When Gunther Holtorf, a German, set out on an 18-month road trip to Africa in 1988, he had no idea his journey would go on for almost three decades. He ended up travelling 556,000 miles spanning 215 countries in his trusty old car; a Mercedes Benz G Wagon nicknamed ‘Otto’.
The peregrination started 26 years ago, when Holtorf quit his 30-year work at Lufthansa, and with his fourth wife Christine, braved gravel-covered, pothole-riddled roads from their Bavaria hometown to Africa.
As part of measures to accomplish their aim, the couple removed the two rear seats in the car in order to make room for a mattress and storage space for clothing, food, tools, spare parts and utensils. After that, there was just no looking back. They made their way through South and North America, Asia, Australia and Europe.
“I [didn’t] go to hotels or restaurants. Not at all, we shop(ped) in local markets and prepare(d) our own food,” said Holtorf. But as enthralling as the journeys may seem, it sure wasn’t a tea party.
“I met so many people who said they want to do what we did, but when we discuss details, they say: ‘I need my bread rolls and hot coffee in the morning and a private shower and my newspaper.”
When Christine passed away from cancer in 2010, Holtorf decided to carry on, with her picture hanging on the truck’s rear view mirror. “She asked me to please continue, not forgetting her and to do what I did on her behalf,” he said.
A few months after her passing, Christine’s son Martin joined Holtorf on a long journey to Sri Lanka, China, and North Korea. In 2012, Holtorf found a new companion, 45-year-old Elke Dreweck, who took a year off work and joined him for a trip to Japan.
Holtorf, now 77, finally ended the epic journey this year, 2014, at the Brandenburg Gates in Berlin before heading back home to Bavaria. “The more you have traveled, the more you realise how little you have seen,” he said upon returning home.
Reflecting on the experience however, Gunther insists that Otto is the real hero of the story. “A lot of people have tried to travel everywhere,” he said. “I’m just another traveler, but the car, the car is special. Otto is the most traveled vehicle on earth. It’s not about me being remembered, I want Otto to be remembered, and so would my late wife,” Holtorf insisted.Follow Us on Social Media