The History and Geography of a Hard Man
A few years ago Mel loaded the family into his beloved Land Rover (his beloved family into his beloved Land Rover, that is) and drove them from Cape Town to Glandore. As he blew a cloud of Saharan dust off the bonnet outside his local eatery an acquaintance he hadn’t seen for a while greeted him.
‘Oh, hello there, Mel… you drive up from the city?’
‘Er, hmm, yes.’ (Well, he didn’t ask me what city….)
So this Cairo to Cape cycle thing didn’t come out of fresh air. The Bendons have done so many game parking and bush rallying adventures in Africa at this point that the wildlife practically salute them in passing. As for the Land Rover, it has given service. And it isn’t for the scrapyard yet.
So, Stage One of the current motorised tour through Africa to Cork (also promoting Wells for Zoë’s work in Malawi) began in Cape Town on 30th Jan 2019. That was when Mel and Jane set out in the you know what with their high tech home-on-the-roof and steered a course due north east. Sleeping with lions in Botswana was the easy bit – before their first run-in with a particularly rough flood season. Endless flooded roads and, at one terrifying point, the jeep submerged to the bonnet in the middle of nowhere. When the winch shorted out and caught fire, some quick thinking was called for. At that point the tarred highway to Lusaka will have been an inviting prospect.
After a brief campsite rendezvous outside Lusaka, the journey turned back south with a second jeep in tow to the Zambezi, where within 24 hours the enlarged group had experienced a relaxing sunset cruise among the hippos, followed by a sudden squall, an airborne tent that alighted downriver, Mel to the rescue, followed by a highspeed race to the mission hospital to deal with the revenge of the hornets he encountered on the riverbank.
There was really only one way to get to Malawi – back to Lusaka and then east on the Great East Road. So Mel, a day out of the hospital, led the way to the impassable Leopard’s Hill shortcut that hadn’t been attempted in a year (an invitation, plain and simple). The Toyota Land Cruiser didn’t do too badly, until it did, when it ground to a halt as the Land Rover trundled up the steep pitted hill and round the corner. By the time he had been alerted and reversed back downhill and around bends to haul the jeep out of the trench it was stuck in, Mel had had to saw down a tree that was in the way. Three hours later when the tattered convoy rolled into Chipata, he felt drawn to entertain the street audience at a roadside talent show with an athletic Cossack dance – to resounding cheers from the locals, and gasps of exhaustion from his worn out travelling party.
That was the deep end for the visitors, the hapless crew he referred to endearingly as his ‘team.’ All in a day’s work for Mel – a hard man! So this cycle will be no real challenge to him. And he won’t rest until he has reached his fund-raising goal either.