On 23 September, South African adventurer Peter van Kets and photojournalist Jacques Marais – our Children in the Wilderness Ambassadors – will embark on an ambitious exploration of the African Rift Valley to complete the first recorded human-powered navigation of the Nile-Congo Divide. Their Dunlop Beyond the Rift Valley expedition, driven by Dunlop and supported by Isuzu, will cover over 13 000km of wildest Africa – by vehicle, bike, boat and foot. Keep track of their progress by checking out their website here: www.beyondexpeditions.co.za
This is their second expedition in a five part series to highlight remote African regions under environmental threat. The first, Beyond the Desert Edge in 2017, took the adventure duo 970km on fat-bikes and mountain bikes through the inhospitable Skeleton Coast, Kaokoland, Damaraland and Dorob National Park regions, pedalling from the Cunene River in Angola to the Namibian coast.
The first stage of Dunlop Beyond the Rift Valley has the support team, led by Derek Devine, driving 5400 km from Cape Town to Kigali in their trusted Isuzu off-road vehicles. From there, the real adventure begins, as the expedition attempts a world-first human-powered navigation along the Rwandan section of the Nile-Congo Divide.
It starts with trekking over 80 km through Nyungwe Forest National Park in southwest Rwanda, an ancient mountain rainforest and home to 13 species of primate. From there, van Kets will mountain bike 300 km over trail and dirt roads, through tea plantations and rural communities, past the recently-declared Gishwati-Mukura National Park before reaching the Virunga Mountains.
The Virunga range, home to critically-endangered mountain gorillas, has eight active and inactive volcanoes. The Dunlop Beyond the Rift Valley expedition will summit three of the peaks – Karisimbi (the highest at 4,507 m), Bisoke (an active volcano of 3, 711 m) and Mount Sabyinyo, an extinct volcano of 3,645 m that marks the intersection of the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
The final four days of the expedition’s human-powered segment will involve paddling 115 km across Lake Kivu, one of the African Great Lakes, situated between Rwanda and the DRC. Along the way the team will visit fishing communities, rural farmers and protected islands where the Government is working with local people in an attempt to restore natural habitat.
Both van Kets and Marais are official ambassadors to Children in the Wilderness, a non-profit organisation that educates rural children on conservation and its relevance to their lives. “We explore wild places to draw attention to the importance of preserving them,” says van Kets. “Children in the Wilderness does this by educating the next generation; inspiring them to care for their natural heritage and to become the custodians of these areas in the future. We encourage everyone who can support this worthwhile cause to do so and help protect Africa’s pristine wilderness areas.” To make a donation or find out more visit the Children in the Wilderness website www.childreninthewilderness.com.
The Republic of Rwanda, one of the smallest nations in Africa, arguably boasts some of the best-preserved sections of montane rainforest in central Africa, particularly along the watershed between the basins of the two river giants, the Nile to the east, and the Congo to the west. The vegetation varies from dense, indigenous forest to bamboo thickets, major grasslands and extensive marshes, mixed with cultivated farmland in the densely populated Rwandan interior.
As well as highlighting environmental threats to the region and supporting Children in the Wilderness, the Dunlop Beyond the Rift Valley expedition will serve as a real-world test for the latest series of Dunlop Grand Trek tyres which will be fitted to the trusted Isuzu off-road expedition vehicles. “It is very reassuring for us to use similar Dunlop tyres and Isuzu vehicles as in our previous expedition,” says van Kets. “It means we know we can trust our equipment 100% when the chips are down in a remote rainforest, thousands of km from back-up.”
Additional support comes from Front Runner (SA), who are supplying and fitting their full range of expedition equipment, and Hi-Tec (SA) who has geared team members with a range of technical garments that will help them cope with the variety of conditions they will encounter.
For more information follow the #BeyondTheRiftValley and #BTRV hashtags, visit www.beyondexpeditions.co.za or find them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Beyond-Expeditions-114573608599111/ or Twitter and Instagram @beyondexped.
Peter van Kets
Peter van Kets is a professional adventurer, inspirational speaker, best-selling author, husband and father. Peter has taken part in and led many expeditions around the planet. Some of his finest accomplishments have been winning the unsupported and unassisted Trans-Atlantic rowing race, rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean, a full trek to the South Pole and his Svalbard dog-sledding expedition.
Jacques Marais rates as one of South Africa’s most respected adventure photojournalists, and has been writing about and photographing action sports around the world for more than three decades. He is an elected ambassador for a range of premium imaging and sporting brands, including SONY XPERIA, GIANT BIKES, SPOT AFRICA, FRONT RUNNER and PEAK DESIGN. He has also authored more than a dozen outdoor guidebooks, is an award-winning GETTY photographer and regularly contributes feature articles to premium international publications.