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Going Home to Africa

One Woman's quest to return home, driving from Europe to Zimbabwe.

First things first!

First things first!

You've met BlueBelle, now it's the serious work of getting her ready to go. 

I'm still a long way off setting out, especially because I still need to earn/raise a large sum of money to cover the costs of the journey.  But I've always believed that in order to get success you have to at least be on the path heading toward it.  Thus, I continue with 'the plan' despite not quite knowing if I can manifest it.

First thing was to clean out the van and try to rid it of the disgusting smell of oil.  I think they had, in an effort to make it look all buck and shiny, rubbed oil on the mats and floors.  Three cleans later the smell finally left ... perhaps I'm just used to it :). 

As the van has windows all the way around it would be hard to fill it up with stuff without it all being on public display.  I decided that I would need to add privacy film to the windows to reduce the visibility to the inside. I purchased window film 5%, this is the strongest and it would also allow for a reduction of sunlight into the van and hopefully meaning less heat inside.  The film is easy to apply, although the cutting and shaping into the windows takes some getting used to. I think I did a good job for a first time attempt.  I'm certainly pleased with the result, nothing can be seen from the outside and from the inside you can see the whole world passing by.  So much so that I startled one dog walker who was leering to see inside the van :D .

Then it was a matter of getting rid of the disability lift at the rear, which rattled and clanged over each bump and weighed a ton.  Closer inspection made me realise that the rubber on parts of it, especially the switches on the remote were completely perished and the usual health & safety standards meant that no one wanted this so I had to find a scrap yard that would help me remove it ... possibly even get some cash for the scrap.  Not a change, it was equally as hard to find some men prepared to put in as much muscle as I was!  Finally I found a scrap yard where the men were kind enough to help me and it took 3 men and a fork lift to see the beast out!  For the £10 that they would have given me in scrap I was so pleased to be rid of it and grateful for their chivalry that I couldn't take it.

Now it was the seats.  The driver's seat was worn out on the edge and a standard seat.  The passenger's side had a double seat which meant that I couldn't clear into the front from the back (one of my requirements), so those had to go too. At the rear there was also a 3 seater bench which would serve me not at all so that had to go too.  

Again couldn't sell the seats, there are a plethora of them and in better condition, my garage guy Stuart (another gentleman) offered to take them off me and he would dispose of them.  Getting them out was the thing.  When assessing the bolting of them the base bolts under the van were not fixed and so I needed another pair of hands on top to screw the top while holding the base.  Michael Briggs, dog walker extraodinaire and friend came to my rescue to work miracles accessing the most obscurely placed bolts and we removed them all.  Job Done!

I researched and fancied getting two captain seats that would swivel so that I could also face the rear, creating extra casual seating.  Now it was a task to find some seats (which are rare and expensive) within my budget, so it was a constant search online.  Another learning curve, seats are not all made equal ... and sellers lie!!!  Needless to say I got a GREAT bargain on seats (very proudly patting myself on the back) along assurances that the seats would fit like a glove ... HA.  I won't bore you with all the details but with a lot of searching and messing about I finally found 'Bible Geoff' and he along with Paul did a splendid makeshift job of fitting the seats (Geoff (right) and Paul (left) below of GSB Motors, Bradford). and you can see how pleased I am!


With the seats removed I could now clean (again) and sort out the floor.  I decided on vinyl which would be easy to clean and cool on the feet (remember it will be hot where I'm going) and one that didn't show the dirt too much so not too dark and not too light.  The one problem is that the tracks for the disability lift were still in place.  I had 2 options, either remove them or cover/fill them.  Not being sure whether removing them would affect the structure of the floor I went for the filling and covering option.  I put a thin foam underlay and covered with vinyl.  You would think that the back of a van is square ... well let me tell you it is not square or rectangle, it too me at least an hour of pushing and pulling to get the darn thing to fit.  It isn't a perfect job but it is done and it looks great.  The photos show tape on the floor where I was trying to work out what goes where.  I was really pleased to have a blank canvas to look at.


I then had the handy help of David Denby (my knight with a drill) who temporarily fitted a kitchen unit inside which would provide some stablity for holding some of my purchases in place, also holding the gas and water bottles so that I have some temporary workspace if I needed to cook, etc. 

Next steps are to buy the last of the things I need to get in the UK and come back to Luxembourg where I will reduce the 30+ boxes of my personal possessions into what I can fit into the van and head down to Barcelona.  Why Barcelona, it is where my exceptionally talented nephew Mr Cool (aka Gary Rosema of industrialg.com) will help me do some magic to turn BlueBelle into a full camper.  So this will likely be my last update on BlueBelle for a month or so.

Life is on the other side of fear.
BlueBelle ... my new friend

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Saturday, 08 May 2021

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About Dot

Dot is Zimbabwean born and raised and after having lived in Europe for 20 years she decided to return home but uniquely she decided to drive  through Africa to get there.

She achieved her dream by driving 20,000kms through 18 West African countries over 8.5 months on her own for most of the journey.  Her book of the same title will soon be launched,and you can find out more about Dot or subscribe to the Blog for more.


Kusasa Scholarship Fund

Alongside my journey I've decided to raise funds for scholarships for girl's education in Zimbabwe, find out more about that here, to contribute to the Scholarship Fund please do so here.