Sunday, 5 February 2017

Mungo Park and You

Dear Chris

I didn’t know how to mark 7th February this year, the 14th anniversary of you leaving for Africa. I had hoped, after last year’s rather miraculous proof of you still being alive, that I’d not have to mark this odious time of year ever again. But there you go.
Should I write a poem, paint a picture, rant and rave or decide to throw in the towel? To be honest, I can’t be bothered to do any of the above because I know you’re still alive and probably reading this. So, what should I do..?
To be brief and to the point. I believe in you. I know you are still alive. I want you to get in touch.
Do I need to persuade you?
Okay. You are just like Mungo Park (your inspiration) and like Mungo you are going to miraculously appear when everyone thinks you’re dead and long gone after being in Africa, without word, for so long.
I’m here to prove that you’re like Mungo and will appear, just as he did.

  1. You look reasonably alike, although he was a blue-eyed boy and you are brown- eyed (see above).
  2. You both left to follow the River Niger in your twenties.
  3. You have always been drawn to Africa (probably since Willard Price’s African Adventure!) and Mungo felt the same pull to the unexplored continent. He also grew up on a farm.
  4. Both of you studied at Edinburgh University – medicine and biological sciences (zoology).
  5. Mungo wanted more from life than being a surgeon in a small Scottish parish; you have always wanted adventure, too.
  6. You followed in Mungo’s footprints (see maps), nearly 200 years after Mungo’s first African trip.
  7. Mungo was thought to be dead after two years, seven months in Africa, and you too are dead (in most people’s eyes) having never come back after 14 years in Africa.
There is no point 8; which would have rounded this list off nicely with an even number. But life isn’t like that, is it. There are rough edges, wild goose-chases, red herrings and false starts. Shit happens. Disaster strikes.
But you and Mungo are made of the same stuff. Strong, bullish, defying the odds, good with people, empathetic to others’ suffering. He was a physician, and you once looked after young people who turned to you for support, love, hope and as a friend.
You are two peas in a pod, you and Mungo.
Chris, do a Mungo and appear to me after all these years. You yourself wrote this:
“To have endured the hardships he [Mungo] did and to have survived in such harsh country after several encounters with bandits who left him destitute, he must have been very tough both mentally and physically. Amazingly, after four months imprisonment by the Moors of Ludamar, he escaped with nothing but a pocket compass, a horse and the clothes he stood up in, and continued his mission to find the river regardless. Obviously, his desire to complete his mission was very strong. He found the river but soon found that the obstacles that lay ahead were insurmountable. After having advanced a short way eastward, he gave a very moving account of his painful decision to turn back. “Worn down with sickness, exhausted with hunger and fatigue, half naked and without any article of value by which I might procure provisions, clothes or lodgings, I began to reflect seriously on my situation”. With the rainy season setting in, his realization that most inhabitants to the east spoke a language which he could not understand and worried that he was advancing ever further within the power of “those merciless fanatics” (the Moors) he pleaded with the reader to understand his decision.
On the positive side, Mungo also received much kindness and hospitality from many of the people he met along the way. In the end, it was this kindness which enabled him to survive so long and eventually make a safe, but by no means easy return to the coast with a coffle (caravan) of slaves about a year after his departure, when many people had already given him up for dead. His admiration and respect for the black African is beyond doubt but unfortunately, he never openly condemned the slave trade. This may be because he wanted to avoid the possibility of upsetting some of his sponsors but could be because he believed that with the scale of the trade as it was in Africa at the time, that abolition would have little effect on their society. What he did do though, was to impress on people that Africans share the same human qualities as Europeans and are really not so different.”
You and Mungo have shared such a similar journey… even the lady who saw you and talked to you and gave you money in Accra, Ghana (you were destitute, ill and begging by the traffic lights in 2005) lives with her Scottish husband less than 10 miles from where Mungo was born in Selkirk. I honestly couldn’t make that story up! You and Mungo are linked, there is no denying it. Everyone will understand the decisions you’ve made, as they understood Mungo’s.
I truly believe in you. I know you can come back from the dead, like Mungo. I know you are alive and I can’t wait to see you again.
Call me. Or if that is too far a leap, please get someone to call on your behalf.

Or you can call the following numbers on the appeal posters — leave a message with a go-between:

All I want to know is that you are alive. The rest can follow, in private, at your pace.

All my love

Monday, 21 March 2016

I'll be loving you always.... the final hunt is on.

The search for Christian (Chris) is in The Times today, appropriately on page 13, 13 years (well 2 days early) since we last heard from Chris - which was 23rd March when he phoned Mum and Dad from a little hut outside Kita, Mali, to wish them both Happy Birthday'. 

Please share this as wide as you can... especially in Africa and Europe (especially France). 

I've got Steve Wonder playing non-stop today... sending out those good vibes to my little bro:
As around the sun the earth knows she's revolving 
And the rosebuds know to bloom in early May 
Just as hate knows love's the cure 
You can rest your mind assure 
That I'll be loving you always 
As now can't reveal the mystery of tomorrow 
But in passing will grow older every day 
Just as all is born is new 
Do know what I say is true 
That I'll be loving you always....

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Searching For Chris Velten - Facebook


There is a new campaign page on Facebook where I'm posting the latest updates on the search for Chris:

See you there!

Friday, 11 March 2016


Only this week, I put the attached image of my brother (with an anaconda in the West Indies) out on Facebook and received a response I never expected - this image was recognised, by a well-known Kenyan radio personality and wildlife conservationist, as being used as a Facebook profile image or on the profile page two or three years ago. 

I first posted this image in November 2014 on my business blog, having only just found it when I plucked up the nerve to log-on to Chris' computer, which had not been touched for at least 10 years. Before that time, Chris would NOT have had access to this image. I wonder - does anyone else recognise this image of Chris? He is more than likely using a different name. 
We are desperate to find him. Knowing Chris, before he left for Africa, there is no way that he would ignore his family - he was a seasoned traveller and would always keep in regular contact. Something is keeping him from getting in contact - if he's copied the image then he most certainly knows we're still searching fo him. There could be many reasons for him not coming forward… his mental/physical state, being stopped from coming forward, anxiety about getting in touch after so long, having to face the music, etc. 
Please be assured, if you do know Chris, we only want to know he’s still alive so we can come out of this nightmare limbo. Please, please, if you recognise Chris, or know him, please get in touch…

Friday, 4 March 2016

What would Chris look like now? Our ideas...

He won't look this clean-shaven now, but this was my brother, Christian (Chris) Velten, 13(ish) years ago... just in case anyone recognises him! And his planned route through West Africa. We last heard from him on 23 March 2003 outside Kita, Mali and the last confirmed sighting of him was in April 2003 in Bamako, Mali.
Although 40, he will probably look 50! Probably greying, with receding hair. Being European, in Africa for 13 years, he will probably be suffering from bouts of malaria and may have missing teeth, walk with a lip, sport a beard and look more Arabic than Western. All in all, he will look so different. He might be amongst the mass of refugees currently in Europe, or he may still be in Africa...

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Saturday Live: The Final Push?

Hello everyone

I’ve got something I’d like you to help me with - it involves positive thoughts… much like our ‘circle’ of positive thoughts at Chris’ 40th party.

Rather bizarrely, I’m going to be on 'Saturday Live' this Saturday morning on BBC Radio 4 (9am -10.30am). 
I never normally listen to the show as I’m usually in a swimming pool with the children, but on 16th January, Freya had a cold, and we stayed at home. 
On the show that morning was a girl called ‘Claire’ from LostBox, talking about reuniting lost things with their owners, and the explorer, Levison Wood, who we were watching on TV travelling through the Himalayas. 
In my mind, I connected the two to create - Lost Explorer. And you all know who that is… 
So, I immediately wrote an email to the show along the lines of ‘I haven’t a clue why I’m writing to you, but I know I have to...’ and explained about our lost explorer. 
I heard nothing and forgot about it. 

Out of the blue, the producer emails me on 28th January - could she talk to me. So she rang… 

We talked about Christian, our hope that he’s still alive, what he was like, what he was doing out in Africa, when we last heard from him, how do we cope day-to-day with his loss and then onto my work as a memoir ghostwriter, funeral director writer-in-residence and the importance of recording live stories, etc. 

After we’d exhausted every topic, she said, “We’d love you to come on the show. When we have a good mix of guests for you to appear with, I’ll call you.” 

(You’ll love this next bit, Rob W) She called me back on 25th February - could I be at the studio on 5th March? I will be appearing as ‘Hannah Velten’ (my maiden name), just to confuse many of you!

As most of you will know, I’m absolutely convinced that Christian is going to turn up (so is Mum) and I think this MIGHT just be the final push that’s needed to get him home - in my mind, the positive ‘circle’ was the start of that journey. 

So, I’d basically like you all to get those positive ‘Come home, Chris/Chrissie/Relts/Christian’ thoughts and prayers going while I’m on air - there are 4 guests, so I will be dipping in and out of the conversations. It will be emotional, so Grant is going to be coming with me (thank you, Sharon, for making that possible), but I hope someone somewhere listening will hold the key we need. Christian won’t be anything like the man who left for Africa, but having him home, in whatever state, will be better than this limbo hell. 

Many thanks to you all and lots of love
Hannah x

P.S Please do pass this on to anyone else who you feel might like to join in with the positive vibes.