Hi, my name is Tommy from „manTOco“.
Only since recently I do belong to the generation of people aged 50+ and I realized that the life time ahead of me might not be as long as the years that have passed already. So it’s about time for me to start a new life together with my wife Conny.
At the beginning of all my enthusiasm for Africa and travelling in general, there was a friend who raved about his plans to travel the world because it would be so amazing… well, I think he still is only romanticizing about it.
Back then, in the early 80s, I went on a trip with my girlfriend at the time in my old Toyota Celica to Tunisia. I still had gathered the necessary travel information in person from Klaus Därr in his small shop. And even though we could physically feel each little molehill while driving in my old car, we didn’t miss out on any of the small side roads. I was set on fire with my longing to travel.
Longing to discover new destinations
The daily routine of setting up our small tent (which we called “the doghouse made of fabric”) and the unmanageable chaos within our “Wannabe-a-big-Africa-explorer” car was soon driving us crazy. So after our return, I started to screen the adverts in the daily newspapers looking for a VW van appropriate to my low budget (during my civil service plus some financial support from my father). Thanks to generous help from my friends, who knew how to use a wrench and welding equipment, we managed to build a travel vehicle that even met the strict requirements of the “TÜV” (i.e. German Technical Inspection Authority). Then we really could get started travelling across and beyond Europe.
Our VW “Bully” was pretty old, but still incredibly practical compared to a normal limousine. He accompanied us two times crisscross the country of Turkey in times when Antalya was not yet the second largest tourism place in Europe called “Grill of the Teutons”. Even the military coup that took place at the time could not stop us to go there – it was simply exciting!
Somewhere in Anatolia
Together with my ex wife and a good friend from Berlin (whose co-driver hadn’t managed to get his “Bully” van going) we then conquered Morocco. We did not miss out on hardly any of the mountain passes, and none of the streets in the Southern desert area. And we had to realize the hard limitations of our vehicle. Reluctantly we sold it to a friend, who still used it to go on vacation for years to come.
Our new plan was to go to Algeria. Tassili and Hoggar were our dream destinations. And of course we were looking for a Toyota BJ40, the classic desert cruiser at the time. We soon found it, very old and with many miles on the clock but with a rooftop tent and in pretty good condition. And so we started alone on our way down to Tam, over to Djanet and again up to Touggourt. We stayed on normal roads, but it was simply great and very exciting. Even though the only technical issue was a broken engine cooler, it demonstrated that we needed a second vehicle to travel safely to secluded areas. In the following year we switched to the Toyota BJ45 and together with our travel partners we then set out for more isolated areas and paths off the beaten track.
These trips will always have a hold over me. Back then after our return we attended a presentation of Michael Martin named “From Nile to Niger”. This experience added even more fuel to our “desert bonfire”.
In the meantime we didn’t really like the handicrafts work anymore, that we always had to do while underway with our old Toyotas. So we decided to buy a Nissan Patrol. Going to Africa with a rather new Vehicle – what a treat! A big trip through Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey began. Again we were deeply impressed and felt inspired to go for new destinations.
We planned the first complete crossing of the Sahara Desert to West Africa and a return on a different route, but then everything changed… In the following years we had two daughters and we were forced to put our plans on hold – other topics were becoming more important. Our jobs, owning a house and the kids fulfilled our lives. And on our trips we went (with our VW-LT) again to Turkey, Greece, Sicily and all the beautiful spots around the Mediterranean Sea. But the travel virus was still there.
Now my daughters are grown up young ladies, I am no longer a house owner and luckily my job enables me to live a very independent life, which allowed my dreams to come back to life. And most importantly, I now have my wife Conny on my side (the significant other part of Conny & Tommy), who is also dangerously infected with the travel virus.