DEREK’S BLOG: Living Her Dream

Derek Watts
By Derek Watts | Follow @DerekWatts
Derek Watts has been a journalist for nearly 30 years, presenting on South African television since 1985 as a sports anchor. Derek has been an anchor and presenter on Carte Blanche since the programme's inception in 1988. See full profile

I TRULY BELIEVE that I could be one of the world’s greatest adventurers.

Well…if it was a nine-to-five escapade with regular cappuccino breaks and an electric blanket and feather pillow along with DStv in the evenings.

Over the lifetime of Carte Blanche we have met some TRUE adventurers who don’t insist on the same minor requirements.

Like Lewis Pugh who will leap into any frozen lake or sea to create awareness of the woeful way we treat our environment.

Or Riaan Manser who bikes around Africa, paddles around Madagascar and Iceland and now takes to rowing across the ocean blue with his wife Vasti.

And more recently the delightful Lee den Hond who summits the highest mountain in the world and jogs across the Sahara sands with a smile to help educate needy kids.

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But now we feature an explorer who loves round numbers and has set out to conquer Africa from Cape to Cairo. She is 80 and her car is 20 – so it really is a centennial expedition!

It seems neither are daunted by miles on the clock and Lady Julia Albu has absolute faith in her Toyota Conquest which has chalked up over 300 000 kilometres.

So what makes an octogenarian, recently widowed and living in a serene and beautiful estate on the Western Cape coast, decide to take on the rugged roads and rigours of the continent?

Lady Julia says it’s a dream that has come to fruition after many years. Her daughter Zambi says her mother is crazy and has been totally out of control preparing for the expedition.

Either way Julia, one of the most delightful and energetic people I have met over the years at Carte Blanche, must surely be inspiring some retirees who are only stimulated by the weekly bridge session.

The tiny Toyota (called Tracy) is crammed with new camping gear, a folding table and chairs for sundowners and even a portable toilet.

But it is the stylish way she has re-upholstered Tracy that sets the tone for the trip. The entire interior is festooned with an exotic floral fabric from the sun visors to the spare-wheel cover.

Such a change from the adventurers who set forth with freeze-dried cauliflower and powdered soups.

So we wish Lady Julia and Tracy safe and rewarding travels as she meets and greets the fascinating folk of Africa.

I’m sure they are already talking about the vociferous and vibrant woman in an overloaded old Toyota who passed through their city or village.