Wiltshire Publications

African adventure talk at Westbury U3A

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016 at 9:31 am.

Westbury and District U3A in February were entertained by Fran Sandham who gave an interesting and amusing account of his solo walk across Africa, called the Traversa. 

This trek of nearly 3600 miles was from the Skeleton Coast in the west to Zanzibar in the East and crossed through Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Tanzania. He first became excited about Africa from reading Tarzan comics at the age of six but developed an interest in the Victorian explorers/travellers such as Livingstone and Stanley later in life.

The decision to undertake the journey came from a New Year’s resolution. He spent the next year scrimping together the £3000 needed for the trip which he expected to take 12 months.  There was nothing scientific in deciding the route – the Skeleton coast sounded exotic and Zanzibar, where many of the Victorian explorers started their journeys, sounded exciting.

He undertook no specific fitness training but under the harsh Namibian sun, Fran soon realised he was carrying far too much weight. His pack weighed 100 pounds and he soon had to start dumping items and giving things away en route. By the time he had crossed half of the Namib Desert, he was carrying about 60 pounds. Complete with his two trekking poles, which made him look as if he was skiing across the desert, he made good progress across the stark landscape travelling up to 35 miles a day – until calamity struck in the form of a stubborn donkey.

He decided to buy a pack animal to make the journey easier. The donkey called Tsondab, which literally means Where You Get Stuck, was not very enthusiastic about the journey. They went round and round in circles for weeks and weeks. Eventually Fran admitted defeat, gave the donkey to a nice farm, and travelled further in the next 20 minutes than he had done in the previous two and a half months.

Fran’s journey had its inevitable ups and downs. He suffered diarrhoea for most of the trip after contracting giardiasis from contaminated water, he had an encounter with a puff adder, was wakened at night by lions growling nearby and contracted malaria at the end of his journey.

Fran, however, fondly remembers the warm hospitality of the local people along his route, being followed from place to place by crowds of noisy children, beautiful Lake Malawi and the spectacular Victoria Falls.He concluded by saying he loved travelling and has considered new expeditions since, but has never quite attempted another one!

Please join us for our next meeting on Tuesday 8th March at 2.00pm in the United Reformed Church Hall for a talk by Lynda Warren on A Funny Way to Earn a Living – working for S4C and BBC Wales.

Keith Melford