May 23, 2023 | History

The Christie’s Were on the Capetown to Cairo Caravan

The Christie’s were on the Capetown to Cairo Caravan in 1959, as well as several other Caravans. They were from Indianapolis and members of our club. Here is brief history of this amazing couple and their travels.

Here are a few facts about #1986 Don & Gen (Genevieve) Christie:

  • The Christie’s were WBCCI members from 1958 thru 1980.
  • They were listed at the same address, 402 2nd St, Carmel, IN, the whole time.
  • They were members of the Central Indiana Unit from the time unit affiliation was first listed (1975), but it appears they were never Unit Officers.  Likely they were Central Indiana members from time it began as a Chapter of the Indiana Unit in 1962, becoming a stand alone unit in 1963.
  • According to Dale Schwamborn, Don was a retired banker from Merchants National Bank.
  • The Christie’s are credited with the following caravans:
    • #20 – Africa-Holy Land 1959-60 (Capetown to Cairo)
    • #24 – Europe Summer 1960
    • #32 – Eastern Mexico Winter 1963
    • #41 – Panama Winter 1965

Here are some African Caravan notes which will demonstrate that the Christie’s were some of the most adventuresome and hardy African caravanners that wanted to see it all and took no shortcuts:

    • 8/15/1959:  Kruger National Park in South Africa – After a day of sightseeing in their truck, the Christie’s were blocked by elephants on the road and arrived back at their campsite after the gates were locked.  They had to talk their way out of being assessed a fine for their late arrival.
    • 8/26/1959:  Zimbabwe Ruins, Zimbabwe – The Christie’s and their truck and trailer were extensively photographed exploring the ruins.
    • 10/8/1959: Near Lubero, Belgian Congo – At the equator, Don put on (and was photographed wearing) his wife’s bra and girdle to commemorate the caravan crossing the equator for the first time on land.
    • 10/10/1959:   Goma, Belgian Congo – As caravanners were bargaining for souvenirs with natives, caravanners #598 Joe & Toots Bos noted that Don Christie was a champion trader and has his truck so loaded down with “junk” that they don’t know where he could put any more stuff.
    • 11/20/1959:  Southern Ethiopia – The Christie’s were one of three rigs to remain behind with #1166 Alice Dickey and her stranded Airstream while the caravan moved on.  Horace Dickey had taken their truck and gone on ahead of the caravan looking for road grading equipment to repair the terrible roads (he never found any such equipment).
    • 1/??/1960:  Khartoum, Sudan – Exact date unknown.  Gen was burned in a stove top fire inside their trailer.  She had a small grease for in a pan on the stove, and when she asked for some water to put it out, it turned out that gasoline was thrown on it instead, quite by accident.  She was burned in the flash of gasoline.  Other caravanners were able to then quickly put out the fire.  According to Dale Schwamborn, Don was very frugal and kept extra gasoline and water in identical cans in the back of his truck and the wrong can was grabbed to put out the fire.  The Christie’s pulled their Airstream to a local wedding ceremony and Gen’s bandaged hand can be seen in some of the photos.
    • 1/15/1960:  Atbara, Sudan – The Christie’s were one of the 7 caravan couples to depart Atbara to pull their Airstreams across the sands of the Nubian Desert, while most rigs crossed the desert on train cars.  They were stuck several times and experienced several mechanical issues with their truck while crossing the desert.
    • 3/14/1960:  Petra, Jordan – The Christie’s were one of only 11 caravan couples to pull their Airstream all the way to Petra to see the ruins that are carved into towering pink sandstone cliffs that are accessible via a horseback ride thru a narrow gorge.
    • 4/11/1960:  Athens, Greece – The Christie’s were one of only 10 caravan couples to pull their Airstream all the way to Athens.  Some caravanners did not visit Athens, while most flew there to save a three day drive each way.
    • 5/3/1960:  Venice, Italy – Gen had been part of the committee that planned the shower and mock wedding ceremony for the African Caravan newlyweds of Art Ruiz (the African Caravan mechanic) and Toni Grabowski (daughter of #1408 “Big Tony” and Gladys Grabowski).  Art and Toni had gotten married in a secret ceremony on December 21, 1959 in Asmara, Eritrea.  Specifically, Gen was responsible for the “money tree” at the formal celebration.

Huge Thanks to Joe Peplinski the WBCCI club historian for this information and photos.

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