In 1970, British newlyweds Ross and Sara Dunn set off, with extraordinary naivety and a lack of proper preparation, to drive from Edinburgh to Chingola, Zambia in a standard sedan.
Now an author, Sara Dunn, who is in Vernon Sept. 29, tells the story of their epic car journey in her new book Appointment in Zambia.
Sara was 21 and couldn’t drive, and Ross was 23 when they drove their brand new golden sand coloured Hillman Hunter more than 20,000 kilometres through Africa via countries still marked with their colonial names.
Only two strips of water interrupted the flow of land towards their destination, the English Channel and the Strait of Gibraltar.
Apart from the car, their only technology was a compass.
Their eight-week journey took them across 13 countries with widely different frontiers, customs, currencies and languages before they reached Chingola, where Ross was scheduled to start work at a copper mine.
“We’d set off with £320 and on arrival in Chingola had £10 left. Of that £260 had been spent on petrol, ferry crossings and the car; and the other £50 spent on food, occasional accommodation and the odd cold beer,” said Dunn.
The couple encountered enough adventure to last a lifetime. They crossed the Sahara desert, where they had to use Tupperware containers to dig themselves out of the soft sand, braved war-torn Biafra, navigated storm-wrecked roads through equatorial forests, and traversed the main tributary of the Congo River on a raft cobbled together with dug-out canoes by locals.
“The car was five months old when we arrived in Zambia and was in a very sorry state. It was no longer the golden dream on wheels, but it was a tribute to the manufacturers that it made the journey at all. We had completed a route that we’d been warned would be impossible,” said Sara. “The enduring memory of rich but mainly poor who befriended and helped us on our way has never left us. We’d never have made it without them and this book was inspired by them all.”
The Dunns, who stayed in Zambia for five years and had three daughters while there, have since lived in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Kenya, where they became chiefs.
Africa also has a habit of calling them back for holidays in its wilder places, but they are now based in Berkshire, U.K. and Cyprus.
Locals can meet Sara Dunn when she signs copies of Appointment in Zambia at Coles bookstore in the Village Green Centre Sept. 29 between noon and 3 p.m. Part of the proceeds from book sales will go to UNICEF.