservancy camp site.
According to Ian Michler, highlights of the first leg included “a close-up sighting of an elephant, plenty of oryx and springbok and the occasional jackal and ostrich.”
Founders of Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservation (IRDNC) Garth Owen-Smith and Dr Margie Jacobsohn have joined the “Two Ians” for the second leg of the Namibian section. IRDNC is an influential community-based conservation organisation which has been instrumental in the success of northern Namibia’s conservancy policy. Their early work laid the foundation for the now national communal conservancy movement which covers nearly 17% of Namibia.
“We were delighted to be able to join the Tracks team when they visited a number of the remote north western conservancies,” says Dr Jacobsohn. “Namibia’s considerable conservation successes are directly due to the partnership our government has formed with the 71 communities who have registered conservancies and manage their wildlife sustainably. Our community conservation experiences are thus relevant to some of the other countries Tracks will be visiting.”
Cycling through the Namib desert, the team has come across diverse wildlife in a seemingly barren landscape including elephant, a cheetah with her cubs, aardwolf, and a bat-eared fox. Michler notes that although the journey has just begun, it has already highlighted a number of conservation issues including land-use competition, tender and stakeholder disputes, human-animal conflicts and the vital need for corridors for both wildlife and the rural nomadic Himba people. “Our most demanding challenge is going to be recording these disputes, challenges and successes as accurately and authentically as possible,” he says.
The “Two Ians”, cyclists and the back-up team arrived at Ongava on May 17 where they rested for a day. They are currently heading towards the Botswana border, with a stop-off at Tsumkwe on May 28. From there they will head towards the Botswana border which they hope to reach by May 27.
The Tracks of Giants expedition will explore various models that include ecological thinking and implementation, bridging the gap between the needs of humans, wildlife, and the changing environment.