Overland Roads – Guest Post

Marian’s 1976 Africa trip.

Marian Gellert - 2010

Marian Gellert – 2010

Of wild Africa in the 70’s, Kiwi MARIAN GELLERT, met in London in 1969, mentioned in my earlier blogs and with whom I recently reconnected, writes:

I came across this letter written to my mother when I was crossing Africa along with 18 others of various nationalities in a Bedford truck in 1976!! We travelled together from London to Nairobi…

Gellert007You just wouldn’t believe the state of the roads – such enormous mud holes that even the largest hippo would be happy. The bridges look so unsafe that we walk over most of them. We have crossed 3 rivers by ferry. At the first one we had to take our truck battery and a can of diesel in a dugout canoe to start the ferry and get it across. The second ferry didn’t even have a motor – but a gang of native guys who paddled and poled to the beat of a drum. Unfortunately they were rather out of practice as the last truck had passed through 2 weeks before us.

It took almost 2 hours manoeuvring the ferry so that the truck could be driven off frontwards. We were very apprehensive about the 3rd ferry as it had dropped an “Encounter Overland” truck into the river about 2-3 weeks before. The ferry wasn’t tied up properly and moved as the truck was driving on so that the truck drove straight into the river. It took them 4 days to get it out again. However no such catastrophe befell us and the road improved tremendously after that last ferry crossing.

Gellert009Zaireand later in the letter – after we had had an accident with the truck (which I didn’t tell my mother about) – turned it over and were rescued by a French road construction gang.Gellert014

We have just spent 2 whole days at a French road works construction camp while the guys worked on the truck. We broke one of the main springs landing heavily in one deep hole – but we are back on the road again now and anxious to get on to Rwanda. One of the main bridges to Isiro is down so we are having to bypass it – our mail stop, so won’t have a chance to collect your letter from there. Hope all the news was good anyway.

Gellert015The French people at the construction camp were so generous and helpful – let the boys use all their machines and tools without charging a cent. There were only about 6 French guys and 2 of them have their wives, each with a 4 year old daughter living at the camp. Very exciting work for the men but I imagine it would be pretty difficult for the women to find enough to occupy themselves as the black boys do all the washing and cooking. They live in large caravan type houses – air conditioned and one of them invited us all down for showers — our first hot shower since leaving London! The second evening they invited us all for dinner – almost 30 people altogether. So great to eat a meal that you didn’t have to cook over an open fire as even if you are not doing the actual cooking you are involved in collecting firewood and stoking the fire. They also gave us 6 large pineapples. Think they were really pleased to have our company altho’ rather difficult to communicate with them as none of them spoke English and only a couple of us are at all fluent in French.

Thanks very much, Marian. And the photos are great. You are my first guest blogger!

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
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