Long before we started this journey Russ was concerned about getting stuck with our Land Rover for just this reason.
“It’s time to head south, the rains are coming.”
Looking at the forecast we hoped to get down through Tanzania and then on to Zambia before the next rains. We did not want to get stuck with our Land Rover.
These last months had been full of surprises! Some good, some not so good. Here’s what happened…
Long before we started this journey, six months ago, Russ was concerned about getting stuck with our Land Rover. Now, here we are heading south in Tanzania. We’d just spent most of the day with Philipo learning about he and Patti keep lions away from farmers’ livestock.
We were making decent time on the less traveled dirt road from Singida to Dodoma. The rough road keeps Russ on his toes. The country side is pretty. We pass by rocky outcrops and small villages. Then about half way… “We’ve lost power!” Russ says taking his hands off the steering wheel as the Land Rover coasts to a stop on a flat piece of road next to a small farm. Now what?
We hop out to access. There’s a smell of diesel fuel. Russ quickly finds the problem. Broken shock absorber that punch out the fuel connector running into the fuel filter. No easy fix!
We don’t carry a cell phone. We rely on data signal and using Skype or Facebook messenger to communicate. Signal strength is limited. Skype is out. However, I find messenger is functional.
Whose online? Patti from Pennsylvania is. I know Patti is a fast responder. Russ looks for the phone number of our mechanic in Arusha. Can’t find it. I ask Patti to look it up. Within a minute I have it.
It’s time to try out the SOS feature on our InReach satellite gizmo. I activate the SOS message and request them to call the mechanic in Arusha.
A kombi van (taxi) goes by. The first vehicle we’ve seen in a while along this road. A few people walk by. We think we’ve got things under control.
InReach SOS responds. The Arusha mechanic can’t send help, we’re too far! Darn! Right about that time a friendly face appears. The farmer. He greets us, “Jambo!” He speaks no English. Russ takes him around the Landy to show him the problem. Our new friend nods his head, says something in Swahili and makes a phone call. “Mechanic,” he says hanging up with a grin on his face.
The sun is going down over the hill to the west. I start looking where we can spend the night. Russ says there’s no way we can open the rooftop on the road.
The village mechanic and a couple of helpers arrive in an old Land Rover. We like this guy already. His English is broken, but good enough to communicate. He gets right on it. Before it’s totally dark we realize the first connector fix attempt isn’t going to work. The old spare shock Russ pulls out of our spare parts box is flat. Strike two!
As darkness closes in we’re bumping along in tow. The only brake is the hand brake! Yes, a bit nerve wracking. After about two kilometers. Our new mechanic unties the tow rope! Now what? It’s downhill from here. Better if we go it alone. With one of the helpers holding on the outside we start coasting down the hill. “Slow down!” He keeps shouting. Russ controls our decent speed with the hand brake. It starts to smell hot. A curve and a steeper decline. Then round the corner and we’re in the village. We coast in under a tree outside the mechanic’s house and come to a stop.
After opening our rooftop we cook us some soup loaded with veggies. We hadn’t had anything but snacks since breakfast before going out into the field to see how lights save lions outside Tarangire National Park with Philipo.
Our kind new friends give us access to their toilet. It is of the squat and flush with a dipper of water kind. We’re grateful for whatever we can get.
After a peaceful night the work begins again. Russ and Seif, the mechanic, go back and forth. After some filing, soldering and glueing a new connector is fabricated. Will it hold under pressure? The good part of the old shock absorber is welded onto the broken one. By lunch time all parts are ready and installed.
Little did we realize that the tough part was yet to come.
The new connector holds, but the Landy’s battery is too low to start the engine. Running the lights while in tow drained it as Russ was concerned it would. No other vehicle to jump. A batter is hauled over. Nope, not powerful enough. Finally Seif’s old Land Rover is back. We move our Landy with tent still up so the jumper cables will reach. No luck! Even with the added charge.
The mechanic in Nairobi who speaks Swahili is called, several times. Still no luck!
The checking of the fuel lines is about to begin when the heavens open.
I’d been watching the dark clouds for a while. One passed by shedding but a few drops, but this time…
The deluge starts. Everyone scatters for cover. There had been plenty of onlookers. After all, we’re the day’s entertainment in this small village.
We climb up into the rooftop. Within minutes we watch the ground beneath us turn into a river! Out the window we see tree limbs and rubbish float by on the road coming from the hill behind. The rain keeps pouring down. The tent holds fine.
Within about half and hour we get about 2 inches of rain. Our wash bucket is almost filled to the brim. A huge chunk of wood lodge behind the back wheel. The landscape is transformed as the sand and dirt has been washed about.
As the rain and flood subsides the challenge to get the Land Rover started begins again. By day’s end Seif and Russ are stymied. We call it quits, still stranded in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania.
To be continued… [Part two: Almost the rest of the story]