THE TUSKER STORY
AN ATLAS AND A DREAM
When EDDIE FRANK was a child, little Eddie didn’t dream of becoming a fireman or a movie star. While his father regaled him with fantastic stories of the great explorers, he dreamed of driving a 4-wheel drive on an expedition across Africa. In between safaris in the bush, he was so obsessed with adventure that at the age of 6 his grandfather bought him a world atlas. But when he turned 13 his family moved to the USA and the dream faded away. But fate had another plan.
Ten years later, in Los Angeles, a 23-year-old Eddie Frank had been building a career as a photographer. One day he was enjoying a beer at his local pub with some friends and the chatter around the table drifted to adventure. Eddie shared his childhood dream of leading an expedition across Africa. His friends laughed and said he’d never do it. That was the spark, and it was all he needed. He went home, dug out his grandfather’s atlas and got to work.
TUSKER IS BORN
Eddie spent a full year researching his trans-Africa route, and reading the journals of adventurers who explored Africa over a hundred years before. His adrenalin was pumping and he couldn’t wait. In February 1977, Eddie found himself and a friend in two British ex-army Land Rovers, leading a dozen adventurers across the Sahara Desert on the first of many expeditions through Africa. The camaraderie and passion for discovery on that first journey was invigorating. It hit a nerve that was difficult for him to ignore, and Tusker Trail was born.
The next 45 years saw Eddie leading expeditions and safaris throughout the African continent and beyond. Hungering for adventure, he explored the mountains, deserts, jungles, and rivers that he discovered in the atlas given to him by his grandfather when he was a young boy. He also made a new discovery – trekking. On foot, the world slows down, and you encounter the wilderness with all your senses – face to face and on its own terms. It's life-changing. For him it became a whole new way to travel and a whole new way to live.
THE FIRST EXPEDITION VIDEO
The dictionary describes ADVENTURE as a bold, risky undertaking, a hazardous action of uncertain outcome. Adventure was Eddie Frank’s calling. The appeal for him was the risk of the unknown, and the payoff was the rush of euphoria of succeeding in the challenge. But how could he convey that to others?
In 1993, he dug out an old handheld video camera and started shooting. By recording the sights, sounds and music of Africa, the adventure came alive. Since then, he has amassed volumes of video and still possesses one of the finest collections of African dance music around.
So, sit down, and step back in history to the year 1993 in Africa, as we present Tusker Trail & Safari Company’s first Africa expedition video.
A TRAIL TOO FAR
Leaving no trail untouched, Eddie’s adventures across Africa led him to the dining table in the palace of Emperor Bokassa; found him floating trucks down the Congo river; saw him leading wild safaris in western Zambia; and discovering ancient astronomy sites in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Once, he spent three weeks in the Sahara sitting out a coup by the Nigerian army. His early wanderings led him up Kilimanjaro for the first time, and on to guide further expeditions in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.
When Eddie Frank first arrived on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in 1977 there was no such thing as a bucket list. Kilimanjaro was not the well-traveled destination that it is today. A climb up Kili was an integral part of Eddie’s trans-African adventures. His approach to the climb was casual – without any planning, he just pitched up with his group and climbed the mountain. It was a different time when you worried less about altitude and more about a military coup. But Eddie saw an opportunity: even though climbing Kilimanjaro was a tough undertaking, it was an accessible challenge for fit travelers, plus the feeling of reaching the summit was undeniably powerful. Since his first climb, he’s changed the way Kilimanjaro is climbed by introducing world-class training to local guides, and building Tusker Trail into one of the most highly respected companies on the iconic mountain.
A TEAM OF ALL SORTS
In 2004, on Eddie’s 23rd Kilimanjaro climb, he met Amy, an accomplished outdoor guide and mountaineer who spent most of her life leading adventurers through the Canadian wilderness. It wasn’t long before their shared passion brought them together.
As husband and wife, they were – and still are – a formidable team, with eyes on new continents and new adventures. They scouted and hand-crafted new treks across the globe. Each trip was designed around adventure, camaraderie, and personal discovery that only happens when you challenge yourself in foreign lands. This personal discovery is the axis on which Tusker spins.
AMY FRANK - A GUIDE SUPREME
Amy has been climbing mountains for 29 years and had been climbing long before she met Eddie. She has led many Kilimanjaro climbs, many of them as charity fundraising climbs for breast cancer research. She also leads Tusker Trail’s treks in Bhutan, Nepal, and Mongolia. Amy is a co-instructor of Tusker’s HIGH ALTITUDE FIRST RESPONDER medical course for Tusker Trail’s mountain guides. She is instrumental in shaping Tusker Trail’s day-to-day training syllabus.
As a nutritionist she also worked closely with the Culinary Institute of America, building Tusker’s Kilimanjaro recipes in our famous adventure kitchen, and helped train Tusker’s wizard chefs.
THE LEGACY OF ADVENTURE
Take a step back in history and follow the early adventures of Tusker Trail, starting with Eddie Frank when he was a young wide-eyed adventurer blazing a trail across Africa on his first expedition in 1977. Over the years, he and Amy have created exciting new treks of discovery and adventure across the globe. They helped raise millions for charity on Kilimanjaro climbs. They also followed solar eclipses all over the planet. Chasing adventure is part of Tusker’s DNA and what Eddie and Amy have injected into each experience.
Take the trek and scroll through Tusker’s adventurous legacy, there and back again.
1977 – On a friend’s dare, Eddie leads his first expedition across Africa in British Army Land Rovers via the Sahara. The expedition is planned for 4 months, and cost $850 to join. That’s where it all started.
Adding to the excitement, while in Benin in West Africa they get stopped at a roadblock. The soldiers at the roadblock think that the group are mercenaries and take the group to prison. Eddie and the US consul hatch a trick to get the group out of captivity – but only after having spent two weeks there. That was Africa in the crazy 1970’s.
1977 to 1980 – Eddie launches a daring trans-Sahara truck selling business in West Africa. However, a rough start with breakdowns and massive sandstorms leave him almost broke.
Down to his last $20, Eddie finds himself stranded in Bangui in the Central African Empire. The military dictator, self-appointed Emperor Bokassa, who was rumored to have human flesh in his fridge, approaches Eddie and buys his four trucks. Two months after Eddie leaves the country Emperor Bokassa gets deposed by a military coup.
1980 to 1983 – Eddie leads 16 adventurers in a 6-ton truck across the Congo River on a barge, built out of three canoes roped together. The year before a friend sunk a similar truck in the river.
During these early years Eddie crosses Africa a lot, including 33 times across the Sahara Desert. On numerous occasions he gets lost in the desert, but eventually finds his way out. He says that each time he crossed Africa he feels like he is stepping into another world, full of fascinating cultures, traditions, and landscapes.
1983 – While crisscrossing the African continent, Eddie arrives in Tanzania and his encounter with the wildlife feels really familiar from his childhood in the African bush. So, he starts leading wildlife safaris in East Africa.
While on safari in a remote part of Botswana, while watching a pride of lions 15 yards away, Eddie hears diesel pouring out the bottom of his fuel tank. With one eye on the lions, he crawls under the truck to fix the leak. Leak repaired, and arms and legs intact, he gets on his way.
JUNE 1983 –Teaming up with NASA astronomer, Dr. Laurance Doyle, Eddie leads and expedition to NAMORATUNGA in north Kenya, a remote site with a 2,000-year history. They discover that a now-extinct pastoralist people used stone pillars as an observatory.
The site is known as NAMORATUNGA which means “people of stone. ” A local legend says that men turned to stone if they laughed or cried while the devil sang his song. Frank and Doyle still run astronomy trips to view solar eclipses.