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Dutch tractor woman on African rescues along the ‘way’

Towed a bus for 140km

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

CAPETOWN, South Africa – It is not known if connoisseurs will agree with her, but Dutch art student Manon Ossevoort calls her long-distance journey with a used Deutz tractor ‘performance art.’ Without any doubt, the undertaking is adventurous and, if not art, certainly a test or performance of endurance. She recently arrived in Capetown on the way to the next leg of her itinerary, if funds allow it, as part of an expedition to the South Pole.

The theatre school graduate traveled across Africa by herself on her tractor during which time she acted as a lone rescue service for broken-down vehicles along the way. She once towed a bus 140km through the desert to Sudan's capital.


Manon, who grew up near the eastern Dutch town of Vriezenveen, rode through the Balkan countries and the Middle East past the pyramids in Egypt, along the Nile River in Sudan, through the highlands of Ethiopia into the Maasai Mara in Kenya and then to Lake Victoria in Uganda and on to Capetown. Her wanderings with the green-coloured tractor through Africa, are comparable to those of an early explorer or in the tradition of Vriezenveen folk who in centuries past took their wares overland to Saint Petersburg, the Russian Baltic port, in horse-drawn wagons.

The German-made tractor has given her little trouble. Although the tractor easily can maintain its top speed of 20 km/h on smooth Dutch roads, her average speed of around five km/h in Africa has been closer to the speed of the ‘Rusluie’ on the way to the Baltic Sea port.

Manon’s progress was frequently slowed by curious onlookers quizzing her about her journey, passers-by hitching lifts between villages and pleas for help from those whose cars, trucks or buses have broken down or become stuck in heavy sand or thick mud. She felt like a one-person African Automobile Club in northern Kenya during the rainy season.


Driving up to 10 hours a day, she slept under a specially constructed tent on top of the tractor. Although not very comfortable and under a leaky cover when it rained, the bed was situated just over the driver's seat, and in a good position for quick getaways. Thankfully, she notes, there have not been many of those.

Ossevoort admits to having been "scared of shadows in the night," and having panicked at coming face-to-face with a heavily tusked elephant, but she was never threatened physically by human beings. Instead, she was impressed with the generosity and hospitality of most of the people she has met along the way, especially in Sudan.


Manon calls her journey one of fulfilling a dream... to go to the South Pole. In her mind, the slowness of the tractor symbolizes the fact that fulfilling a dream takes time; that however slowly one travels, if committed one will eventually arrive at the final destination.

The ‘tractor girl’ has taken her message across Africa, performing the story of her trip to villagers and city dwellers, all with the tractor occupying the central role.