Someone I Once Met: The African Overlander

Ian is my Uncle. When I was younger he was that ‘young, cool, fun’ uncle that called every birthday and forced conversation out of me for at least 15 minutes. There was always a funny card in the post too. This was because he wasn’t nearby, he was in England. He had driven there- from South Africa. In fact, Ian may be one of the biggest reasons why I travel. I would love to one day have just half the amount of stories he has to tell.

When I was about eight, he came round to my school to say goodbye before he left on his overland trip up the East Coast of Africa in his White Land Cruiser with black Zebra stripes. The Quagga. He saw deepest darkest Africa- parts of it that not many people will ever get to experience. The Quagga was his transport and his home, a bed for the night either on the roof, in the back or in a tent next to it. Seeing the beauty that the continent has to offer, and dealing with everything that’s fucked up about it. Legend has it that Ian carried the Quagga’s Engine on his back from Spain to London- the final stretch. So much wrong with it that not even his experienced mechanic hands could keep it alive.

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These days he has an Aussie (but increasingly saffa) wife and three young girls. In one sense leading a completely different life to the one before, but also grabbing any opportunity to travel- to more family friendly locations (still in Africa). Ian met his Wife, Toni, in London. They got married in Scotland and then drove back to South Africa in the good-old Quagga, along the West Coast this time. Perhaps it’s the African blood he has running through his veins that prevented him from emigrating successfully to Australia. He returned to the Mother Land 6 months after leaving. There is nowhere he’d rather raise his children, despite Africa’s ability to completely stress him out. Like surviving a gun shot during a hijacking outside his home with his pregnant wife next to him.

In the picture you have a good view of Ian’s teeth. None of which are real- they were lost one fateful day when he cycled down a hill and straight into the back of a lorry. I remember him drinking his food through a straw and playing tricks on everyone with his false teeth.

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