The modern safari car
by Herman Labuschagne

Eden Express Article, 2013-10-07


They passed me recently – a Landrover with tourists on an Out of Africa fantasy. The vehicle had every accessory you could think of – sand ladders that had never seen sand, shovels that had never shovelled a clod, and a pick that had never struck dirt. Unscratched gas cylinders in custom mountings made sure that not a stick of firewood would have to be collected. And jerry cans on the roof provided the ultimate assurance that at the very least an unexpected petrol strike would not cause inconvenience at filling stations. She looked like Audrey Hepburn with her scarf and bush nunu hat, while he looked like a corporate insect with his three day whiskers and wraparound sunglasses. The modern safari in a modern safari vehicle.


But it was not always so. In the early days safari vehicles were unheard-of. In fact, strange as it might seem, it was surprisingly unconventional to go on safari with a pickup truck. People commonly went on safari in cars. In my great-grandfather’s generation, that meant packing the family’s Plymouth or Buick for the long trek to Portuguese East Africa. Safari was real safari in those days – there were hardly roads – only sand tracks. Cars were not built to withstand rain or dust so people drove in white dust coats with aviator goggles and gloves. Old cars broke down often, inner tubes were repaired at the roadside, and in the thick bush sand they had to rest often to breathe and cool down.


When I passed the Bug and Audrey Hepburn last week, I thought of great-grandpa lighting a pipe in this old photograph. He looked happy to me. The Bug had the perfect vehicle for his safari – but great-grandpa possessed the one thing the bug would never have – time for the journey.

My great-grandfather lights a pipe while a hunting companion is tying a set of kudu horns to the back of his car.