Africa Days

Despite my misgivings, there was so still much of Africa I wanted to see and, now travelling in the company of three friends, the logical way to do it was by vehicle – in this instance, a couple of old Land Rovers. This was easier said than done, coming from Rhodesia, a white African country. The first obstacle we encountered was Zambia, whose soldiers refused us entry. Three days later, with many dollars crossing palms, we were finally permitted to cross the border at Kariba. We immediately applied for new (and therefore clean) passports in Lusaka.

With our movements through Rhodesia and South Africa erased from history, we were now free to travel to Tanzania and Kenya. When we crossed the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, we could see the Mountains of the Moon in the distance, and to their left was the Congo.

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Against Foreign Office advice we entered this war-torn country, negotiating remote tracks through equatorial jungle to avoid the fighting. It had been raining hard and the vehicles constantly stuck in a sea of sludge, with the result that we arrived at a road block on the outskirts of Kisangani covered in red African mud. It was dark, and amid much gun-waving and excitement we were arrested as mercenaries and our vehicles confiscated.

Two days later – and again with many dollars crossing palms – we were released. Our Land Rovers were loaded onto a primitive flat barge moored to a bank alongside the Congo River. With heavily armed soldiers watching our departure, we headed downriver, into the heart of darkness.

The following day the vehicles were offloaded at Lisala and, without further ado, we drove without stopping for the border. With only three hours remaining on our precious Congolese visas, we finally crossed the River Bangui into the Central African Republic. Then disaster struck. Driving through the Cameroon Highlands, we lost our half-shaft on the Series 1 Land Rover. With no chance of spares, we had to abandon the vehicle. After finally removing all traces of insignia and identification, we rolled the old Series 1 into the bush.

Bill and I bid a sad farewell to Chris and Tony before continuing our journey. The Sahara Desert still lay ahead.

Less than a month later we crossed the Channel and set foot on English soil.

This was where I would make my new home.

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