So… I write this sitting on the patio of the (very long-suffering) Leanne and Trevor in Durban, South Africa. Yes, the Taniwha is on strike and requiring shiny gifts. It’s a bit of a saga, but the condensed version is as follows:
In Morocco we developed a leak in one of the seams in the radiator – inconvenient, but not a show stopper. We sourced a bottle of stop leak in Zagora, topped up the coolant and the problem went away for a while (in hindsight, I suspect this leak was caused by the beginnings of pressure buildup in the system, but I wrote it off as a casualty of the serious jarring the vehicle was being subjected to in the desert). We returned to the UK, and all was well.
During my pre-shipping checks in Britain I discovered the coolant was getting low again – maybe 750ml down – and with pressure (gas) in the reservoir. At this stage I added “head gasket” to the list of jobs to attend to in Durban, before heading out into the continent.
On arrival in Durban, I booked the Taniwha into a local specialist to work through the list of jobs (quite a few actually). They identified the radiator leak and had it properly repaired, test drove the truck and all appeared well – the diagnosis being air entering the system through the radiator leak, and not actually a head gasket issue after all. We loaded the truck up and headed out into Africa… making it roughly 30km before we properly overheated. After a sufficient cooling off period, I refilled the coolant from our water tank and limped back to Durban at tickover (stopping three times to cool off, and adding over 16 litres of water all up).
Given that the head has been properly cooked, and the amount of remote travel we will be doing, I have made the call to replace the head with a new one (AMC, from Spain – improved design, thicker injector pockets etc) – this was being shipped overnight from Johannesburg and “should” be arriving today… fingers crossed the Taniwha accepts this truly magnificent gift and resumes normal duties! We are now both several weeks behind schedule and seriously imposing on friends, not a happy combination at all. A truly appalling run of luck, we are avoiding casinos for the foreseeable future.
The unscheduled layover in Durban has given me some time to investigate a charging issue detected in Morocco with our Solar solution – we noticed a sharp decrease in capabilities and had to plug into mains far more often than anticipated in a desert country. Afer opening up the back of the panels and testing with a multimeter, it appears that three out of four panels were completely dead, with the final panel providing around 0.4 amps (out of a “normal” 4.0). All is explained… Unfortunately the manufacturer of the panels has no African presence, and sending the panels back to Oz for analysis and replacement back to us here is simply out of the question, so we have resorted to replacing the system with a local South African brand. We have also bonded a 110w rigid panel to a sheet of marine ply, which we will lash on top of our roof load to provide a trickle charge when we are parked up but unable to lay out our ground panels. This panel can also be plugged in alongside the ground panels when camped. Total capacity, 320 watts. Testing here in the garden in full sun gives us around 14 amps/hr back to the batteries, a good result. After running both fridges and the freezer overnight, we were back to 100% by lunchtime on solar alone, so problem solved…
Cyclone Idai has scuppered our plans of doing Africa in a loop – we had intended on heading up through Mozambique and Tanzania, keeping as close to the coast as possible before heading inland at Kenya and up into Ethiopia and Sudan. We then intended to turn around at Khartoum and head back down the center of the continent, through Uganda/Rwanda etc before looping through Namibia and Botswana and back into South Africa at the end of the year. Obviously this is no longer a viable approach… and given the timings of wet seasons simply reversing the loop doesn’t work either. Plan B is to head to Namibia, visit around half of it, then cross into Zambia then Tanzania, and work north from there, returning again via Namibia in October (will visit Botswana after this – a rough figure of 8 route). Clearly this plan will fall apart and be reworked as we go along…