If you have ever thought about travelling across Africa under your own steam, then I would recommend that you read Dot Bekker’s account of her own journey to get a detailed and honest view of all that that would entail. Not only would it give you an overview of the vastness of the journey you would potentially be undertaking, it would also give you hints on what to expect, road conditions, how to handle checkpoints, internet sites, Facebook connections, camping sites, places to avoid, SIMs, etc.
It really is a record of Dot’s endeavours from putting her initial idea into action to her arrival at her destination and it has as many ups and downs in it as a badly managed African road! However, unlike Dot, I never felt stuck in her narrative (as she often did in the sand), as I found it fascinating.
There is no doubt that Dot Bekker is a formidable woman, although I think she would modestly refute this, and her undertaking to travel on a long and arduous journey on her own is a brave one. Africa has a reputation of being a continent filled with problems: poverty, violence, corruption. To an extent, Dot encounters all of these on her travels. She is suspicious of people but not unwilling to trust and is essentially living on her wits a lot of the time. However, what she also finds and this is what needs to be taken from her book is the generosity of the African people; their friendliness; their ingenuity in the face of problems; and ultimately, their humanity. There are strangers willing to help, whether digging her out if she got stuck to helping her navigate through difficult roads to offering her a bed for the night. Dot presents a balanced picture of Africa’s strengths and pitfalls but on reading, one gets an overwhelming sense of the love that she has for the place.
Dot’s style is detailed but filled with humour throughout. You sense her exasperation at the strange bureaucracy with which she has to deal and there are many moments where I cringed at the way that she is approached by officials. But Dot is a gutsy woman, standing up for herself with a sense of rightness, even when faced with men carrying automatic weapons.
Put simply, what I got from reading this book is this: it is a great read.