CAPE TOWN (AFP) – Dutch actress and adventurer Manon “Tractor Girl” Ossevoort arrived at the South Pole Tuesday after driving a tractor from Europe through Africa and across the frozen wastes of Antarctica.
“It’s quite emotional, I’m very happy,” Ossevoort told AFP by satellite telephone shortly after arriving at the Pole and fulfilling a decade-long dream.
“It feels quite magical really, to have made this happen and arrived here!”
The ebullient new mother of a 10-month-old baby said the the 16-day, 2,500 kilometre trip across the largest single mass of ice on earth from Russia’s Novo base to the Pole had been tough.
Driving the huge red Massey Ferguson tractor over the rugged, icy landscape at an average speed of about 10 kilometres an hour was “like rodeo riding”.
Ossevoort said the worst part of the trip was “the day that I was driving for hours and hours and couldn’t go faster than between 0.5 and five kilometres per hour”.
“I really was worried then that the expedition could come to a halt if conditions would get just a little bit worse.”
Now she has to do the return trip.
It will be a race to make it home to Holland for Christmas but the “return journey to the base will be faster because the tracks of the tractor will be frozen up and it will be easier to drive.”
Ossevoort began her trip in 2005, taking four years to drive from her home village in Holland to Cape Town at the southern tip of Africa – and then missed the boat that was due to take her to Antarctica for the final leg due to delays.
Frustrated, the former theatre actress spent the next four years back in Holland, writing a book, working as a motivational speaker and desperately trying to get back on a tractor.
With sponsorship from Massey-Ferguson and other companies, she finally made it.
Ossevoort travelled alone through Africa, but in Antarctica the tractor needed to creep forward day and night, so French mechanic Nicolas Bachelet shared the driving.