38 Years Ago
In February 1979 a very naive Australian girl arrived in Johannesburg. I had just turned 24 and Africa was a big and dangerous start to my world trip, leaving Johannesburg with Encounter Overland to travel up to London on the back of a truck. Gunther was a not so naive 31 year old German who had booked the same trip from Wiesbaden in Germany.
“Are you sure you want to go to Africa?” My concerned father had tried, without success to change the trip to London where all the Aussies met in Earls Court. I knew that secretly all he was worried about was me bringing home an African husband. That did not fit into the Canberra suburban picture.
“Nothing will happen Dad, I’ll be fine. I can look after myself and anyway, I’m with Encounter Overland. I’m sure they are a reputable company.”
Idi Amin in Uganda, freedom fighters from Rhodesia and the war in Ruanda were all a normal part of the African landscape and when I look back, I can see why he may have been a little worried about his middle class, white Australian, somewhat timid daughter doing a trip crossing right across the continent of Africa. I wasn’t exactly a hardened traveller, although ever discontented, it did give me the shits that I was on a tour and not one of those women with the headscarves on, holding on to thee back tray of a car filled with locals and sheep.
Apartheid was the first culture shock that I experienced in 1979. The high fences, homeland passes so that the people could visit their families on the weekends, the huts where they lived at the bottom of the gardens, buses for black people and buses for whites and the underlying threat that I felt on the streets. In Cape Town where I went for a few days where the soccer games often turned into violent riots against Apartheid.
Now, 4 decades later, democracy has been here in South Africa for 20 years and as a fleeting visitor one can see that it is a long journey to a functioning country. Integration has its teething problems. 50% youth employment, 27% normal unemployment, corruption and a burgeoning rift between the haves and the have nots plays out here possibly in a more noticeable way than in Europe. Security is an issue wherever we go. We are told not to walk the streets at night as a tourist, leave the car door locked at junctions and when we stop in cities and try not to be alone too much in remote areas. In saying that though there are very big changes in the harbour development, shopping malls and high real estate prices – although perhaps only for some…… (1 Euro is 16 rand, and $1 AUS is 10 rand).
However, now to the most important part of the four days, we picked up Tilly from the compound and she is parked down in the garage, ready to go tomorrow morning with all her friends.
We have been promised that is a very different rally from the Peking to Paris. We are prepared and ready to go!!! Gunther and I are fluffing around, packing, repacking, losing important items, finding them again and generally being nervous!!!