June 16, 2010

Adventure Seeking with a Twist.

One of the main reasons I travel is because of the people I get to meet along the way. Some, of course, are more impressionable than others. But there are a select few I have met along the way that have left me so inspired that I have been moved to search for more consequential meaning in my own life. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet two such people. And I would like to take the opportunity, in turn, to introduce them to you.

Their names are Gwyn and Ryan. Gwyn is from the UK. Ryan is from South Africa. Gwyn is driving Ryan home. Although this is hardly an ordinary drive. For starters, their journey begins in London and ends in Capetown. Their journey began on 11th October 2009. We met them nearly 8 months later on the south coast of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at the bar of Mikadi Beach, a well known stop for overlanders in Africa. Gwyn was quite chatty and pumped with excitment for the pending U.S. v. England World Cup game, while Ryan, who appeared to be a bit shyer by nature, remained in the background reading the "Getting Started" Section of their Southern Africa Lonely Planet guide. We could not help but laugh at this fact, especially since 8 months into my year's long journey in Dar es Salaam, I still feel like I am "getting started." If only someone had penned a neat summary I could read to better equip me for this experience. 
Both Gwyn and Ryan share a sense of adventure. But their shared adventure is one with a unique twist. Namely, their overland route is being undertaken in a 1989 Toyota LandCruiser partially powered by solar technology. Gwyn’s keen interests in solar energy and development in Africa combined to create OverlandintheSun. The OverlandintheSun trip is an opportunity for Ryan to combine his journey home with a real world adventure that will aid in capitalizing on the potential of solar power and technology to bring benefits to some of the world's poorest communities. OverlandintheSun is raising money for SolarAid, a charity that fights global poverty and climate change by coordinating projects in rural Africa that bring solar power to schools, community centers, and health clinics. SolarAid augments their introduction of solar power technology by training beneficiaries to make and sell their own solar powered products and chargers.

The OverlandintheSun trip itself will be producing less CO2 than they would otherwise living in the UK. How you ask, can driving an energy inefficient car, over such a vast distance produce less CO2 than simply staying in the UK during that time?

Well, a trip of this kind takes a serious amount of preparation, and Gwyn diligently worked for over two years to make his dream a reality. But these two years of dedicated preparation work consisted not only of outfitting the vehicle to make it a place they could call home for the coming year, but also, reconfiguring the vehicle to make it partially fueled by solar energy. This has been achieved through the use of Solar Photovoltaics, a technology that has been around for 20 years, but is only now maturing and becoming economically viable. This technology will allow them to capitalize on the potential of the equitoral sun to fuel the vehicle's fans and water pump to keep them cool, the power steering to give them a helping hand, and the alternator to provide such amenities as lights, stereo, mobile satillite navigation system, as well as in-vehicle entertainment in the form of a solar powered kettle, solar powered mobile phones and personal computers and cameras, and the ultimate luxury - hot showers - via solar powered "heat" aka shower bags warmed in the sun.

While they recognize that by walking or biking they certainly would have consumed less fossil fuel burning energy (although perhaps more physical energy!), driving was in fact part of the mission. They were driven (no pun intended) to demonstrate to people in general and car manufacturers specifically the power of Solar Photovoltaics. While it is now widely accepted that using cars less, carpooling more, and driving more efficiently are all laudible goals, they realize that draconian policies restricting car usage is something no politician would dare to dream of and also changing the behavior of the "average Joe" is usually quite an impossible feat. Therefore, part of their mission is to take a bold stance in demonstrating the power of technology to help reduce the impact of climate change.

Many others with a similar sense of adventure have joined them along the way, as surely a trip of this magnitude would be impossible with two people alone, however we only had the pleasure of meeting Gwyn and Ryan.

Are you feeling inspired yet? Play your part in helping them arrive into Capetown and complete this dually inspirational journey.

Donate money for a good cause: Help OverlandintheSun reach their goal in raising money for Solar Aid.

Show your support on Facebook for OverlandintheSun:

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