What’s in a name?
For many car owners, to name a vehicle is to give it a soul and to bring it to life. The vehicle ceases to be an object, and becomes a part of the family.
Her first owners named her ‘Maggie’ after Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the UK. Not necessarily due to their political proclivities, but because she is, quite literally, a true blue ‘Iron Lady’. Also, Margaret Thatcher’s famous saying, “the lady is not for turning”, was adopted as Maggie’s motto.
Maggie the Land Rover is not for doing u-turns and returning home with unfinished business.Although it is not uncommon for people to name their vehicles, it is uncommon for the name to stick through multiple owners. Maggie has kept her name and her identity over the last 20 years, through six different owners. As the years have passed, Maggie’s adventures and the places she has experienced have become intertwined with the vehicle, and become part of her identity.
Why so many trips in the same vehicle?
Equipping a vehicle for an overland journey is no easy or cheap task. It requires time, investment and 4×4 expertise. So once a vehicle is equipped for an overland trip, it is not uncommon for the same vehicle to be resold to others interested in a similar journey.
Throughout Maggie’s 20-year overland career, each of her owners has taken her on similar, albeit slightly differing, expeditions through Africa – most often from the UK to South Africa and back, either through West or East Africa. And each of her owners shared a common bond of love for Maggie and the adventures she gave them.
So where, exactly, has Maggie been?
Based on the stories of previous owners, and the many stickers decorating her backside, we believe that she has travelled through nearly all of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. And she has visited many countries more than once.
All of Maggie’s owners have in one way or another left behind a footprint on her. Whether it’s new equipment, a sticker marking a place visited, a dent from a minor accident – Maggie carries the souvenirs of her travels and legacies of each of her former passengers.
Owners: Richard and Jo Hepper
Journey: North Yorkshire to South Africa
In 1997, Richard and Jo Hepper purchased Maggie from a Land Rover specialist near Macclesfield in the UK. At that time, Maggie was a Defender 90, and was in good condition as a station wagon, but not yet converted for overland expeditions. According to Richard Hepper, they bought Maggie without having an overland trip in mind. But Maggie had different plans. By 1998, Richard and Jo were preparing for their trip from Yorkshire to South Africa, which took just four months to complete.
Owner: Colin Clements
Journey: Scotland to South Africa
“56,000 Kilometres, 5,100 Litres of diesel, 4 Punctures, 2 New tyres, 4 shock absorbers, 21 Countries, 19 Visas, 500 bottles of beer, Lots of new friends and ONE BIG SMILE” Colin Clements
Colin purchased Maggie from Richard and Jo in early 2000, and managed to complete two journeys through Africa: one by himself and the other with his (future) wife Wendy. During his first trip, Colin drove Maggie from Scotland to Cape Town via the Middle East (Turkey, Syria and Jordan). But once Colin reached Jordan, he encountered a problem – he knew that he would not be able to drive Maggie through Sudan into Eastern Africa because the borders had been closed. So as not being defeated, Colin shipped Maggie from Jordan to Cape Town, and continued his journey north to Kenya.
In South Africa, Colin made a few changes to Maggie, which included a new Eezi Awn roof tent, Hannibal side awning, and Engel refrigerator.
Owners: Colin and Wendy Clements
Journey: Eastern and Southern Africa
To celebrate their marriage, Colin and his wife Wendy Clements took Maggie back to Africa in August 2003 for a six-month adventure, highlights of which include witnessing the Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti and Van Zyl’s Pass in Namibia. It was during this journey that Maggie had a chassis strip-down and rebuild.
This rebuild, undertaken in Kenya, modified the Defender 90 (short-wheel base) into a 110 (long-wheel base). However, the only new part added was the rear tub. The doors, engine and roof rack remained the same. Maggie returned to the UK in 2004 via a shipping container from Cape Town.
Owners: Martin and Debbie Solms
Journey: England to South Africa
Website: www.bigsky-adventures.com; www.africa-overland.net
“Maggie, filled all my dreams of overland travel with the way she looked, drove, smelt (EP90!) and effortlessly covered the terrain.” Martin Solms
Martin and Debbie purchased Maggie from Colin and Wendy in 2004. Much of what we know about Maggie’s history is due to Martin, who has set up a number of websites about Maggie (including Colin’s website) and overland travel.
When Martin and Debbie bought Maggie, she had some 142,000 miles on the clock – most of which had been driven in Africa. They had planned Maggie’s most ambitious expedition to date: a year long journey to cover the entire continent of Africa. Ultimately, the couple spent one year travelling through 21 countries in West, Southern and Eastern Africa, before shipping her back to the UK via Cape Town in 2005.
Before setting off from the UK, Martin made a few changes to Maggie by adding side lockers to the exterior, a new bonnet to hold a spare wheel and installing a dual battery (or split charge) system.
Owners: Jamie and Charlene Davis
Dates: 2007 – 2009
Journey: London to South Africa
Jamie and Charlene Davis purchased Maggie in December 2005 from Martin and Debbie, and in 2007 they set of to complete a similar route from UK to South Africa.
The couple devised three options for their route, all of which would take them through parts of West, Southern and East Africa. Ultimately, the couple entered Africa through Gibraltar to Morocco, planning to head through Western and Central Africa to Eastern and, finally, Southern Africa.
However, due to political instabilities in Nigeria and visa challenges in Angola, the couple chose to ship the vehicle to Cape Town from Ghana, and head north through Eastern Africa from there. In 2009, the couple shipped Maggie back to the UK from Cape Town.
Jamie and Charlene were so happy with Maggie’s layout and equipment,that they made few changes to her – saying ‘it if ain’t broke don’t fix it!’
Owner: Noel Peries Passenger: Reka Horvath
Dates: 2009-2010 Journey: London to South Africa
“Thinking about it, Maggie is a real protector… the best thing about Maggie is that because of her abilities, she took me to places I never thought were possible” Reka Horvath
In 2009, I bought Maggie from Jamie and Charlene Davis, who had just returned from a journey from the UK to South Africa. I had been searching for an overland vehicle for some time, but when I first saw Maggie, I knew that she was ‘the one’. Jamie and Charlene had so many wonderful stories from their journey, and I could feel the love they had for the vehicle.
I will never forget exchanging keys with Jamie and Charlene as they tearfully said goodbye to Maggie. I remember nervously driving her on the M25 thinking, ‘I hope this vehicle will be as good to me as it has been to them.’ After my initial nervousness, I felt a sense of calm, a feeling that only certain vehicles can give you. It felt amazing.
In November 2009, I set off with my travelling companion Reka Horvath on a journey that Maggie had done many times before – London to South Africa. In the beginning, we followed Martin and Debbie’s route, which took us through West Africa via Guinea Bissau and hugged the coastline, ending in South Africa in June 2010. At the end of the journey, I choose not to ship Maggie back to the UK, but to naturalise her in Botswana, a country that I fell in love with and lived in from 2010-2012. Maggie now lives in Botswana when she’s not travelling through Africa, and I registered her for Botswana number plates in 2012.
What’s next for Maggie?
Since January 2016, my wife Marilu and I have been preparing Maggie for her seventh journey through Africa, this time starting in Botswana and heading to Ethiopia. This trip has been on our minds since the moment Marilu and I met each other, and we are now finally about to embark on a lifetime goal together. Our journey will take us through at least 15 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa. At the end, we will either chose to drive Maggie back to Botswana, or ship her back to the UK where she can take new owners on yet another journey of a lifetime…
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