The Return Trip from Hell.

Morrungulo, Tuesday, 0705: I'm off.
Bread First stop is the bread shop, which has signs reading "Fresh bread" in about a hundred languages. I bought way too many bread rolls, the owner conveniently misunderstood me. I don't want to be funny but I like my own bread more...

Good road Parts of the EN1 is really good, most if it is extremely acceptable. There are many worse roads in South Africa. From Massinga to XaiXai there are potholes, but they've been filled with dirt so the going is fairly smooth. South of XaiXai the road gets even better.

Land Rovers! These Land-Rovers live next to the EN1 in Maxixe, which I reached at 0900.

Bought fuel in XaiXai. I used all the metacais that I had, and added rands to make up the difference. Exchange was 3150, as opposed to 3300 at Chokwe.

In the process I dropped a few notes, picked them up, and after completing the transaction found another Mt 100 000 under the landy. Mt 100 000 is just about exactly what you need in toll money to get to the border, I later discovered :-)

Bridge over Limpopo The first toll stop is the bridge over the Limpopo where I had to pay Mt 5000 toll. About R 1.50. I was looking for a place to stop and photograph the bridge, so I didn't see the speed hump, so I hit it hard and the engine cut out. Rolled down to where I wanted to stop anyway, assessed the situation. No lights on dash. Hmmm, I see, ignition fuse blown. Replace, *pop*. Hmmm. Trace wire (Not difficult, since I wired this thing in the first place), find the six wires it goes to. Disconnect half, new fuse, *pop*. Hmmm. Disconnect all, new fuse, replace wires one by one, *pop*, OK, must be that one then. Replace all wires except that one, engine starts, everything works, hey, let's go :-)

The shorted wire is the one that used to go to the reverse light switch, I think. The reverse light switch is on the other gearbox, the one I put in the 1955 shortie before I sold it. I had tied the wire to something with a cable tie, obviously it was not tied any more... will investigate next time I pull the floor boards.

Toll gate OK, so I continue on south. Get to Maputo close to 1700, and in this country, the sun goes down like it's been shot, very shortly after 1700. I notice that the road to Ressano Garcia is a toll road, and decide to take the risk of driving this in the dark. No worries, good road, Mt 12500 + 68000 toll.

Along the way I meet a couple of suicidal traffic control types who are out testing people's brakes by walking in front of them. I managed to stop, but the truck behind me... good thing the road was wide so I could swerve out of the way. Close one.

The queue at Ressano Garcia was long, and the officials were on supper break or something. I start chatting with the only other two white faces in the crowd. We spend about an hour in the queue, and I realise that I don't have a temporary import permit for the landy. Never got one at Pafuri (Pafuri's way laid back...). The two guys tell me this is a Bad Thing (TM). Then a guy in a leather jacket pitches, he works there, he says, but is moonlighting "helping people". Ah well, wothehell, I end up giving him way too much money ($40) to get my passport stamped and through the gate.

On the SA side they want the import permit. I'm ignorant. Guy stamps gate pass anyway. Not that they looked at the gate pass at the gate anyway.

So next time I'll get through without spending $40 :-)

OK, hit the road again.

Now, maybe it's time to re-visit that blow-bye I've had all week. This is nothing new for this engine, so I'm not concerned. Until I pass a truck up a hill, floor the accellerator, and it suddenly sounds like green-light-at- the-drag-races. Pull over, see that exhaust manifold has a hole the size of two five rand coins in it. Poke the bits together, leaving something closer to a 5 cent piece. Heavy duty tinfoil, firegum, and baling wire off the front bumper (Terry, now you know why I have baling wire on the bumper...). Gets me to the first filling station in Nelspruit.

I havn't had anything to eat all day (except a few death-by-breadrolls) so I go to the KFC, order a burger. Nelspruit has a toilet paper shortage, none in the KFC or the filling station next door.

I ask the manager about places to stay, etc, he directs me to the town lodge / road lodge, cool.

OK, so this is where the proverbial hits the fan bigtime. Because today is Tuesday. Tuesday the 15th of June. And tomorrow is... yes, fsckall-happens-day. Do I want to spend a whole day in Nelspruit watching the grass grow?

Anyway, town lodge, hit bed, sleep.

The next morning the two guys behind the counter phone everyone listed in the yellow pages. No joy, all closed. OK, sez I, I'll stroll on down to town, see if there's any signs of life, maybe buy some exhaust bandage if I can find some... outside, there's a diesel Defender idling, and the driver, Emile, chatting to the one manager bloke. He offers a lift. I tell him the story. He kaps a U turn, he knows a bloke with a welding machine.

Neels Manifold

Zulu Manifold So I get introduced to Neels and family. We fetch the landy, remove the manifold, it's worse than I thought. OK, this is a pukka Rand-Lover, it's *always* worse than you thought. Neels decides that he can't weld this thing.

So this is where I make Big Mistake #1. I allow Neels to convince me that we can hold this mess together with copious amounts of exhaust bandage.

Lesson: Don't believe something someone tells you just because you *want* to believe it.

So, lotsa wire and five packages of exhaust bandage later, the manifold looks a bit like Tutankamen, and it's back in.

And this is where I make Big Mistake #2. I ask Neels about the best (i.e. flattest) road to Cape Town. And he tells me that the road to Carolina via Badplaas is easy, "a pass like Helshoogte outside Stellenbosch, and from there it's flat". Suuuuurrrrre. I head out Badplaas way, pausing only to get fuel and leave the filler cap at the Sasol going out of town.

Ralf and Susan As I leave the Sasol, a german SIII whizzes past. I eventually catch up with them, Ralf and Susan, on their way to Durban to get disk brakes fitted. Ralf notices that my filler cap's missing. OK, this was NotSoBig Mistake #3 -- I should have turned around. Because the road to Carolina goes up. And up. Carolina lies at 1750 metres and Ermelo at 1800. And hill climbing is not good for a manifold held together with wire and bubble gum.

business card

Passing Badplaas, I decide to have a look, because it's sounding louder than before. Hmmm. This thing will *not* last the 60km to Carolina. No ways. OK, I book myself into the Aventura. Manage to get a one bedroom self-catering unit where *all* the taps leak.

fscked manifold Next morning finds me at the tyre, exhaust and "wheel alinement" place. Guy looks at the manifold, says that we have to remove it. "No problem", sez I, I've done this before... after removing the manifold, I realise this dude does not have *any* pipe benders, or pipe, even. OK, so what can we do? He looks at me, asks me what *I* want to do...

We eventually find someone in Nelspruit (!) who can fix the manifold. Pierre at PrimaForce. Recommended.

Now, where I come from, tyre places have bakkies running all over the show. You rock up looking for new tyres, they don't have stock. By the time they have the wheels off, the bakkie's pitched and the tyres are there.

But in Badplaas, Nelspruit is 1000km away, not the 100km that the map shows. Primaforce organises a courier to collect the manifold at 12 (this is around 9:30 in the morning) and then they will get it on Friday morning... ye gads.

This is where I decide to phone Hennie Rautenbach, find out who we know in Nelspruit. "SW Burger", sez he, so I contact SW, Hennie also puts out a post on overland and za-lro.

In the mean time I'm also asking around. There's one guy going to Nelspruit, but only Friday morning, and then he's coming back on Monday only... so near and yet so far.

I got a few tips from SW, but they didn't work out (people had already gone, or arranged alternative transport for their kids, whatever). Albertus Coetzee contacted me, offered assistance in Nelspruit. And Pieter Botha, who lives in Baberton, also phoned, said he could make a plan on Friday but not today.

So I go with the courier thing. Drop the manifold at the Aventura (Don't ask me why they arranged to pick it up there), wait around, eventually go back to check if the LR is still there, and the guy comes around and collects the manifold. 14:05.

My notes read:

1610: Badplaas needs a huge sign saying "On 2004-06-17, in this place, fsck all happened"...

So I book into Baluli lodge, which is closer to the BP garage, and sounds moerse larni, but is actually a grand reception / bar area fronting a standard motel. Cheaper, at R200 the night, nice bar, I drink copious amounts of Windhoek Light.

As an aside, there are two things which I'm very glad I did. I packed one long sleeved heavy denim shirt, and a thick book ( The Confusion by Neal Stephenson). Without the book, I would have been bored to death, and without the shirt, I might have been frozen to same.

The bar girl does *not* recommend the attached restaurant, so I walk down to the Aventura and hit the Spur with a vengeance (I don't have much of an appetite when things go wrong so I havn't seen much food for a while)... quesadillas, burger, couple glasses red wine, hot chocolate, sakkie-sakkie music, can life be better? What's that you say? Can't hear you, I have parsley in my ears...

And the bar girl back at Baluli has Jagermeister. Yay!

The next morning, Pierre at PrimaForce sends an SMS, he's picking up manifold at 8. Yes, it takes a manifold from 1400 to 0800 the next day to get to Nelspruit. I'm still amazed. Ah well, I sit in the back of the LR in the sun, reading aforementioned thick book, making coffee...

"Where men build on false grounds, the more they build, the greater is the ruin." -- Hobbes, Leviathan, quoted by Stephenson in _The Confusion_

OK, Pieter comes through, he picked up the manifold, paid for it (R580-ish, they jigged up the two flanges, cut the whole mess out of the middle, and replaced it. Good job.) and delivers it in person. Thanks again, Pieter!

About 1/2 an hour later I'm on the road.

Now, the R39 from Ermelo to Standerton and the R546 to Vrede is worse than the EN1 in Mozambique. Lots of potholes, on the yellow line, you can dodge then except when someone's passing, then you have no choice but to hit them, hard.

I get to Bloemfontein at 01:45. Fill up at the Caltex, get a mug of hot chocolate at the BJ.

Recommended: The BJs at Caltex are great. The "BJ" restaurant chain, that is, getchermind out of the gutter! :-)

Find a dark spot between the car and truck stops, get in the back, sleep a bit.

Recommended: If you need to sleep in the car, outside Bloemfontein, the Sunny Hill Caltex is the place.

About 7 degrees outside (and inside, this is a Land-Rover, remember?). Bladder pressure forces a wakeup at 5, start LR, point south.

But the Free State does not want to let me go, oh no. Approaching the Orange River, I move into the yellow line for a passing car, LR sways strangely. "Fsckit", thinks I, "these are Monroe shocks, they're all nice and yellow and shiny, they can't be shot already?" Nope, 'tis a flat tyre, left rear, venting air at no uncertain rate. The rim is cracked. I suspect the R39 potholes. Good thing I had a tube in there...

A quick tyre change, and all is well again. Until I ran out of fuel 8kms short of Laingsburg, that is...

Lesson: Be nice to the truckers, you never know when you need one of them to be nice to you.

Got home at 18:30.
5038 km
770 l fuel
no oil (except gearbox :-)
R 6370 + $50 ($40 bribe, $10 beer @ Morrungulo) + untallied Credit Card.