Toronto man says 26-month trek across Africa on foot changed his perspective

To call Mario Rigby’s voyage across Africa “rigorous” would be an understatement.

The Toronto man tested his limits in ways very few have – he traversed the continent on foot. He left Cape Town, South Africa on Nov. 24, 2015 and he said he finally reached his destination in Egypt.

“I saw the pyramids. I looked up and basically saw the history of humanity and thought, ‘This is the end right here, this is euphoric – I have to call it right here” Rigby told Global News from Cairo.

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The end of a condo lease in downtown Toronto provided a catalyst to give his dream a shot.

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The former personal fitness trainer began the journey walking 12 hours a day and gradually reduced it to an average of eight hours a day, taking breaks to pick up a paddle when he saw fit. He said he never kayaked before, but decided to try when confronted with the fourth largest lake in Africa.

“One of the deepest lakes is 745 metres deep and I thought, ‘Oh I can just take the kayak.’ That took me two months. We’re talking waves that are four or five metres high,” Rigby said, admitting he nearly drowned a couple of times along the South African coast.

The grueling trek spanned 12 countries. But he said nothing prepared him for the beauty of raw nature he came face to face with.

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Rigby said he slept next to hippos and rationed water in deserts that seemed to go on for eternity.

While overcoming the challenges sometimes seemed like Herculean tasks, Rigby also faced moments of danger. He said he was shot at when he entered zones of civil unrest in Mozambique.

“We saw cars on fire on the side of the road. We saw villages being burned down and all of a sudden three shots – pow, pow, pow,” Rigby said.

“I cried when it sunk in.”

The next day another adventure would begin. There were jungles and waterfalls he read about and prepared for, but he said what really humbled him was the genuine openness and universal love that those he encountered displayed. He travelled with a sole knapsack on his back.

“The people are so incredibly kind. I have been staying in people’s homes most of the way. They don’t know me at all, I’m a complete stranger and within five minutes they would welcome me,” Rigby said.

“I learned we are more similar than we are different.”

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Rigby said crossing Africa has changed him and showed that human potential is limitless, if you dare to dream and do.

Meanwhile, he said he will probably return to Canada in March. He said it feels strange not to be walking anymore, so it’s only fitting he plans his next move.

“It’s encouraged me to seek more adventures, so I’m planning my next trip,” Rigby said, adding it might involve traversing Europe and Africa by electric vehicle.

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