The later months of 1952 were, by now, flying by and there was still "No Sale" of the motor business, which was very disconcerting, to say the least of it. Due to weather conditions through Africa, we needed to be away, at the latest, early in 1953, or the journey would be impossible for another twelve months. The annual rains would be starting and roads would be impassable, especially in the Congo. The Sahara would be closed to all vehicles from June until October. The ideal leaving time would be from November onwards, so we would arrive in Rhodesia before all the rivers were flooded by the heavy rains, and the floods in French Equatorial Africa would be receding. We were more or less ready to move at any time, but with the business still like a millstone around our necks, we were getting more and more depressed. However, Dad was not being idle and more changes to the vehicle were going ahead. He bought a winch, to be fixed on the front of the Land Rover; this proved to be a brilliant idea, as would later be proved!
|The front of the Land Rover, showing the winch in position|
December 1952 arrived; the business remained unsold and the thoughts were that we would have to suspend all plans for another twelve months, when an early Christmas present arrived on our door step! A buyer appeared, he made a quick decision that this was exactly what he was looking for, and the sale we had all been waiting for was ready to go ahead. We were quite happy just to take his money and go, but the powers-that-be unfortunately didn't work that quickly. It was January before the sale even started to go through its official channels. Still with the hope that we would get away in time, we travelled by train to London, during the big smog, to confirm with the Automobile Association (A.A.) that everything was in order and to check the clearance of the firearms we wished to carry. The A.A. in turn passed us onto the French and Belgian Embassies. The French informed us that it was quite in order to carry firearms; in fact they said there should be a law against trying to do the trip ahead of us without firearms - they thought them a definite necessity! Finally and happily, the business sale went through and the relief turned into great excitement!
Time in which to get under way was really running out and we consulted a well known travel agency to ask them to please proceed with getting all necessary travel documents and permits needed to cross the various territories. Between the four of us, we had 72 forms and a great number of identity photographs. The travel company, for whom we had nothing but praise, was incredible and everything was completed 'post haste'. Telegrams were sent back and forth to the various consulates (no e-mail in those days!) to progress things as fast as possible. Then there were all the various innoculations; these included Yellow Fever, TAB and various vaccinations. This caused several days of aches, misery and depression and we even began to wonder if it was all worth the effort. This was quite short-lived and the sheer thought of what was ahead of us pushed the adrenalin to the fore. We still had to arrange the shipping for the caravan, now we knew the date when we could 'move out'. This proved to be fairly easy; we just had to have dates of loading and the final destination! Everything we needed at the other end was packed into the caravan, so we could tow it to Southampton with us. Our own transport, plus the shipping of the Land Rover, had to be arranged across the English Channel to Le Havre, then again from Marseilles to Algiers. We needed to have the dates all arranged to tie in with the delivery of the caravan. This involved a lot of thought, as again weather conditions were a major factor in our lives. Crossing to France at the end of January, we were unsure what the state of the roads would be (this was winter in 1953!!) and the last thing we needed was to encounter snowdrifts and icy roads. A Land Rover which now weighed three tons would not be easy to control on slippery roads. As any farmer would tell you, the weather is really impossible to predict and it was a case of biting the bullet and just going! We made our final bookings and the travel agency then commented that they thought they had been wasting their time and we would never get under way! We never admitted to them that the same thought had crossed our minds a number of times!
|The Land Rover with the 'pram back' closed, see previous post.|
We stayed in a hotel in Bath for two nights, while we did the final packing of both caravan and Land Rover. Our limited allowance of clothing and food which we would need for the journey was all wedged under the passenger seats. For food, we had laid hands on as much concentrate as possible. With help from a friend, who went to a lot of trouble, we obtained a good deal of American Army Ration food. We also had a well packed medical kit, including such things as snake bite serum and other items unheard of in English first aid. There was a camp bed for David, who was bravely planning on sleeping under the vehicle, cooking equipment, spades (a very necessary tool), sand mats and boards in case we should be unfortunate enough to get stuck. As an afterthought, Dad also fitted a compass to the windscreen!
To be continued :-)
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