The John Ross Challenge

  • Location: South Africa
  • Total Distance: 1800km
  • Distance to Date: 0km
  • donation goal: R100 000
  • donations to date: 0
  • start date: Aug 13, 2016


profile pic of Thommo Hart profile pic of Simphiwe Fiddy Ngcobo


To complete the 1800 km journey across KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique in the footsteps of John Ross in order to break the world record for the longest barefoot journey and raise funds for two KwaZulu-Natal based charities.



• Raise above R100 000 in funds to donate to the PinkDrive so that they can purchase a mobile cancer testing and treatment van • Raise above R100 000 in funds to donate to the Empilweni for the Physically Challenged Community Centreso that they can purchase a Combi to transport mentally and physically disabled children from their homes to the centre • Create cancer and disability awareness in local rural communities • Complete the expedition barefoot • Tell the story of John Ross and Shaka Zulu through the eyes of local South Africans • Market our sponsors through creating content that can be broadcast, published and advertised


Expeditionists founder, Thommo Hart and co-expeditionists, Simphiwe Ngcobo will journey 1800 km on foot from Pietermaritzburg in South Africa to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique and then back to Durban. They intend to follow the path taken by John Ross, a young boy who undertook the same journey in 1827. What’s more, Thommo plans to do the entire journey barefoot! If the expedition is successful, Thommo will hold the world record for the longest journey across land barefoot.

So who’s this John Ross fella?

Actually his name isn’t John Ross. His real name is Charles Maclean. He was given the name John Ross by Nathaniel Isaacs after he completed a dangerous journey from Durban to Delagoa Bay in 1827. Only 12 years old at the time, “ John” arrived in South Africa aboard the Mary where he had worked as an apprentice sailor. The Zulu’s took an instant liking to this strange small boy with bright red hair from another land. John became one of King Shaka’s most trusted friends, advisor and translator. Back in 1827, sickness and disease was a primary concern for Her Majesty’s subjects living in Africa. When supplies began to run low, John took it upon himself to get more. He was accompanied by a Langalibalele (a well respected chief and warrior) appointed by King Shaka, and a party of 30 warriors.

A much-loved story about King Shaka goes that his warriors were the strongest men in the land. He would test them by making them run over a bed of thorns barefoot. If any of them winced with pain, they were executed immediately! So now you see why Thommo is attempting this journey with no shoes!

John Ross became a celebrity amongst his fellow men after completing his journey to retrieve medical supplies. Thommo has kept this in mind whilst planning his trip because at Expeditionists, we love nothing more than a journey with purpose. The John Ross Challenge (JRC) aims to raise funds for a lifesaving PinkDrive mobile cancer testing and treatment van for KwaZulu-Natal's rural areas. Cancer is a sore spot for Thommo, after losing his mother to cancer last year. In addition, Simphiwe Ngcobo is raising funds for Empilweni for the Physically Challenged Community Centre that cares for mentally and physically challenged children in kwaNdengezi township near Durban.

As an icon infused into the history of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa during the same period of King Shaka, our content objective of the expedition will focus on the story of John Ross and Shaka Zulu through the eyes of South Africans today. Subsequently, a documentary and book will be produced on our journey, the people we meet, the landscapes we pass through and the histories that these landscapes whisper to us. We will also visit as many schools as possible along the way to give talks about adventuring, education, and cancer awareness.

The Route:

The route of the journey will start in Pietermaritzburg and then pass Kranskop, the Tugela river, Eshowe, Pongola and enter into Swaziland at Lavumisa. Once in Swaziland we will cross the country to the Bulembu border post with South Africa. We will cross back into South Africa and make our way through Mpumalanga where we'll exit the country into Mozambique at the Komatipoort border crossing. From there we will move along the highway to Maputo. Once in Maputo we will rest for a few days and then carry on with the second leg of our journey along the coast of Mozambique and South Africa to Durban. See the map of our route below.

The Charities:

The Pink Drive is South Africa’s most illustrious Breast Cancer Community charity that creates awareness about cancer and provides cancer testing clinics for urban and rural communities through their mobile cancer testing units. The Pink Drive units travel around South Africa ensuring medically uninsured patients have access to women’s health services. These services include free education on women’s health, free mammograms, free pap smears, free clinical examinations and how-to-do breast self-examinations. The Pink Drive’s underlying message is ‘Early Detection Saves Lives’. Expeditionists believes in this mission statement and will endeavour to raise awareness in the public and as well as funds for a mobile cancer and testing unit.

Empilweni for the Physically Challenged Community Centre is a day care centre that provides care and support services for children with physical and mental disabilities in n kwaNdengezi township near Durban. For more information on the NGO, please get in contact with us.


The expedition was completed in 56 day with 1558 km clocked on the watch walking barefoot. Although Thommo did break the world record at the time by 100 km, the record was taken by an Irishmen who walked 2200 km around Ireland barefoot. R25 000 was raised for the Pink Drive and R5000 for the children's disability charity.



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