Herbie goes to Africa

Thulani Gqirana

IT may not quite be the car made famous in the Herbie movies, but a trusty 1982 Volkswagen Beetle has a story of its own to tell after travelling thousands of kilometres through Africa before reaching its final resting place at the AutoPavilion in Uitenhage.

Dutch teacher Jos Oosterbroek bought the car in his hometown for his adventurous 20000km trip across the continent and decided to donate it to the AutoPavilion as the car was on its last legs.

“I bought my Beetle in Hogeveen for this trip. I didn’t want to drive a big fancy 4×4. This car had way more charm. When I bought the car it was in bad condition. The exhaust fell off and the engine stopped every time we braked. But we managed to get a sponsorship deal with a garage that fixed the car, made it higher and fixed the engine.”

Oosterbroek, 28, donated the car to VW’s Uitenhage car museum in April after his four-month trip but because of a delay in SARS paperwork, the AutoPavilion could only register and display the car last month. Oosterbroek said he had some great fun with the little Beetle. “It was an incredible feeling to drive a Beetle through the sand with miles and miles of nothing around you. Sometimes we got stuck in the sand but because the car is light it was never hard to get it out,” he said.

“At one point a Dutch company in Nigeria sponsored an armed escort car for us because everybody told us how dangerous Nigeria was. It was such an adventure. Our little Beetle behind a big 4×4 passing all road blocks, not having to stop anywhere and all police men and army men waving and applauding for our car.”

The young adventurer travelled to Gambia with his friend Yme Veenje and did the next leg from there to Cameroon with Ferry Molenaar. He went through Cameroon to Namibia alone before picking up his girlfriend Jorien Stevens there and making the rest of the journey with her to South Africa. While travelling alone in Gabon and Congo, he spent three days digging the car out of mud pools and sand before reaching Brazzaville.

“It was like reaching paradise after those harsh days in the car to be drinking cold beers and wakeboarding on the Congo River. A thing I will never forget.”

He said reaching Cape Town was an amazing experience.

“We could see Table Mountain from 50km away. The car was at its end, only doing a maximum of 80km/h and uphill a max of 30km/h, causing traffic jams. But the feeling that I was reaching the finish was so unique,” he said.

He decided to donate the car because it would not have made the trip back home. “But I miss it. I miss the sound, the crappy interior, setting the engine right, driving with one arm out the window, everything. But I love the idea that one day I can visit him again.

“For me it was the best place to leave the car. In the last country, in a museum. Hopefully I can go back someday to see my car standing there.”

VW’s Lindi-Anne Hilliar said the car had been on display since July 26, after they managed to sort out the paperwork delay.

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