The journey described in Appointment in Zambia: A Trans-African Adventure, by Sara Dunn, is probably the most incredible one I’ve read. Incredible not so much for the actual route through Africa, which was tough but not completely extreme, but because it was undertaken by a young couple from Edinburgh in 1970 in just about the most inappropriate vehicle you can imagine, with possibly the least amount of proper preparation and suitable kit. I’m amazed that they made it in the end.
Newly married Sara and Ross Dunn set off from Edinburgh in a new Hillman Hunter car and drive south. Their first breakdown happens in Newcastle, but isn’t serious. They continue south, through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria and across the Sahara. They don’t have enough money, they have underestimated the mileage, they haven’t got essentials such as a shovel or sand ladders – and are forced to repeatedly dig their car out of drifts using tupperware! Oh, by the way, Sara can’t drive. Somehow they manage to get through the desert, and then Niger and Nigeria, where they skirt the Biafran conflict. They continue east into Cameroon, the Central African Republic and eventually Uganda, just missing the start of Idi Amin’s rule, and then south through Kenya, Tanzania and finally Zambia, where Ross appears for his new job and promptly needs hospitalisation from infected kitten scratches. For most of the journey they simply sleep in the car. They both lose a lot of weight because they don’t really have a food budget. They can’t afford film so have only a handful of photographs to remember the trip by. The photograph on the front cover of the book shows a car very unsuitable for such a long journey, with a spindly roof rack (which doesn’t survive the trip) holding spare tyres.
Not once do they pay a bribe, but manage to get through numerous roadblocks and border crossings with nothing more than smiles.
The two of them were absolutely mad to have attempted such a journey in such a way, but you have to really admire them for succeeding.