So it’s finally here… the biggest adventure of my life. For the next 3 weeks I will be in Namibia, South West Africa, so far out of the “comfort zone” that its hard to explain. No showers, MRE’s to eat, scarce water, extreme heat, and all the animals of your favorite Nat Geo program…all around me. Here is the basic explanation of the biggest undertaking of my young life. With British Television Host retired SAS Major Ken Hames, I am about to go “into the heart of darkness” and push my limits to the extreme. Wish me luck!
In the north of Namibia close to the Kunene River and the Angolan border lay the Baynes and Otjihipa mountains home to the last true hunter gatherers on earth, a tribe cut off from civilisation dependent on the legacy of their ancestors to survive. Here water and fire are king and the air is full of the sounds of stone-age tools working the earth where time is governed by the sun and the hunt for food. The Holy fire in the middle of any settlement is a marker of communal respect for the ancestors who came before, who told the stories and evolved the customs. The eternal flame never goes out 24 hours a day and all circumnavigate this point in respect of its meaning and significance.
For millennia the Himba have lived in the highlands of Angola and Namibia enclosed by the vastness of the Kalahari to the east and the remoteness of the skeleton coast to the west. There are no roads and no communications and life is punctuated by dawn and dusk and the dancing and singing in the moonlight. No expedition has succeeded in crossing the range deterred by cliffs and the promise of a dark continent. In the North the land cascades over impossible cliffs to the Kunene River, cataracts of water so close but yet so far.
In August of this year explorer Ken Hames, and American anthropologist Alex Ayling will attempt to make the first crossing and seek the source of the eternal flame. Their journey is as complex and difficult as it gets. Crumbling rock, no map and searing heat await them and the promise of no rain and a search for water that could drive them mad. All these men are experienced in the wild but there’s an air of respect when they talk about the complexities of the journey. ‘There’s no mountain rescue and there’s definitely no support’ says Hames—we are on our own and must make the best of the resources we can carry’. Predators aside there are other challenges to ponder –a twisted ankle, a snake bite, getting lost could also spell death as our travellers go into a lost world, a labyrinth of unknown peaks and valleys.
Hames and Ayling go to find the lost tribe of the Baynes and Otjihipa mountains and seek eternal flame for themselves. It is a pilgrimage to the centre of one of the great tribal civilisations looking for evidence of tradition and community unmatched in the modern western world.
The trip will probably take about 3 weeks but it is super intense requiring a drive and determination that extracts value from every minute run. Action and drama are around every corner and of course the anxiety levels will be high as our team go beyond the point of no return. Carrying at least 70 lb packs the terrain will take its toll very quickly.
This is first and one of the last remaining obstacles to be conquered on earth. It is unique and deserves its place in the history and record books.