GO TRABI GO! AFRICAN SAFARI
Because Africa´s sometimes rather fun ... Some things look like a great idea at first, then turn out the exact opposite. Then there are things which look idiotic at the start but end up swell. Like when you decide to cross Africa in a Trabi.
“Won´t work,” is what you´re most likely to hear the moment you decide to do something out of the ordinary. They said that to Columbus, when he was trying to fund his vessels, or to the Wright Brothers when they were constructing their aeroplane. When Hanzelka and Zigmund wanted to set off to Africa by car they were told: “How can you want to go to Africa if you´ve never been there before?” Simply impossible. But what about going to Africa just because it looks impossible? Trying to fly, simply because it´s impossible? Trying to find a western route to India simply because it´s impossible?
Where there´s a will ... So that´s why we decided to cross Africa in a Trabant. There are no roads in Africa, you´ll get robbed immediately, probably killed into the bargain. Africa is evil. You don´t think so? You have not even been there! In the end it was obvious that the only way to check out what it´s like to drive from north to south is ... to drive through Africa from north to south. And by Trabi into the bargain. Actually, it´s nowhere near being the most primitive car to have left Prague for Cape Town. At the beginning of the last century there were several Czechs who set off behind the steering wheels of cars that were lucky to have brakes equipped on all four wheels. They took off in Tatras, Skodas or Aero´s. Africa wasn´t black and white the way the continent looks on period photos. Africa was colourful and wild. Like today. Even more so. And it worked. Without satellite navigation, without four-wheel drive – simply just with a map, a bucketful of guts, a dash of irresponsibility and a tank full of good luck.
Honest, you weren´t scared? We drove 19 640 kilometres through eleven African countries. From the northernmost point to the southernmost – Cape Agulhas. Just the name itself was reason enough to travel here. Africa swallowed us, hook, line and sinker, leaving us stunned, wiped out but determined to return. We drove through deserts and forests, mayhem cities and villages with only a handful of natives. We saw plenty, but it was not the Africa you see on TV. Full of violence, begging for help. Not everything on this black continent is as black as it may appear and not every inhabitant on this continent has to be an object of our compassion. Try telling someone that you were in the Sudan and the first thing you hear is: “They didn´t kill you?” “Do we look dead?” “You mean, you weren´t scared?” is the next question. “No, we weren´t scared.” We felt better there than in its more celebrated neighbour, Egypt. Here, no one tried to sell us disgusting souvenirs or extort fees for God knows what. In the Sudan they did not mistake us for walking wallets, here we were simply guests. Yes, in Africa, too, there are very dangerous countries which it is advisable not to visit. But this is a gigantic continent and to simply make a facile universal declaration that you are risking your life here is like saying that Bohemia is an ugly and inhospitable country because in Most we have a lunar landscape pockmarked by brown coal surface mining.
From Top to Bottom A quarter of a year was to pass from the day two polished yellow toys were unloaded in Tunis on Africa´s most northern point to the day when, thoroughly dilapidated, they arrived at the very tip of South Africa, right on the bottom. Our Trabants passed through controversial Libya with a seized motor necessitating a resuscitation stop-over in the kitchen of the Egyptian embassy. We admired the forgotten pyramids of the Sudan. We savoured the roasting of the original coffee of Ethiopia along with the smoke of our burning brakes on our mountainous descents. We visited “Schools in Africa”, set up by the Czech NGO People in Need. In Kenya we survived a needless and reckless 300 km piggyback ride on the back of a truck. Tanzania presented us with a genuine Trabi Safari and we notched up sightings of elephants, giraffe, lions ... then we passed by the Victoria Falls and drove around the Okavango delta in Botswana and through the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. A colonial, western country with the widest gap between rich and poor. Endless dunes, a ghost city abandoned by diamond prospectors and gradually sinking into the dust and sand, then the people struggling with HIV, with every fifth individual carrying the virus ... Africa simply cannot be squeezed into a single article, you can just transmit a bare feeling of it all.