About a year ago, Capetonian Julia Albu decided that she was going to visit her daughter who lives in London. Nothing unusual about that, except the 80-year old mum decided she would drive there, alone.

A solo adventure

In June 2017, Albu set off on a solo adventure that few would tackle, even with a support team. Her choice of steed for the 12 000 km trip wasn’t some specially kitted out 4×4 or luxury SUV, but rather a 20-year old Conquest, called Tracy.

Albu drove an eastern route through Africa and she was supported by sponsors and charities joined the cause, and a blog site was launched to document the journey. A year after starting off the pair reached London, just a few days ago.

Incredibly, the Conquest already had 354 000 km on the odometer before the trip started. Oh, and the best part, Albu plans to drive the car back to SA.

A bit speedier than the Conquest is Toyota’s Supra Nascar.

In her own words

When asked about the car she replied: “I realised that the first thing I needed to do was lift her suspension to improve the ground clearance. My son-in-law helped with that – I think he added some spacers between the suspension and body – but he was very careful to leave everything else original. That was important to me. We also carried out a full service, changed the bushes, and my next-door neighbour gave me the bigger tyres.

“I’ve never been particularly interested in what’s under the bonnet but I knew I would have to spend a lot of time sitting in the car. So I asked another friend who runs an interior decorating shop to trim the interior with a fabric of my choice. I needed to feel at home in the car and I think the company did the most superb job. All I was missing was a tea trolley…”

On the challenges of the drive: “A huge challenge was the fact that I had no money. But I met some very wonderful, hospitable people via my blog who offered to put me up along the way, and they were always fascinated to hear about Tracy.”

When asked about the highlights of the first part of her trip, Abu replied: “Gosh… my highlights have to be about the people I met along the way. I remember just one time I saw a group of women walking along the side of the road in Ethiopia. They all had this most amazing halo of plaited black hair on their heads. So I stopped the car to say hello and to distribute some chocolate biscuits and a handful of the 2 000 pens I had been given by the literacy charity.

“I took some photographs of us and one of the ladies showed her appreciation for my gifts by opening this kind of pocket around her waist to share her meal with me. I’ve no idea what it was we ate, and it certainly didn’t look very appetising, but it was so kind of her to show such hospitality to a stranger. After sharing lots of hugs and kisses, we parted as friends. There were so many experiences like that.

On future plans: “When I arrive back home I’ve been commissioned by a publisher to write two books about my adventure – one from my perspective and a children’s book from Tracy’s perspective. But next time I’d like to go take a western route around Africa and then time my arrival in England so I can meet the Queen. I was desperate to meet her this time but apparently it’s the wrong time of year. Her people told me that unfortunately during the summer she’s just too busy with other royal engagements.”