Living under the poverty line

I am now 50 days into the walk and we have certainly had our ups and downs but the hardest thing without a doubt has been living under the poverty line.

I set myself the challenge of completing the entire trip spending just US$1.50 per day on food to simulate what it is like for the billions who live below the poverty line every day. So my eating on this trip has been very basic to say the least. Here is an insight into what it has been like.

  • For breakfast it is either porridge or cornflakes with a cup of tea
  • Lunch is usually just dry 2 minute noodles or a sandwich
  • Afternoon tea is a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts
  • Dinner is rice or pasta with a sauce made from onion, tomato, carrot and tomato puree with a bit of seasoning, plus a couple of cups of tea
  • I keep hydrated with water or cheap cordial

breakfast lunch snack dinner

You might think that doesn’t sound too bad other than the obvious lack of variety. Well the portion sizes are quiet small to stay under the US$1.50 and there is no going back for seconds. Shopping is also less enjoyable now, walking past all the nice looking food that I know we can’t afford and working out how to make ends meet on so little is somewhat depressing.

We have however learnt to be smart in a few ways to cut down on costs and sometimes cook our own bread in the fire and if we can get cheap potatoes we also roast them in the fire and that helps to keep the carbohydrates up. I also reuse my tea bag 3 times to save on costs there!

To date I have lost just on 15 kilos and 8 of them where in the first 11 days of the walk. It has taken my body a fair bit of time to get used to living like this and to be honest I don’t think it has adjusted fully. Many times the hunger pains are so bad I feel like I am going to faint, my stomach is eating away at itself in ways it never has before. My judgement on things isn’t the same as what it normally is which I put down to my brain crying out for more nutrients. I even start questioning myself on even the most simple of things.

Whilst we have survived it is no way to live a life, going to bed at night hungry is awful and having to walk 17 or 18kms before having something to eat has been extremely tough. I know it has given me a greater appreciation of how the poor in the world live and for them to get up each day not knowing where their next meal is coming from shows great courage.

This experiment has proven a couple of things to me; that no one should ever have to live like this and we need to do more to help the world’s poor.

~Matt

Reflections on Botswana

I was sad to leave Namibia as it is a beautiful country with extremely friendly people and we had such a great time during that part of the walk. However, Botswana has been just as fantastic but also more challenging.

Official welcoming party at the border

A day before we arrived in Botswana we received a phone call wanting to know what time we were to arrive as they wanted to welcome us at the border. Well, welcome us they did!! We all filed into the immigration office and started getting our passports processed but when I handed mine over, the lady said “Ah, Matt Napier, I have been waiting for you!” and then rushed off out the back office. We were then greeted by a number of government officials, some having driven 800km from the capital, Gaborone, just to welcome us.

The first night we camped about 7km inside Botswana at a place called Charleshill, setting up camp just behind the service station. The next morning I woke at about 5.30am to the sound of someone speaking in the local language on a loud speaker. Not knowing what they were saying all I could think was “shut up, some of us are trying to sleep”. This went on every half hour and it wasn’t until I huddled around the campfire with the team that someone said to listen closely. So I did and although I could only pick out two words – “Australia” and “Napier” – it was pretty clear that the person was informing the whole town that I had arrived and calling them to attend the official welcome later that morning.

Official welcome at Community Court (Khotja) in Charleshill

The Government Officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Youth & Sport returned later that morning and escorted us to the local meeting place called a Kjotla or Customary Court. We were welcomed by about 500 people performing their customary dance and singing. It was an amazing way to be greeted into the country and the community loved the soccer balls that I handed over to the Chief to hand out to local schools and community groups.

From there we headed on our way to what we would later call the “Danger zone”!! Many people at the border had questioned my route and said to be extremely careful of the lions. We were all a little taken aback by that as we weren’t walking through any game parks and had been advised that the wildlife was mostly north of us. The area in question was about 100km up the road and lasted for about 200km. We were unsure what to do but were lucky enough to have police guards through most of the problem area and even had two people from the Office of the President come along with us for the 5 nights we were in the “danger-zone”, they even camped with us over night.

Day 27 - Saying goodbye to our Govt escorts after 3 great days

Good campsites were hard to find so sometimes we would have to double back to camp and then drive forward to where we had finished the night before. Most mornings I had a police escort until at least breakfast. On the first morning, just as I was about to get out of the car at 6.30am to start walking a pack of antelope (I think they are called Orricks) came out of the bushes and nearly ran in front of the car. I asked the driver what they were doing here and he said that the lions had probably chased them out. Knowing I was about to get out of the car and start walking with the car following me, it was safe to say that I was scared out of my wits. Ten of the quickest hail mary’s were said and the prayers were answered as not a single lion was spotted that morning or at all in our time in the “danger-zone”.

Several villages along the way also welcomed us with hundreds of people turning out. It meant a lot to us to be so welcomed into the villages and the country as a whole. We gave out dozens of soccerballs, enjoyed a range of traditional entertainment and met a huge range of people. A truly amazing experience.

Traditional dance at official welcome to Charleshill

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to two of our support crew for reasons I won’t go into now but we were left with no choice and after surviving the “danger-zone” this added another level of uncertainty to the trip that we could have done without. Morgan, our cameraman, stayed with us for another couple of days but then it was time for him to say goodbye as he had only planned to join us for first 5 weeks and was heading off to Europe. It was great having him around and we enjoyed the company as he would often walk with me.  So now, as we head into South Africa it is just me and Wendy – not ideal but I’m sure we will manage.

The parts of Botswana we saw are very similar to the Nullarbor Plain in Australia, long open roads with lots of trucks and often days between towns or truck stops. While it is sad to say goodbye to Botswana, It is now time for South Africa and the 730 odd kilometres before we hit the Mozambique border. We are expecting the weather to get a little colder but we are well rugged up at night so we should be fine and the days are usually warm and sunny.

Chief of Charleshill community with donated balls

Given that we have had such a big couple of weeks and still managing to walk 45-55km per day, crossing Botswana in just over 2 weeks, we have decided to keep going at this pace and bring the end date forward a couple of weeks. I now plan to reach the final destination of Maputo in Mozambique on 3 August instead of 20 August.

Thanks for following and I will do another blog in a few weeks when we hope to be well over halfway across South Africa.

~Matt

A day walking in Matt’s shoes

Hi, Wendy here, Matt’s wife. A couple of days ago I got the opportunity to walk a whole day with Matt, something I have never done before – 48km into either a head wind or cross wind the whole day. It was tough but I made it!

Day 30 - Wendy walked the entire day with Matt, an amazing 48km!

I wanted to take it on as a personal challenge to see if I could do a full day but I also wanted to experience what Matt experiences every day during his walks. I never realised how many other factors impact on his day, not just physical energy levels but the direction of the winds, air-wash from passing trucks that at times feel like they will knock you flat on your face, dry lips from sun/wind exposure, blisters and callouses, muscle and/or nerve pain in various parts of the body, the hard surface of the road making it feel like you are walking on pieces of timber at times and the lack of mental stimulation when the landscape is the same day in and day out.

On the positive side, the first few hours in the morning are glorious with the stillness of the day, beautiful sunrises, the warming temperature, and the promise of breakfast and a cup of tea after the first 3 hours are done. During the day there are also the wildlife that come to the side of the road, mainly cows, horses, donkeys and goats at the moment but also lots of bird-life. It is also great to see the number of people that stop or double back to check that he is ok.

So for me the morning wasn’t too bad but when the niggling pains in the feet started to spread, my legs and hips were screaming out in protest and we were only 2km from the last rest break with another 6km to walk until the next rest (and then another 8km to the end of the day!), that’s when I had the greatest appreciation for what Matt goes through on a daily basis. I realised that those are the times when this walk becomes less about physical ability and much more about mental toughness. To be able to keep going and still finish the day with a smile on his face is a true testament to just how mentally tough Matt is. Unfortunately I did not manage to finish the day with a smile on my face! I got heat rash on the backs of my legs, was in pain from the waist down and then it started to get cold. I only finished due to sheer determination, safe in the knowledge that there was a warm jumper waiting for me at the end and that I would not have to back it up and walk again the next day.

I now have a new found appreciation for what it takes to walk day after day and although I know some days would be a lot easier than the day I had, I am also just as certain that some are much harder yet he seldom complains and just keeps putting one foot in front of another usually with a big smile on his face and the classic Matt sense of humor still intact. Matt you are such an inspiration and I hope you know just how proud of you I am.

~Wendy

Why I include sport in my adventures

I often get asked what role the soccer ball has in my walk across Africa… 20151105_Matt with soccerball_by CbrTimes Jay Cronan_croppedI believe sport and physical activity is a fundamental human right. Sport is well recognised internationally as a low cost and high impact tool for development and a powerful agent for social change. It is a culturally accepted activity that brings people together and unites families, communities and nations. Effective sport-for-development programs combine sport and play with other non-sport outcomes to achieve the desired development objectives such as the joy of movement, self-esteem, health prevention, mental wellbeing and social interaction, just to name a few. Sport can also be used as a tool for addressing some of the challenges that arise from humanitarian crises and in conflict and post-conflict settings. At the grassroots or community level, sport can be seen to provide a useful way of creating an environment in which people can come together to: work towards the same goal, show respect for others and share space and equipment. All these aspects are crucial to peace-building. The United Nations recognises that by including sport in development and peace programmes in a more systematic way, they can make full use of this cost-efficient tool to help us create a better world.

“Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.” Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General

I believe sport is under-utilised as a development tool and should be an integral component of any comprehensive development program. Sport brings people together from all walks of life to compete on a level playing field. Sport knows no bounds. It is important in a world of highly paid sports people not to lose focus of the real meaning of sport.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.” Nelson Mandela

I am hoping that by kicking the soccer ball it will bring children out of their villages to kick the ball with me on my journey. I may not be able to speak their language but we will be able to share the language of sport. And to be honest, I also need something to keep my mind occupied during the long and sometimes lonely days. Having grown up with a footy in my hands from a very young age, I can’t imagine doing the journey without a ball by my side.

~Matt

Sources:

http://www.sportmatters.org.au/why_sport.php http://www.sportanddev.org/en/learnmore/what_is_sport_and_development

Walvis Bay to Windhoek

From Walvis Bay to Windhoek

From Walvis Bay to Windhoek

The walk kicked off on 4 June from the Walvis Bay Yacht Club, Namibia. The launch was amazing with many distinguished guests coming along to wish me well. The most notable was Mike Horn, arguably one of the greatest adventurers of all time. Great to chat to him and compare stories. Only chatted for about 5 minutes but learnt so much in that time. From there we headed off and made about 36kms before setting up camp to the back drop of some amazing sand dunes that stretched as far as the eye could see. We were joined for the first few nights by Ed Humphreys the Australian Consul to Namibia. It was great to have his knowledge of the area and it helped ease us into the walk.

20160604_17_Walvis Bay Yacht Club_Launch_Matt with adventurer Mike Horn 20160604_27_Walvis Bay Yacht Club_Launch_First steps 20160605_36_Sand dunes in Namib Nauklaft NP

Night 3 was one to remember! We went to bed about 8pm and at about 10pm a freak sand/electrical storm hit. It flattened 2 of the 3 tents and 4 of the support crew ran for cover and slept in the support vehicle before we could assess the damage in the morning. The clean up the next day took a few hours and put us a little behind schedule but we managed to make that up that afternoon even though we were walking into a strong headwind all day. It was the first rain that part of the dessert had seen in 2 years and getting completely smashed by sand wasn’t fun. I think I am still getting sand out of my ears!! From there the weather cleared and out came the wildlife. After having flamingos and seals to see us off at the start we were now being greeted with zebra’s, antelope, baboons, ostriches, donkey’s and springboks. Pretty amazing walking along with this wildlife around you. One night we even had Zebra’s come and visit us in our camp at about 3am to say hi. Personally I was more interested in sleeping but nice of them to give us a warm welcome. We then headed into the mountains and took on the infamous Gamsburg pass. It is about 20kms of winding roads and takes you up in elevation about 1000 metres. It was a tough climb as this road features as one of the most dangerous roads in the world and by walking it you can certainly see why. After reaching the top we headed towards the capital Windhoek and after 420kms of walking in 11 days we arrived at the Windhoek Airport (30km the other side of the city). Pretty happy to have made it this far and we are right on schedule.

20160607_08_Zebras on the side of the road Winding road up the Kuiseb Pass 20160611_03b_Gamsberg Pass_Matt 3qtrs of way up Namibian lanscape

The hardest part so far is certainly doing it living under the poverty line. The walk, even though it is hard, doesn’t compare to doing it living on so little food. After 11 days I have lost 8kgs which is a little more than I had hoped by this stage and it is something we will have to monitor, but at this stage I’m feeling ok. I am still very committed to finishing this walk living under the poverty line but am mindful my health is also important. Blisters have also been a bit of an issue, they covered the balls of both feet by day 5 but popped themselves so after a bit of first aid I had both feet bandaged up and was on my way again. They have held up fairly well since and day off my feet today has been a great help. They don’t really affect my walking much other than it takes a few minutes for the skin to soften up a bit after each break.

20160608_19_Blisters 20160608_19c_Blisters bandaged up

Tomorrow I am lucky enough to be a special guest on NBC’s Good Morning Namibia breakfast TV show and giving a keynote presentation to Year 11 Students as part of the Rotary Club of Windhoek’s Adventures into Citizenship Workshop, an annual event attended by 2 learners from each of the High Schools in Windhoek. The president of the Rotary Club is also taking us to visit two of their community projects – Aris Primary School and attached hostel that caters for the children of the farmworkers from the surroundings farms and Oponganda, a community center in one of the less privileged suburbs of Windhoek. We will donate soccerballs to both projects (a big thanks again to Mac Miller for supplying balls for us to donate) No time to rest after this as we get back on the road on Friday and head for the border. The border is about a week’s walk away. I am looking forward to Botswana but in saying that I will miss Namibia as it is an amazing country and the people here have supported the walk more than I could have ever hoped for. It is great to have people stop me on the highway to wish me all the best and know that I have their support. Well time to get some much needed sleep and prepare for the next stage of the walk.

Thanks for following and I’ll update you again soon.

Interview with The Life You Can Save

I recently did an interview with Rhema Hokama the Director of Communications & Development at The Life You Can Save about the walk, why I’m so passionate about seeing an end to extreme poverty and how Peter Singer has inspired what I do. Here is a link to the article on TLYCS website: http://www.thelifeyoucansave.org/Blog/ID/232/Interview-How-one-man-is-trekking-a-continent-and-taking-on-a-cause and I’ve also included a copy below:

Matt Napier is passionate about fighting global poverty—and is undertaking an ambitious walk this summer across southern Africa to raise funds and awareness for the world’s neediest people. Matt recently chatted with The Life You Can Save via email, and shared his thoughts about the global community’s responsibilities to the extreme poor, and how Peter Singer’s philosophy transformed his personal outlook.

The Life You Can Save: Matt, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. You’re currently planning a walk across four countries in southern Africa in an effort to help some excellent charities combat global poverty. Tell us about your plans, and about the charities that inspired your walk.

Matt Napier: In June I will be setting off on a 2250-kilometre walk from the west coast of southern Africa to the east coast. I will be passing through Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, and Mozambique. The main purpose of my campaign Walk to a Better World is to raise awareness about poverty and to highlight the obstacles the world’s poorest face on a day-to-day basis. I will be encouraging my supporters to pledge at least 1 percent of their income to help end extreme poverty through the online pledge on our campaign website. Pledge text onlyIn terms of median income, Australians are among the wealthiest in the world, so we need to be doing our fair share to ensure that every man, woman, and child has access to food, clean water, education, and basic healthcare. I have teamed up with four fantastic charities that are leading the way to ending extreme poverty through sustainable development, and in doing so, ensuring a brighter future for the world’s poor. They are Care Australia, Caritas Australia, Oxfam Australia and The Fred Hollows Foundation.

Matt at Norseman, the start of the Nullarbor, during The Global Poverty Walk (2013)TLYCS: You’ve previously cycled and walked long distances to raise awareness for international poverty, both times in your home base of Australia. Tell me what those experiences were like.

Matt: Yes, this is not the first long distance challenge I have done to raise awareness of global poverty. In 2012 I cycled across Australia, and in 2013 I walked 4,500 kilometres from Perth to Sydney, via Adelaide and Melbourne. The walk took five months to complete and I bounced an Aussie Rules football the entire way. I walked in temperatures ranging from 45 degrees right down to minus 8 [Celsius]. Both journeys gave me a great opportunity to talk to thousands of school children about global poverty and how important it is to be an active global citizen. I also spoke to members of parliament about how Australia should be doing more to alleviate extreme poverty—instead of cutting the aid budget as we have been doing over the past few years.

TLYCS: Peter Singer is one of your campaign ambassadors for Walk to a Better World. How has his work influenced your thinking about international poverty?

Matt: It is fantastic to have someone of Peter Singer’s ilk on board as an ambassador for the walk. I first came across one of Peter’s books not long after I returned from a trip to Nepal to visit a friend of mine. It was the first time I had seen extreme poverty firsthand. Children as young as four and five where begging on the streets for food, and people were literally dying of starvation and disease right there on the streets. On the flight back home to Australia I thought to myself, Why should I be so lucky to go back to Australia and lead my privileged life here and leave these poor people behind? The only difference between us was the country we were born into. On arrival home a friend thought I would find Peter’s book The Life You Can Save an interesting read. I resonated very much with his philosophy and have changed my life completely. My wife and I now live a very basic lifestyle and donate 50 percent of the profits from our business to charity. We are currently working on incorporating what we have learned from Peter’s latest book The Most Good You Can Do into making sure that we have the most impact as possible through our charitable giving. This was very much the inspiration for the research I undertook before selecting the Charity Partners for my walk. Most importantly though, we have never been happier or felt more fulfilled and thank Peter greatly for being such a great influence in our lives.

TLYCS: All 10 of the countries with the highest rates of poverty are located in sub-Saharan Africa, and one in three Africans are chronically undernourished. How do you think your trek will change your views of extreme poverty and the people who support themselves and their families such small sums?

Matt: It saddens me greatly to know that one in three children in Africa are chronically undernourished but yet so many people in the developed world turn a blind eye to it. I am planning on spending time in villages along the way to get a better understanding of poverty, and I’ll be making a documentary that aims to show the human side of extreme poverty and the effect it has on families. We need to tell stories that viewers can relate to in their own lives, if we’re to convince more people to contribute funds to combat global poverty. I am expecting this walk to be a real eye opener for me. I am sure the walk will only make me want to be more of a voice for the world’s poor as we fight for equality in this world. One of the main things I want to get out of it is sharing the message that we are all human and that we should be leaving no stone unturned in helping the world’s poor break the poverty cycle. We have done some fantastic work by halving the number of people living in extreme poverty since 1990 but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

20151105_Matt kicking soccerball_by CbrTimes Jay CronanTLYCS: You’ll be kicking a football—what we Americans call a soccer ball—along the entire distance of your trek. What was the inspiration for that?

Matt: I believe sport can play a really big part in alleviating extreme poverty. It brings people together from all walks of life on a level playing field, so I like to incorporate sport into all my awareness raising campaigns. It will also be a fantastic way of connecting with communities I pass through on the way. On my walk across Australia in 2013 I actually bounced an Australian Rules Football the entire way. It helped on the long and lonely days having something to take my mind off the walk and also helps in gaining media attention as well.

TLYCS: Thanks so much, Matt! I wish you all the best for the upcoming journey and thank you for being part of the movement to end extreme poverty.

Matt: Thankyou for supporting Walk to a Better World.