After many delays, Sam Pearce (43), the Strategic Director of eMzantsi Carnival, her husband stand-up comedian Mark Sampson (46) and their children, Ruby (12) and Zola (8) finally embarked on their dream Around Africa Clockwise trip, drawing out of Cape Town in ‘Big Reg’, their old Mercedes bullnose, on 2 July 2013. The family are hoping to break the Guinness World record for the longest journey made on alternative fuel. The epic journey will take in about 40 countries over the next two and a half to three years with a couple of weeks spent in each. They plan to visit every country on the rim of the continent, although at this stage they are not sure if they will be able to go to Somalia.
Their trip so far has taken them along the West Coast with a long stop in Springbok for truck repairs and through Namibia at too fast a pace for their liking – the rush being on to get to the Angolan border before their visas expired.
Although awed by the beauty of the landscapes they have traversed, the family have also been grief-stricken by the news reaching them in Angola of the sudden deaths of Mark’s mom in England and of Emmanuel, Sam’s friend and colleague at eMzantsi.
Sam sent me an email recently which read: “This is something I was going to send you next August, when I’d been away long enough to really miss cool green Noordhoek, but there’s been too much death around me this week, rather have it now and use it whenever it suits. I wish I was there today, to be with my eMzantsi family as we have lost a dear brother, but I think the universe is trying to tell me to value every day, so… onward.”
Home Thoughts, from Africa Clockwise
with apologies to Robert Browning
Oh, to be in Noordhoek
Now that’s August’s there,
And whoever wakes in Noordhoek
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the arum lilies along the brook
Around the common are back, come look,
A forest of fairy vuvuzelas, wow!
In Noordhoek – now.
And after August, September comes,
And the sunbird shimmers and the bee hums.
Kyk, where the sheets of wild daisies billow
Across the dunes right down to the beach
Lie calm on the gleaming white-satin petall’d pillow
Or jump up and glimpse the tail of a whale in full breach.
Down the mountain a streaming waterfall rushes
Through the warm yellow and hot pink fynbos bushes
And round the lanes velvet orange nasturtiums glow
As all the pretty horses trot to and fro.
The scarlet vygie by the stoep lifts my spirits up
– Far sturdier than the pale buttercup!
A day in ‘Surfers’ Paradise” on a remote beach in Angola with a beach break “a cross between Gonubie and Eland’s Bay” has been balm to the soul for the grief-stricken family. Sam writes that the locals were bemused by Mark, Ruby and Zola paddling out into the waves. “They had never seen a surfboard before!”
Fuelled by used cooking oil, ‘Big Reg’, the family’s seven ton truck “with three tons of house on top” is fully equipped with a double bed, two single beds over the cab for the children, a fold down table that can be converted into another double bed, a fully equipped little kitchen, an onboard flushing loo and a shower! There are cupboards and alcoves for books, clothes, toys, surfboards, guitar and keyboards. The truck operates “totally off the grid” with five solar panels on the roof from Treetops Renewable Energy Systems providing power and energy for the lights, the fridge, the aircon and the other electrical equipment on board.
The truck also has a roof top tent with mosquito nets. “Kingsley Holgate, the great South African adventurer, has told us that we will probably spend more time sleeping outside than inside the truck,” said Mark as he proudly showed off his robust and well-equipped vehicle to members of the media before the family departed.
Around 70 companies have come on board sponsoring various items of equipment, including the probiotic septic tank. Eight giant tyres costing R16 000 each have been sponsored by Continental Tyres.
Mark started his working life in the sciences and then became a circus and street performer, before going into stand-up comedy for the last thirteen years or so. “I would like to do a show with an environmental message in each of the countries that we visit. We are booked to do shows at various embassies and will be doing non-language performances for the children along the way – magic shows, juggling, that kind of thing. I know three or four phrases in Portuguese, Arabic and Swahili. Luckily Sam is quite fluent in French!”
Questioned about issues of safety, Sam responded: “Last year I attended a Pan African Cultural Leadership course. There were amazingly vibrant leaders from Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Mauritius…. They were staying in Pinelands and were terrified of going outside because of all the stories they had heard about South Africa! Fearful perceptions can be paralysing. So I do not choose to be fearful. We have a fantastic pan-African health care package from Liberty – we could be medically evacuated from anywhere in the continent in two hours.”
“It is important that we do the trip now. There is only a small window of time between when your children are old enough to survive malaria and when they are still young enough to want to hang out with you! It is also especially important for Zola to see other places on the African continent, for him to feel powerful as an African man,” said Mark.
Asked about his plans on their return to South Africa, Mark replied: “I hope that this will be a transition to another phase of my life. Perhaps I will become an inspirational motivational speaker like Braam Malherbe. For the moment I just want to spend time with my family, before this phase of life is over.”
Embroidering on “Africa Clockwise”, Mark said that the trip is about renewable energy. “Coping with climate change is not a scientific choice but a psychological one. One has to be a creative and adaptable individual to be successful in the Third World. We have seen a lot of change in South Africa and I feel we are more likely to cope with problems in the future than people in the First World. Also, coming from a scientific background I am trying to analyse the outcome of our trip. Will we find that living a simple life is the way to go … being happy with less, happy with being with one’s family and having just a few possessions? People on their death beds always say I wish I had spent more time with the people I love.”
Sam is writing a blog as they travel (www.africaclockwise.co.za.) Although she has left a “great team’ in charge at eMzantsi , she will continue to keep in touch with her colleagues. She also plans to spend her days in a “relaxed and organic” way, walking, practising tai chi and yoga and schooling Zola and Ruby for two to three hours daily in between exploring. Ruby and Zola both were pupils at Fish Hoek Primary School until recently.
Asked her feelings about the adventure, Ruby laughed: “I am not sorry about missing school, but I will miss my friends! I am not happy about not being able to see them for so long. I also wonder how I will cope with just being with my family for three years!” Sam added that Ruby loves drama and music and was to play a big part in the latest school production, an opportunity she was sorry to miss.
Zola is very excited about the trip. “I’m just scared of being eaten by a crocodile,” he said ruefully.
The family have given away or sold almost all their material possessions and rented out their house in Noordhoek. They plan to be back in South Africa just before Ruby starts Grade 9.