Chassis Shenanigans and Dark Magic

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.

fuel cooler

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…


Driving Tanzania AGAIN

When we left Rwanda, we went to Tanzania again. The road after the Tanzaniza border was horrendous. It was full of potholes and trucks. It was as bad as the Zambian roads! There were lots of judder bars which Daddy did NOT like. We didn’t see one judder bar, because we were following a truck and there was a lot of dust. Then the Taniwha got airborne! We stayed that night in a car park of a motel. There were lots of kids looking at us, one threw his ball at us. It was made of smushed up plastic bags and string.

Tanzania is really big, so we had a long driving day. We did a wild camp and there were hundreds of flies. Daddy made a big fire.

Then we drove to Lake Shore Lodge, on the edge of Lake Tanganyika. But on the was Daddy said the car was being a bit funny. Then when we were really close to the camp Daddy discovered that the chassis was broken. The chassis is the bones of the landrover. Breaking it is really BAD!!

But, Lake Shore Lodge is the best campsite in the world. We stayed three night. They had a workshop, so Daddy could fix the car. We went swimming in the lake and the best thing was going kayaking. When we went kayaking we saw a kingfisher catching fish. I shared a boat with Daddy and even had a go at paddling. It was fun!

I also have been busy sewing my birthday pillowcase from Genevieve. I think it looks good!

Then we had another long driving day, back to the coffee farm. We had a yummy dinner there. Next we are off to a new country: Malawi.


Rwanda is a very small country, but it is very hilly.  It was also very clean, we even saw people sweeping the main road.  On our first day we stayed at a campsite with weird puppets in the trees. But what we really liked was that it had a table tennis table. It was fun. There were also 2 dogs that we fed some sausages. But it made the puppy run round like crazy.

We also could try some basket weaving. It was fun, you had to wrap some plastic, (or specially dyed sisal) around a special grass. After a while the needle hurt my fingers. We bought a bowl, but we aren’t sure if we can take it back to New Zealand.

The next day we drove to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. We went to a supermarket there. The cars were crazy on the road. And there were lots of bicycles. We went to the Genocide Memorial Museum. Mummy and Daddy took turns to go in. 25 years ago the Hutu tribe tried to kill all of the Tutsi tribe. A lot of people were killed.

After Kigali we went to Lake Kivu. It was really pretty, but I nearly fell in the lake. We had dinner there, and I had pizza!

Then we drove through the Nyungwe Forest Park. There were lots of soldiers standing at the side. We saw a few monkeys. Then we stayed at an ecocentre. I liked the hammock with the view over the tea plantation and the valley.

Then we drove to Tanzania.




Goodbye Uganda

After the Murchison Falls National Park we drove south. On the way we stopped at a farm because the car stopped working. There were lots of lights flashing on the dashboard and we couldn’t make it up a hill. Daddy had to put the Taniwha in low range. The farm had a really nice garden. and lots of banana trees. Genevieve and I made horses. Daddy fixed the problem too.

Then we headed to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. On the way we stopped at a place where they make sculptures out of bronze. We had a drink, but it was very ‘pole pole’. That means slowly, slowly in Swahili. The guy explained how they made the sculptures. First they carve the shape out of wood or clay. Then they  cover it with wax. Then the cover the wax with ceramics and fire it. That melts the wax leaving a hollow which they pour the bronze in. My favourite sculpture was a squirrel. It was part of a set of clan totems. He told us that there were about 57 different clans. When you were in a clan you had to protect its totem, and you weren’t allowed to eat it. If you got married then you had to protect your wife or husbands’ totem too.

After that we drove to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Mummy really wanted to see the gorillas, but they didn’t have any spaces. Genevieve and I were too little.  Mummy said we would have to come back to Uganda one day!  We learnt about Gorilla’s at the information centre. Did you know:

  • They are the strongest mammal.
  • The senior males are called silverbacks.
  • They live in a group called a troop.
  • They eat mainly leaves, but sometimes ants,
  • They don’t have tails, like monkeys.
  • They build nests to sleep in.

Daddy did some more work on the car. Mummy, Genevieve and I went to meet some kids at an afterschool club. They sang some songs, did some drumming and some dancing. Then they showed us their art work. Some were really good. We bought a little picture of a gorilla.

The next day we drove through the Impenetrable Forest. It was very beautiful. We saw lots of colobus monkeys at the side of the road. It was a real jungle. But all around the park is farm land, even on really steep hills. We also saw a dusty gypsum mine and children were working, chipping away rocks. They didn’t have any masks to wear.

The last place we stayed was at Lake Mutanda. A man let us pull up his fishing net, and throw it back in the lake. Then he made us some fishing rods out of sticks and string. He put a little worm on the end for me. I didn’t catch anything though.  In the morning, the car had sunk into the soft ground, but it was no problem to get out.


The next day we went to Rwanda.

How the &%£! did he do that?!?!

It’s been an action packed few months for Man vs LandRover. Loads of routine stuff sorted out in Nairobi at Jungle Junction – rocker gasket, service etc (huge thanks to Chris and spannerman John).

In Amboseli Park, we managed to pop one of our rear shock absorbers – then had real trouble sourcing replacements (+2 lift…). Eventually “Selim the Parts Guy” got involved, and within a few hours presented us with a pair of shiny new Bilstein’s. Needless to say, ride quality has drastically improved… Around the same time it became apparent that one of the radiator mounts was busted, an easy fix fortunately.

One niggling issue that has been driving me mad for some time has been an intermittent problem with the auto box stick having difficulty selecting gear – this came to a head a few weeks back with the box dropping into limp mode (3rd gear only) – the classic flashing M&S lights issue we have had before, in Finland. That episode led to a new XYZ switch, but they cost a fortune… so I removed the XYZ (painful), drilled it open, and found corroded tracks (it’s a rotary switch). After cleaning it out, reassembling and many hours of alignment faffing, the autobox gearchanges are silky smooth, and a few thousand km down the road the issue has not reoccurred.

The big one… we drove a horrible stretch of road leaving Rwanda, managed to get the truck a bit airborne, and upon landing tore one of the front spring mounts clean off the chassis, as well as cracking some welds in the roof. To be clear, we hadn’t realised the damage was done until a few days later (it must have been hanging on by a thread of steel, and there was no change in handling or “stance”). We were about 50km from our planned campsite (Lake Shore Lodge, on Tanganyika) when the steering became incredibly heavy, and I had a nasty feeling that we had lost our Power Steering. It turned out that this was the shock turret slowly making its way up through the engine bay, and was now in contact with parts of the steering system. In the village 5km from the lodge, the metal finally parted, the shock turret popped the bonnet upwards at a jaunty angle, and the driver’s side wheel ended up firmly in its arch.

We limped up to the lodge, and as fate would have it we met the owners who were more than happy to help us out – workshop, staff, welder, cold beers… all put at our disposal. Top job too, and at an incredibly reasonable rate. Chris, Frankie, Pruva – you guys are amazing. Not sure about bare feet in the workshop, but I can’t dispute the quality of the work!

If anyone gets the opportunity to stay here, don’t think twice. And the food is sublime. Eleanor will blog all about it. So the chassis is back in one piece (replacement spring mount is being provided by the lovely Marsha from SpannerMonkeys in the UK, will get the chassis chopped and welded again in Windhoek), the pillars have been welded (B’s have held nicely, A needs a bit more TLC down the road) and the bonnet is pretty much back in shape.  How the shock turret managed to miss everything vital on it’s tour of the engine bay remains a mystery.  That’s it for now…