“Next year I’m going to be 80 years old. My car will be 20 years old. Together we’ll be 100. We’re going to drive to Cairo.” When octogenarian Julia Albu called into her favourite radio show with this zany, half-baked idea, she had no idea that it would lead her to the adventure of a lifetime.
Having recently lost her partner of 33 years, raised four children and been a gogo to nine grandchildren, Julia had decided that it was time to be the master of her own destiny – and what better time would there be to roar off into the sunset, windows wound down, music playing? “People looked at me in horror when I told them I was venturing forth across Africa in a 1997 Toyota Conquest with close to 400 000 km on the clock,” says Tracy. “But who else would I choose as my partner in crime? For a quarter of my life, Tracy had been my trusty steed.”
And so, with a giant map of Africa and unbounded enthusiasm, Julia set off in Tracy to fulfil her dream. As she said, “This trip is not on the bucket list. It is the bucket list.” On the long drive from the Cape to Cairo – through deserts, over mountains and across grassy plains – she met a host of colourful characters (human and animal). From helping push a 30-year-old Toyota bakkie up a precipitous mountain pass in Malawi to being ‘adopted’ by the riotous expat South African community in Dar es Salaam and being fed mildly hallucinogenic ‘herbs’ by her Ethiopian driver-guide, nothing deterred Julia Albu from her quest to reach Cairo.
Her account of this journey, My African Conquest, published by Jonathan Ball, is a funny, feel-good story about adventuring through life – and never acting your age. And now the fabulous Julia Albu is coming to Hermanus. She’ll be at the Book Cottage next week on Tuesday 17 December to tell us about her odyssey – and Tracy will be there, too. Come and enjoy a G&T with Six Dogs and ring in the festive season with Julia and the Book Cottage. My African Conquest is a great holiday read and the ideal Christmas present for anyone with an adventurous spirit.