Cape Town – After 20 years of adventures and companionship, a granny and her Toyota Conquest are making new memories in a road trip from Cape Town to London.
Julia Albu, 80, left Jakkalsfontein before dawn on Tuesday to start her trip to raise money for a literacy charity.
Nervous about setting off into the unknown, she packed her car to capacity with last-minute items she might need – a jersey, a National Geographic magazine – on top of all her camping gear.
And so far, it has been a smooth journey in style with 'Tracy', which has almost 400 000km on the clock.
The vehicle was souped up in anticipation.
"She has been my only car and we have built up a relationship. She is the most trustworthy, wonderful car," Albu told News24 from Beaufort West on Tuesday afternoon.
The car was fitted with big tyres, new shock absorbers and even a new outfit-seats and door panels upholstered in exotic palm-frond pattern.
"Tracy is purring like a kitten. She is actually a bit like a 4x4. She is quite high and of course, it is like sitting in your living room. It makes driving such a pleasure!"
Albu, a mom to four and granny to nine, decided to set off on her bucket list adventure after recently losing her partner of 33 years.
She and her children would take turns driving across the continent. The trip was expected to take a year to complete.
The itinerary includes Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and Greece.
While in the Karoo, she could not stop admiring the lighting on the plants and mountain, and even stopped for a picnic with her daughter Zambi.
A traffic officer stopped them at one point to check Zambi's driving licence.
"He looked inside the car and said 'wow' He could probably not hear us because of all the old fashioned seventies and eighties music!"
'The world is your oyster'
With the long road ahead, Albu was most scared of the "terrifying, huge" trucks.
But the thought of meeting interesting people along the way filled her with excitement.
"My mission is to hand out big pens and postcards to those who haven’t got so everybody can at least start to write. I also have sweets, suckers, books and hats."
Albu has raised R13 900 so far for Shine Literacy. Her goal is to get to R20 000.
"They teach children not only to read but to comprehend the word so that they understand what they are reading," she said excitedly.
"That is the key to the door. If you can read, the world is your oyster."
There are no fancy hotels for the go-getter granny. She intends setting up camp at the end of every day with her tent, stretchers and portable loo (with a spade).
She admits she is "hopeless" at putting up a tent but can surely count the task as bonding time with her children.
They will be taking notes along the trip to help other travellers.
"This trip has got be done," Albu gushed.
Her advice was for people to cherish their old vehicles.
"Don't buy a new car because they are not as good as the old cars. Put [on] some lovely fabric and you have a new car. They are like old friends."