Across Egypt and Sudan in a Tatra in 1947
A fascinating adventure: in 1947 two Czech guys in a passenger Tatra crossed Africa, from Morocco along the north coast to Egypt, then down the eastern side of the continent to South Africa. They became famous, at least in Czechoslovakia and in the Eastern Block countries - my parents told me those guys were big-time celebrities in the Soviet Union in their time. Their names are Jiří Hanzelka and Miroslav Zikmund. Anyone ever heard about them?
Among other things they were the first people to successfully and independently drive from Aswan to Wadi Halfa (talking their way through the red tape) and then along the rail track across to Abu Hamed in Sudan after the WWII.
They wrote a marvellous book, which was translated into many languages including Russian and English, published in the 50s. The English translation is titled "Africa. The Dream And The Reality". I have both translations - great reading. Here's a couple of quotes to give you an idea:
A scene in Aswan. The lads are trying to convince the captain of the border troops to let them through to Wadi Halfa:
"And now just show me what your car can do in the desert," said the captain and gave the driver of his jeep orders to go ahead. "Drive after me." The results of this test were such that a telegram went off to Cairo in the afternoon recommending the Ministry of War to allow us to travel through the "Great North Desert" in view of exceptional qualities and technical fitness of our car. "There's only one thing I don't understand," said the captain shaking his head. "How can your car run without water?"
Also in Aswan, the night before departure:
Late in the evening we left the Officers' Casino and went for a last stroll through the Aswan suk, which was just waking up to night life. The patched and torn baldequins across the narrow space took on fantastic shapes in the flickering light of oil lamps. Among the crowd stepping round the piles of varied goods were effendi in white suits of European cut, Arabs in gallabiahs, Egyptian police and soldiers, tattered and half-naked nomads from the desert and a few curious tourists in shorts. The smell of roast mutton liver mingled with the smoke of charcoal and the pungent smell of the incense which curly-headed lads were burning in one booth after another for a small tip. The bubbling undercurrent of Arabic, Greek and English was broken every now and again by the braying of asses, and above it all wailed the grating gramophone records of Arab music from the cafes.
We automatically turned our steps towards the mudiriah, where our Tatra was waiting in the courtyard. In the afternoon we had given her a last check-up, cleaned the oil filter, put in fresh oil, filled up the vaseline in the grease guns, adjusted two valves and cleaned the ribs of the cylinders and the air cleaner to free them from the dust of mud roads of Lower Egypt. The engine was running like a wrist-watch.
"There's certainly enough petrol," we assured each other, calculating. "We've got 12 gallons in the tank, four two and a half gallon cans and four four-gallon sealed tins, that makes 46 gallons altogether. That would normally be enough for 1700 kilometres."
"She'll probably need more in the sand, maybe three or even four and a half gallons a hundred kilometres. But it's got to last us, even if there isn't a drop of petrol to be had in Wadi Halfa..."
The reflection of the waxing moon rippled in the waves of the Nile below the Aswan dam, and its pale light was returned by the banks of soft sand on the other side.
Beyond the dunes the desert was waiting, silent, mysterious, and unknown...
Last edited by famous_walker; 9 Feb 2008 at 17:56.