Fitness trainer Mario Rigby, 29, plans a two-year, 12,000-kilometre “odyssey” from Cape Town to Cairo to test his limits and inspire others.
For 14 days this fall, he walked more than 550 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal. Now, less than two weeks after ending that trip, Mario Rigby is undertaking a far more gruelling challenge: a two-year, 12,000-kilometre journey by foot and paddle boat along the length of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo.
Rigby, 29, a personal and group fitness trainer in Toronto, recently decided to give up the lease on his Queen St. W. condo for his dream “odyssey.” It will take him through 12 African nations, including some, such as Sudan, facing strife.
“Why now? Because I’ve had this itch and drive to do this since I was 18,” Rigby said in an interview with the Star days before leaving for Cape Town, where he arrived on Wednesday.
He says that as a black man, he wants to shatter stereotypes that set narrow limits on what he can aspire to and where he can go.
“I don’t know how many black people travel outside of the United States or Canada but the number, I would assume, is astoundingly low. I’d like to change that and put some bravery out there … We have to be ambassadors for ourselves,” he says.
“Hopefully this journey will give people in Africa, children specifically on that continent and around the world, some initiative to pick up and be brave and go out and venture, and show the world who we really are.”
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Rigby — who, at six-foot-three and 205 pounds, is in peak shape — hopes to wrap up his expedition on Nov. 24, 2017.
Given the challenging terrain, harsh climates, wild animals and insects that can transmit serious illnesses, Rigby describes Africa as a continent that can be “difficult to visit.”
He plans to avoid danger by keeping out of trouble and being smart in what he wears. He’s outfitted with long-sleeved shirts, high desert/jungle boots, a wide-brimmed hat, malaria pills and insect repellent. He plans to tuck his pants in his socks.
Rigby says he’ll also make sure to have plenty of water. “The quickest thing that can kill you in Africa is dehydration,” he says.
Days before leaving Canada he was reading a book he signed out from the library calledHow to Survive Outdoors.
He also wants to share his adventure with the world, so he’s armed with a point-and-shoot camera and a cellphone, which he’ll use to upload photos, video and his writing toa blog on his website. He’ll power his electronics with a portable solar energy pack.
He figures that foods such as fish, nuts and bread will be his staples.
Among his other essentials are a tent, a sleeping bag and warm clothing. Rigby will be relying on the kindness of strangers for shelter during his journey, which is what happened in abundance during his Toronto-to-Montreal trek.
“I was taken into 11 homes, which included families, single people and couples with no children,” he says. “It gave me a new sense of hope for humanity. They were unquestionably kind and so accommodating to me … a complete stranger. I didn’t have even one single negative experience.”
Rigby will mostly be on his own, though he’ll require an escort while travelling through national parks and war-torn areas. He has emergency contacts with Canadian and British embassies in Africa.
Born in Turks and Caicos, Rigby spent his childhood in a small village near Stuttgart, Germany. He has lived in Canada for 16 years, and has one sibling, a 28-year-old brother, who also lives in Toronto.
His mother and father are back in Turks and Caicos.
Among Rigby’s heroes is Mike Horn, a South African-born Swiss explorer who came to prominence after his 2002-to-2004 journey around the Arctic Circle without motorized transport — he travelled by foot, boat, kayak and ski kite.
Just as Horn fired Rigby’s imagination, the Toronto man hopes to do the same for others. “I want to inspire anyone who feels limited because of who they are,” he says.