Words by David Jack
Motorised overland trips through southern Africa have been many and varied. In the 1920s, many of the longer trips by car were for the purpose of setting or breaking records; not many were motivated purely by the spirit of adventure. After all, the roads were hardly conducive to comfortable travel − most were little more than dirt tracks connecting numerous farm gates.
The tarring of roads, even in towns, was almost non-existent, and the cars were not much better: solid axles, leaf springs, rudimentary shock absorbers, and no four-wheel drive. It was in these conditions that an overland trip was planned and carried out by my grandmother, Maggy Oppermann. She certainly was adventurous by nature. In 1908, as a 19-year-old, she had travelled alone to Germany by ship from South Africa, in order to study music at the Leipzig Conservatory of Music.
At the time, she knew no German and knew not a soul in Germany. Years later, she admitted that when she finally arrived at Leipzig train station and found no one there to meet her, she nearly turned around and headed back home. Once back in South Africa, she found that her urge for adventure was undiminished but that her ability to travel was severely hampered − she had to earn a living, and did so by becoming a music teacher.