Well. After a few more thousand km of abuse, the temporary arc weld repair performed on our chassis rail and shock turret in Tanzania gave way again, just as we were crossing the Malawi/Zambia border. Our Plan A was to head cross country to the South Luangawa Park then on down to Lusaka, a slightly bouncy trip that clearly wasn’t going to happen. Plan B… an 800km straight run to Lusaka, tail between legs. Fortunately there is a crazy mock Norman castle (now a quirky hotel complete with a well stocked bar) only a few km from the border, built by an “eccentric” British colonial administrator in the late 40’s. Crossing the receptionist’s palm with kwacha enabled us to camp in the carpark.
Now safely parked up and away from the throngs of locals looking for entertainment (nothing is more interesting than a dirty Mzungu with a broken truck), and after poking my head into the wheelarch to inspect the damage in a low-pressure environment, a few seconds deliberation was enough to ascertain beers would be required in order to devise a cunning enough plan to get us to Lusaka.
After a bit of headscratching and the application of beer to the problem, I decided that a judiciously placed ratchet strap would probably do the job, if we were REALLY careful and checked the strap for tightness and integrity every few hundred km. Digging around in the truck unearthed an old strap, which I successfully looped around the shock turret, then fed under the chassis rail, around the power steering box, away from everything radiating heat to end up attached to our steering bash plate. This was then ratcheted up tight enough to nearly give me a hernia. The result.. the crack in the chassis was forced almost closed, and the next day we would find the creaking of stressed metal was reduced to the point where the stereo could mask it.
The drive was particularly painful – 800km is a long way to do in one hit when turning left results in the feeling that you are about to lose a wheel.
Speaking of wheels… we then had our first ever blowout about 150km from Lusaka. Right outside a village too. Obviously within seconds we were surrounded by 30 locals (Margaret counted) all looking for entertainment as well as to enquire if the Mzungus might possibly have anything for them (sweets, pens, books, money “Mzungu you give me my money” etc). All par for the course in much of Africa, but VERY annoying when you are racing the light to try and get to Lusaka. To complicate the task of tyre changing whilst trying to ensure the locals didn’t strip the truck, we then discovered that our bottle jack had cooked (it lives in the engine bay) and leaked out all its oil.
So… we broke out the big guns and deployed our Air Jack. When Margaret clambered up onto the roof to unleash the beast there was a hushed silence in the assembled crowd. What sort of dark magic is this? Mzungus using a plastic bag to lift (and hold) a 3+ ton Land Rover? As the compressor fired up and the truck began to lift I could feel the reverence and awe radiating from our grateful audience. Anyway, tyre changed and crowd entertained, we continued to Lusaka.
Conveniently enough a few days before these events I had been communicating with Dan Wyllie (welder extraordinaire in Lusaka) as we had discovered we also had a break in one of our rear spring mounts. Not nearly as bad as the front, but a break nonetheless. Dan had also agreed to have a look at the three broken pillars in our roof… I had arranged to bring the truck to him on the Monday (it was now the Friday). I dropped him a line and explained we were now powered by ratchet strap, and was told to bring it in so he could have a look at the damage. This was done, and the lovely man said “7:30 am tomorrow”. This would be the Saturday. Dan and his team spent the entire day grinding, welding, painting, oil changing, greasing, identifying that we had seized brake calipers and fixing, locating parts etc. Legend. 12+ hours, on a Saturday. And at an unbelievable price. Top quality work too. A followup to sort another few small cracks in other places that were spotted too late to sort on Saturday was done on Monday morning, and we are back on the road. Anyone needing major automotive surgery in Zambia (or surrounding countries if you are drivable) don’t think twice – contact Dan (he is on iOverlander). He doesn’t support the All Blacks, but nobody is perfect. Also huge thanks to our friends the Backroad Vagrants for pointing us in Dan’s direction… travel safe!
A few days ago we awoke to the dripping sound of leaking coolant… the seal at one end of our fuel cooler had failed. Fortunately I both carry spare O rings for this and we were camping on a farm where the farmer had some old inner tune I could use to “pack out” the slightly too large hose clamp I needed to use to reseal the unit… worked perfectly, I wil get obtain the correct diameter clamp when the shops open tomorrow.
This morning I finally got to use our funky Antigravity battery to jumpstart a vehicle – and no, it wasn’t the Taniwha… A Mitsubishi Pajero (Shogun to the Europeans) in our campsite in Livingstone. Started instantly – most impressive.
Nice to test this stuff out on someone else’s car, in zero stress conditions…