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Field Journal

Follow The Wind

From The Field
Follow The Wind

The Follow the Wind project saw Jerrie van de Kop follow the wind cycle between the warm waters of the Indian Ocean to the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro. Using the power of wind, Jerrie travelled from the island of Zanzibar to the continent’s highest peak. Here, he explains more about the expedition. 

Global warming and climate change are at the base of many problems throughout the world. It caught my attention that the ice caps on the Kilimanjaro are melting due to the drought. More than a quarter of the ice on the summit has melted since the turn of the century and millions of people rely daily on its melting water. Besides that, the steady wind in Zanzibar – which my friends and I love so much – will disappear.

And so I created a unique project: ‘Follow the Wind’, which is about raising awareness of global warming. By going on a 23-day expedition powered by only wind itself, I wanted to let the wind guide me through the dry areas and see the problem with my own eyes.

My trail started in Zanzibar and led to the highlands, passing the dry mainland districts of Tanzania and Kenya. The wind guided me through one big ecosystem including three different terrains: water, dry land, and snow.

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We started in Zanzibar, one of the world’s finest kitesurf spots. Steady wind, crystal-clear water and amazing locals. An unforgettable experience to shoot scenes around the paradise islands on my hydrofoil kiteboard. It’s weird to think the perks of this incredible place are vanishing because of the melting ice caps on Kilimanjaro.

Next stop: Tanzania mainland. Here we found the right conditions to launch my kite, and land board – or skate – across dry land. I witnessed first hand that the drought problem is even larger than expected. Rivers are dried out and the soil doesn’t receive any water, though the locals have tried with all their power to irrigate. I really loved meeting these locals, especially the Masai tribe. They’re inspiring people with a mission to save the children and animals by digging holes in the soil to capture the little rain they get.

After working long days for a week and a half, the good vibes of the crew kept positivity up. At this point our most challenging and important part of the journey started: the Kilimanjaro climb with an end goal to kitesurf on top of its rapidly melting glaciers.

I was lucky enough to ascend the mountain in, and be one of the first to use, the new Merrell Chameleon 7 hiking boot. Lightweight and with featherweight protection, it dealt with the changing speeds and terrains demanded of Africa’s highest peak. As energy and oxygen levels dropped along the way, the climb became tougher on the body. After seven days of hiking we reached the top with a serious degree of altitude sickness. I couldn’t stand on my legs and all my balance was gone. I’ve never felt so sick in my life before.

But when I saw how small and depleted the glaciers were, I told myself ‘I haven’t come all this way to be sick and fail my task.’ So I pushed my body and mind to function again and managed to be the first person to kitesurf on top of the Kilimanjaro. A memory for life.

Jerrie van de Kop is a Merrell ambassador. For more information on the expedition head to Merrell’s Facebook page.

Facebook: /JerrievandeKopKiteboarding
Instagram: @jerrievandekop




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