Welcome Group, Grunau

Waking a little after 8:00 am yesterday, the 16th December 2011, I was surveying the snow that had fallen overnight and recalling my drive in Clanwilliam only ten days earlier in 50°C. What am I doing here at home, in time for Christmas?

Regular readers will know that I was met in Grunau, Namibia, by no less than ten South African MG enthusiasts in six MG cars; two midgets, three MGB GT’s, two of which were V8 versions, and one MG TF. What they may not realise is that the round trip for most of those people was over three thousand miles each. To me, that is truly the mark of friendship that is always proffered by the members of the MG Car Club.

The welcome group was headed by Bruce Henderson, Chairman of South Cape MG Car Club, in a MG Midget and consisted of Ricky Cooper (MG Midget), Kevin and Jenny Loader (MG TF), Rob and Theresa Mercer-Tod (MGB GT), Stewart and Thelma Cummings (MGB GT V8), Alan Uzzel and Tony Escott-Watson (MGB GTG V8).

We made our way, first to the Felix Unite lodge on the Orange River and then via the border crossing to Clanwilliam in South Africa and on to Cape Town. Nigel and Joan Stokes met up with us in Cape Town; Nigel having driven from London to Cape Town over an eleven month period in 1970, in his MG Midget which he arrived in to meet me.

The following day we met-up with the Cape Town MG Car Club, led by Joan Parker the President, at the Crankhandle Club house. Several of the welcome group showed me around the Cape Town area including a run to Cape Point, the most southerly point of the Cape Peninsula. We were joined in Cape Town by Norman Ewing, President of the South African MG Car Clubs, who flew over from Johannesburg.

From Cape Town, the official end of the Odyssey run, we drove to Knysna, some five hundred kilometres east. Knysna is situated in a most beautiful coastal location on the Indian Ocean with mountains and hills bounding the land side. Although the population is only forty thousand, classic cars abound, with many Jaguars, Austin Healeys and MG’s. Knysna is the home of the MG Car Club South Cape and I was invited to their Christmas party. It was just the occasion I had hoped would occur, offering me the opportunity to present a commemorative plaque, from the MGCC UK, marking the African Odyssey run, to Bruce Henderson.

From Knysna we drove the last leg to Port Elizabeth where I would hand over Bridget to the safe keeping of a shipping agent until she could be loaded onto a ship bound for the UK. Bruce handed me over to the safe keeping of Terry Estment, Chairman of Port Elizabeth MG Car Club. Once again the MG marque of friendship was in action, offering me a nights rest in a place of safety. Several members of the club’s committee came to dinner that evening to make me feel at home.

The next morning, Terry dropped me at the airport and I caught the plane home. In a very short period of time I had come to enjoy the South African life style and climate.

Bridget and I had driven over eleven thousand miles through forteen countries. Since buying her in 2006, I had now driven Bridget in thirty-eight different countries and she has given her all in the effort. Bridget will need a complete re-build when she returns, from her floor panels to her rubber bumpers. Every panel will need to be removed, cleaned and if re-usable, re-sprayed.

With regard to myself, I need to recharge my batteries before considering the future options. I have learnt some important lessons on this journey; to travel alone, not to commit to timescale restricting appointments. I still have the urge to know what is on the other side of the next hill. I enter into these challenges with the understanding that in certain conditions I may have to abandon Bridget and return home alone, but this didn’t happen this time and so we were lucky.

I was deeply impressed by the work that CoCo is doing in Songea, Tanzania and how we could make a major difference to that community, with very little effort, and so I will be attempting to make that difference.

During 2012 I will rebuild Bridget and together we will do some local runs around Europe preparing for another longer adventure, possibly in 2013.

Finally, I want to put on record my gratitude and thanks to my sponsors Moss Europe and Scorpion Signs, to CMC LandRover in Nairobi who made repairing Bridget in Kenya possible, to the MG Car Clubs in South Africa and at Kimber House. I also want to thank those that have given so generously to CoCo just because we asked them. Most importantly I want to thank my family and close friends who put up with all the rubbish surrounding these escapades just because I want to do them.

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