The answer to that question can be found if you keep your eyes on the road running along side the River Nile. You’ll hear the music about the same time you see a finely tuned engine whizzing by you, with two people dressed in white galabayas to fend off the heat.
That is who Charlie is. A 1958 Morris Minor owned by my good friend Laura Morrison who after shipping from New Zealand to Scotland, is now driving it from Aberdeen in Scotland, to Cape Town in South Africa. She expects the trip to take roughly six months and is raising money for Cancer Research.
It was always her Fathers dream to drive from his birth city of Aberdeen, through Europe, and Africa to Cape Town. Unfortunately, he never got to do it as he passed away from melanoma in 2016 so Laura decided to complete the journey in the car that they shared a love of.
Since joining her in Cairo (I’ll finish in Khartoum after three weeks) and as fun as it’s been, the temperature has been 45 degrees so its hot hot hot.
The In’s and Out’s of Charlie
Firstly, he has no air-conditioning, well, the Morris Minor does date back to 1958 after all so it has been windows down the whole way. She put in an extra fan to help keep him running cool, had the full service before departing and is carrying spares which she’s likely to need along the way.
The boot is packed with a spare jerry can for petrol, first aid kit, cooking equipment and all manner of items. Every time we need something, like deck chairs for example, she pops the boot and out they come. So despite his rather petite stature (size isn’t everything right), he is packing some serious equipment.
The backseat is taken up with another 25 litre jerry can for petrol, 30 litre water container, tents, sleeping bags, air mattress, spare parts and two back packs.
The front has two little peas in a pod, sweating it out from the heat with the music on shuffle.
On top, he is packing roof racks for a spare tyre (another in the boot), fire extinguisher, and under the hood, a dated yet tuned 1000cc Morris Minor engine which overtakes tut tuks, taxis, trucks and raises quite the smile at Police stops.
It’s getting hot in here
Did I mention it was hot? Seriously, 45 degrees and we are cooking like marshmallows, yet Charlie keeps his cool. He starts first time and the extra fan seems to have done the trick. The tartan car seat covers seem to make me sweat more so mine has been scrapped. Laura got him a body cover for the evening and he managed to survive his first desert dust and rain storm, remerging cleaner than before the winds first whipped up.
Player from the 50’s
He is built to last, not like modern Japanese cars, he is made of sturdy stuff. The way cars used to be when you could knock into a parked car and leave no trace.
Old Charlie boy has been the focus of many questions and creator of far too many smiles to mention. People have stopped us on the motorway for photos, petrol station attendants lose their minds when they see him (and Laura driving) and Morris fanatics are coming out of the woodwork. People are constantly waving at us, waving us down and asking to swap their Toyota 4WD for him. He is the original player from the 50’s who still has all the moves and looks smart around town.
We even met a Syrian man in Sudan who showed us a photo of Charlie, sent by a friend who met Laura in Alexandria.
Charlie’s fuel tank is only 30 litres so we need to stop often and be prepared to refuel, as a result he is always on half empty (or full if you’re the optimistic type). The window rattles and I’ve sweated more than I’ve ever done in a car before, but on the whole he has delivered without fail.
Laura has been tinkering, topping up oil and water whilst I’ve remained fairly ornamental.
He doesn’t do well off road and we’ve been stuck in the sand a couple of times. On both occasions I most definitely haven’t been ornamental as Laura’s put me to task, along with a bunch of friendly locals.
What can I say, Charlie is the catalyst for the dream team. She is coming up to the half way point and he is running so well. Having said that, if you’re going to break down anywhere, Africa is the place as they can fix anything, nothing is ever broken!
I’ll miss him when I leave but I wish Laura all the best on the rest of her trip. As they say in Arabic Laura, “Go in peace”!
Here are the videos from our trip