MISSION AFRICA ON SALE
Relive the experience of Xavier Chevrin, now available in french and english DVD.
From Nairobi to Johannesburg, our eco-adventurer went all over 5,800km driving an electric vehicle, charging over the course of its encounters, in a place where 70% of the population still have no access to electricity. Beyond the technological challenge due to the extreme conditions of the african trails, Mission Africa was a human and educational adventure. Xavier shared his experience about the electric vehicles with inhabitants surprised for not hearing any engine noise.
Discover the incredible journey of our eco-adventurer Xavier Chevrin driving its Citroën Berlingo “Powered by Venturi” throughout Africa, in a 52’ documentary.
Mission Africa, DVD on sale from 10€ (excluding shipping). Order to email@example.com
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MISSION AFRICA ACCOMPLISHED !
38 days of driving over African roads and trails, covering over 5,800 km including 600 km of rough tracks, with about 40 battery charges in 6 different countries.
I wish to express my warmest thanks to my travelling companion, Vivien Floris, not only for the incredible work he accomplished in these magnificent shots taken throughout the entire trip, but also for the very special ambiance he has managed to recreate in his films. I can’t wait for the documentary to be edited, ready in a few months ! Vivien has, of course, become a friend (inevitably, when you share one cubic metre for over a month, 8 hours a day, it makes for pretty close ties), and I also thank him for having put up with my unsavoury jokes for all that time. As proof of my gratitude, I’ll present him with a grasshopper.
I would also like to thank the Albert II Foundation of Monaco, always ready to participate in challenges related to conservation of the environment, and whose support has been precious in many different ways throughout this expedition. My thanks also go to the United Nations Environment Programme, our partner in this mission, as part of the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All”.
And of course, a big “Thank-you” to Venturi for having prepared and successfully carried off this fabulous adventure in the context of its Venturi Global Challenges. The unfailing support of the entire team throughout this mission has been more than necessary, and it’s thanks to this great family that we have succeeded in bringing this adventure to its close, at the heart of South Africa.
A very special “BRAVO” to the teams of Venturi and the Manufacture des Véhicules Electriques (MVE) for having prepared this extraordinary vehicle, which has lived up to all our expectations in an environment often hostile and always demanding. The success of this mission can be attributed to their expertise and professionalism.
Gildo Pallanca Pastor, this success is dedicated to you, as this Venturi Global Challenge would never have happened without your warm dynamism, your infectious enthusiasm and your immense generosity.
Finally, last but not least, a sincere Thank-you to all of you who have followed this electric adventure… Your messages and commentaries were often a real comfort in the evenings after a long day beneath the African skies. I really hope that we will have the opportunity to share again other new challenges, other expeditions : I wouldn’t be surprised if we met up again in a few months’ time for a new challenge !
ARRIVAL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG
The welcome we received at the press conference held for our arrival at the University of Johannesburg was warm and uplifting, with the same real enthusiasm for electric technology. I’m probably repeating myself a bit, but it’s a fact : Africa is the continent which shows the highest expectations and hope for this new kind of locomotion. One last time, I savour the enjoyment of sharing my impressions of this superb adventure which has been the Venturi Global Challenge at the heart of the Black Continent. Bursts of laughter, eyes full of amazement, spontaneous handshakes… I’m sitting here with my smart “braai” apron (“barbecue” in Afrikaans, a tradition here) that the Dean of the University has just given me, still completely dazed after more than 5 weeks driving on African roads… My presentation at the press conference had already changed : I was already talking in the past tense. It’s already time to sit back and take stock…
Up until now, no manufacturer of electric vehicles has entertained the idea of attempting an expedition on the African continent : the arguments are that the electrical current is of poor quality, the state of the roads unsatisfactory, conditions for charging the batteries too unpredictable… No private initiative had seen the light of day either, for the same reasons. Thanks to the Kilimanjaro to Okavango Mission, Venturi is the first manufacturer to prove the contrary : 5,800 km of roads, including 600 km of rough trails ; technology put to the test under extraordinary conditions, with water, stones, mud, sand and dust as extras, all in unlimited quantities… And yet, everything went without a hitch, in spite of my apprehension when I sometimes had to mistreat our poor “Africa” due to the perpetual jolting of the trails. My goodness, I almost got to the point of humanizing the Venturi-Citroën ! Giving her encouragement over every difficult spot, thanking her once the hurdle was overcome, wishing her good-night once she was plugged in… Yes, in some ways, it was about time the venture came to an end !
Nostalgia has, however, already set in. Fantastic people, breathtaking scenery, an atmosphere which makes you discover life in different hues… In Africa, everything takes on a different dimension, you come up with new sources of energy, you lose a lot too, searching for essentials, your senses always alert… The spontaneous smile of a child on her way to school, the harsh beauty of the Kalahari Desert, the intense gaze of a shepherd offering water, the biting cold of the plateaux in Tanzania, the deafening roar of the Zambezi Falls, the raised thumb of a Massai in greeting, the sudden appearance of a lion in the tall grasses of the savanna… (God, could someone have cast a spell on me ?)…
Synopsis of the adventure!
So yes indeed, let’s go mad, it’s Christmas : rather than retrace our footsteps and travel down the eastern strip of Botswana, we’ve taken on a last big challenge by heading south-west across… the Kalahari Desert ! No point in saying that we really have to get it right (and in any case, you can’t go wrong : you simply have to stop in each rare village over about 900 km from Okavango to the South African border).
The Kalahari is in fact a vast, semi-arid desert (covering 80% of the territory), dispairingly flat, just like the entire country, and we are surprised to see a variety of wildlife all along our path, led by ostriches and antilopes. This deserted immensity is the playground of the Bushmen, the San people, and big game hunters…
Ever since our arrival in Botswana, we have always had the same problem finding a place to recharge our batteries. Here, foreigners come to camp, hunt, in short, experience the great outdoors…. So there are very few structures capable of helping us out. But I’ve come up with another way of coaxing the most recalcitrant souls to respond to our requests : in Ghanzi, for example, when a young girl I asked for help in finding a connection just shook her head in a negative, disinterested way, I offered her not one, but two of our expedition T-shirts. Her eyes opened wide and she rushed outside shouting “Stay put, I’ll find a solution !”… Five minutes later, I was plugging in the car in the corridor of the building she was keeping an eye on… These Venturi T-shirts are pure magic !
We spent our last night in Botswana in Jangheng, a mining town which makes a living from mining diamonds. The atmosphere here is very special : in a nutshell, you can tell that money is there, but that it doesn’t benefit everyone… In the distance, you can make out the artificial mountain which has resulted from the extraction of earth in the mines (Botswana is the world’s N°1 producer of diamonds). In town, labourers and men with attaché-cases cross each others’ paths, geologists, all kinds of adventurers… We plug in behind a casino hoping that the ambiance won’t be too crazy throughout the night and that Africa won’t suffer from the frustration of gamblers down on their luck.
Next morning, what a relief ! The car was fully charged. We crossed the border, and found ourselves in the last country on our agenda : South Africa. The change is pretty radical : traffic is denser, cars are more modern… We are beginning to feel that our adventure is nearing its end. We arrive in Johannesburg, the final destination in Mission N°4 of the Venturi Global Challenges !
Yes ! Mission N°4 in the Venturi Global Challenges can already be claimed as a success : “Kilimanjaro to Okavango” has thus ended on the banks of the river which bears the same name (though the trip continues, as far as Johannesburg).
It goes without saying that joy, excitement and a certain kind of relief could be read on our faces when we saw the sign for “Maun” (the main town in the Okavango region), after over a month spent driving across Africa on 4,500 km of roads including 600 km of trails.
In fact, our joy was to be short-lived : due to our late arrival in the delta, we had to find a place to recharge the batteries during the night, which is never as pleasant as in daytime. What was even less pleasant was hearing the chargers running just after they were plugged in, then a bang… Then another one… Not cool at all : probably a problem with the neutral, which meant immediate sanctions. Two chargers to be changed, pffffff… The next day, we play at being handymen in the sand and thistles to change the front charger and one of the two at the rear of the vehicle. The car is a real construction site. I turn the key. What a relief when we hear the three clicks triggering the charge…. We certainly deserved our (superb) sunset on the River Okavango, recalling the final stages of our trip, the path trodden by the famous Doctor Livingstone 160 years ago…
The next day, we delved a little deeper into the delta, just to bask in the unique atmosphere that reigns over the heart of this amazing biotope… You have to imagine a tangle of river offshoots, islands, marshes and meadows… (In short, a delta, if you see what I mean…). Wildlife is on the agenda : impalas and giraffes, elephants and kudus, and the most incredible thing is that we’re not even in a nature reserve…
Being right in the middle of the African continent, the unique feature of this delta is, as you will already know, that it launches you into the middle of nowhere… The waters of the Okavango lose themselves in this immense region covering 18,000 sq. kilometres, disappearing beneath the sandy soil at the edge of the Kalahari desert. Some 20,000 years ago, tectonic plate activity resulted in the course of the river being altered, just like that of the Zambezi (it’s possible that these two rivers were in fact one at the time), and the riverbed, incapable of following its course, was lost in this region. The inner lake into which it once flowed gradually dried up, forming the famous “pans” we discovered on the previous leg of our trip…
The journey is nearing its end and the pleasant heat of the day gives way to a rather biting cold, accentuated by the pervasive humidity. We can’t get over the fact that the atmosphere is so cold : the wardens of the place where we are staying warn us the temperature will drop to 4° in the night. Hardly surprising that when I wake up the next day, I have completely lost my voice (I promise you, I’m falling to pieces)…
However, this arrival, even though serving as the keystone for the entire trip, is only symbolic ; we have to get back on the road for our final destination, Johannesburg. To do so, we took some minor liberties with our route. More about that next time…
Mission Africa #16: NATA - OKAVANGO
Pandamatenga – Nata (Botswana) – 205 km
We left our « capsite » at 5:30 AM. The weather was freezing in these great plains of Botswana. As I couldn’t extend my broken foot during our night in the car, it took the form of the splint in which it is enclosed. I could compare it to an elephant foot… in bigger. In the dark, for the first kilometers, it is a festival of wildlife. The Kudus (enourmous antelope with the size of an elk) are numerous and remain fixed on the road when illuminated by our headlights…
The more we drive, the more road signs appear warning us about the presence of elephants in the area. It first made us laugh… but then we found these animals along the road, the jumbo type, the biggest ones… Wooow…
Nata : it is at this crossroads that we celebrated our 4,000th kilometer, while going to the « pans » - whch is an équivalent to the « salar », the biggest in world (as wide as Switzerland !) : Can you imagine it ? A huge salt flat, 1meter deep, above old sediment… This was an inland see 20 million years ago…
Wd restarted driving to our symbolic destination : the Okavango Delta, located approximately 300 km far from here… On the road, we still see this exotic fauna (mostly zebras and ostriches). We have the impression of crossing a huge reserve… but no, this is just Botswana… This country smells like adventure !