January 31 1953 (Saturday)
Dad got up at 07h15 and took the Land Rover to the local garage, where he could leave it for servicing, before returning for breakfast. It was a beautiful day again, and we were glad that we had bought our sunglasses. I decided that I would like to stay in the gardens at the hotel, while the others all went into Algiers to do some last minute shopping. They purchased 4 topis ( rigid tropical hats) which amused me on their return; we wouldn't get sunstroke and why shouldn't we look like Big Game Hunters!? They also took the latest batch of films, taken in France and Algiers, to be developed. We had a new camera and wanted to make sure that everything was in order. It would have been a disaster to arrive at the other end of the journey to find we had a whole load of blanks to look at! Nothing could have been much worse than not to have a record of the incredible trip we were about to undertake. Who would believe that we had even done it? At least, this would give us some time to rectify any mistakes that we may have made. Mum and David then came back to the hotel, while Dad went off to collect the Land Rover. At this stage, with what currency we had left on us, we needed to step lightly as we could not afford to get caught out by an emergency. Not easy to draw money from the bank in the middle of the Sahara Desert!
|In the grounds of the St George Hotel Algiers, David, myself and Mum.|
February 1 1953 Land Mileage 0734
The beginning of a new month – we all wondered where we would be at this time the following year.
We took a few photographs, then Mum, Dad and I went to the lovely little English Church just down the road, for the morning service. Unfortunately, we seemed not to have taken any photos of the church! Afterwards we went for a stroll and admired the Arab women in their Moslem dress. In the afternoon we went and had a look around the very interesting museum and from there, into the park to watch the children at play.
|On the steps of the Museum in Algiers.|
|The fountain at the museum.|
|and some of the children playing nearby.|
There was a small boating lake in the park and the children were having great fun sailing their boats. One over-enthusiastic child overstepped the mark and went in head first, but apart from being a little wet and getting a fright, no harm was done. On our return to the hotel, we got talking to the doorman, who had been there on our previous visit. He was very interested in our forthcoming trip, but without saying so outright, he was obviously of the opinion that we were definitely not right in the head and the whole thing was a pretty foolish idea. Maybe he was right, reading the following.......
This is an extract from the 1948 edition of the A.A. Trans African Highways Book, the book which we used to plan our route from Algiers to Kano! "An official statement issued by the British Foreign Office in December 1947 declared that 'it is sheer folly to attempt the Trans-Sahara journey without adequate knowledge and resources'. Evidently this is a venture not to be undertaken lightly" The 1947 statement also gave advice re vehicle and food and the following four points are made. 1) a high ground clearance and wide section low pressure tyres are essential. (The latter are required for driving through the sand). 2) for getting out of soft sand, sandmats or equivalent, shovels, a few planks and rope must be carried. Tinted sand goggles, compass and first-aid outfit are indispensible (We did not have the planks, but we had the remainder with us). 3) besides adequate repair outfits, it is advisable to carry a reasonable amount of spares for the more exposed portions of the vehicle 4) do not start if the sun is on the radiator and there is a following wind. I presume that the latter had something to do with over heating but......
February 2 1953
Monday morning and off to the A.A. for the required signatures. We were there for two hours (!) and still had to go back there again in the afternoon. It was a good job that we had not planned to leave immediately after the visit. We went back to the hotel and generally tidied up the Land Rover to make sure that everything was in the right place, as we wanted to leave first thing the following morning. In case of problems, we did not want to waste time searching for the item required! After seeing that everything was in order, Mum and Dad went back to the A.A. to get the letter for the S.A.T.T. They also collected the agreement for us to cross the Sahara Desert and handed over all necessary money in payment for the required permissions.
They then bought all the necessary stores and plenty of tinned food. The storekeeper was apparently amazed by all the food that we were buying; little did he know we would probably not see another general store for some time in the future! The fuel tanks were then topped up and the water tank on the roof filled to capacity. I had stayed at the hotel during this shopping expedition and the collection of forms and was eagerly awaiting their arrival back. I was ready to start moving and really get the trip underway! Together we packed all the food away and as much as possible of the other items we had into the Land Rover, to save time in the morning. We had a really good meal that night at the hotel, knowing that from here on we would be eating tinned food and army rations for some time to come. We also had a fairly early night to enjoy a comfy bed; the next comfort after this was a thing of the future. It could be days, but on the other hand it may well be weeks. I think that we were all far too keyed up with the prospect of what was going to happen on the morrow, that proper bed or not, none of slept very well. Our thoughts wandered off in many directions before sleep finally caught up with us.
To be continued :-)
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