This is a brief version of a long story about an adventure (complete with a couple of photographic albums to help illustrate the tale), an adventure that lasted well over a year and took two friends on a journey that would remain forever in their memories and become a family tale spun for generations. So please bear with me as I share this photo exhibit taken from the albums in my mother’s vast collection of treasures.
In early October, 1949, my father, then a young man of almost 23 years with 26 English pounds in his pocket, began a journey with a friend in King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. They drove a specially modified jeep to house all their equipment and traversed the length of Africa, stopping in villages, towns, and cities, and experiencing the variety of cultures across this expansive continent in the post-WWII era.
To support themselves, they showed films about travel, places, operas, and other primarily documentary topics. They were extremely well treated wherever they went, often driving for a week or longer without encountering another human being, Uganda and Tanganyika being the most uninhabited countries through which they passed. The tribes they happened upon were friendly and welcoming, especially enthralled by the moving pictures my father showed them. They spent Christmas in the Kenyan Highlands with the English community who welcomed these two German-born men with open arms.
One of my father’s stories that has stuck in my mind since I heard it as a little girl is the one of his race to safety after attempting to sneak closer to a herd of elephants to take photographs. Needless to say, he ended up scrambling for his life, unable to take a single photo, as the elephants thundered after him. He leaped into a tree where he was forced to roost for almost 3 hours before the elephants lost interest and wandered off into the bush. This was a source of unbridled amusement for his friend, Karl, seated atop the jeep with a pair of binoculars, who said my father was lucky he chose to run in the direction he had. If he had turned the opposite way, he would have run smack! into a group of water buffalo.
Egypt was a definite highlight of their trip where they visited the temples in Luxor, the rock-carved city of Petra, the pyramids, the sphinx, and other ancient attractions. They even struck up friendships after inadvertently pitching their tent in the pitch black night on the lawn of one of the embassies in Cairo.
Their journey continued westward along the Mediterranean coast from Alexandria, Egypt through Libya where they embarked on a ferry in Tripoli, disembarking in Italy. They traveled through Italy, driving their jeep to Rome where they spent Easter. As it had throughout Africa, their jeep drew much fascinated attention. After Easter, the companions made their way to Switzerland where the two men parted company. My father drove to Germany where he spent many months with family, even joining the Wandervogel, a German youth group, which later caused many problems for my father when he returned home to South Africa by a Castle Line ship in 1951. But that’s another story…