2,300-kilometre Orange River adventure – by riverboard

This weekend, Cape Town-based adventurer Ray Chaplin begins a 2,300-kilometre source-to-sea expedition. He aims to follow the length of the Orange River – from its source in Lesotho to the Athlantic Ocean – by riverboard. Titled ‘The Plastics SA Nampak Rigid Plastics Orange River Project’, Chaplin will take four to six months to accomplish this mammoth journey. Continue reading


75,000km around the world via the poles

Sir Ranulph Fiennes and his team completed the first circumnavigation of the world, via the poles, during his TransGlobe expedition between 1979 and 1982. He used every conceivable means of travel including 4x4s, boats and camels. Jason Lewis took 13 years to circumnavigate the world by human power. He used a purpose-built pedal boat to cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Mike Horn followed the imaginary line to the equator during his 1999 Zero Latitude expedition. In May 2011 South African Ray Chaplin embarks on his expedition – the first human-powered, vertical circumnavigation of the world. This 75,000km expedition, through 51 countries, will take Chaplin no less than eight years to complete. 

For 29-year-old Chaplin, this is his most ambitious undertaking. In addition to setting various multi-day non-stop stationary cycling records, he has walk, unsupported, from Cape Town to Beit Bridge – the South Africa/Zimbabwe border post – and cycled, on a classic-style single-speed bike, from Jo’burg to Cape Town. 

“This marks the culmination of years of dreaming, planning and hard work. The time has come for me to hit the trails start enriching lives the world over… one kilometre at a time,” says Chaplin.

Human powered

Expeditions take many forms. They can be accomplished solo, with occasional company or as a team; assisted by a support crew, aided by food and gear drops or unsupported; non-stop or interrupted and continued at intervals; and completed by any means possible or human powered. 

Human-powered expeditions are those where the adventurer’s own energy results in forward progression. Running, walking, cycling, paddling, rowing, skiing are disciplines applicable to this category. Sailing and kiting (wind power), the riding of animals (even if they just carry loads) and all forms of motorised transportation are strictly forbidden. 

Vertical circumnavigation

Around the world exploits are commonly thought of only as East-West journeys. North-South expeditions are rarely considered because of the added difficulty of polar travel. These antipodal points anchor Chaplin’s expedition, adding pressure to his schedule as these icy regions can only be accessed during defined periods. 

“The ‘rules’ governing circumnavigations state that one has to travel no less than 40,000km,” says Chaplin. His vertical-circumnavigation route crosses all lines of latitude; it passes through 51 countries and crosses the Arctic and Southern Oceans – twice. He will cover around 75,000km. 

The route: part one

Chaplin’s journey starts in South Africa. He departs by bicycle from Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, in mid-May 2011. Cycling north, Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is his first focal point. After summiting this mountain, the highest on the African continent, Chaplin  rides ‘downhill’ to Lake Assal in Djibouti, which lies at the lowest point in Africa. His traverse of the African continent ends in Tunisia. 

Core themes

Not only is Chaplin aiming to be the first person to vertically circumnavigate the world, passing the poles, his expedition incorporates three themes. 

  • Chaplin’s route incorporates visits to almost 200 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. He’ll document these locations to showcase man’s heritage and highlight conservation and preservation initiatives and needs.  
  • Educational elements are linked to the expedition. In partnership with global organisations, Chaplin will develop and distribute appropriate educational material to schools across Africa. Self-sustainable computer centres, which are powered by solar and wind power, form part of Chaplin’s education initiatives.
  • Climate change, road congestion and health conditions are just some elements that result from modes of transport in use globally. Chaplin promotes sustainable transport. He sold his car four years ago, choosing to commute in his home-city of Cape Town by bicycle or on foot. “I hope that, by cycling such vast distances during this expedition, I will not only get people to think twice before turning the key in the ignition, but also to convince governments to re-assess their transportation strategies,” Chaplin explains. This expedition also demonstrates that human-powered disciplines can transport people around the world – literally.

 Expeditions of this magnitude are only able to get off the ground with support from sponsors. Those already committed to supporting this Chaplin’s expedition include: Tracks4Africa (navigation), First Ascent (apparel), Ebony Optical (eyewear), UTrackIT (real-time tracking), Flexopower.com (mobile solar solutions), Suunto (wristop computer), Mulebar (convenient on-the-go nutrition), MSR from Outward Ventures (camp cookware) and Adventures Global (adventure operator).

Chaplin’s website – www.raychaplin.com – carries information on the expedition as well as links for social media, feeds, online tracking and contact details. His departure is set for Sunday, 15 May 2011 from Cape Agulhas.