In the early 1960s a young Englishman called David Newman took his Ford Zephyr from his home in London on a trip across the Sahara to meet his friend who had recently moved to Lagos.
It was a trip his friend thought idiotic. To drive across the desert in any car was a danger but, in a Zephyr,…His friend’s doubts spurred Newman on, he had some spare time before he began work on his engineering business and so he set about modifying his car to meet the six-week destination date he told his friend he would meet him on.
From the start he encountered problems, his chosen co-pilot proved to be a let-down, followed by his second and as with most foreign travel of that period he was beset with issues in obtaining visas to cross borders where pockets of military action (mostly by the French) meant travel was at best, risky and at worst, a death wish.
The book is a joy, it is the story of a mad Englishman ploughing through the desert in a beat-up old Ford much to the amazement of the tribe’s folk and French soldiers he met along the way. The French plied him with drink before setting off again in the blistering heat of the desert. Sign posts were, unsurprisingly, few and far between, wrong turns were often made, border posts dodged and precious time swallowed up waiting for bureaucracy to take its path.
Newman wrote an engaging book, he achieved what he had set out to do, not only in crossing the Sahara in the manner that he did but to fulfil a dream, turn it into a reality and finally a book. Reading this we see a young man who, like many of his generation, had thrown off the shackles of life in 1950s Britain and entered the sixties with a sense of carefree purpose. What the author shows, quite unwittingly, is the joy of life and the adventures to be had if we are brave enough to pursue our dreams and ambitions. Newman would return to Britain, work, marry and raise children in the blissful knowledge he lived his dream and got to write about it.
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