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A Land Rover with history

20140704-144343-53023716.jpgA few weeks ago we went to a local farmers market. The moment we arrived another Land Rover drove into the car park. In Hoedspruit there are many Land Rovers but we haven’t met any other Series Landies. We quickly introduced ourselves and Lucy to Tris and Scott and N’doto and invited them to our place in the bush for tea and cake (we are British). Scott had been having flying lessons in Hoedspruit so we thought that having a photo shoot of our Series 3/2a Land Rovers on the Wits Rural airstrip would be the ideal thing.

While doing the obligatory “tyre kicking” and bonnets up inspection, one of the site managers sped towards us in his Toyota, with a worried look across his face. two land rovers, bonnets up, must be the broke down helping the broken down. We put his mind at ease and he drove off.

Scott and Tris are on a multi month overland trip around Southern Africa and with many social media followers the above photo of Lucy and N’doto drew some interest.

N’doto and Lucy making friends on the airstrip

Lucy, the Land Rover formerly known as Puff has a long and well documented history. Although officially and legally she is a 1971 Series IIa she was rebuilt in 1999 by Dennis Wilson. When I started my own research into her history I started with the logo on the doors. We have received a lot of attention from this, and a quick google search of it brought up Dennis’s African Edventure from Cape Town to London and his (no offline but archived) overland blog. I was then reading a blog about overland preparation and solar panels and recognised one of the photos as one of our landy, linked to Murray Earle’s overland blog, a journey from Edinburgh to South Africa. At this point my search appeared to dry up. Looking through the log book that came in the landy I found the South African ownership document of Rob Symmington, with a passport photo of him taped to it. Rob was fairly easy to track down, he runs a company called Escape the City and he mentions his overland trip on his website. On twitter he told me that he drove it from Cape Town to Nairobi in 2006 and he continued to own it until 2012. In the folder there is an affidavit of Rob’s suggesting that he leant it to James Rutland, who, though did not own it, drove it from Kenya to Cape Town. We bought Lucy/Puff from Or Shlomi and Clare Kucek who owned it March to May 2013 while they travelled to Namibia and Swaziland.

Advert photo, Lucy in Namibia

In May, through a Gumtree advert, Lucy/Puff was transferred to me and Joss, ready for our time in South Africa. Although we haven’t taken her on such epic journeys, she has taken us to Kruger many times, been our removal lorry when we started living near Hoedspruit, taken us to rural clinic and the district hospital for Joss to be able to do her medical research, and give me many hours of learning how cars actually work!

There is a gap in the history, between Rob, and Clare and Or. I have a document in the name of GJ Speechly in Cape Town. Maybe Rob or Clare can help us with these missing years.

I feel privileged not only to be driving a brilliant piece of engineering and and icon, but also one that has such a well driving heritage that inspires to journey and surely delivers. For now we have a few months left here and we don’t want to let go of her.

Me refuelling after an embarrassing breakdown!
Me refuelling after an embarrassing breakdown!

This post has been long coming but now is a reply to Martin Solms blog post about our Landy.

First post from South Africa

We have arrived. We’ve done Joburg, had a holiday, bought a bed and fridge and now the year begins.

Leaving Heathrow

We left London Heathrow on August 20th on a 7pm flight and after two films (We Bought a Zoo and Iron Man 3, you can guess which one Joss watched…) and a bit of sleep we landed an hour early in sunny Johannesburg. Having driven to Heathrow in a Freelander with Joss’s parents and had all our bags squeezed in with little space to spare, we were a little worried about the small car we’d hired. Luckily it turned out to be a Hyundai i10 which, having 5 doors, easily fitted everything in, all 5 large duffel bags, two laptop bags and two hand luggage bags!

After dumping our bags at our base in Joburg and a quick hello to our amazing hosts (C & P you are legends and amazing) we went to see Lucy the Land Rover. Lucy the Land Rover was bought 3 months prior to this on Gumtree. We took a punt on this car. We knew we wanted a 4×4 vehicle but looking around they were all way out of our budget range, even at a stretch. Then one day Joss was on the train on the way back from a conference and found Lucy. She was being sold by a couple from England who had done a bit of over-landing in her while they were in southern Africa for three months. We bought it on the condition that it drove into my cousin’s Equestrian estate. K kindly let us keep it at Canterbrooke for the three months until we arrived. And when we did we found a beautiful Series 2a Land Rover.

The only problem was it didn’t start

Lucy the Land RoverWe knew the estate manager had only recently fully charged the battery, but it still wouldn’t start. After half an hour trying to workout whether it was petrol or diesel (a crucial decision) we put diesel in. Whoops. After calling K’s trusty mechanic, G, he kindly agreed to come and have a look at the landy the next morning. The next morning G was at Canterbrooke before we got there and had already siphoned the diesel out of the rear tank and replaced it with petrol and with a bit of tinkering he got it started. Having worked for a company in the automotive trade for nearly 5 years I still don’t really know how cars work (sorry guys), so to me what he did was magic! K had warned us that we would need to get 4 new tyres before we started and G offered us a good price for tyres and also said he would give it a quick check over. I had the task of driving this car, a style and weight I have never driven beforehand no power steering, only 4 gears, a hand break that doesn’t stay locked and brakes that pull heavily to the right. I feel I took the drive from BlueHills to Centurion in my stride, the best bit were the waves we received, one from a driver of a brand new defender as he sped past at twice my speed and the other from a guy sitting in the back of a backie; the worst point was trying to do a hill start in this car with poor breaks and unfamiliar clutch and gas pedals. We left the landy in G’s capable hands to carry on with our preparations for moving into an unfurnished house in the middle of the African bush in the middle of nowhere.

Lunch with B and U confirmed for us again that, although our parents are thousands of miles away, we have people looking out for us here.

The rest of our time in Joburg, until Lucy was ready, was spent seeing friends and family, always revolving around food in huge quantities and stocking up on things for the house.

I will continue with this in my next post, starting with our journey up north to Hoedspruit.

Leaving Oxford


It’s finally here, the end of our time in Oxford, at least this time round. In a few days we’ll
be packing up our house, putting it in storage and starting our Life on the Orpen Road.
Packing the house always takes longer than planned, the nostalgia and memories of everything going into the boxes, the discovery of items lost, and the realisation that this move is really (and finally) happening. And moving comes with the leaving a city I’ve called home for nearly five years, a city I didn’t know before and a city I will miss.
Oxford may feel like it hasn’t changed in decades, and parts of the Uni haven’t, but a short walk around will show the perpetual building and renovation.  The new Radcliffe Observatory Quarter has both renovated the old Radcliffe infirmary building to what I’m sure is better than its former glory, and along side it new building have sprung up, the new maths institute and the new Jericho health centre, these have both transformed the area. When we moved into Jericho they had demolished the old unwanted hospital buildings, leaving unsightly building screens, these have come down revealing, maybe not a butterfly but certainly well designed modern buildings.
One of the many joys and jewels of Oxford are the parks, most notably for me are the Uni Parks and Port Meadow. The Uni Parks are frequented by runners, dog walkers and anyone wanting a place to escape, we’ve even played tennis on the grass courts. Port Meadow is a wonderful and natural water meadow, frequented by runners, dog walkers and animals. Many a visit is dominated by avoiding the cows, Shetland ponies, geese and all their … They are real highlights.
In Jericho we are spoilt, spoilt for convenience of great food. At one end of the road we have Gluttons, Oxford equivalent of Partridges, providing us with the best sausage rolls and wonderful mature sour-dough. At the other is East West Provisions topping up our milk supply. But it’s not just shops but also great places to eat, we seem to be regulars at Manos, our favourite Greek café serving up a standard moussaka and salad, and also our local pub, the Rickety Press, Arkell’s gastropub serving the Rickety Burger, and occasionally Sandy Lane Lamb pie, both exceptional meals. A slightly further walk from home (5 minutes, as opposed to 2) is the famous Oxford institution, G&D’s, selling real ice cream with the most original, and true flavours, the coffee tastes like black coffee.
With our packing done and our life in an 8×10 container, we were left to clean our rental house, and unable to cook anything we revisited some of our favourite places to eat and some we’d been meaning to go to for three years. Big Bang Restaurant, OxfordThe highlights of this included the Big Bang Restaurant, an Oxford establishment, sourcing all their ingredients within 20 miles of the restaurant and serving only sausages with mash and gravy. The restaurant used to be in Jericho until a couple of years ago it was forced to close due to the building it was in being completely changed by its college owner, taking with it three other independent shops and restaurants. Anyway, we missed it in that location, but a few months ago it reopened in the Oxford Castle area, in an old Carluccios restaurant shell, and with only a few changed to the decoration it’s now selling excellent English sausages.  Another recent discovery was OxFork. This originally started as a popup restaurant, but now has a fixed location, serving local, wholesome brunch all day, quirky and local would be my review of it.  And for our final night in Oxford we returned to the “little sister” of the Rickety Press in Cowley, the Rusty Bicycle. Serving much of the same as the Rickety Press’s standard pub meals, but at four or five pounds cheaper, it has a more locals pub feel, and a less pretentious atmosphere. The burgers are juicy and delicious, and even the vegetarian burger of mushroom, pesto, haloumi cheese and courgette is memorable.  But the true highlight of this highlight was their pudding selection, specifically the ice cream. With nine flavours to chose from, we tried 5 of them, and whittling this down to our favourite two we were left with ginger ice cream (better than any G&D’s ice cream we’d ever had) and blood orange sorbet, a flavour not often seen but I think one of the greatest sorbets.
Oxford has many places to eat, many of our favourites are slightly away from the tourist routes through the city but in our opinion, some of these establishments are worth being the main reason for visiting what is already a very worthwhile city to visit and live in.