After three decades of expeditions that had embraced every country on the continent, the Holgate team learned that after 30 years of war, Southern Sudan was seceding from the North and the newest country on Earth was about to be born. ‘Africa is never that easy and it delights in throwing the occasional curved ball,’ scribbled Kingsley in his expedition journal at the time.
These and many other thoughts accompanied the familiar feeling of nervous anticipation, as the team prepared for be the sole overland humanitarian expedition to head for Juba, in solidarity with their historic Independence Day celebrations. Tents, supplies, first aid kit, letters of introduction for safe passage, a large inflatable boat and outboard motors, spare parts, extra tires, soccer balls & trophies, mosquito nets, passports, health cards, extra fuel and water containers were loaded into the Journey to Juba Landies.
On reaching base camp at Nile River Explorers in Uganda, the expedition party split: half went by inflatable boat from Murchison Falls down the Nile, portaging around the dangerous Fula Rapids and on to Juba to meet the Land Rover party. Despite the heat and difficult conditions, the Independence celebrations were incredible: a kaleidoscope of colourful tribes, many of whom had walked for over a month to be part of history. Ten thousand mosquito nets were handed out in Juba alone and the ‘Rite to Site’ campaign brought hope to hundreds of poor-sighted rural people.
Sadly peace has not endured, despite a bitter struggle for independence that has cost more than two million lives since 1959.