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"Here in my car", said 80s pop hero Gary Numan, "I feel safest of all". He obviously never shared the same stretch of road as me, then. Automotive tales of mirth and woe, please.

(, Thu 22 Apr 2010, 12:34)
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Mandy the Landy and the story of how I found the Camel (or it found me)
I was living in Gibraltar and came back to England to find myself a Land Rover to take me across Africa. I loved Mandy the Landy from the first moment – she was an amazing find as expedition prepared Land Rovers are pretty thin on the ground in Surrey. Because of her African service history nobody wanted to touch her and the trader let me have her for a pittance. I really didn’t have to do to much to prep her for my own African trip – some electrics and a second battery for the fridge, a roof tent (with duvet and 3 pillows), and of course the shower… I spent a couple of months prepping her then we spent a lovely summer in Scandinavia ‘trialling’ the set-up. Never was a car better prepared for the journey. On my return I picked up Richard and we set off for Cape Town via the Portsmouth Bilbao ferry. 70km into Spain we got lost, ended up on a deserted country road, did a U turn, and then came around a corner to find a little Spanish car heading straight for us. Yes, despite living on the continent I’d switch to the wrong side of the road. I tried to pull onto the verge, but the dozy old duffer just kept on coming straight at us with his faze frozen with surprise, so I flung Mandy into the field to our left, and watched the world go round.

It could have been a lot nastier, I picked up a few cuts, Richard didn’t get a scratch (but it buggered up his attempt to give up smoking), Mandy was a mess though, and worst was that all our dreams of Africa were shattered. We stripped Mandy down as best we could, but not before some thieving Spaniards had pinched the entire back axle with wheels. We packed everything we owned into a hire car and I drove home to Gibraltar. It’s funny how things work. Gib is a small place, and when news of my accident got around I found that my ideal car had been tucked away in a garage there all along. It was as if we were fated to meet, the Camel and I. That’s how, in the words of a friend, I got to set off for Cape Town in a car I bought yesterday. And because the camel was, like most camels, and unruly beast, the trip became an adventure.

Mandy, or at least part of her, got all the way around Africa and back to England – I had some of the windscreen glass removed from my hand a couple of years later, but I still keep some small shards buried deep in by metacarpals as a memento. I also discovered that patience and perspective had also somehow become embedded within me. We all learned a lot of lessons that year; you can be too prepared, but where’s the fun in that? The best friendships are tempered in the fire of adversity. And travelling isn’t about the vehicle, but the journey.

(, Tue 27 Apr 2010, 14:18, Reply)

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