For the past twelve years, this Dutch woman’s to-do list has consisted of only one item – to drive a tractor all the way to the South Pole. That is a rather unusual goal to have, but Manon Ossevoort has worked very hard to make it happen, and the 38-year-old is all set to scratch it off her list this month. When asked if people think she’s crazy, her response was simple: “Only if they haven’t met me.”
Manon’s story actually started in 2005, when she got in a tractor and left her home town in Holland on a 38,000 kilometer road trip through Europe, the Balkans and Africa, finally terminating at the Cape of Good Hope in Cape Town.
She intended for Cape Town to serve as a port to her final destination – Antarctica. Unfortunately, she missed the boat that was supposed to take her there due to various delays. So Manon spent the next few years back home, in Holland – she wrote a book, worked as a motivational speaker, gave birth to a baby girl, and teamed up with tractor makers Massey Ferguson for a ride that could bear the brunt in Antarctica.
Keeping her unique journey in mind, they designed a modified tractor with polycarbonate windows (instead of glass), extra fuel tanks, and special tires for maximum floatation and traction. The new, improved tractor was delivered via cargo to Cape Town last month – it is named ‘Antarctica 2’, in honor of the legendary explorer Sir Edmund Hillary, who traveled to the South Pole on a tractor in 1958.
With the sponsorship of Massey Ferguson and other companies, Manon and her tractor will fly to Antarctica from Cape Town on November 20. Once there, Manon plans to drive the tractor as she heads out for what she likes to call ‘the end of the world’.
She will make a 2,800-mile round trip across the largest single mass of ice on earth, from Russia’s Novo base on the edge of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. “I think I’ll love the experience, traveling the last leg in relative silence over this vast and white continent,” she said. “It’s a beautiful last phase in a long pilgrimage.”
“Ten kilometers an hour would be good,” she added. “15 would be nice, 20, lovely.” And although she has traveled alone on all her tractor journeys to Africa, Antarctica is a different ball game. So she will be accompanied by a team of seven, including a camera crew and tractor mechanic Nicolas Bachelet who will share the driving.
“We plan to drive on a 24-hour traveling schedule with the tractor driving as much as we can. If there are extreme white-out or storm conditions stopping us, we’ll cover the tractor with a specially designed tractor tent. It covers the tractor entirely and blocking the wind will prevent the temperatures from dropping below -20 degrees. And of course it will help us when we need to dig out the tractor after a storm.”
“The tractor for me symbolises this very down to earth fact that if you want to do something, maybe you will not be so fast but if you keep going and keep your sense of humor you will get there,” she explained.
She will take with her scraps of paper that contain ‘dreams’ that she collected from thousands of people in Africa and all over the world. Converted into digital form, these will be placed in the belly of a large snowman that she plans to build at the pole – only to be opened 80 years later.
“I want to turn them into a beautiful time capsule of the dreams of the world so that in the future children and people can read something about our dreams and not only about politics or war.” Needless to day, Manon is a big believer in dreams – in fact, the pull of her own dream is so strong that she will miss her baby Hannah’s first Christmas.
But Manon knows that she’s leaving Hannah in good hands – she has the full support of her partner Rogier Nieuwendyk. “We’ll be there to meet her at the airport when she comes home,” he said, cheerfully.
Photos: Tractor Girl/Facebook