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India expedition team to spread message of peace in Israel
(PTI)

20 April 2006

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — A ten-member 'Gondwanaland Expedition Team' from India, currently touring Israel to explore avenues of scientific co-operation, also intends to spread Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence as it passes through the region.

"We are carrying Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence, which he brought from South Africa to India back to South Africa through regions filled with rift and tension", expedition leader Akhil Bakshi said. The team members are also carrying a goodwill message from Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for the Israeli President, Moshe Katsav.

Though Gondwanaland now fall under two separate continents Asia and Africa, we still remain united by geography and history, shared culture and tradition of thousands of years, Bakshi said.
 

Indian expedition team to spread message of peace in Israel

Jerusalem, Apr 19: A ten-member 'Gondwanaland expedition team' from India, currently touring Israel to explore avenues of scientific co-operation, also intends to spread Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence as it passes through the strife-torn region.

"We are carrying Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence, which he brought from South Africa to India back to South Africa through regions filled with rift and tension", expedition leader Akhil Bakshi told reporters.

The team members are also carrying a goodwill message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Israeli president, Moshe Katsav.

Though Gondwanaland, comprising Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions now fall under two separate continents Asia and Africa, we still remain united by geography and history, shared culture and tradition of thousands of years, Bakshi said.

The team has met with several Israeli scientists and identified possible areas of cooperation.

"Our scientists are studying movement of the tectonic plates that are causing devastating earthquakes in West Asia and South Asia and we see possibilities of cooperation," Bakshi, who is the chairman of the science and exploration committee of the Indian mountaineering foundation, said.

Bakshi said the chairman of the Geological Survey of Israel, Benjamin begin, has proposed cooperation between the scientific communities of the two countries.

The expedition was flagged off from Shimla last month and aims to cover 35,000 kms by road crossing 17 countries before reaching it final destination of cape agulhas -- the southernmost tip of South Africa.

Bureau Report

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Tracing the Nile
   By: A Sunday Mid Day Correspondent
   April 30, 2006

Scorpios at the pyramids

 

Since leaving Cairo on Sunday, April 23, the Egyptian police has been providing intensive cover to the expedition members.

For the next 200 km police escorts changed six times as the message was relayed to the concerned police stations to “secure” the expedition. At night, after dinner on the banks of the Nile, a band of policemen drove slowly in

a pick-up alongside the amused expedition members as they walked back to their hotel.

On April 24, the day of the bombings in Egypt, a police contingent had latched on to the expedition team from the start. “Every time we stepped out of our vehicles, heavily armed guards would surround us,” said Akhil Bakshi, the leader of the Gondwanaland Expedition.

“I stopped to take a picture of some potters and had two of these policemen with deadly-looking guns glued on to me. When we stopped for tea on the wayside, additional force was called in.

At the end of it there were five pick-ups and about 20 gun-toting policemen, some stringing their weapons like a guitar. At Qena, 63 km before Luxor, we again waited for over an hour, forced to join a long convoy of tourists returning from a visit to the Dandera Temple of Aphrodite.

All along the way each and every intersection was manned by armed guards and traffic was stopped to allow our uninterrupted passage. I thought that all this heavy security was perhaps to make sure that foreigners don’t steal any more of the Egyptian antiquities spared by the Western archaeologists. Later, when we arrived at Luxor, we heard about the bombings and deaths on the Egyptian Red Sea.”

Four days before the terrorist attack, the Gondwanaland expedition team had passed through Taba on the Egyptian Red Sea Coast where over 30 people died and over a hundred injured in the April 24 bomb blasts.

The expedition scientists made a two-day off-track excursion deep into the Western Desert in their Scorpios to look at fossils of petrified wood, bones of the primitive ape, elephant tooth, crocodile jaw, turtle, etc. that have been recorded in the Fayyum region.

In Luxor, the ancient capital of Upper and Lower Egypt, the expedition called on the 5,000-year old Karnak Temple, the Leviathan of pharaonic architecture, and marveled at the grandeur of the Pharaohs whose might still powers Egypt’s $ 8-bn tourism industry.

At the Valley of Kings, the team descended into the burial chambers of Ramses I, Ramses IV and Ramses IX, looking at the elaborate wall paintings of guardian gods and spirits and admiring the continuing contribution of these Pharaohs to the national economy.

“Tutankhamum's tomb was the last to be visited and we are glad to report that his mummy is still smiling after all these claustrophobic millennia of being holed up in an underground chamber,” reports the expedition leader, Akhil Bakshi.

“We left the tombs without scratching our names on the walls,” he adds.

They also went visited the Valley of Queens — but the tomb of Nefertari was closed for renovation. Not interested in lesser queens, they came away.

The drive from Cairo to Aswan has been along the extremely fertile valley of the full-flowing Nile, the longest river in the world. The road is full of animated traffic. And the long-robed and turbaned men, chador-clad women, and the lifeline of society — the hard-working donkey — are all busy harvesting wheat and sugarcane.

 The Gondwanaland Expedition will continue following the Nile into deserts of Sudan and the highlands of Ethiopia.

— Akhil Bakshi, Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, leads this expedition

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Death, poetry and celebration in Iran
   By: Akhil Bakshi
   April 9, 2006

Iranian women surround the expedition Scorpio
We reached Tehran on the night of April 3. Our Gondwanaland Expedition had been flagged off on March 30, by the Indian Consul General in Bandar Abbas – Mr Barsal, from the imposing Holy Shrine of the brother of the Eighth Imam.

The Rohanis recited verses from the Koran and blessed the expedition team. 

Driving past an earthquake

On our way to Shiraz, geologists on the expedition observed faults and thrusts in the Zagros and Central Iran Mountain Massifs. There was no dearth of material; They studyied the movement of the tectonic plates that causes earthquakes.

As we drove, a killer quake of 6.0 magnitude rocked Khorramabad in Lorestan Province of Iran, flattening eight villages, taking 18 lives and injuring 850 people. Over 100 mild quakes and aftershocks followed. The seismicity in Iran causes an average of 50 earthquakes, a week.

Novroz in Iran

The first leg of the expedition’s journey through Iran coincided with the Novroz festival. Every square inch of grass was occupied by picnickers spilling on to busy pavements with colorful tents, pots and pans, inviting the Indian team to share their chello kebabs and showing off their knowledge of Bollywood.

Coming to Iran as firm, ancient friends, the Indians have been overwhelmed by the warmth of the Iranians. The three expedition Scorpios have been a hit with the people wanting to be photographed.

Poetry in Shiraz

In the ancient city of Shiraz, the expedition called on the Arg, the 18th-century citadel and tombs of the great Shirazi poets – Hafiz and Sa’di, the latter immortalised for his couplet:

“A bad wife comes with a good man to dwell / She soon converts his earthly heaven to hell.”

Novroz in Iran
Ancient ruins of Persepolis


Driving through Persepolis, the expedition potted around the ruins of Takht-e-Jamshed, built by Darius the Great 2,500 years ago and razed by Alexander.

At Naqsh-I Rustam, we admired the gigantic Sasanid rock, the tombs of Darius and legendary Persian kings carved high into a rock face. 115-km later, at Pasargada, we visited the tomb of Cyrus the Great, wrapped in a rusted scaffolding. 

Isfahan’s domes

On the last day of Novroz, the expedition was at Isfahan, famous for its turquoise domes and mosaic work. The entire population of the town seemed to fill the parks and riverside, being one with nature, awaiting the arrival of the Saviour who is said to appear on this day of the pre-Islamic festival.

Between Isfahan and Tehran the expedition crossed the “suture zone”, the joining line between the two continental blocks of Iran of Gondwana affinity. The expedition geologists, Dr Trilochan Singh and Dr Rajeev Uppadhyay, suggest that Neo-Tethys Sea was closed down along this line in the geological past. 

Destination Turkey

The expedition will now be ascending the snowy heights of Alborz Mountains on their way to Tabriz, 600 km from Tehran, before crossing into Turkey.

— Bakshi, Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, leads this expedition.

Ethiopia: Gondwanaland Expedition Team in Ethiopia As Part of Int'l Study Tours

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ENA
Addis Ababa

Gondwanaland Expedition, a 45,000 kms international motoring expedition from India to the tip of Africa, has been touring Ethiopia since 6 May, 2006.

The 10-member team, who have already covered Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Sudan before entering Ethiopia, is scheduled to cover Gondar, Bahir Dar, Lalibela, Addis Ababa and Awassa before crossing over to Kenya on 17th May 2006. They commenced their journey from India on 27 March, 2006.

Arriving in Addis Ababa on 12th May in the evening, the Expedition Team is scheduled to meet dignitaries and scholars for exchange knowledge and experiences, the Embassy of India told ENA in a press release. The team will leave Addis on 14th May in the morning.

The team, which comprises a geologist, seismologist, zoologist, botanist, anthropologist and a medical doctor, will study seismic activities in the Indo-African region as a result of plate tectonics that cause catastrophic disasters like earthquake and tsunami, the release said.

The study, according to the release, can further the knowledge of predicting earthquakes on land and sea bed.

"The team will make exploratory study of the evolution of the East African Rift systems."

"In addition to the seismological study, the team will also concentrate on the flora and fauna endemic to the regions. Further, the Team's effort would be to develop people-to-people contact and study the important landmarks and sites from archeological point of view."

The release said, the wealth of information collected during the journey of the Expedition Team will be shared with the international scientific community.

India was once part of the Gondwanaland which consisted of the whole of Africa and South America. During the Mesozoid age, India got separated from north-eastern Africa and slowly drifted towards the present location in Asia. Similarities of the rock formations in India, Africa, Iran and Turkey are testimony of the fact that all these areas were part of one huge landmass during the bygone era, the release said.

 
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Continental jigsaw

Our Corporate Bureau / Mumbai May 16, 2006
RESEARCH M&M: is sending three Scorpios trundling across West Asia and Africa for scientific research.

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), the Indian utility vehicle maker, is kicking up dust again. This time, it’s sponsoring something called the Gondwanaland Expedition. Three Mahindra Scorpios will travel from India to West Asia and then rumble through the entire length of Africa, from Egypt to South Africa.

Kicking up dust, of course, is not the objective. The Gondwanaland Expedition, as the name suggests, is a scientific mission led by Akhil Bakshi, fellow of the Royal Geographic Society and his team of scientists.

Their mission: to conduct exploratory geological research on the continental structure and study seismic activity in the Indo-African region.

The studies promise to throw new light on the causes of such natural disasters as the recent Gujarat and Iran earthquakes, as also the tsunami of December 26, 2004.

The expedition, which kicked off on March 25 after a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is expected to end on June 28, with the requisite field work in the bag.

The company is more than pleased to be part of the expedition. “M&M is utilising the expedition to study the endurance of Scorpio travelling through the rugged terrains of the Himalayas to Cape Agulhas (the tip of Africa), across 17 countries, over 100 days, covering a distance of about 35,000 km,” says Vivek Nayer, vice-president, marketing, M&M.

As a brand, M&M is trying to acquire a global reputation for ruggedness, especially in diesel-driven tropical zones.

The company’s automotive division exports products to several countries in Europe, Africa, South America, South Asia, ASEAN and West Asia. It also exports vehicles to countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Having its vehicles seen as part of a scientific expedition would act as an image booster. M&M has previously participated in the Central Asia Expedition (1994), Azad Hind Expedition from Singapore to Delhi (1996), and Hands Across Borders Expedition across the subcontinent (1999). The Gondwanaland jigsaw fits in nicely.

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Marathon trek for Mahindra
Staff Reporter
Mon, 26 Jun 2006

A convoy of three Mahindra Scorpio SUVs with scientists from India arrived in Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, after an epic journey from the Himalayas in India through West-Asia across Africa.

“The three Mahindra & Mahindra-sponsored Scorpio SUVs each travelled 35 000km through 17 countries in 100 days without any major mechanical problems except for dirty fuel filters and a flat tyre or two,” said Vijay Nakra, chief executive of Mahindra South Africa.

The Scorpio SUV was launched in South Africa in April.

About 265 million years ago the route travelled by the scientists would have been across part of the primordial continent of Gondwanaland, consisting of what is today Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions south of the Alpine-Himalayan chain.

Gondwanaland started splitting up and drifting apart about 200 million years ago, and the Mahindra Gondwanaland expedition was organised to conduct exploratory scientific research that will contribute to knowledge of the continental structure and bring to light evidence of past history.

The aim of the group of nominated scientists on board the three vehicles, including two geologists, a zoologist, a botanist and an anthropologist, was also to study the seismic activity in the Indo-African region as a result of plate tectonics that cause catastrophic disasters such as the recent earthquakes in Africa (Zimbabwe and Mozambique earlier this year) and the 2004 Tsunami in Asia.

The route took the convoy of three Scorpio SUVs (none were brand new) from the Indian Himalayas that rose up when the Indian plate collided with the Asian plate, moved through the central Indian region of Gondwana from which the historic continent derives its name, and then on to Iran (by boat) from where the driving continued non-stop to Turkey and the Syrian Desert, continuing south through Jordan and the Dead Sea across the Gaza Strip from where they entered Egypt.

Still without any problems, the team remembered to fill some jerry cans with diesel fuel — just in case — in Egypt and continued along the Nile Valley, south through the Eastern Desert on the fringe of the Sudanese Nubian Desert into Khartoum, the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile.

Africa presented its own challenges, of which border procedures and getting stuck in the desert at the hands of novice 4x4 drivers behind the controls of the Mahindras, were the most serious.

Going off-road with the Scorpio 2.6 TD GLX 4x4 model was facilitated by 200mm ground clearance, selectable all-wheel drive and a low-range transfer case. The high compression engine also allowed for good braking on steep descents, said the drivers.

After crossing the Ethiopian Highlands, the convoy turned east into the Danakil Desert and then south to the Great Rift Valley. With only dust and some dirt in the fuel filters to be cleaned out to keep the vehicles going, the convoy went on visiting lakes and volcanoes on the fault line — Lake Victoria in Kenya and Serengeti and the massive Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, as well as Lake Nyassa in Malawi.

“Zimbabwe was quite the surprise to us — we had to buy meals with plastic bags full of money,” said geologist Dr Trilochan Singh Kaith. “If I had that amount of notes in Indian rupees, I would have been a billionaire,” the scientist remembered one of the many lighter moments of the expedition.

Just before entering South Africa through Swaziland, the convoy went into Mozambique with still no problems as far as the vehicles were concerned.

“We are all very impressed with South Africa — the roads are excellent, the people are friendly and helpful and it was clear Mahindra is the right vehicle for this part of the world,” said expedition leader Bakshi.

The expedition arrived at Cape Agulhas on Saturday June 24 before continuing to Cape Town to end the adventure.

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26 June 2006
Epic voyage on a wing and a Scorpio



Three Mahindra Scorpios carried a team of scientists and researchers for more than 100 days across 17 countries, spanning three continents and more than 100 000 km in an adventure that took them from India to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, where they ended their journey this week.

Seasoned expedition leader Akhil Bakshi organised a group of nominated scientists and to conduct scientific research as they departed on their research mission from Shimla in India on March 23, across what would have formed part of the prehistoric Gondwanaland before the landmass began to split, and its pieces drift apart, about 200 million years ago.

The Mahindra Gondwanaland expedition travelled in convoy from the Indian Himalayas through the central Indian region of Gondwana (from which the prehistoric continent's name is derived). It was then on to Iran by boat, before hopping back into the SUVs - two 4x4s and one 4x2 - and heading into Turkey, the Syrian Desert, Jordan and the Dead Sea, across the Gaza Strip and into Egypt.

From there, the route took them along the Nile Valley and into the Nubian Desert, into Khartoum and the confluence of the Blue and White Nile, before crossing the Ethiopian Highlands, turning east into the Danakil Desert, and then driving south along the Great Rift Valley visiting Lake Victoria in Kenya, the Serengeti and the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania, and Lake Nyasa in Malawi.

The convoy then moved into Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and finally South Africa, where the team headed to the tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. .

The vehicles of choice for the intercontinental journey - two 4x4s and one 4x2 - were the Scorpio 2,6 TD GLX, which produces 81 kW and 3 800 r/min and peak torque of 255 N.m at 1 800 r/min.

Interestingly, none of the three Scorpios (named Ganges, Tigris and Nile after three of "Gondwanaland's" great rivers) used in the voyage were new before the expedition took off with no support teams. All vehicles were equipped with spares on board and roof racks were the only extra features over their production mates in preparation for the journey..

Two of the vehicles used were 2005 models, showing the latest changes to the range launched locally in April this year. Twenty-three adjustments, including an all-new independent suspension and rear disc brakes, are listed as some of its newer additions.

And apart from the expected bureaucratic red tape, the only problems experienced along the way were three flat tyres and the replacement of a few fuel filters as a result of poor fuel quality in some countries.

"It was great fun - we were comfortable, even though we travelled hundreds of kilometres every day," expedition leader Akhil Bakshi said after the voyage. "Part of our aim was also to promote people-to-people contact between scientists from India and the countries of West Asia and East Africa," said Bakshi, who is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

He had previously led expeditions to Central Asia in 1994 retracing the 12 000-km Old Silk Route, the Azad Hind Expedition of 10 000 km from Singapore to Delhi via Malaysia in 1996, and a 18 000-km trek through the interiors of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India in 1999. All Bakshi's previous expeditions had been conducted using Mahindra equipment.

The idea to cover the Gondwanaland Expedition was hatched by Bakshi in 1994, though after a recce to South Africa in 1999, planning only started in earnest in 2002. But after completing his fourth and most taxing expedition to date, visiting 29 universities and several heads of state and government officials along the way, Bakshi is content to just take a well-deserved break.

Not so for the hero Scorpios...Two of the SUVs will shortly be shipped back to India where they will be used in factory endurance tests - perhaps in preparation for Bakshi's next big adventure!

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Mahindra Scorpios go 35000km back down history

June 27, 2006

 By Les Stephenson

Kitting up three vehicles for a 35 000km overland drive from the Himalayan foothills to Cape Town via a good chunk of western Asia would, you'd think, mean quite a quartermaster's list. Unless, that is, you're driving a Mahindra Scorpio SUV – in which case you bolt on a roof-rack, fit some heavy-duty tyres and head on out…
 


'We had to pick out some used models – they'd all done about 50,000kms before we started the trip'


No, seriously. Well, OK, there were also some wooden boxes with a chirpy little image of a handyman and the words 'TOOL BOX' painted on them just to avoid any possible confusion; inside the boxes were, well, some tools that looked like they'd been bought from a local hardware store and some bits of plastic piping "just in case"

No, I didn't get to take 100 days' paid leave to join the Gondwanaland Expedition; I was being shown the remarkably undamaged and unworn Indian-built vehicles outside Cape Town's 'Pink Lady' – the Mount Nelson Hotel, final stop of the trip, by expedition leader, explorer extraordinaire and Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society Akhil Bakshi.
 

BACK TO THE SHOWROOM: One of the three Mahindra Scorpios that made the trip - the Ganga (Ganges) - looks ready for resale despite having covered around 80 000km, 35 000 of them on the journey from the Himalayas to Cape Town. Cape Town pictures: LES STEPHENSON 

Bakshi had just delivered a presentation about the journey and, though not an employee of Mahindra & Mahindra, was hugely proud that the Scorpio GLX 2.6 turbodiesels had arrived in Cape Town right on schedule on Sunday (June 25) after visiting the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Agulhas, the day before - and that that box of spanners was still wrapped in its original plastic packaging.

Almost casually, he also pointed out that the Scorpios were not new: "Our budget didn't allow that," he explained


'Part of our aim was to promote people-to-people contact between scientists'
. "We had to pick out some used models – they'd all done about 50 000km before we started the trip but still gave us an average fuel consumption of around 10.5 litres/100km."

Each was named after a major river in the areas they eventually crossed: Nile, Tigris and Ganga (Ganges) and Bakshi smiled wickedly from his rostrum as he reported their small convoy meeting an expedition convoy of huge Toyotas off-roaders south of Ethiopia "carrying so many parts they could have built an entire vehicle".

What, you might ask, does the ancient unified supercontinent of Gondwanaland have to do with it all? Bakshi explained that, 265-million years ago, Africa, India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasia were all way south of what is now the Alpine-Himalayan mountain chains, both of which were thrown up when this southern continent collided with what is now Russi


KEEPING IT SIMPLE: Two wooden tools/parts chests in the boot and a box of spanners still unopened when the Scorpios reached Cape Town. 


NO SIGNS OF WEAR:
While you might question the design of this Scorpio's upholstery the cloth was still intact after thousands of kilometres of deserts and dust. 

a, China and northern Europe.

"Part of our aim was to promote people-to-people contact between scientists from India and the countries of West Asia and East Africa which split from India all those millions of years ago," Bakshi explained. "It was a trip not only of exploration but also of friendship."

Historic cities

On board the Scorpios when they left the former hill station of Simla in the Himalayan to foothills en route to Mumbai were experts including a botanist, an archaeologist and an anthropologist.

From the port city of Mumbai, the vehicles were shipped to Bandar Abbas in Iran and continued driving through the historic cities of Shiraz, Persepolis, Isfahan, Tehran and Tabriz into Turkey.

From there they crossed the Anatolian Plateau and the Taurus Mountains and descended into the Syrian Desert towards the Mediterranean coast via the ancient ruins at Crac des Chevaliers and on through Jordan and the Dead Sea to Jerusalem before crossing the Suez Canal past the Gaza strip and into Egypt.

The convoy, still without mechanical problems, then followed the Nile Valley south through the Eastern Desert to the fringe of the Sudanese Nubian desert into Khartoum, the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile.

Through Mozambique

Then it was up again and through the Ethiopian Highlands, the Danakil Desert and then south to the Great Rift Valley, Lake Victoria in Kenya, the Serengeti plains and the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania.

Lake Malawi was next (also called Lake Nyasa, Lake Nyassa or Lake Niassa after the Yao word for "lake" and officially Niassa in Mozambique) and then Mozambique, through Swaziland and into South Africa, following the Drakensberg – another mountain range created when Gondwanaland fragmented.

The drive ended at Cape Agulhas.

  • For map-readers, here's the full route:

    INDIA: Shimla - Chandigarh - New Delhi.
    IRAN: Bandar Abbas – Shiraz – Isfahan - Tehran – Tabriz – Bazargun.
    TURKEY: Gurbuluk – Van – Dayarbakir.
    SYRIA: Aleppo – Damascus.
    JORDAN: Amman.
    ISRAEL: Dead Sea - Jerusalem – Taba.
    EGYPT: Cairo – Minya – Luxor – Aswan – Abu Simbel.
    SUDAN: Wadi Halfa – Abu Hamed - Atbara - Khartoum - Wadi Medani - Gedaref – Metema.
    ETHIOPIA: Gondar – Bahar Dar – Lalibela – Addis Abbaba – Awasa – Moyale.
    KENYA: Marsabit – Isiolo - Nairobi – Mara.
    TANZANIA: Serengeti – Ngorongoro Crater – Singida – Rungwa – Chunya.
    MALAWI: Karonga – Nkhata Bay – Liliongwe.
    ZAMBIA: Lusaka.
    ZIMBABWE: Harare.
    MOZAMBIQUE: Chimoio – Inhassoro – Inhambane – Xai Xai – Maputo.
    SWAZILAND: Goba – Siteki – Big Bend – Lavumisa.
    SOUTH AFRICA: Ubizane – Durban – Port Elizabeth – Mossel Bay – Cape Agulhas – Cape Town.
     
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    Mahindra Scorpio's great trek

    28/06/2006 10:28

    A convoy of three Mahindra Scorpio SUV's with scientists from India arrived in Cape Agulhas, after an epic journey from the Himalayas in India and across Africa.

    The team arrives in Kenya
     
    According to Vijay Nakra, chief executive of Mahindra South Africa, the expedition was the perfect opportunity to showcase the durability and reliability of the new Scorpio 2.6 TD GLX SUV shortly after the vehicle's launch in South Africa in April 2006.

    "The three Mahindra & Mahindra-sponsored Scorpio SUVs each travelled 35 000km through 17 countries in 100 days without any major mechanical problems except for dirty fuel filters and a flat tyre or two," said Nakra.

    "Mahindra & Mahindra's vehicles have always been known for their ruggedness, reliability and performance. The Gondwanaland Expedition is a true testimony to the vehicle's enduring quality," he said

    Research focused

    Part of the focus of the trip was to conduct research over the Gondwanaland area with the help of a group of scientist on board each vehicle comprising of two geologists, a zoologist, a botanist and an anthropologist.

    "Part of our aim was also to promote people-to-people contact between scientists from India and the countries of West Asia and East Africa," said Akhil Bakshi, expedition leader and member of the Royal Geographic Society. The route took the convoy of three Scorpio SUV's from the Indian Himalayas, through the central Indian region of Gondwana, and then on to Iran (by boat).

    From Iran the group continued on to Turkey and the Syrian Desert, crossing the Gaza Strip from where they entered Egypt.

    The great trek

    Africa presented its own challenges, of which border procedures and getting stuck in the desert at the hands of novice 4x4 drivers behind the controls of the Mahindras, were the most serious.

    Going off-road with the Scorpio was made easier by a good 200 mm ground clearance, selectable all-wheel drive and a low-range transfer case. The high compression engine also allowed for excellent braking on steep descents. "It was great fun, we were comfortable, even though we travelled hundreds of kilometres every day," said Bakshi. After crossing the Ethiopian Highlands, the convoy turned east into the Danakil Desert and then south to the Great Rift Valley.

    With only dust and some dirt in the fuel filters to be cleaned out to keep the vehicles going, the convoy went on visiting spectacular sites such as Lake Victoria in Kenya and the Serengeti. "Zimbabwe was quite the surprise to us, we had to buy meals with plastic bags full of money," said geologist Dr Trilochan Singh Kaith. "If I had that amount of notes in Indian rupees, I would have been a billionaire," he added.

    Journey's end

    Just before entering South Africa through Swaziland, the convoy went into Mozambique with still no problems as far as the vehicles were concerned.

    "We are all very impressed with South Africa, the roads are excellent, the people are friendly and helpful and it was clear Mahindra is the right vehicle for this part of the world," said expedition leader Bakshi, who thoroughly enjoyed local cuisine as far as the expedition travelled.

    The expedition arrived at Cape Agulhas on Saturday (24 June) before continuing to Cape Town to end the adventure in the Mother City.

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    "Indian expedition safe in Egypt"

    Cairo, April 26 (UNI): Egyptian authorities have provided intensive security cover for the Gondwanaland Expedition from India after Monday's late night blast on the Red Sea coast killed 30 people.

    The all-Indian expedition team, which is retracing the continental history of Asia and Africa, had passed through Taba, the scene of the blast, four days ago.

    Since leaving Cairo on Sunday, Egyptian police has provided security cover to the expedition members and had detained the team at a police checkpost because of delay in the arrival of an escort.

    Yesterday, a police contingent had latched on to the expedition team from the start. "Every time we stepped out of our vehicles, heavily armed guards would surround us," said Akhil Bakshi, leader of the Gondwanaland Expedition.

    "I stopped to take a picture of some potters and two policemen glued on to me. When we stopped for tea on the wayside, additional force was called in. At the end of it, there were five pick-ups and about 20 gun-totting policemen," said Bakshi.

    Traffic was stopped at many places to give uninterrupted passage for the expedition team. "I thought that all this heavy security was perhaps to make sure that foreigners don't steal any more of the Egyptian antiquities spared by the Western archaeologists.

    Later, when we arrived in Luxor, we heard about the bombings and deaths on the Egyptian Red Sea," said Bakshi.

    Earlier, on April 17, the expedition, which was flagged-off from Shimla last month, was in Tel Aviv when a suicide-bomber killed several people near a bus station.

    Indian expedition team to spread message of peace in Israel

    Jerusalem, April 19. (PTI): A ten-member 'Gondwanaland Expedition Team' from India, currently touring Israel to explore avenues of scientific co-operation, also intends to spread Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence as it passes through the strife-torn region.

    "We are carrying Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence, which he brought from South Africa to India back to South Africa through regions filled with rift and tension", expedition leader Akhil Bakshi told PTI.

    The team members are also carrying a goodwill message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Israeli President, Moshe Katsav.

    Though Gondwanaland, comprising Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions now fall under two separate continents Asia and Africa, we still remain united by geography and history, shared culture and tradition of thousands of years, Bakshi said.

    The team has met with several Israeli scientists and identified possible areas of cooperation.

    "Our scientists are studying movement of the tectonic plates that are causing devastating earthquakes in West Asia and South Asia and we see possibilities of cooperation," Bakshi, who is the chairman of the Science and Exploration Committee of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, said.

    Bakshi said the Chairman of the Geological Survey of Israel, Benjamin Begin, has proposed cooperation between the scientific communities of the two countries.

    The expedition was flagged off from Shimla last month and aims to cover 35,000 kms by road crossing 17 countries before reaching it final destination of Cape Agulhas -- the southernmost tip of South Africa.

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    Discovery of Africa breaking apart
    OUR BUREAU

    New Delhi, June 30: Evading bandits and bombs, driving across mountains and grasslands, and fixing a tyre with lionesses for company, a 10-member Indian team has travelled 25,000 km from Shimla to the southern tip of Africa.

    Three scientists from Calcutta were in the team that drove from Shimla to Mumbai, sailed to Bandar Abbas in Iran, and then hit the road again through west Asia and eastern Africa.

    They travelled for 100 days across 16 countries in three sports utility vehicles before entering South Africa and arriving at Cape Agulhas, the southern tip of Africa, on June 24.

    “This expedition turned out to be a natural geological observatory,” said team member Trilochan Singh, a geologist posted at the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology’s Northeast unit in Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.

    “Along the way, we could see signatures of Africa’s future geological fate,” Singh told The Telegraph. An eastern chunk of Africa is now rifting and could break apart millions of years from now to create another Madagascar-like island.

    The Ethiopian highlands and a series of elongated lakes along the route provide evidence of this rifting process, Singh said.

    The science contingent from Calcutta included Paramjit Singh from the Botanical Survey of India, Gopinathan Maheshwaran from the Zoological Survey of India, and Ankeram Sankhyan from the Anthropological Survey of India.

    They called it the Gondwanaland expedition, borrowing a name given to the primordial continent that was made up of modern-day Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, and Antarctica.

    The team led by Akhil Bakshi, a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society, moved from Iran into Turkey and through the Syrian desert, continued south into Jordan and past the Dead Sea across the Gaza Strip into Egypt.

    The day the team arrived in Tel Aviv, the city witnessed a suicide bombing. While they were in Addis Ababa, three bombs exploded in the city.

    After crossing the Ethiopian highlands, the convoy turned east into the Danakil desert and then south into the Great Rift Valley, passing through lakes and volcanoes along the geological fault line — Lake Victoria in Kenya, the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania and Laka Nyassa in Malawi.

    In Kenya, the team once had to fix a flat tyre under the gaze of a pair of lionesses staring at them from a nearby rock. Another time, the team returned from a walk along the grasslands to find a lion playfully rolling under their Jeep, with a couple of team members who had stayed behind perched on its roof.

    In Tanzania, Bakshi said, the team had to make a 750-km detour to keep away from an area notorious for bandits. “The police asked us to avoid the area and declined to provide us any escort,” Bakshi said.

    The team had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 22 before setting out. Along the route, the scientists interacted with their counterparts in different countries, while other members interacted with youth organisations.

    “Part of our goal was to promote people-to-people contact with countries in West Asia and Africa,” Bakshi said.

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    GONDWANALAND DURBAN, JUN 20 (PTI)

    The ten-member Gondwanaland team from India is in South Africa on the last leg of its three-month long expedition covering 17 countries to explore avenues of scientific cooperation. Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions now falling under two separate continents Asia and Africa was known as Gondwanaland 265 million years ago. The expedition team is led by Akhil Bakshi and includes seismologist Thiroshan Singh; geologist Rajiv Updhaya; botanist Panranjan Singh; zoologist Gopinathan Mashewaran; and anthroplogist A R Sarkhanjan. The expedition was flagged off from Shimla in March and has covered 23,000 kms by road crossing 16 countries before reaching Durban yesterday, Bakshi said. The team would visit the southern most point in South Africa, Cape Agulhas, which is situated near Cape Town, Bakshi said. He said the delegation would interact with university academics in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town to discuss the research being carried out by them into Gondwanaland before returning to India on June 27.

    The countries which the team has travelled to included India, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabawe, Mozambique and Swaziland.

    "This has not only been a research and study expedition but also a friendship mission between the peoples of India, West Asia and Africa", Bakshi said in an interview.                                                 

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    Zimbabwe: Expedition Offers Insight Into Earthquake
    The Herald (Harare)

    Sifelani Tsiko
    Harare

    The Indian scientific exploration research team that is on a 35 000km Gondwanaland Expedition to study seismic activity in the Indo-African region is a source of inspiration for the promotion of exploration and public awareness about earthquakes in Africa.

    Their recent stop in Zimbabwe (June 6-9), the fourteenth country out of the 17 countries the expedition team will cover, provided an insight into the nature of the problems related to earthquakes. The team, led by Dr Akhil Bakshi, engaged Zimbabwean scientists and discussed issues related to earthquakes, strengthening co-operation in the study of seismic activities and on ways to mitigate their impact on human beings. In many ways the tour of Zimbabwe by the Indian scientists offered an opportunity for local scientists to network with the visiting experts, to share ideas, stories and experiences about earthquakes.

    The visit was providential in the wake of the earthquakes that hit Zimbabwe in the first half of the year. And, the highlight of the Gondwanaland Expedition stop in Zimbabwe was when the Indian team met President Mugabe, who challenged the scientists to prove the Continental Drift Theory (CDT). Dr Bakshi and Mr Sudhir Kashyap were amazed about the in-depth knowledge , sound arguments and challenging questions, which were asked by the President about earthquakes.

    "We enjoyed the discussions we had with President Mugabe. His questions were relevant, challenging and probed further about the earthquakes," said Mr Kashyap. Said Dr Bakshi: "It was a very good visit to Zimbabwe. We enjoyed every moment of it. We were quite privileged to meet the President of Zimbabwe and the scientific community. It was a huge success."

    Members of the Indian team said President Mugabe was fascinated by the dynamics of plate tectonics, which showed his quest for learning and science. Cde Mugabe urged the team to prove CDT. "If they are known, these historical strands that bound continents and people in the past and exposed constantly may help to build consciousness of oneness and unity, especialEgyptly to us who belong to the Third World," Cde Mugabe said when talking about Pangea the super continent that split into two landmasses.

    The first landmass, Gondwanaland consisted of Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America and the Antarctica; and the second - Eurasia was made up of modern day Europe, North America and the Arctic, about 265 million years ago. Zimbabwe experienced four aftershocks in February this year measuring an average of 5 on the Richter scale following a 7,5 Richter scale earthquake that was centred on the north bank of the Save River in Mozambique. This was the biggest earthquake to hit southern Africa in decades affecting much of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and parts of South Africa.

    Other earthquakes that rocked Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe were in March, April and May. The last were in May and the epicentre was close to the Nyamidzi River and just south of Hwedza Mountains about 115km south-east of Harare. The Minister of Science and Technology Development Dr Olivia Muchena paid tribute to the team and said the visit by the Indian expedition team would help build awareness about earthquakes as well as help local scientists to find ways of minimising the impact of tremors on humans.

    Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Ajit Kumar said the tour by the scientist strengthened the bilateral relations between his country and Zimbabwe particularly in the field of science where there was a growing need for closer collaboration of scientists from both nations. The team arrived in the country on June 6 from Zambia. This expedition team has already covered more than 19 000km in its four-month whirlwind-tour which has seen it passing through India, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    From Zimbabwe, the team will tour Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa. "It's both a scientific mission and a friendship mission," said Mr Bakshi. "India is a geological cousin of Africa. It got detached from Africa 265 million years ago and drifted for 200 million years across the Sea of Tethys." He said the journey across Africa had provided the Indian scientists with an insight into the flora and fauna as well as the rich and diverse cultures on the continent. "This vast expanse of land (Africa) is mind boggling and has awesome scenery. People are warm and affectionate. There is a lot of warmth in Africa as opposed to what we read and see on television," he said.

    "We have had a smooth journey and we got a lot of support from our embassies and government." The expedition comprises of geologists, a seismologist, anthropologist, botanist, zoologists, a medical doctor as well as automotive expert for Indian car maker Mahindra and Mahindra, which donated the three Scorpios vehicles, which the team is using for the tour. The team also met the University of Zimbabwe Vice-Chancellor Prof Levy Nyagura and engaged in discussions with their counterparts in the fields of geology, seismology, anthropology, botany and zoology at the campus.

    "We hope that this exchange of knowledge will result in a better understanding of ear thquakes and enable us to play a part in helping to minimise human suffering which is caused by such natural disasters," said Mr Bakshi. Apart from conducting exploratory geological research, the Indian mission aims to study seismic activity in the Indo-African region which results from plate tectonics that cause catastrophic disasters like the recent Kashmir, Gujarat and West Asian earthquakes and the tsunami.

    The Great East African Rift Valley is still active as the African continent continues to drift northwards at a rate of 15mm a year, the Indian experts said. "In future, time will come when the Mediterranean Sea will close and Africa will join with Europe. When the two continental plates collide, new mountains will be formed," Mr Bakshi said. He said the low intensity earthquakes Zimbabwe was experiencing were good because they released stored up energy, which could be devastating if this never occurred over time. "If this doesn't happen (low intensity earthquakes), th is stored energy might result in some big eruption in the distant future. If you don't have an earthquake for 100 years or more and if it happens all of a sudden (eruption), more energy is released and this can be disastrous," he said. "So it is important for us to learn from each other and find ways of mitigating the effects on humans."

    Dr Trilochan Singh, a geologist, said the team had useful interactions with scientists from various universities in the countries they passed through. "You can't stop an earthquake but we can together as scientists do something to minimise the effects on humans," he said. "Collaboration of scientists is very important and we hope that when India holds the Gondwanaland Conference in future, useful ideas will come up for the benefit of mankind."

    After the expedition, the team will compile a report and organise the Gondwanaland Conference, which will bring together scientists from the 17 countries the team toured to share experiences and knowle dge about various issues related to the Indo-African seismic activities. However, it was Dr Singh's presentation, which generated a lot of interest during a discussion forum that was held with Zimbabwean scientists.

    His presentatiEgypton covered theoretical background about plate tectonics, assessment and mitigation of natural hazards, planning, disaster preparedness, rehabilitation and resettlement as well as the critical component of research and development. "It is not earthquakes that kill people, it is the man-made structures that kill people," Dr Singh said, highlighting the importance of traditional bamboo-made houses and developing structures that can withstand earthquakes. He said modern architecture, which focused more on stones, bricks and cement rather than traditional building styles, bamboo and wood structures, was killing many people and destroying property when natural disasters like earthquakes struck.

    "There is no known scientific way of predicting an earthquake . Disaster preparedness is more important than earthquake predictions," the Indian geologist said. Earthquakes are a sudden phenomenon and seismologists have no way of knowing exactly when or where the next one will hit. Dr Singh said researchers are still studying animals in the hope of discovering what they hear or feel before the earthquakes in order to use that sense as a prediction tool.

    He said in China, India, Japan and Russia, the strange antics of animals were helping people to come up with prediction tools. In all these countries, he said, there was peculiar behaviour beforehand including dogs howling in the night mysteriously, caged birds becoming restless, nervous cats and dogs hiding and refusing to eat, snakes leaving their underground places of hibernation prior to tremors and fish becoming agitated and leaping out of water and on to dry land.

    Strange behaviour of rats, snakes, birds, cows and horses and mice appearing dazed before earthquakes were also reported and could act as pre-disaster alerts, Dr Singh said. Hens have been reported to lay fewer eggs or no eggs at all, pigs bite each other while bees evacuate their hives in panic minutes before an earthquake. Humans have no sense organ designed to specifically detect terrestrial vibrations.

    However, some geologists dismiss these kinds of reports saying it is "the psychological focussing effect' where people remember strange behaviours only after an earthquake or other catastrophe has taken place. If nothing had happened, they contend, people would not have remembered the strange behaviours. Indian scientists and their Zimbabwean counterparts said there was need for further studies to capture the views of many people and encourage large-scale public participation and research to draw meaningful lessons from such kind of observations.

    Dr Muchena urged scientists to utilise indigenous knowledge systems as they attempt to find solutions to the problems created by earthquakes. "We have a population that is full of anxiety and questions. We want to allay these fears (about earthquakes)," she said, calling for closer collaboration between Indian and Zimbabwean scientists. The Gondwanaland Expedition, which started at the top of the Himalayas and ends at Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, in all ways, was about the need for closer south-south co-operation among developing world scientists and the sharing of knowledge critical in finding answers to the problems facing developing countries.    

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     Africa, India and Asia

    Posted By: Ras Tonga
    Date: Friday, 9 June 2006, at 7:56 a.m.

    President urges team to prove theory of Gondwanaland

    Herald Reporters

    President Mugabe yesterday urged a group of visiting Indian scientists, who are on an expedition called Gondwanaland, to prove that Africa, India and West Asia were at one time joined as one continent.

    The Gondwanaland Expedition seeks to unite the people of Africa and Asia who were separated some 265 million years ago when the massive continent was separated by earth movements. Gondwanaland consisted of Africa, Peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions. President Mugabe said awareness on the subject would help foster unity among the people of Africa and India. He was speaking during a courtesy call made on him by the Indian team at Zimbabwe House. People in India, Africa and parts of Australia share a lot of things in common. Vegetation, animals, fauna and flora in some parts are similar further reinforcing the idea that the continents were indeed at one time joined together. "If they are known, these historical strands that bound continents and people in the past and exposed constantly may help to build consciousness of oneness and unity, especially to us who belong to the Third World," he said. He said the study by the scientists would help people who are in constant search of knowledge. "Make it known first and then we will popularise it. Let us start with our universities," said Cde Mugabe. Head of the expedition, Mr Akhil Bakshi, said the scientists were conducting an exploratory scientific research that will contribute to the knowledge of the continental structure and bring to light evidence of past history. He said he was impressed with President Mugabe’s knowledge of geology and anthropology. He said Africa was moving northwards at a rate of 15 millimeters per year and would in future collide with Europe. The collision would result in the formation of mountains as happened when India collided with Asia 65 million years ago. The collision resulted in the formation of the Himalayan Mountains. Later the Indian team held discussions with Zimbabwean scientists to find ways of strengthening co-operation in the study of earthquakes and on ways to mitigate their impact on humans. Research Council of Zimbabwe chairman Dr Francis Gudyanga said interactions between scientists in the Third World was important in enhancing knowledge about seismic activities and in minimising and determining the impact of earthquakes in terms of economic and social costs. Dr Trilochan Singh, a geologist, said there was great potential for co-operation between Zimbabwean scientist and their Indian counterparts. These, he said, included advanced planning, disaster preparedness, rehabilitation and resettlement, research and development as well as information pertaining to the prediction of earthquakes, such as abnormal sounds by animals. The Minister of Science and Technology Development Dr Olivia Muchena said scientists from India and Zimbabwe should begin to forge relations that would mutually benefit people in the two countries. "We have a population that is full of anxiety and questions. We want to allay these fears (about earthquakes). There is no need to panic. We panic out of ignorance," she said calling scientists from the two countries to make detailed studies on ways to mitigate the impact of earthquakes.

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    The Hindu - India
    Jerusalem, April 19. (PTI) - A ten-member 'Gondwanaland Expedition Team' from India, currently touring Israel to explore avenues of scientific co-operation, also intends to spread Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence as it passes through the strife-torn region.
    "We are carrying Mahatma Gandhi's message of peace and non-violence, which he brought from South Africa to India back to South Africa through regions filled with rift and tension", expedition leader Akhil Bakshi told PTI.
    The team members are also carrying a goodwill message from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the Israeli President, Moshe Katsav.
    Though Gondwanaland, comprising Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions now fall under two separate continents Asia and Africa, we still remain united by geography and history, shared culture and tradition of thousands of years, Bakshi said.
    The team has met with several Israeli scientists and identified possible areas of cooperation.
    "Our scientists are studying movement of the tectonic plates that are causing devastating earthquakes in West Asia and South Asia and we see possibilities of cooperation," Bakshi, who is the chairman of the Science and Exploration Committee of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, said.
    Bakshi said the Chairman of the Geological Survey of Israel, Benjamin Begin, has proposed cooperation between the scientific communities of the two countries.
    The expedition was flagged off from Shimla last month and aims to cover 35,000 kms by road crossing 17 countries before reaching it final destination of Cape Agulhas -- the southernmost tip of South Africa.

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    KAPIJIMPANGA FLAGS OFF 'GONDWANALAND EXPEDITION'

      | From: AllAfrica  | Date: June 7, 2006

    AllAfrica
    06-07-2006
    Kapijimpanga Flags Off 'Gondwanaland Expedition'

    Jun 06, 2006 (The Times of Zambia/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- Science, Technology and Vocational Training Minister, Judith Kangoma-Kapijimpanga, yesterday flagged off the expedition of a 10-man Indian scientific and friendship delegation to Zimbabwe.

    The delegation delivered goodwill message from the Indian Prime Minister to President Mwanawasa.

    Mrs Kangoma-Kapijimpanga who flagged-off the 'Gondwanaland expedition' for Zimbabwe on behalf of Government and President Mwanawasa, said the objective of the mission ...

    Mahindra excels on expedition 
    PATRICK GEARING
     

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    A CONVOY of three Mahindra Scorpio sports-utility vehicles (SUVs) with scientists from India has arrived in Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa, after an epic journey from the Himalayas in India through west Asia across Africa.

    According to Vijay Nakra, CE of Mahindra SA, the expedition was the perfect opportunity to showcase the durability and reliability of the new Scorpio SUV so shortly after the vehicle’s launch in the country in April.

    “The three Scorpio SUVs each travelled 35000km through 17 countries in 100 days without any major mechanical problems except for dirty fuel filters and a flat tyre or two,” says Nakra.

    “Our vehicles have always been known for their ruggedness, reliability and performance. The Gondwanaland Expedition is a true testimony to the vehicle’s enduring quality.”

    About 265-million years ago this part of the route travelled by the scientists would have been across part of the primordial continent of Gondwanaland, consisting of what is today Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions south of the Alpine-Himalayan chain.

    Gondwanaland started splitting up and drifting apart about 200-million years ago, and the Mahindra Gondwanaland expedition was organised to conduct exploratory scientific research that will contribute to knowledge of the continental structure and bring to light evidence of past history. The aim of the group of nominated scientists on board the three vehicles, including two geologists, a zoologist, a botanist and an anthropologist, was also to study the seismic activity in the Indo-African region.

    “Part of our aim was also to promote contact between scientists from India and the countries of west Asia and east Africa,” says Akhil Bakshi, expedition leader and Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

    The route took the convoy of three Scorpios from the Indian Himalayas that rose up when the Indian plate collided with the Asian plate, moved through the central Indian region of Gondwana from which the historic continent derives its name, and then on to Iran (by boat) from where the driving continued non-stop to Turkey and the Syrian Desert, continuing south through Jordan and the Dead Sea across the Gaza Strip from where they entered Egypt.

    Still without any problems whatsoever, the team remembered to fill some jerry cans with diesel fuel (just in case) in Egypt and continued along the Nile Valley, south through the Eastern Desert on the fringe of the Sudanese Nubian Desert into Khartoum, the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile.

    Africa presented its own challenges, of which border procedures and getting stuck in the desert at the hands of novice 4x4 drivers behind the controls of the Mahindras, were the most serious. The Scorpio 2.6 TD GLX 4x4 has 200mm of ground clearance, a high compression engine and selectable all-wheel drive with a low-range transfer case, making off-road work a strong-point of the vehicle.

    After crossing the Ethiopian Highlands, the convoy turned east into the Danakil Desert and then south to the Great Rift Valley. With only dust and some dirt in the fuel filters to be cleaned out to keep the vehicles going, the convoy went on visiting lakes and volcanoes on the fault line — Lake Victoria in Kenya and Serengeti and the massive Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, as well as Lake Nyassa in Malawi.

    “Zimbabwe was quite the surprise to us — we had to buy meals with plastic bags full of money,” says geologist Dr Trilochan Singh Kaith.

    “If I had that amount of notes in Indian rupees, I would have been a billionaire.”

    “Mahindra is the right vehicle for this part of the world,” says expedition leader Bakshi.

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    A road less travelled
    Meenakshi Verma

    [ INDIATIMES NEWS NETWORK ]THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2006 04:15:06 PM

     
    NEW DELHI: Three Scorpios clocking 25,000 km across 17 countries in 100 days. That’s what the Gondwanaland expedition entailed, putting man and machine through a rigorous terrain test.
     
    “The expedition’s objective was pretty simple. “We wanted to promote people-topeople contact between the scientists of India and the countries of West Asia and East Africa,” said Akhil Bakshi, fellow of the Royal Geographic Society who also led the Gondwanaland expedition.
     
    The expedition started from India then moved to the Middle East and finally crossed the entire length of Africa from Egypt to South Africa. But first the background—the expedition team retraced what was once the Gondwanaland continent spanning what is today Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and parts of Eurasia.

    The team of scientists—two geologists, one botanist and an anthropologist—also used this opportunity to study seismic activity in the India-African region.

     
    That was the mission. Now for the machines—the expedition used 2.6 turbo diesel GLX 4x4 Scorpios all of which were pre-used . These vehicles were made to cross terrains like the Sudanese Nubian desert or the confluence of the blue and white Nile.
     
    Also the massive Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania as well as Lake Nyassa in Malawi. And came away relatively unscathed with minor glitches. “The interesting thing was whereever we went we got rain,” said Bakshi sharing some of the lighter moments of the entire expedition.
     
    Given the scientific focus of the survey, what did auto company M&M get out of it all? “For us it was an honour to be associated with such an expedition , which was not only like a test for the Scorpio but also an had an objective as warm as forging bonds,” said Vivek Nayar , VP- marketing, Mahindra & Mahindra.
     
    The good news: the Scorpio managed to take the rough terrain in its stride. “There were no major mechanical problems with the vehicles except for dirty fuel filters and a few flat tyres,” added Nayar.

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    Indian team begins scientific research in Zimbabwe   
     
    An Indian scientific exploration team has begun its research in Zimbabwe, sources with the team said on Thursday.

    The team, which is on a 35,000-km expedition to study seismic activity in the Indo-African region, arrived in this southern African country on Tuesday from Zambia.

    The expedition team has already covered more than 19,000 km on its four month whirlwind-tour passing through India, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, the team leader Akhil Bakshi said.

    The Zimbabwean Minister of Science and Technology Olivia Muchena received the 10-member team on Wednesday in the country's capital city of Harare, saying that the Indian expedition team had come at a time when Zimbabwe had been hit by low-intensity earthquakes.

    Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ajit Kumar said the tour strengthened the bilateral relations between the two countries, particularly in the field of science where there was a growing need for closer collaboration of scientists from the both nations.

    From Zimbabwe, the team will tour Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa.

    Source: Xinhua

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      Indian delegation stops over on tour of ancient landmass Mon, 17-04-2006

     

    By Victoria Macchi, Jordan Times

     

    AMMAN, April 17 — The Gondwanaland Expedition, en route from northern India to the southern tip of the African continent, set off on the next leg of their journey from Amman early Sunday morning.

    The 10-member team met with geologists from the University of Jordan (UJ) as well as UJ President Abdul Rahim Huneiti on Saturday to develop contacts and discuss the phenomenon of earthquakes locally, according to expedition leader Akhil Bakshi.

    Meeting with local scientists “was a wonderful exchange of ideas...,” said team geologist Trilochan Singh Kaith, adding the focus of the discussion was tectonic movement.

    When asked by The Jordan Times about Jordan's distinguishing geological features compared to the countries around it, he responded: “That's the thing about geology. There are no boundaries.”

    The team traveled from Amman to the Israeli side of the Dead Sea yesterday. They left the Indian Himalayas in three 4x4s on March 26 and passed through Iran, Turkey and Syria before reaching Jordan.

    Comprising Indian geologists, seismologists, anthropologists, a botanist and a zoologist, the team is accompanied by a television crew, a medical doctor and a vehicle engineer.

    The expedition will continue to Israel and Egypt before heading south along the eastern coast of Africa; they expect to reach their final destination of Cape Agulhas, South Africa, during the second week of June, according to Kaith.

    By the end of the 100-day expedition, the team will have covered 35,000km and visited 17 countries, Bakshi said.

    The mission, designed to conduct scientific research and observations on continental structure and seismic activity in the Indo-African region, also seeks to establish a network between scientists in India, West Asia and Africa.

    By studying the seismic activity in the Indo-African region in light of the recent massive earthquakes and tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants, the team hopes to further the knowledge of predicting such catastrophes to minimize the potential loss of life.

    In addition, the expedition promotes the UNAIDS message of “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise.”

    The title of the expedition is derived from the Gondwanaland landmass. As explained by the expedition's official website, throughout most of geologic time there were two primordial continents: Laurasia in the north and Gondwanaland in the south, separated by the Sea of Tethys.

    Gondwanaland consisted of Africa, peninsular India, Australia, South America, Antarctica and Eurasian regions south of the Alpine-Himalayan chain.

    About 265 million years ago, the website explains, the continents began to split. For 200 million years, India, Arabia and Apulia (consisting of parts of Italy, the Balkan states, Greece and Turkey) drifted across the ocean, and finally collided with the rest of Eurasia 65 million years ago.

    The collision uplifted the Alpine-Himalayan mountain ranges extending from Spain (the Pyrenees) and northwest Africa (the Atlas) along the northern margin of the Mediterranean Sea (the Alps, Carpathians) into southern Asia (the Himalayas) to reach Indonesia.  

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    29/06/2006 12:48 PM - (SA)
    Epiese tog eindig by Suidpunt

    L'AGULHAS - Die vreugde was groot toe tien Indiese wetenskaplikes verlede Vrydag nŠ 'n tog van meer as drie maande en sowat 24 000 kilometer by die Suidpunt uit drie Mahindra-voertuie geklim het.

    Hul Gondwanaland-ekspedisie was die gevolg van die inisiatief van 'n groep Indiese jeugleiers wat 'n passie het om die geologiese verbintenis tussen AsiŽ en Afrika na te speur. Volgens geoloŽ was Afrika, IndiŽ, AustralasiŽ, Antarktika en Suid-Amerika in die oertyd een reuse-kontinent, genaamd Gondwanaland.

    Die ekspedisie het die ondersteuning van die Indiese owerhede gehad en om te verseker dat hulle toegang tot alle lande kon verkry, het hul eerste minister 'n persoonlike brief aan elke staatshoof van die lande waardeur hulle moes reis, gestuur.

    Die groep, onder leiding van Akhil Bakshi van New Delhi, het bestaan uit twee geoloŽ, 'n antropoloog, 'n soŲloog, 'n botanis, 'n mediese dokter, 'n voertuig-ingenieur en twee fotograwe. Bakshi is lid van die “Royal Geographic Society” en het al verskeie geologies-verwante ekspedisies in AsiŽ en die Ooste gelei.

    Maar, hierdie tog was in 'n klas van sy eie. Uiterstes in terme van klimaat, die gangbaarheid van paaie (soms geen paaie) en die risiko om die teikens van geweld te wees, was hul voorland.

    Die tog het in die sneeubedekte Himalayas begin, deur IndiŽ, Iran, Turkye en die Gazastrook tot in Egipte geloop. Daarna was dit suidwaarts deur Soedan, EthiopiŽ, TanzaniŽ, ZambiŽ, Zimbabwe, Mosambiek en tot in Suid-Afrika, met die eindbestemming in Kaap Agulhas. Die Mahindra-voertuie was glo indrukwekkend en het sonder veel probleme die rit afgelÍ.

    Tydens die ekspedisie is heelwat tyd afgestaan om plekke van geologiese belang te verken, maar die smee van goeie verhoudings met mense in die lande wat hulle deurkruis het, het voorkeur geniet. Ondersteuning aan die stryd teen VIGS was 'n spesifieke doelwit van die ekspedisie.

    Die ellende van armoede, siektes en vervalde infrastruktuur dwarsdeur Afrika het 'n baie groot indruk by die ekspedisie-lede gelaat. Hulle het egter gemerk dat diť toestande in skrille kontras staan met wat hulle tot dusver in Suid-Afrika ervaar het.

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