Thursday, October 10, 2013

1956: Pretoria to London by Karrier Gamecock Bus

Bessie Rutherford - 1956 Africa by Bus route
"Retief carefully set the compass at a point where the Niger River made an obvious bend – the compass was now our only way to navigate. We drove and drove. After days of endless yellow sand, we began to wonder if we’d ever see our families or our country again. One day we came across a heap of bones. We had been told about this landmark – the skeleton of a camel – and it meant we were still on course." 

In 1956, Retief and his wife Bessie, led a group of South African's from Pretoria to London. Driving two Karrier Gamecock buses with Rootes engines, the groups of travelers headed North...

Graces Guides describes the Rootes engine as a two stroke diesel marketed with two horizontally opposed piston in each of the three cylinders. More on the engine here

You can read all about the trip, written by Bessie Rutherford, via the Go! website: Across Africa by bus.


BESSIE RUTHERFORD & KOOS DE SWARDT PICTURES SUPPLIED


BESSIE RUTHERFORD & KOOS DE SWARDT PICTURES SUPPLIED

A few additional photos can be found via the following link:
Historic Journey: From South Africa to London via Karrier Gamecock

Upon reaching London, half the team flew back to South Africa whilst the remainder of the team drove the buses back to South Africa.

The following paragraph, published on the Go! website, was very insightful:
In his book about our epic journey, Die Verste Sandduin, Retief writes:
As the waves of the Mediterranean Sea lap at my feet, I realise that those who dream of a road from the south to the north, a big tourist road to Europe, are dreaming empty dreams. It’s impossible. Man can overcome the geographical challenges with ingenuity, but the human factor – changing politics and the fancies of a democratic people – will never be conquered. The journey from the south to the north of Africa will always be an adventure.

57years after writing his book, Retief Oosthuysen's statement remains true:  'The journey from the South to the North of Africa will always be an adventure."


BESSIE RUTHERFORD & KOOS DE SWARDT PICTURES SUPPLIED
The journey impacted all those who traveled... including a couple (Kobie & Ans) who met on the bus and eventually got married.
Their daughter, Hanna, mentions her mum and dad in a blog post and how her brother Dries, rode his motorbike from South Africa to Israel in 1994.  It's great to see that the overland spirit passes across generations...
Hanna's mum
Photo from ADVRider


Additional Reading:
1956 was a big year for trans-continental overland journeys... Read more about the other trips: 1956 Overland Travel