South African granny sets off on an epic road trip across Africa

South African grandmother Julia Albu is putting younger explorers to shame, embarking on a car journey across Africa. Albu set off on her road trip on 13 June 2017 and will be detailing her adventures on social media.

Grandmother Julia Albu is driving across Africa in her 20-year-old Toyota for a literacy charity.
Julia Albu celebrates the start of her solo car trip across Africa. Albu started her road trip, in her trusty 1997 Toyota Conquest, nicknamed Tracy, on 13 June 2017. (Image: My African Conquest Facebook page)

CD Anderson

A Jakkelsfontein, Western Cape resident, 80-year-old Julia Albu, driving her 1997 Toyota Conquest, is making her way across the continent on a solo road trip to raise awareness for literacy.

Albu’s idea for the trip started more than a year ago when she pondered why so many South Africans relied on more modern, expensive vehicles just to drive on ordinary roads. She was confident her modest 20-year-old Conquest could just as easily tackle the rougher terrains of Africa.

Following the death of her partner of 33 years in 2015, raising four children and being a “gogo” to her nine grandchildren, Albu decided that it was finally time to take charge of her own destiny and embark on the adventure of a lifetime.

Albu’s car, nicknamed Tracy, had already clocked almost 400,000km in the 20 years she had been behind the wheel.  Speaking to 702 Radio/Cape Talk on 6 June 2017, Albu said her car always gave her the freedom to go anywhere and do anything she wanted, “with the windows down and the wind in [my] face, always with [my] favourite music” playing at top volume. And what better way to celebrate that freedom to go anywhere than to witness the beauty of Africa and meet its people first hand?

Listen to the full interview below

Albu’s end-point is London, via the east African coast, then catching a ferry across the Mediterranean Sea and driving through Europe. And she is doing it all for a good cause: literacy and education.

“You can’t do this for nothing because it’s a waste of time, no matter how much effort you have. You have to take a charity,” she says.

While distributing books and offering reading lessons to children along the way, Albu will be raising awareness of the Shine Literacy organisation in Cape Town. “It is an early learning [charity] for children, but not just learning how to read. It teaches them the meaning of the word. You can read but you don’t know what you are reading and this teaches children the meaning of what they are reading.”

As her journey progresses, Albu will be keeping her followers updated via her Facebook page, with photos and videos detailing her adventures.  She and Tracy will also be featured in an insert on the M-Net programme Carte Blanche on 18 June 2017.

Grandmother Julia Albu is driving across Africa in her 20-year-old Toyota for a literacy charity
Julia Albu prepares for the start of her solo car trip across Africa. Albu started her road trip, in her trusty 1997 Toyota Conquest, nicknamed Tracy, on 13 June 2017. (Image: My African Conquest Facebook page)
Grandmother Julia Albu is driving across Africa in her 20-year-old Toyota for a literacy charity.
Julia Albu prepares for the start of her solo car trip across Africa. Albu started her road trip, in her trusty 1997 Toyota Conquest, nicknamed Tracy, on 13 June 2017. (Image: My African Conquest Facebook page)

Rest assured, Albu has not taken the trip lightly: making sure she is fighting fit for the rigours of long distance driving, camping and tackling whatever Africa throws at her, she has had a full medical check-up that found her in good health for the journey.

Albu has also accepted sponsorships that ensure she has all the right equipment and support for the long trip. Her local Toyota dealership has also come on board, and made sure Tracy the Conquest was ready for the trip. It has also offered assistance if there are any mechanical hiccups along the way.

Writing on her blog in anticipation of her journey, Albu offered a poem she wrote highlighting what the trip meant to her:

“When you have acquired a taste for the dust / and the scent of our first rain / you’re hooked for life on Africa… it is time to cut the traces loose / and let your heart go free/ beyond that far horizon/ where your spirit yearns to be.”

Godspeed Julia and Tracy, may you both have the time of your lives.

Follow Julia Albu’s journey on her Facebook page and her website.

Source: 702 Radio /Cape Talk, My African Conquest

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