Doctors driving from London to Cape Town reject new car deal after getting stuck in Nigeria

Toyota has stepped in to rescue a daring expedition that faced a major setback, but the trio rejected the offer

21 May 2024 - 14:58
By Modiegi Mashamaite
James Weller, Karen Chang and James Spence on day 9 of their trip from Agadir to Red Dune.
Image: Supplied James Weller, Karen Chang and James Spence on day 9 of their trip from Agadir to Red Dune.

The journey of three medical doctors driving from London to Cape Town nearly came to an abrupt end when their car suffered catastrophic damage, leaving them stuck in Nigeria.

James Weller, Karen Chang, and James Spence, from London, embarked on an ambitious journey 59 days ago, driving a Toyota Hilux affectionately named Edna from London to Cape Town.

Their Instagram page known to their followers as @london.2.Capetown has grasped the hearts of 379,000 followers,
who share in the highs and lows of the trip through the comments section. Their challenges have included getting stuck in mud on day 38 in a remote forest in Côte d'Ivoire, setting up camps in the wilderness and almost being denied entry to Togo.

The journey has exposed them to significant dangers, such as camping in forests and open veld where they are vulnerable to wildlife, the elements and human threats.

One of the most harrowing experiences occurred in Ghana when Karen was sexually assaulted as a man masturbated while watching her sleep. The incident exposed them and their followers to the risks they face daily, emphasising the unpredictable and sometimes perilous nature of their expedition.

The journey nearly came to an end when Edna “snapped in half”, leaving the adventurers stranded and their dreams hanging by a thread. 

Covering nearly 20,000km and traversing diverse terrains and climates, the adventurers, who met 10 years ago at university, have faced numerous challenges but said the vehicle damage was the worst, and they feared it might derail their mission.

During a particularly gruelling stretch of the journey, the car's frame succumbed to the relentless strain, literally snapping in half.

The mechanical failure left the travellers stranded in a remote area, facing not only logistical challenges but also the terrible prospect of abandoning their ambitious quest.

“Edna snapped in half and we're unsure if we can continue our trip. During the crossing from Nigeria to Cameroon we encountered the worst roads of the trip so far. This put a huge strain on Edna's already compromised chassis,” the trio shared in an Instagram post. They said they needed donations to assist them to repair the vehicle.

“While driving even at low speeds, we noticed the back was moving more and more to the point where it was almost hanging off. We stopped to assess her and she had completely snapped in half. The rear chassis had multiple severe cracks.

“This is the worst scenario and there's no way we can drive Edna to South Africa. Repairing such severe damage will be expensive and take many days.”.

Many people in the comments section offered donations and tagged Toyota to help the doctors successfully complete their trip.

News of their plight reached Toyota, a company renowned for its robust and reliable vehicles. Recognising the spirit of the journey and the dire situation of the travellers, they decided to intervene.

Toyota South Africa's Instagram page replied with: “Hey Karen, James and Spence, we've been loving your epic journey from London to Cape Town. Edna's been a trooper, but we're sad to see her struggling.

“To keep the adventure rolling, we'd love to send Edna's newly launched big brother, the Hilux GR-Sport, to complete your journey to Cape Town.”

The latest Hilux GR-S III has rally-bred styling and improved off-road ability.
Image: Supplied The latest Hilux GR-S III has rally-bred styling and improved off-road ability.

The act has transformed a potential failure into an inspiring story of perseverance and corporate generosity. Some took to social media to express how the journey might be piggybacking on African kindness.

Reinvigorated and eager to get back on the road, the adventurers turned to Instagram to thank everyone for their support.

“We really appreciate every person who has messaged us and donated (no matter how big or small). We'd love to message everyone individually to say thank you but unfortunately it's not possible,” they said.

Determined to continue their expedition with their original vehicle, the trio remains steadfast in fixing Edna and continuing the southward with her in tow.

“We had a mechanic check Edna out now, and he's confident he can get her fixed and back on the road in a few days. We'll keep everyone updated on the story.” they said.

The trio further went to Instagram to thank Toyota for offering to help but they prefer to use their beloved Edna to continue the journey.

"We cannot abandon Edna. She is our mother and one of the crew. We started the journey with her and we aim to complete the journey with her.

"We can't give up on her now. She is struggling but she will get through this.

"Big thank you to @toyata_sa for offering to help out with a new car but we need Edna to get to Cape Town and will try our best to get her fixed."