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On the road again

On the road again

Carla Geyser is a free-spirited adventurer, conservationist and humanitarian. Probably best known for her leadership role in the ambitious 15 787km all-female expedition from South Africa to Kenya dedicated to the pres­ervation of elephants, Carla has travelled the world, uniting communities and nature and raising awareness and funds for wildlife.

In September this year, Carla and a second all-woman crew will head off on a 50-day expedition, dubbed the Rise of the Matriarch. The intrepid adventurers will drive 9000km through four countries with the focus on human-wildlife co-existence awareness; women empowerment in rural communities; youth conservation education and raising funds for chosen charities. It is a journey she cannot wait for.

“What can I say? I’m in love with Mama Africa and all she has to offer. I do what I can to make a difference. I’ve had the most incredible life experiences and I strongly believe that the best is yet to come.”

From a young age the former Pietermaritzburg girl says how she’s had a fire in her belly to travel Africa and the rest of the world. After leaving school and qualifying in Public Relations she did just that. She worked and travelled around Europe, Scotland and England and then spent three years in the bush (where she really fell head over heels with nature and wildlife) before moving back to Durban to start her own Events company.

“I always knew I was going to do something big, something life-changing. As a kid, I was always outdoors and had an affinity with nature. I love the spirit of Ubuntu. I am stubborn, determined if you will, but I realised a long time ago that running the Comrades Marathon was never going to be my thing, but this – living in constant fear of myself, living outside of my comfort zone, outside of our borders, being adventurous in the midst of the unknown – this is my thing.”

Carla admits that it was living in the bush near the Okavango Delta in Botswana that rekindled that fire in her to discover more about the amazing continent we live on, and she realised too, that somewhere along the line humans had lost their connection with nature.

“When I moved back home, I used to sit with my dad for hours at a time discussing how having a positive attitude could affect one’s outlook on life. He always used to say to me, ‘Carla, we have to open up a society and we are going to call it The Blue Sky Society, because when the clouds go away, all that is left are blue skies. The only prerequisite to becoming a member is that you have to have to have a positive outlook and be happy’.”

At Thula Thula on the Elephant Ignite 2016 tour.

At the beginning of 2011 Carla became actively involved in helping animals and people in need, and sharing her boundless energy and love for life with others. She also started the Blue Sky Society Trust as an NPO where other like-minded people could connect and share ideas, passion and skills to effect change where it was, and is still needed the most – humanitarian and conservation projects. In the relatively short time they have been operating, they have achieved a great deal.

“It is not uncommon for people to feed into the belief that they can’t change anything, and so they choose to ignore problems and become indifferent to the suffering of others as a mechanism of defence. Quite often the underlying emotion is fear, and not knowing what to do. I choose to see and take hold of every opportunity I can to impact on others positively and make a meaningful difference. With enough heads together, we really can all find solutions.”

“I was very fortunate to have taken part in the Put Foot Rally 2012, which was a 20-day, 7917km, eight-country, life-changing experience that further fuelled my passion for Africa and left me yearning to do more. It’s no surprise that my bucket list just seems to get longer and longer.”

Carla has worked and travelled with South African explorer, humanitarian and author, Kingsley Holgate and joined in on expeditions like the Izintaba Zubombo, In the Footsteps of Joseph Thomson, the Cape Union Mart Trans-Frontier and the 2018 Landrover 70th Anniversary. She also organised and led the D-Tours Africa Expedition in 2014 raising R1.8 million for rhino conservation.

“In 2012 I started talking and dreaming about doing an elephant expedition. I love elephants, in all their majestic beauty, so I wanted to do something special to make a difference and to acknowledge the incredible people on the ground – the unsung heroes – who protect them.”

That was how the Elephant Ignite Expedition came about, and with it, the mission to offer proactive solutions to elephant killing by supporting those charities at the coalface. Behind the wheels of three Avis-sponsored Safari 4×4 vehicles named Courage, Hope and Love, the team of formidable women drove 15 787km through 10 countries in 100 days, during which they visited 37 different organisations dedicated to protecting Africa’s elephants. They also handed out 20 000 educational booklets to children in rural communities and raised funds for nominated beneficiaries.

“Seven hours a day spent in a confined space with other women is a lot to endure, not to mention, setting up camp, cooking, cleaning and missing the comforts of home, but we formed some indescribable bonds. Each of us was left with memories that will be forever etched in our minds.”

Through the Blue Sky Society Trust, Carla and countless others have improved the development conditions of children in less fortunate communities by raising funds for various projects like Hand 2 Heart, Trees 4 KZN and Journeys with Purpose. They’ve put shoes on the feet of some children who had never owned a new pair of shoes (Soul 2 Sole) and they’ve given hope and inspiration to young girls who often miss school because they have no sanitary protection to cope with menstruation. For some, this was about more than just the gift packs; it was about the opportunity to learn to understand their bodies.

Kicking off on 16 September, the 2018 Rise of the Matriarch Expedition will once again be led by Carla, but this time in her trusty 1997 Landrover Defender TDI named Dora. The women will travel through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe over a six-week period, and the expedition will be broken into three legs of two weeks each. During the course of this journey they will visit conservation groups to see first-hand the work they are doing with human-wildlife conflict mitigation projects; visit schools and communities to hear their stories and the challenges they face; hand out educational booklets to children who live close to wildlife habitats, and meet with anti-poaching units and the men and women that put their lives on the line every single day to protect wildlife.

“We need to be the voice for those who cannot speak out for themselves. We need to tell the stories of the brave men and women who fight to protect our wildlife, and we need all the support we can get. Over the last few years I have seen volunteers grow, change their outlook on life, change their lifestyles and some even their jobs. I have left women in Africa because the work they have done on these Journeys with Purpose has been so overwhelmingly beneficial to their lives that they have given up paid salary occupations to stay behind in the African wilderness and fight for the greater good. Hey, I haven’t earned a salary for six years but I’ve survived, so I must be doing something right.”

To find out how you can get involved in the Blue Sky Society Trust projects or upcoming expeditions contact Carla on 082 800 0828 or or visit www.blueskysociety.org

PHOTO CREDIT: All images supplied by Carla. With thanks to those whose images have contributed to this post.

 

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