“I wanted to show that in Africa , people are living everyday lives and that africans are ingenious, creative … that there are all kinds of people that live there just the way we would live anywhere else. I wanted to normalize that, to show people this kind of living. And I think the best way to get the most authentic experience was to go by foot, because then, you have to meet every single body.”
“Get out, be brave, and explore the world.” – Mario Rigby, Adventure Explorer
In late November 2015, Mario Rigby, a personal and group fitness trainer at the time, left everything behind and flew from Toronto, Canada to Cape Town, South Africa, where he would begin his epic Crossing Africa adventure. It was a life-altering decision, one that would lead him to his true calling -- exploration. Two years later, Rigby arrived at his final destination, Cairo, Egypt, following an astonishing 12,000 km trek northward across eight African countries, entirely by foot and kayak.
An adventurer at heart, Rigby wanted to push himself to the absolute physical and emotional limit. He also wanted to inspire other black people – and all humanity – to get out, be brave, and explore the world. In doing so, he walked step-by-step with Africans through eight countries, sharing their stories with the world in the most realistic way possible. He lived where they live, embraced their cultures, and met new friends, all while maintaining an unwavering belief in the kindness of strangers to help him along the way.
Early on in his journey, Rigby also began breaking stereotypes, including his own, depicting Africa as unsafe and impoverished. Despite seeing some of those problems, it was the incredible warmth and compassion he received from nearly everyone he met that left the biggest impression on him.
Rigby was also tested physically and emotionally in ways that would make anyone stop short. He contracted malaria, kayaked 550 km across Lake Malawi for two months, dodged bullets with government soldiers in a war zone, was attacked by wild dogs, and was jailed for several days near a small village, to name just a few of the many challenges he faced. Yet, despite those bumps on the road he pressed on, and in doing so, inspired countless people across the globe to confront their fears and chase their dreams.
To prepare for his journey he completed a 15 day walk from the CN Tower in Toronto to the top of Mount Royal in Montreal, walking 12-15 hours each day, and covering more than 550 kilometres, all by foot. Along the way, Rigby was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers who took him into their homes, providing warm meals and a place to sleep.
“The drive for curiosity and exploration is vanishing in today's fast-paced and digital world,” said Rigby. “I think unlike past generations, more people are hesitant to venture out and meet strangers. We are all filled with unimaginable potential -- perhaps my adventure will inspire others to move away from their comfort zones and unleash theirs.”
WHAT IS "CROSSING AFRICA"?
Crossing Africa is solo two year, 12,000 km voyage from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt, entirely by foot and kayak.
WHY DO THIS? (Check out video)
● To fulfill a burning drive for exploration and adventure and re-enforce my belief in humanity, all while testing my body and mind to the absolute limit.
● Inspire: The drive for curiosity and exploration is vanishing in today's fast-paced and digital world. I think unlike past generations, more people are hesitant to venture out and meet strangers. We are all filled with unimaginable potential -- perhaps my adventure inspired others to move away from their comfort zones and unleash theirs.
● Not only was it an exploration of the land, it’s also a genuine interest of the people within it, and to learn from them.
● Only a few have done it from Cape Town to Cairo, and they have been westerners. I wanted to take on a modern challenge and show Africa in a way that’s unique by walking side-by-side with Africans, staying where they stay.
● I wanted to explore the world in a unique way that allowed me to experience the villages, tribes, and cultures without the convenience of just leaving any place at any time. If you walk you can’t just leave at night and go somewhere else. You have to arrive and then befriend strangers within minutes.
WHAT DID I LEARN?
● The Africa I saw on the news was very misinterpreted, in my experience.
● You can never go anywhere in Africa and be alone. There will always be someone to take care of you and look after you.
● So many people have taken me into their homes. Anecdote: In South Africa, the white / black question is still a huge issue, but both have taken me in. I stayed with one guy who was like, “I was at war [with you], I used to shoot the blacks, now I’m sitting with you and happy to get that past me.” Obviously he felt horrible about it.
When dID you START?
I left Canada out of Toronto on November 23rd. It took 14 hours to get to Cape Town, arriving on the 24th of November. This was a significant day for me since it's also my birthday.
How far WAS the walk?
12,000 Km (calculations based on flat terrain)
How long DID The EXPEDITION take?
Two years and three months (27 months, 822 days, 19,728 hours, 71,020,800 seconds)
DID YOU USE ANY OTHER FORMS OF TRANSPORT?
Only foot and kayak were my modes of transportation. No motor vehicles were used except a 100 km stretch between Save River, Mozambique where I was forced to join a military convoy due to rebel conflicts.
did anyone join you?
This was a solo expedition however strangers did join me for short and long periods along the way, including my now friends Charlotte, Charlie, and Francesco.
How much did this cost
Roughly $20,000 from start to finish. I lived on $3 to $5 a day on my walking expeditions.
Was it safe?
Safe as possible. I was prepared.
Where did you sleep?
The homes of strangers, camping in the wild, schools, and charitable organizations along my route.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Turks and Caicos Islands and raised in Germany. I returned to Turks for a few years and then eventually moved to Toronto, Canada where I currently live.
What are your hobbies?
Mainly sports, art, and adventure seeking. I competed in competitive track and field at an international and university level.
What did you take WITH YOU your expedition
I brought my backpack, a couple pants, a few shirts, underwear, socks, survival kits (which held emergency first aid supplies), as well as a survival knife. Also water, food, rations, a sleeping bag/pad, tent, extra comfortable shoes, a portable stove fire kit and of course the electronics that helped me make the posts I shared on social media and to connect with my friends and family, plus a GPS. I only use my smartphone to do all the things that I need to do with electronics.
did you have a sponsor
The expedition for the most part was not sponsored until I arrived in Sudan. Western Union approached me for sponsorship for the last two countries which I agreed to. Thank you for the support! Here are links to my Western Union campaign: Campaign link
What food did you eat
I ate would the locals ate and it varied drastically from country-to-country. The tape of food I would carry with me were things like dates, dried fruits, and instant noodles crushed into a bag.
What were some your most memorable moments
Some of the most memorable moments came from spending time with with the youth and encouraging them to do what they strive to be. Other memorable moments include witnessing historical sites in Zanzibar with a head in the East African slave trade and learning more about the the history in Egypt. I did a special charity work case with UNHCR and Forest Whitaker where we had talks with former child soldiers who escaped from South Sudan and now hold refuge in Uganda.
Crossing Africa Timeline
SOUTH AFRICA (Nov 24, 15' / May 5, 16')
MOZAMBIQUE (May 5, 16' / July 9, 16')
MALAWI (July 10, 16' / Oct 10, 16')
TANZANIA (Oct 10, 16' / March 10, 17')
KENYA (March 10, 17' - May 9, 17')
ETHIOPIA (May 9, 17' - Aug 20, 17')
SUDAN (August 20, 17' - Dec 2, 17')
EGYPT (Dec 2, 17' - Feb 15, 18')