""Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?"
A journalist's intrepid endeavor to sell his used car abroad results in a high-spirited and revealing look at West Africa.
""Look, there's my car," I say, pointing at my Mercedes in the parking lot.
"Where?" a fellow desert traveler asks.
"There, that Mercedes," I say.
He looks at me, questioning. "You want to drive that through the Sahara?""
Jeroen van Bergeijk came up with what seemed like a great scheme for making a quick profit: buy a clunker of a car in his native Amsterdam and resell it in the Third World, where a market even for jalopies still thrives. His chariot of choice is a rusted-out 1988 Mercedes 190D with 220,000 kilometers on its odometer; his route will take him from Holland through Morocco, across the Sahara, and into some of the least trodden parts of Africa.
"My Mercedes Is Not for Sale "is a rollicking tale of an innocent abroad. The author finds himself facing a driving challenge akin to the Dakar Rally but encounters obstacles never dreamed of by race-car drivers: active minefields, occasional banditry--mostly by the border guards--and a teenage, chain-smoking desert guide with a fondness for Tupac lyrics. Food and water are scarce, sandstorms are frequent, and all he has to patch up his many car breakdowns thousands of miles from civilization is a bar of soap, some duct tape, and a pair of women's nylons. Then there's the coup he survived.
"My Mercedes Is Not for Sale" captures more than the adventure--it vividly portrays the impact of globalization on Africa through a surprise-filled journey into its thriving car culture, while asking the question: is the white man's burden really a used car?
About the Author
JEROEN VAN BERGEIJK is a journalist based in Amsterdam and has written for "The New York Times," "Wired," and many other publications in Europe and the United States.