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27 August 2017 / leggypeggy

Africa—meet the truck with no name

African Trails truck

Our home for 43 weeks. You can see under-floor compartments, the wood tray and sandmats

Poor John and I have been on multiple overland journeys since 2009, starting with an epic 43-week expedition through Africa.

I’ve introduced that trip in my two previous posts. Now it’s time to introduce the beast that took us most of the way—our truck with no name.

Our driver, Chris (yes he has a name), said he objected to having a named truck, so it remained ‘the truck’ until we left it behind in Nairobi. It was to be retired and sold.

Looking back, I can honestly say it was my favourite truck of all our overland vehicles, and that mostly had to do with its brilliant layout.

But before I go into detail about how it was set up, I have to say that Chris hated that truck because it was a Mercedes and not a Scania. He never got over that, but he dealt with it.

Truck at night

Most of the underfloor compartments open for cooking

So on to the Mercedes, which was built around 1994 and so about 15 years old when we set out. Chris thought it might have started life as a beverage delivery truck, but it was converted to an overlander in Tanzania. It was 2-wheel drive, but 4 would have been better. More about that in another post.

The mundane specs are that it was 11 metres long and just under 4 metres tall, which included the wood rack on top (that got knocked off by a low-hanging branch in Nigeria). It was set up to carry 2000 litres of diesel and 400 litres of water (in 20 jerry cans). Accessing water was a big issue on this trip, especially in West Africa, and deserves its own post.

There were no side windows—only tarpaulins on each side that were held down by bungee cords. At the front, there was also an overhead viewing space covered by another tarpaulin. All the side tarpaulins stayed down when the weather was cold or rainy, but otherwise they stayed up until we camped for the night.

The cab was separate and seated two, with a small space behind the seats for a person to lie down. The back had seats for 28 with two people per bench. We were 28 people in all so there were only ever two vacant seats for the first couple of months.

Storage seat of African truck

Bench seat is up to reveal a storage space

Now this is where the truck’s layout starts to come in to play. The seat of each bench could be removed to expose a compartment where two people could store their day-to-day possessions. There was a separate, large compartment where everyone’s tents and sleeping mats were stored.

But of course, what is virtually a year’s worth of stuff isn’t going to fit in such a small compartment, so our main bags were stored under the floor. Now the amazing thing here was that our bags could be accessed from drop-down doors on either side of the truck or by lifting the floorboards inside truck.

Food supplies were stored the same way—accessible from the outside and from under the floorboards. This was so useful because the truck was so wide that some foodstuffs couldn’t be easily reached from the outside.

 

There were outside compartments that housed the cookware, dishes and cutlery. There was only one way to store this gear (or it wouldn’t fit) and at one campsite we had a competition to see which team could put everything away the fastest.

Sandmats were stored on the outside of the truck. These were critical for helping us to get out of our many times of being struck.

I won’t say where Trevor, the safe, was located. He’s shy like that. But two other aspects come to mind. There was a shelf that ran down each side of the truck where we stored books and snacks. I have a funny story for later when some shoes fell off the shelf. There was also a charging station (that didn’t always work) and a button to communicate with the cab (that conked out early on). Mostly we had to open a front window and bang on the roof of the cab.

African overland truck

All aboard. You can see more of the storage compartment down the side

It was also the only truck that had it’s entrance at the back, which also meant we had two windows at the back. That’s something I’ve really missed on every other overland vehicle. You see something go by and look back, but then can’t see anything if there aren’t any rear windows.

Now that I’ve mentioned the back, I should explain that the stairs had to be pulled up when the truck was moving.

And a last comment about security. Tarpaulins aren’t all that secure. When we stopped for lunch or for other reasons, we took it in turns (in pairs) to mind the truck.

I realise I’ve only scratched the surface here, so feel free to ask as many questions as you like.

Next African instalment will be about cook groups, but first a bit from Barcelona, the scene of that horrible attack.

Inside truck

The stuffed animal at the window was our mascot.

Inside truck

We spent a lot of time reading

84 Comments

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  1. pvcann / Aug 27 2017 11:12 pm

    43 weeks?!! wow, almost a year, that is truly amazing, and at the time probably exhausting, and now a wonderful memory. Scania is so much better 🙂 Love this instalment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 27 2017 11:14 pm

      You and Chris would get along just fine. Gosh he was crabby about it being a Mercedes. Lots more stories to come.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ralietravels / Aug 27 2017 11:35 pm

    I noticed in one photo everyone is in T-shirts or similar and in another wearing jackets, etc. What temperture ranges did you encounter and pack for?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 27 2017 11:38 pm

      We had to pack for all the extremes. Some days were around 0°C (32°F) and others were over 40°C (or more than 100°F). No wonder we had to store our bags under the floor.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Aug 27 2017 11:37 pm

    I’m trying to imagine doing this on camels – not trying to be funny, but just think about traveling two or three thousand years ago. And I thought of it because the seating on Truck No Name doesn’t look all that comfortable for a long trip. You don’t have much wiggle room. I can barely tolerate 2 – 3 hours in a car – but then, this is a trip of a lifetime, and I think the journey is the goal.

    I notice that some travelers seem dressed for a jaunt to a sunny beach and others look like they’re ready for a ski trip.

    As for cooking for the group – if I had to do that, everyone would starve. I’m not only not a great cook, I’m not very inventive and I need a recipe to not follow. I think your group was lucky to have you, Peggy, as I know you’re a great cook.

    I’m looking forward to more stories about this great African adventure.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 8:01 am

      You are absolutely right. Even though there wasn’t much wiggle room, the journey was the goal. We lived through all sorts of weather on that trip and the two interior shots were taken on vastly different days.

      As for the cooking, we organised ourselves into cook groups of 4, and always with at least one fairly confident cook in the bunch.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. kunstkitchen / Aug 27 2017 11:47 pm

    Peggy are you going to put together a book about your travels? I think it would be a fun read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 8:02 am

      Thanks, but I probably won’t ever manage to do a book. I feel lucky to get the blog posts done. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • kunstkitchen / Aug 29 2017 11:59 pm

        you can download your blog into a book form…just incase you change your mind.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Anthony / Aug 28 2017 12:47 am

    What an awesome trip. I look forward to more instalments.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. susan@onesmallwalk / Aug 28 2017 1:16 am

    So glad to see all these photos. It’s such an unusual excursion that the photos really add to your descriptions. What a way to make memories!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Victo Dolore / Aug 28 2017 1:18 am

    I want that truck! And wow, what a trip that must have been. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Laurie / Aug 28 2017 2:43 am

    What a once-in-a-lifetime adventure! 43 weeks with so many people must have been an experience in it’s self.

    Like

  9. spearfruit / Aug 28 2017 7:44 am

    I am enjoying this adventure, though it is outside of my comfort zone. I am hanging on for the ride Peggy, thank you for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 8:24 am

      We often had to hang on for the actual ride. The roads in much of Africa were terrible. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. abushiestale / Aug 28 2017 8:46 am

    I remember the posts about the trip. And that beast is surely a great one to have carried you so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 11:53 am

      Funny how you can become attached to a truck. I was one of about three people who figured out how to open the cab’s passenger door from the outside.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. gerard oosterman / Aug 28 2017 9:02 am

    I would imagine that ‘getting on’ in a confined space would have been a big challenge for such a long trip. Was there a counsellor amongst the travellers or a person capable of soothing or smoothing frayed feelings?

    It would have been a great journey and especially from a social aspect a very insightful experiment.

    I noticed one woman at the back knitting. I think that would have been my choice. From some of the expressions on the faces of the travellers it appeared people knuckled down to make the best of each day.Some are wrapped up as if on a polar trip, yet others in shorts and shirts only.

    Did any romances develop during the trip? So many questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 11:09 am

      Oh wow, you said a mouthful. It was an incredible social experiment. We often thought there should be a reality series—sort of a mobile Big Brother. There were no counsellors onboard but also no huge blow-ups. Plenty of simmering and snarling.
      We were especially lucky to have a husband and wife who were doctor and nurse. Poor John was an important peacekeeper.
      The weather was variable. Mornings often began cold with the tarps down and then up later in the day. Everyone personal thermostat was different. And romances. Yes!

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Brian Lageose / Aug 28 2017 9:59 am

    Lovely story, but at the end I still felt sorry for the the truck not having a name. The poor thing just wants to be loved… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  13. blondieaka / Aug 28 2017 12:40 pm

    Just wow…what an epic adventure and 43 weeks…What fun and what stories….I can only dream.and on a truck with no name…There is a song in there somewhere …lol Great post Peggy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Chris Riley / Aug 28 2017 1:25 pm

    Wow, looks like every nook and cranny was used for well thought out storage. Some caravan manufacturers need to take note…. caravans are getting bigger and bigger when there’s no real need. Just more clever storage space.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 3:13 pm

      The storage was absolutely brilliant. Truly well thought out.

      Like

  15. Forestwoodfolk / Aug 28 2017 3:12 pm

    Like everyone, I am aghast that you holidayed for 43 weeks with all those people. What a huge committment. Did any jump ship along the way?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 3:23 pm

      All but three departures were planned. One left in Ghana and another joined. Two left in Nigeria and another in Cameroon. Four left in Namibia (two were asked to go by management). Six left in South Africa (one was asked to go by her travelling companion) and six joined. Two left in Nairobi and one left in Ethiopia (to rejoin and marry a woman he met in Kenya). That was nine years ago. They have a gorgeous little girl and are living in New Zealand.
      Only 11 of us did the entire trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Alison and Don / Aug 28 2017 4:53 pm

    I know Chris is a common name, but our fearless leader through Africa was also named Chris. Too weird! And our truck was similar, though yours is much more spiffy. We traveled in an ex-British Army Bedford, but we did have (much needed) 4WD.
    Alison

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 8:34 pm

      Oh the places we could have gone with 4WD. And maybe Africa is a magnet for people named Chris.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. beetleypete / Aug 28 2017 7:28 pm

    I don’t think I have ever seen a better organised vehicle, that’s for sure. But I still have to say ‘rather you, than me’, Peggy.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 8:36 pm

      We’ve travelled in nine different overland vehicles and this was the best by far.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Osyth / Aug 28 2017 8:58 pm

    I now can’t dislodge that America Song ‘Horse with No Name’ from my ear worm compartment! Which is fine … your story is worth the trial 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 9:59 pm

      Yeah, that ear worm bugs me too, and has since I travelled in the Truck with No Name.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth / Aug 28 2017 10:13 pm

        I salute you for your fortitude!!!

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Aug 29 2017 9:03 pm

        Or general silliness. 🙂

        Like

  19. milliethom / Aug 28 2017 9:10 pm

    The truck looks great – so many clever storage spaces, I can only imagine Chris didn’t like the way it handled – or perhaps it gulped down too much diesel (not to mention the badly behaved George). I bet you read quite a few books during that ever-so- looong journey. Fab story so far, Peggy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 28 2017 10:08 pm

      Storage on the truck was excellent. The beast was also incredibly fuel-efficient. I think that fill-up of diesel in Ceuta lasted until Nigeria. Chris just wanted it to be a Scania instead. And the books. My goodness, Poor John and I took 26 books with us, and the truck already had loads of books left behind by others. A few months down the track and after checking to see who had read what, we exchanged 25 books in a hostel in Swakopmund in Namibia.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Anita / Aug 28 2017 10:59 pm

    Wow this trip is truly amazing, thank you for sharing
    I really enjoy this adventure
    Have a very nice week dear
    Kisses

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Aug 29 2017 12:26 pm

      Hi Anita. Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a nice week too. Gros bisous.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Phil Huston / Aug 29 2017 7:42 am

    According to the count I am post 43, of a 43 week adventure. I can’t believe he would name the truck. Even if he didn;t like it he could have used something he could say in a derogatory manner like “G**dammit, Julius.”Or maybe Thibault. The beverage truck would make sense of the layout, but how did you keep all your food stuff isolated? or was it a kind of giant mobile food commune? And I suppose all the extra tires, all that gas…There’s not a Discount Tire every five miles or so in Africa?

    Thanks again! Tell me you didn’t sit around the campfire, hold hands and sing “Micahel Row Your Boat Ashore.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 29 2017 12:31 pm

      Except for the personal snacks and drinks we bought, all the eats made up a mobile food commune. When you cooked, you shopped (money provided) and cooked for 28 people.

      Oh the tyres. Wait until you hear about the tyres. We replace many in Bamako, Mali. They were delivered by van and donkey cart.

      And yes, we did sit around the campfire many nights, but there was no signing.

      Oh and don’t forget, the radiator was named ‘George’ and on the receiving end of a lot of “G**dammit, George.”

      Like

  22. adventuredawgs / Aug 29 2017 9:58 am

    I. Want. That. Truck.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Sheryl / Aug 29 2017 1:08 pm

    The Truck with No Name is fascinating. It’s amazing how it could carry so many people and items in an organized way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 29 2017 8:37 pm

      Yes, Sheryl, that was what impressed me most about the truck—the sheer efficiency of it.

      Like

  24. Gilda Baxter / Aug 29 2017 4:03 pm

    I like the truck and could easily imagine myself doing a trip like this. On average how many travelling hours every day? Did anyone experience travel sickness? I need to be looking out the window when I travel by car or otherwise I will get motion sickness, I would not be able to read when in motion. I am so glad you are sharing this journey 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 29 2017 8:40 pm

      Travelling hours varied from day-to-day. Some days we were on the road from morning until night and others were for just a few hours. I can’t remember anyone getting travel sick on this trip, but there have been some who have struggled on other trips. The great thing about most overland trucks is that everyone can have a window.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. lexklein / Aug 30 2017 10:48 am

    This post was a wonderful distraction from our Houston flooding! I know I am romanticizing the experience of storing all my stuff in there and staring at someone else while reading my book for 43 weeks, but it looks so damn appealing! I saw a similar overland vehicle deep in Mongolia last summer (filled with Germans), and the twinkle in my eye made the rest of my traveling companions roll their eyes. I eagerly await some of the interpersonal relationship stories – I’ve been on much shorter journeys where I thought I might strangle someone!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 30 2017 7:33 pm

      Very, very sorry your city is getting such a hammering. Hope the rain and flooding subside soon.

      I totally get your wanderlust interest regarding a truck expedition. Two years ago, we went across Mongolia in another truck. Actually we went from Tehran to Beijing, but that’s another story riddled with interpersonal relationship stories. Good grief, I have years of material for this blog.

      So far I haven’t strangled anyone, but sometimes the temptation has been overwhelming.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. shivashishspeaks / Aug 30 2017 4:36 pm

    Great one
    Brilliant composition
    Visit mine

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Aquileana / Aug 31 2017 9:02 am

    Well a Mercedes is always a Mercedes… Although I am guessing a Scania could have been better (not so sure!)… 😉 So many stories involving this track. What a trip… I´d conclude it accomplished its mission. But you know better … 🙂 Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 31 2017 12:20 pm

      It did accomplish its mission—we made it all the way around Africa. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  28. KathrinS / Aug 31 2017 9:31 pm

    Looks like a great truck, and I’m sure the two windows in the back were useful. What a special trip that adventure in Africa must have been!!

    Kathrin — http://mycupofenglishtea.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 31 2017 11:05 pm

      Greetings. It was such an amazing trip. I really missed back windows on the other trucks we travelled on.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. Superduque777 / Sep 3 2017 12:49 am

    Liked by 1 person

  30. plaidshirtdiaries / Sep 3 2017 7:34 am

    Wow, this sounds like such an incredible adventure! Can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. mommermom / Sep 3 2017 11:21 pm

    43 weeks! I can’t even imagine such a journey. It sounds so exciting and adventuresome. I will be looking forward to hearing about your journey through your blog. That is quite a contraption that you will all be traveling in!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Sep 4 2017 4:23 pm

      Yes, that truck really was a contraption. Glad you’ll be coming along.

      Like

  32. jeanleesworld / Sep 5 2017 11:59 am

    I could barely handle camping a week with other kids, but, well, that’s when I was a kid. What happened if there was some sort of dispute among the travelers? Did you have a “court of law,” as it were?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Sep 5 2017 5:20 pm

      Disputes weren’t a big issue. There were a couple of doozies, but they didn’t keep things from rolling on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / Sep 5 2017 8:44 pm

        That’s impressive, considering the quarters and time together. But then, I’ve never been completely out of element for that length of time. I just know that after a few days out of my element stuck with other people I always find some reason to get really ornery. 😉

        Like

      • leggypeggy / Sep 5 2017 8:47 pm

        There were a couple of people I wanted to strangle, but you get over that. You think, never mind, maybe lightening will strike!

        Like

  33. heidi ruckriegel / Sep 9 2017 6:29 pm

    28 people on a bus for 43 weeks! You’d have to get on really well. Or not so much, by the end of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Sep 13 2017 8:31 am

      Your comment made me laugh. We all got in to trouble if we called it a bus. It was a truck! 🙂 As for relationships. Wow, some were too fiery to report.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. christie jones / Sep 13 2017 3:10 am

    Congratulations to all 11 who were able to finish the trip! I only imagine (or maybe not LOL) how is to live with so many people for 300 days.. Quick recovery Peggy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Sep 13 2017 6:28 pm

      It was a challenge, to be sure, but I’d do it again with the same group.

      Liked by 1 person

  35. Jadi Campbell / Sep 13 2017 5:44 pm

    What an adventure!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Sartenada / Oct 8 2017 7:47 pm

    Hello.

    43 weeks – wow – amazing- congratulations.

    Gorgeous post, which I love. Thank You.

    Happy Sunday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 12 2017 7:36 am

      Thanks so much. Sorry I missed this comment. It was about the time I set out on our most recent travels.

      Like

  37. karenstl / Nov 12 2017 1:12 am

    After reading this, I really want to do what you are doing. Not sure I’ll ever be able to return and be able to afford a trip like this, but a girl can always hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Nov 12 2017 7:37 am

      Try looking up some basic overland trips. I bet you’ll be surprised by how affordable they can be.

      Like

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