A treacherous walk for the environment, mental well-being
Walter Nyamukondiwa–Kariba Bureau
Away from the luxuries that modern life has graciously pampered man with, Zimbabwe-born Nick Holme has embarked on a journey, traversing one of nature’s treacherous terrains, covering a staggering 800km along the Lake Kariba shoreline on foot.
The journey will cover large stretches of the Zimbabwean shoreline and a smaller portion of the Zambian shore.
It is a walk that will test Holme’s mental and physical stamina.
He is on a mission to help raise awareness on the conservation of the environment and promoting mental health through the Walk4Life Campaign.
His guiding philosophy is that when all else fails, man should go back to the source of all life, which is nature, for regeneration and recalibration of the mind, body and soul.
Didn’t Anthony Douglas Williams once write; “Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul.”
Starting at the Kariba Dam, Holme, who is now based in the United Kingdom, waved goodbye to his family and friends as he embarked on the journey that will see him ascend and descend mountains, cross rivers, encounter prey, predators and endure the sting of insects.
With the use of GPS technology, people at the command centre will be able to track his position at all times, while he will be accompanied by at least two armed rangers to guard against wild animals.
For perspective, the journey will take him through Charara Safari Area, Matusadonha National Park and communal areas of Gache Gache and Bumi Hills which are teeming with feared wild animals such as elephants, leopards, lions and hyenas.
Now in his 10th day, Holme has already encountered predators, but without any incident.
The Herald caught up with Holme just before his departure to understand his inspiration to undertake the walk which some of his family members have ironically described as “madness”.
Predominantly jovial, Holme would occasionally cut a lone figure, pensive and seemingly in deep meditation.
“We want to get people around the world, not just in Zimbabwe or Zambia, talking about the link between our natural world, therefore, conservation and our mental well-being,” said Holme.
“There is a lot that is making people unhappy around the world. For mental health challenges people will tend to take some drugs and alcohol when nature could also help to effectively manage the situation.”
For food he will have some rations, but nature is supposed to provide everything, including communities along the trail he will follow.
“I expect to eat what communities I will encounter are eating,” he explains.
Holme has maintained social media presence amid expected blackouts when he gets to areas not covered by mobile phone networks, but could still be tracked by satellite.
He has remained in high morale, indicating in one social media post that being stung by the mopani flies had not dampened his spirit.
Owing to the high temperatures in the region, Holme has had to rely on drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration, while he has taken the opportunity to learn as much as possible about the wild from the rangers accompanying him.
For the first leg covering 100km, Holme was accompanied by rangers Samson and Taurai who handed over to Clifford and Shadreck to guide him through Matusadona National Park.
He has been learning about trees and their medicinal properties.
His first leg has seen him through Charara Banana Farm, about 30km from Kariba Town and Gache Gache Fishing Camps.
He has crossed major rivers which empty into Lake Kariba, including Nyaodza and Sanyati, to successfully cover the first 100kms of the 800km walk.
In preparation for the gruelling walk, Holme has been walking in the United Kingdom before coming to Zimbabwe where he has been undertaking endurance walks in Kariba’s wilderness.
Coordinator Innocent Nyaude said the Walk4Life Campaign was a series of endurance events covering 10 years, including sailing from Oman to the mouth of the Zambezi River, rafting and waves, among other activities.
Holme will cross into Zambia through Mlibizi area in Binga before walking to Kariba Dam to conclude his walk.
The campaign is being supported by Old Mutual and other corporates,including Zambesia Conservation Alliance.
As part of his inspiration, Holme is carrying the Walk4Life mascot called Twiza, the giraffe. The campaign is expected see the training and raising awareness on human and wildlife conflict and also promote research into mental health.
It will also see the establishment of schools and centres to train community rangers and nurses, rehabilitate and raise awareness on mental health.
According to the World Health Organisation, there was a higher rate of suicide among men in Zimbabwe with about 27 out of every 100 000 men taking their lives.
This is attributed to mental challenges arising from socio-economic pressures.
The rate is significantly lower for women at about 10 out of 100 000 committing suicide, while the overall rate was higher among older people.
Holme believes that nature is always communicating and ready to reboot people’s bodies, soul and mind, but they are not ready to listen.
When judgment is clouded by built up clutter, man’s noise one needs to just revert to the serenity of nature and decode its messages for one’s mental well-being, Holme believes.