Avid traveller Julia Albu with her trusty Conquest, Tracy. Picture: Supplied
Avid traveller Julia Albu with her trusty Conquest, Tracy. Picture: Supplied

80-year-old SA woman drives from Cape Town to Cairo in a Toyota Conquest

By Mpho Rantao Time of article published Jul 28, 2018

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There is a collective imagination about octogenarian women in society - how they keep themselves with mindful indoor and outdoor activities while waiting for time to pass them by. The idea of elderly women keeping themselves busy is through activities like knitting, walking, reading and cooking - however, Capetonian Julia Albu just happens to not be one of those octogenarians. 

Julia Albu decided that herself and her car, Tracy the Toyota Conquest, could travel from the Mother City to the Cairo for five-months on a solo journey and enjoy every minute of it. 

Albu’s daily activities fitted those of a general elderly lady - activities that fit nicely into what the world expected from an elder member of society. 

Every morning she would listen to the radio and talk with her friends, and one day the discussion turned to then-President Jacob Zuma and his extravagant taste in cars. 

“I was incensed,” Albu said. “I phoned in immediately to say I was going to be 80, and my car, Tracy, was a 20-year-old Toyota and she ran beautifully. We could happily drive to London together, so why Zuma needed all these new cars was beyond me.”

“You see, my partner had recently died,” Albu said. “It was an exhausting process, and after all that, I thought, ‘My goodness, there really isn’t much of life left’. I feel like I’m 36 from the shoulders up and 146 from the shoulders down, and I wanted the younger me to win for once.”

“Having recently lost my partner of 33 years,  raised 4 children and been a “gogo” to 9 grandchildren - I have decided that it’s time to be the master of my own destiny and what better time than to set off on the adventure of a lifetime?”, Albu wrote on her website. 

Encouraged by the positive feedback Albu received from strangers and close friends - Albu made a pledge (originally as a joke) to travel to Buckingham Palace by car so that she could have tea with the Queen, and soon her joke was now becoming a reality. 

So, on her 80th birthday, on the 13th of June 2017, Albu’s youthful half became victorious. Albu packed a tent‚ duvet‚ stretcher for sleeping‚ a down pillow‚ a pot‚ pan and cutlery‚ biscuits for roadside kids and a carton of pens for the trip. 

Accompanied by her 20-year-old grey vehicle named Tracy that was adorned with colourful stickers from her sponsors, Julia Albu began her journey on a bitter morning from her home in Jakkalsfontein, heading north. 

Julia Albu and her Toyota Conquest, Tracy. Picture: Julia Albu

Albu's highlights on her journey include seeing the Nile river, interacting with the Masai people in Kenya, visiting the Sunji Island off the coast of Dar es Salaam and taking an unplanned trip to Uganda based on her son's suggestion. She has the map of her journey highlighted on her website

Julia Albu in Kenya Picture: Julia Albu

"The only time I felt insecure was when I gave a lift to somebody, and at the next border post, they pulled him out of my car. After some yelling and screaming we managed to sort it out", Albu said in an interview on Talk Radio 702.

Albu adds that when she reached the Egyptian border, she ended up sleeping in a cafeteria with 7 Egyptians for two nights.

Now that Albu has reached Cairo, her next destination is Buckingham Palace. As of July 15 2018, Albu recently posted about her visit to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. 


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