Read of the Week

My African Conquest

Julia Albu

Jonathan Ball Publishers

Review: Karen Watkins

Julia from Jakkalsfontein was about to turn 80 and her Toyota Conquest named Tracy 20 years old when she announced in a phone call to a radio station: “We’re going to drive to London.” Which route would she take? She had no idea.

Hoping no one heard the announcement she had hardly put the phone down when her electrician Steve called from Namibia. Was she really driving from Cape Town to Cairo in her old Conquest, he asked.

Julia had no idea how far it was to Cairo or what countries lay between but once she’d verbalised the idea it seemed to take on a life of its own. As word spread, with differing responses, her family and other people came on board. Her Toyota dealer in Malmesbury offered her shock absorbers and a jack in case she had a puncture, however, she had no intention of fixing her tyres – that’s what family and friends are for. And that’s how her journey began, with people joining her along the way, through 11 African countries.

As with any journey, her story is not so much about where she went and what she did but the people and experiences along the way.

In the background she talked about Shine Literacy, an NPO started by a teacher who saw the need to spend time with children who battle to read. Julia is dyslexic and values the importance of the written word. Her motto is if you can read, the world is your oyster.

The book is an entertaining read told with Julia’s sense of humour and openness.

It should come with a warning that if you read it you might also get itchy feet and do something similar.

Two months after completing her African odyssey, in January 2018, she met up with Tracy in Greece. They continued north to London where she hoped to be invited for tea with the queen. Sadly this did not happen.

Julia now lives in Rondebosch with her daughter and her family.