In 1927 Clärenores Stinnes became the first women to drive around the world. Almost a century later Heidi Hetzer set out for a similar trip under similar conditions. In 2014, at age 77, Heidi left Berlin, Germany in a 1930 Hudson Greater Eight old-timer for a two years drive circling the globe. We met her in Albany, South Australia and spent a night and a day listening to her great stories and adventures.
What a coincidence! Shortly after we met Angela, the women who walks the earth, we were introduced to Heidi. Friends of ours had met her the night before and in respect to Heidi's and our common heritage thought it might be nice to get to know each other. We had a short talk and it turned out that Heidi had some trouble with her car. She was forced to spend the night and would stay at the same campsite we had in mind. We agreed to meet up later giving us the chance to grasp some more of her stunning narrations.
Heidi Hetzer was born into a family of mechanics and car traders. She was trained as a car mechanic, started to race bikes and cars at young age and later took over her farther's Opel dealership. She became a successful race driver and a respected businesswoman. When she thought about turning her dream to drive around the world into reality she knew it had to be done the hard way. She ended up buying two Hudson Greater Eight old-timers. One to take on the road and one to serve as a backup for spare parts.
Heidi's Hudson is definitely an eye-catcher. Wherever she shows up, heads are turned and jaws are dropped. It's such an impressive car and driving around Australia with german license plates is just the icing on the cake. We only met her for two days but this was time enough to get an idea of what it must feel like to travel this way. Once you bring your car to an halt you will be entangled in small talks with every stranger walking by.
Just have a look at this tyre and rim and think to yourself, if that was something you would like to drive around town? How about a vacation? Would you rely on this for the precious weeks of the year? And now think big, would this be on your mind planning a 2 years trip around the world? Well that's what you get when you decide to opt for a 1930's car to drive around the globe.
When Heide hit the cold weather and snowy roads in Mongolia and Russia she was forced to hammer nails into her solid rubber tyres. These little metal spikes helped her to stay on track while driving on ice. On the downside she's now stuck with a set of tyres that's useless on paved streets. When I talked to her she confessed she was only able to remove one spike. It seems they have some sort of resistance knob on the bottom driven into the rubber, making it almost impossible to remove them.
Talking to Heidi we soon realized she was not that happy with her object of transport. She already had a lot of serious problems, most regarding the engine. It was going to 4 liters of oil a day and not as reliable as hoped. In fact Heidi left Berlin with the spare engine. The original engine had been totally checked and rebuilt but not quite to her satisfaction. Running out of time and with winter getting closer she had no other option but leaving with her backup engine. As I am writing these lines the original engine is getting shipped to Melbourne to finally replace the old one. Fingers crossed the new one will last and get her back to Berlin safely.
I never really paid attention to the name writings on race cars and I had to ask Heidi to find out what the 0+ stands for. It is actually her blood group. In case of an accident or emergency everyone knows what to do or at least should know. I would have had no clue. Maybe I should do the same to our car but to be honest I can't even recall my own blood group. Something I should certainly work on!
Traveling in style means paying attention to the details. The Hudson is adorned with two flags, a german one for Heidi's heritage and one of the host country. In our case a nice little australian flag was mounted on the right car wing. I don't know how she does it, but everything looked clean and neat. I wish I could say the same about our car but a continuous penetration with red desert dust and saltwater spray has left its marks.
When we bought our travel mugs we decided on factors of weight and durability. Heidi has made her choice according to her style of traveling and ended up with two fine cups from the Royal Porcelain Factory Berlin. To be honest, I would have loved to swap with her. She told me I was not the first to admire her drinking vessel and that she did not get around leaving one of her two cups with the ambassador of the German embassy in Laos.
I always call our car our home. It's not much luxury, but it's ours! Heidi has even less space and comfort but is performing a different style of traveling. Under normal condition she would sleep in a cheap motel or hotel and eat out. She rarely cooks for herself and I think when we met her on the campground she used her tent and camping gear for the first time. Nevertheless she looked top fit and full of energy when we saw her the next morning. I hope I can say the same after a night in a tent at age 77.
We could not believe Heidi was taking this journey on all by herself. After a little chat she admitted she had gone through 2 men already. She's a tough personality and keeps things firmly under control. We could tell she is used to getting things her way. The temporary companions had to leave and Heidi thinks she's better off this way. I know what it feels like to travel alone. It can be a heroic feeling at one point and a depressing burden on another. As far as we know Heidi is keeping close contact with her caring family at home and gets a lot of support from Germany.
One thing I really have to mention are the many helpers and outstanding personalities Heidi meets along the way. When we met her she was accompanied by Brendon, a man on his holidays from Perth. He saw Heidi stuck on the side of the road and stopped to help. Brendon spent 3 full days to assist getting her car back on the street. He was the one who knew a german electrician who finally fixed the problem. I think without people like Brendon Heidi would have a much harder time.
In the end and with Brendon's help Heidi got her problems sorted and was ready to leave. From Albany she was heading further south heading for Melbourne. Form there she would catch a ferry to New Zealand to continue her drive around the world. We were about to leave in a few days heading the same direction, being able to help her just in case something would happen.
It was a funny coincidence to meet Heidi and we really enjoyed her company. It was like traveling back in time and we wish we would have had a few more days to hear about her adventures. Even though her way of getting around does not match our beliefs of a sustainable journey, we surely will follow her blog from time to time to see how she's going. Safe travels Heidi, take care and remember: You always meet twice in life!