Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Mercedes Is Not For Sale: From Amsterdam to Ouagadougou... an Auto-Misadventure Across the Sahara by Jeroen Van Bergeijk

Selling "used up" European cars in Africa is a shockingly huge business. According to the author, half a million cars are sent from Europe to Africa annually. Ships transport the greatest numbers, but driving an old car south from Europe to sell has been a popular adventure since the 1970s. Used cars can sell in Africa for twice what one pays in Europe, which at least it helps defray the travel expenses. Oddly enough, Mercedes is the most popular marque in West Africa. Of course, this is not your boss's Mercedes. This is the Mercedes he traded in 15 years ago.

In 2004, Van Bergeijk bought a 1988 Mercedes 190 D for $1200 in the Netherlands. This book describes his journey along the western coast of Africa. Interspersed in the travelogue are his efforts to track down all of his car's previous owners.

I enjoyed this book, though it didn't exactly whet my appetite for my own West African adventure. I'd much rather read about it than deal with all the hassles involved. Special credit goes to John Antonides for translating the text into English. I never felt like I was reading a book that had been written in a different language.

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