Africa conquered‚ now to meet the Queen‚ says road-tripping granny
After completing an epic and inspiring road trip from Cape to Cairo 80-year-old Julia Albu has no intention of taking her foot off the accelerator.
The next item on her bucket list is to have tea with the Queen of England for her 81st birthday.
And she plans to get there driving the same car that took her across the continent‚ her beloved 20-year-old Toyota “Tracy”.
“I’m gonna give it a bloody good try‚ the universe will come through for me. At my age‚ what do you have to worry about? You just get up and take a chance‚” she told TimesLIVE.
It has been Albu’s life-long dream to drive through Africa and continue to London.
After losing her partner of 33 years‚ raising four children and doting over nine grandchildren‚ she finally took matters into her hands and hit the road – with plenty of support along the way.
Albu said that travelling through Africa was not as scary as it was made out to be‚ adding that she met the most caring and hospitable people in the Middle East and North Africa.
“No one threatened my life in any way. It was rather an act of love throughout. If you are non-racial‚ non-political and non-sexist‚ you are not a threat to anyone. You are simply there to share yourself with whoever you meet and people reward kindness‚” she said.
“I was very blessed to have met the people I met on the journey. Most didn’t speak English but communication is universal. Like when I slept at a cafeteria with seven Egyptians. We did not speak much but we said much. All we did was smile at each other and for some odd reason we knew what the other meant every time.”
Her love for food was reignited in the Tanzanian coastal city of Dar es Salaam.
“I was there for two weeks. This gave me a chance to marvel at the food for a little while. And I have to say‚ I had the best food experience. I loved how they prepare their fish‚ the food there‚ my taste buds were singing all the time‚” she said.
Albu said she could not resist the heart-warming hospitality of the Malawian people and the beauty of the Kenyan Maasai.
“Malawi is just too wonderful for words. The hospitality‚ the people‚ everything was breathtaking. I fell in love with the Maasai people from Kenya. I also have to commend Kenya for its beautiful vegetables‚ they are world class‚” she added.
Malawi is just too wonderful for words. The hospitality‚ the people‚ everything was breathtaking. I fell in love with the Maasai people from Kenya. I also have to commend Kenya for its beautiful vegetables‚ they are world classJulia Albu
She spent months on the road living according to the saying‚ when in Rome do as the Romans do. “Most of the time I wore what the locals wore. You need to be respectful towards other people’s customs and belief systems‚” she said.
As part of her collection of mementos‚ Albu said she had brought “holy” water home.
“As a souvenir‚ I brought home water from Khartoum‚ Sudan‚ where the White Nile and the Blue Nile meet. It’s holy water‚ I think it’s a special thing to have. And I also bought the most wonderful cotton woven in Ethiopia. It’s a sari‚ warm in winter and cool in summer‚” she said.
Albu became a social media sensation when she started her Cape to Cairo quest in June 2017. She came back to Cape Town a week ago and plans to be reunited in the coming weeks with Tracy.
“I am planning to go to London for my 81st birthday. Tracy is on the ship at the moment from Alexandria to Greece and should be there in the next week. I am in Cape Town until the end of March when I will be flying to Greece to meet her and carry on the drive to London‚” she said.
Tracey has been an integral part of Albu’s life.
“People look at me in horror when I tell them I’m venturing forth across Africa in a 1997‚ 1600 Toyota Conquest with close to 400,000km’s on the clock. But who else would I choose as my partner in crime? For a quarter of my life‚ Tracy has been my trusty stead. Windows wound down‚ music playing‚ seatbelt clipped in‚ I could always roar off into the sunset when I needed to‚” she wrote on her blog.
Albu thanked all the people who reached out and sponsored her trip and all the expats who invited her to weddings‚ became tour guides and made her travels fun.