NPR logo Don't Try To One-Up A Mercedes In Africa

Hosts

Don't Try To One-Up A Mercedes In Africa

Mercedes vs. Salt

Credit: Jeroen van Bergeijk/Chris Rainier

This morning, we aired an interview with Dutch journalist Jeroen van Bergeijk, author of My Mercedes Is Not for Sale. The interview didn't go quite as I'd planned. I began trying to one-up my guest — always an error.

I've driven a section of Africa more hazardous than the one he describes in his account of trying to sell his car. Five years ago, on assignment for Radio Expeditions, I followed the route of the old camel caravans from Timbuktu, 500 miles north to an ancient salt mine called Taudenni in the middle of the Sahara desert. I don't think Jeroen believed me, but the caravans still go because it actually makes more sense than trying to get there and back with a big commercial truck. If they get stuck or break down, there is no way to get them out. We drove in pick-ups and heavy, primitive SUV's. There are no roads — you take a guide who sits beside the driver in the lead vehicle and signals where to go. It takes three days ... and you cover about a thousand years.

Article continues after sponsorship

Jeroen listened patiently for a couple of minutes and then changed the subject. The interview wasn't about my salt-mine trip — it was about the adventure of trying to sell an old Mercedes. It was his story, and that's what we talked about.

About