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Story: Eighties Overland


Words and images by Peter Middleton

‘For better or for worse.’ Married, after being together for less than a year. We fought as we established a symbiotic but sometimes competitive relationship. Perhaps it didn’t help that we’d worked in the same advertising agency until I started my own. I am a dreamer, with a determined streak who usually gets things done… my own way. Mandi always gets things done, the correct way. We were both very independent characters but we didn’t mind. I didn’t anyway. Mandi was beautiful, funny (usually without realising it), and smart. I wasn’t any of those. We each understood that we were adjusting. For our honeymoon, we went to Mapelane on the Natal north coast in my green, canvas-topped, ‘shorty’ Series III, named ‘Nobby’.

It was here that I revealed that I had a dream. To drive right through Africa. All the way. Mandi thought only for a second, then laughed, and yelled above the waves, “You’re on!” We danced a jig on top of a tall sand dune (the highest vegetated dunes in the world) to the music of breaking Indian Ocean surf. ‘Nobby’, the faithful little Landy, sat on top of the dune with the windscreen folded flat; and, I suspected, with a mechanical smile. He was to be disappointed. Now we had a goal beyond the normal middle-class ‘stuff’. A dream that suited us, as we were natural non-conformists.

Although I had a conservative streak, Mandi was always looking for ways to buck the system – a rebel without a pause. The cold reality was that we were broke, and had to work to fund the trip; until one evening, two years later, I returned to our suburban Johannesburg home from another full night, and a day, of beating ridiculous deadlines, and exhausted as ever. I was working all hours, money was tight, the home we had bought was mortgaged and the payments difficult. More importantly, we were bored. I parked the shorty and stomped through the kitchen door.

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