“All I know about cars is that the engine is in the front…”

Day 09

Country : Zambia

Distance : 289km

The day dawned, like most days do, full of promise. We had 500km of good roads ahead of us but we were well on schedule (gained a day, in fact). Since we had overnighted in a cottage instead of camping there was no major packing to be done. Breakfast was at 7am so we were forced (ahem) to sleep in until 6am…

A wonderful breakfast later we bade a fond farewell to Pioneer camp and headed off. We had previously discussed our financial situation and decided to head back into Lusaka (only 28km) to exchange dollars for Zambian kwacha – this due to the recent instruction from government that USD were no longer acceptable for hotels etc.

Safely negotiating the early morning traffic into Lusaka we found a bank and went in to do our currency exchange. Emerging 30 mins later and the time still before 9am we prepared for a leisurely drive across Zambia…

How the Travel gods must hate us!

Sharpie turns the ignition key on and a enormous, humongous, big …. nothing … happens.

Dead. Kaput. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Fu… all.

The one on the left works, the one on the right doesn’t…

Our combined technical talents focussed on the problem and came to the immediate conclusion … we had absolutely no idea! We checked remotes. Nix Checked lights etc. Nothing.

The site manager for the office park came over and offered us the services of an auto electrician he knew. We jumped at the offer. Short phone call. “Here in 30 mins max” we are told. Factor in traffic and Africa time and we reckon 1 hour.

Tick tock.

Tick tock.

Tick f&@#ing tock.

A long while later a bakkie rolls up and one of the occupants in overalls wanders up and starts to help his, and I quote directly from his mouth (not a word of a lie for those of you who have heard the expression before) “brother from another mother”.

He quickly ascertains that the problem is not battery and isolates it to the additional electrical system to recharges the backup batteries used for the fridge/freezer. He then disassembles the bakkie’s electrics (to Sharpies ever growing but not quite totally panicked concern). At this point the site manager arrives with the auto elec he had called and we all stand around looking at one another in bemusement…

The (somewhat late) auto elec shrugs and leaves and we continue with our electrical Samaritans.

Auto electrician : “We need to replace this, move that wire there and relink the turbo megatron via the thermo-nuclear charger”
Sharpe (absolutely clueless) : “I concur, make it so!”

“We’re a long way from Tipperary”

2 hours later and we finally hit the road again waving Lusaka a (sarcastic) fond farewell.

This lasts 2 km.

Stopping for fuel Sharpie tells us he has now lost all power again – no indicators, wipers, lights, aircon etc but the car is still running. Fearful of switching off we head straight back into Lusaka for the local Toyota dealer who sends out for the auto electrician that he sub-contracts to. The man arrives, jumps into the car with Sharpie and leads us into the underworld of car repair in Lusaka (or, at least that is how it looks to us naïve wit ou’s!)

I think its an engine because this is the front of the car

Ok, so the alternator works, that leaves just another 3 589 components to remove and check…

4 hours later and we now have a working vehicle plus new parts and all is performing perfectly. We part with a wad of cash and (8 ½ hours later) finally leave Lusaka for (hopefully) the last time!

A quick stop for the Barefoot Barman to say hello to his old junior school and we race into the darkness, our next stop 2 ½ hours away.

All I can say for that 2 ½ hours is that while the road may be quite good, driving it at night is a test, what with competing against local drivers, truckers, bicycles and pedestrians. Apparently we missed a beautiful drive down into the Luangwa valley – I don’t know, I had my eyes closed the whole way.

And I was driving…


2 thoughts on ““All I know about cars is that the engine is in the front…”

  1. Dear crew. Whilst I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the (now) regular updates I am rather concerned as there may be two imposters on the tour. Firstly: Skaapie’s bakkie bonnet is open (this is not a euphamism for him dropping his trousers!) and two gentlemen are fiddling around in there – yet there is no visible red vein showing on his forehead. Secondly, and more disturbingly… the man you say is “Tim” cannot be him. The guy in the pictures is wearing shoes!

    But we’ll keep this to ourselves as there’s no need to alarm the ladies just yet.


    • I may not have mentioned, the throbbing vein (on Sharpies forehead) is hidden from view and the previous weeks bluetop consumption had by now reduced his blood to a very thin liquid more representative of ethanol than blood and therefore unable to build up its normal pressure…

      As for the Barefoot Barman, a change came over him once we cleared customs – although he did the entire border crossing barefoot, for some inexplicable reason he appeared in shoes the following day. Personally I think it was the close proximity to his previous junior school that subconciously made him nervous… worrying that his old headmaster might appear any minute and give him hell because he had no shoes on!


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