The Exodus Expedition Truck, an African "Package Tour"
November 6, 1987 - February 25, 1988
Africa seemed a bit scary to attempt on our own. The original idea was to go to Europe in the fall, drop down into Africa during the winter, and continue on around the world in the spring. But Africa captured our imaginations and we eventually signed up for a four-month trip. We couldn't have gone on our own knowing what we knew then. Now, we could (and would).
There were 23 of us, 21 passengers and 2 drivers, on a Bedford army truck. Each of us had a small locker for our stuff under the seats. Other lockers were reserved for food, dishes, spare parts, and books. The plastic windows of the truck rolled up for riding in the open air, which people preferred even on frigid Sahara mornings.
Our sleeping bags and roll mats were in nets above the seats, and the tents were kept on the roof of the cab.
A typical day began with a wake-up call at 4:30 - 5:30 a.m. We had to get up, dress, stuff the sleeping bags, roll the tents, and be ready for a 5:00 or 6:00 breakfast. We'd leave an hour after breakfast, at just about daybreak.
Two out of three days we spent on the road, bumping along at no more than 40 mph. We traveled nearly 12,000 miles at that speed. That's a lot of riding.
Mid-morning, there would be a break of about an hour for shopping. Unless it was our turn to shop, we could wander around town, see the sights, visit the markets and talk to the locals. On a rotating basis, we guarded the truck against thieves in teams of two.
Around noon, we'd have a lunch stop of about an hour. The truck would stop just before dark in a gravel pit or field to camp. Hundreds of people gathered around to watch us whenever we stopped, even in places that seemed as remote as one could imagine. Apparently, we provided the best entertainment around!
Teams of three, randomly assigned for month-long stints, each cooked one day a week. Cooking could be fun, depending on the group. We'd be given money to shop for three meals, and our creativity was challenged as we tried to prepare varied, tasty and nutritious meals from locally available food, supplemented by "stores" brought from London. The food kitty cost only $18 per person per week, yet we ate quite well and generally had all we could eat.
Whenever we stopped to eat, we drew a crowd, sometimes hundreds strong. They seemed just curious, watching, laughing and talking to each other. We were the circus! I wish we could have circled one of their villages for the same experience of seeing another way of life.
The group was well-balanced in many ways, and consisted of people from 8 countries, aged 16-48. Half were male and half female. Most were professionals or semi-professionals. All spoke English fluently, including the six people from Scandinavia, but none spoke French, the common language in Northern Africa. There were just three couples; most were young singles.
We didn't select this group of people we'd be with 24 hours a day for four months, and we wouldn't have selected them. Many of them preferred to hit the bars for drinks immediately upon reaching a town. We dared to question the leader on occasion. We did not fit in.
On one occasion, we stopped for tea but the wood was wet. The water wouldn't boil, despite everyone's best efforts. Finally, Dennis poured a cup from the tea kettle to make hot chocolate (the water was warm enough for that and had been chemically purified). The leader upbraided him openly. Dennis asked what was the problem. With less water in the pot, the rest would boil more quickly. The leader angrily accused Dennis of selfishly hurting everyone else by "messing up the molecules" in the water. None of the educated people in the group even questioned that statement, to our amazement! The leader was so popular and the group pressure so intense that I became convinced that if he had ordered his followers to kill an oppressed group of people, they'd have complied. We were only too glad to finish the organized portion of the trip and leave everyone behind. We'd have dropped out earlier and continued on our own, but there were no refunds. We wanted to go on the truck through the game parks in Kenya. So we stayed and avoided the group as much as possible.
This experience contributed to Dennis' initial interest in the TV show Survivor. We we would have been the first ones voted out of the "tribe"!
Go on Moroccan Markets and the Fez Carpet
Source: www.SusanCAnthony.com, ©Susan C. Anthony