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Beetling 20 000km through Africa

It is a story worthy of inclusion in Gulliver’s Travels, but there was nothing fictional about intrepid Dutch traveller Jos Oosterbroek’s journey through Africa – all in a trusty Volkswagen Beetle and not even a flat tyre throughout the entire 20 000km trip.

Oosterbroek, a 28-year-old teacher in the Netherlands, fittingly ended his triumphant expedition at the Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) plant in Uitenhage in April this year.

Welcomed by the Volkswagen Customer Interaction Centre (CIC) team, Oosterbroek told of how he started out on his journey from Amsterdam four months earlier and set course for Cape Town in his 1982 Beetle.

So trusty was the vehicle – it did not break down once and never even suffered a flat tyre – that Oosterbroek donated it to VWSA where it is now proudly display it in the acclaimed AutoPavilion.

The AutoPavilion, a place of people and cars, traces VWSA’s history in South Africa from inception in 1946 through to today. The exhibits include lovingly restored examples of cars produced in the Uitenhage factory over the last seven decades as well as interesting memorabilia and the stories of the people who build People’s Cars.

Oosterbroek recalled some hair-raising moments during his travels from the top to bottom of Africa.

“The closer we got to Nigeria everybody started panicking. They told us that we were crazy going through Nigeria; that people will kill us, rob us, knife us, and kidnap us. So we got a little scared,” he said.

But Lady Luck stepped in and Oosterbroek, through Facebook, managed to get in touch with a fellow countryman working in Lagos. In turn, the man convinced his company to sponsor an armed convoy for Oosterbroek – at that time travelling with friend, Yme Veenje – during their Nigerian travels.

“From Lagos we had an escort vehicle in front of us with three guys armed with AK47s taking us 900km through the country to Cameroon. Every time we had to go to a toilet or have a smoke there would be two guys with guns going with us.

“While driving, everybody on the street was pushed to the side to get our tiny Beetle through the country. It was super funny and a great experience. It felt like I was James Bond,” Oosterbroek recalled.

Another challenge was travelling into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“This was the most challenging part of the trip. The day before I left for this country I met two Dutch guys with a Landrover Defender who just came from the DRC who told me that my Beetle would never work there because the hills were too steep and the roads just too bad.”

“The trip itself was indeed very challenging. There were mud slides, steep hills with bad roads that I could only pass by going fast. And going fast on the bumpy road meant that my car was bouncing like crazy over the rocks.”

“But I completed the whole stage without any problems. That was one of the moments that I really loved the Beetle. The small car did way better than the big Landrover.”

When he reached Namibia, Oosterbroek made contact with the CIC through the Volkswagen Facebook page. CIC Emerging Media team leader, Sean Jacobs, maintained communication with Oosterbroek up until he arrived at the plant and handed over his Beetle.

The car was in excellent condition despite having travelled 20 000km, under some of Africa’s harshest conditions. Although Oosterbroek admitted that he had attended to a recurring oil leak from time to time.

But the adventure was not over for Oosterbroek, who was accompanied by girlfriend Jorien Stevens, 27, who had joined him in Namibia. The pair enjoyed a two-week trip around South Africa in a Volkswagen T5 Kombi sponsored by VWSA.

“Of course I really missed the Beetle, but it was also so nice that we had a lot of space and a car with power.”

“The Beetle in the end had a top speed of 80km/h and uphill it only did 30km/h. The Kombi did in excess of 130km/h going uphill! Also having air-conditioning was very welcome. The Kombi changed the whole trip from having no luxury at all to a very comfortable trip.”

Having arrived back to Amsterdam Oosterbroek said it was back to the grindstone.
“It's back to finding a job. Maybe when I got a job again and save some money I will start itching again for some adventure,” he said.


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