Bridget the Midget

Around the world….. an’ then a little further…

Bridget the Midget header image 2

Phoenix……

November 23rd, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

I spent most of the week waiting; waiting for others to do whatever they do and deliver various parts to me. The damage to Bridget, following our journey from Moyale to Nairobi, is so severe that all I can do in Kenya is to replace the parts that are preventing us from completing the run. The rest will need to wait until we are back in the UK when I will probably remove the engine and gearbox, strip off all the individual panels, repair, replace where necessary and re-spray the entire car.

The spares that Moss Europe have so kindly sent are a new fuel tank, fuel line, brake line, rear shock absorbers, rear light cover and a roll bar link. Locally, I have sourced a temporary windscreen replacement and a new exhaust pipe from the olive joint back to, and including, the tailpipe.

I have now been able to re-construct the probable cause of the majority of the damage and it was most likely that when loading the car onto the truck the operator used something that was not secure and as Bridget’s front wheels passed over the unsecure ramp, it moved creating a large a gap between the truck and the platform, and causing her rear end to crash down. This is certainly consistent with the extreme force that crushed the floor pan central tunnel, flattened all the pipes and crushed the sump guard, 1/8th inch steel, into the sump, denting it.

I repaired the sump guard, two broken number plates, removed the fuel tank, broken pipes and freed the hand-brake cable that was trapped by the collapsing tunnel. This and several minor repairs were completed on Monday. The spares from the UK arrived at Nairobi airport on the Saturday at 11:55 but then Kenyan Customs bureaucracy kept them isolated until the following Thursday. The new exhaust was delivered and fitted on Tuesday and a plastic windscreen was crafted on Wednesday. This meant a great deal of my time was spent waiting around; I couldn’t even check over the engine without the fuel line and tank.

What made it all the more frustrating, was knowing that time was running out for the rendezvous with the South Africans who had planned to meet up with me in Namibia. I would have to leave Nairobi by Friday at the latest to have any chance of keeping that appointment.

Working on Wednesday I replaced Bridget’s disc brake pads and completed some minor electrical repairs including splicing the supply that powers the fuel pump. I also completed her service, replacing the oil, oil filter, topping up the coolant, carburettor damper oil, and checking the gearbox and differential oil levels. I also located the source of an ominous knocking that has been evident for the past three thousand miles to the differential. It is only generated when the nearside wheel is turned, and not when the right-hand side wheel moves, so I am not sure what is causing it. However, I am betting on it lasting until I get back to the UK.

It was Friday before the spares were eventually released by customs and delivered to CMC. I received them at around 10:00 am and started fitting them immediately. By close of play everything was ready and I re-packed the car. The tyres needed some air, but by this time the compressors were turned off and almost everyone had gone home so it would have to wait until morning. As it was I needed to wait for the banks to open to change some currency. Moshi is only a matter of three hundred kilometres from Nairobi so I had plenty of time.

The next morning I was outside CMC waiting for them to open up. I quickly inflated the tyres and fixed a broken connection in one of the indicator lights. Swiftly saying my goodbyes and thanks to all the people that had been so helpful Bridget and I pulled out into the Nairobi traffic. We filled up at the neighbouring Shell station and visited the bank. That took a little longer than anticipated due to the crowd gathering to admire Bridget and discuss the route, etc.

Leaving Nairobi was fairly straightforward, if you ignore the unscheduled visit to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Once we turned south on Highway 104 the road surface was good and we settled into an easy rhythm. I should have known better, not that it would have saved us, but after one hundred and eighty kilometres of untroubled driving I was more relaxed than I should have been. The first indication of trouble was Bridget launching herself into space before coming back to earth with an almighty crash.

We had hit a speed bump that was totally unmarked and shared the same dark surface colour as the rest of the road. It was almost impossible to see even when you knew it was there. There was an extremely loud grinding sound and clearly no power was being transferred from the engine to the rear wheels. I steered Bridget onto the hard shoulder and pulled up.

I knew I would have to be quick in whatever I did to beat the crowds. All that was needed was a swift look under the car to see that the universal joint between the prop shaft and differential was broken. We wouldn’t be beating the crowds anywhere.

Willing hands pushed us some one hundred yards up the road to where a mechanic was able to view the damage and confirm that he had nothing that could repair it. A local police officer continually fussed around repeatedly asking for the cars papers, having noticed there was no insurance certificate on the windscreen, until another local told him to ‘**** off’.

Eventually a guy with a Toyota pick-up towed us to Namanga, a distance of some twenty kilometres. I suspect the village mechanic phoned ahead because as we pulled into the Namanga River Hotel we were greeted by the local mechanic who insisted he could repair the joint even though one of the four bearing cups was missing. Finally he conceded that he would have to go to Nairobi to get a replacement, or have one made, which he did the next morning.

He arrived back at the hotel shortly after midday with a new universal joint fitted. I readily admit to being surprised and very relieved at his achievement. Two of his guys re-fitted the prop shaft and I took it for a test run which confirmed a suspicion I had, that the speed-bump may have been the final straw rather than the cause of the joint breaking. I had complained several times over the past four weeks of hearing something making a noise in time with the wheels turning, but I had been unable to locate the cause. Now with the universal joint repaired that noise has stopped. When I examined the damage underneath the car in Nairobi I had checked the prop shaft, but only the nuts and bolts, not the bearings. I think one of them was already very loose and gave up the ghost with the sudden change in torque caused by the car lifting off the road and then slamming back down.

Everyone assures me that from here on the roads are good, but I will stay unconvinced for a while yet.

We left the Namanga River Hotel at 06:30 and went straight to the border crossing some two minutes away. Leaving Kenya took some fifty-five minutes, partly because of the number of people to be processed and partly because Bridget’s carnet had not been stamped at Moyale where we entered the country. Once that was sorted out we moved across the border to Tanzanian immigrations and customs. Once again it took longer than expected this time because of me. My visa was valid up until the 19th November, the day the universal joint broke and unfortunately the immigration officer noticed, albeit after she had stamped it. I had to buy a new one which took another half hour, a total of one hour thirty-five minutes for the full crossing.

The first thing I noticed in Tanzania was the standard of housing appeared to be better and then I noticed that things appeared cleaner. I have no idea of the statistics but Tanzania appears to be better off than Kenya. The scenery is once again beautiful but although we passed Mount Kilimanjaro I didn’t see it. Cloud totally enveloped it from the base up. I could have taken a photo, but one cloud is much the same as another, unless you study clouds (don’t know what people that do that are called).

The road initially was very good, another Chinese product I suspect. Rather like restaurants in the UK in the sixties Chinese roads are cropping up all over Africa. The rumour that all roads lead to Peking is nothing more than a rumour.

However having enjoyed the trouble free, speed hump free, road for over a hundred miles we then came to a fifty-two mile stretch that was fairly awful. It certainly reduced our average speed to around twenty-five miles per hour, taking two hours to complete and then another half hour to regain the confidence that it was over. I am convinced that another serious clatter with a pot-hole or something similar will finally break Bridget, so I am ultra-cautious.

I genuinely do not believe vehicles can have character, or any other living attribute, but Bridget really is something else. After the trauma the car has survived it refuses to calm down and just seems to thrive on more punishment. We completed four hundred and thirty miles to Morogoro even though the daylight ran out and, against all the rules, we completed the journey in darkness. Another day like this and we will be in Songea to meet the children that are the focus for the money raising we are doing.

I make no apology and I am glad to say there are a lot of people around the globe that have enjoyed this, and the previous, adventure through this blog. It is free of charge, for you at least, so I am asking you to please dig into your pockets and donate a minimum of £10 each for the entertainment that I assume you must gain from the site. I exclude all those that I know have already generously given. It’s not a lot but it will make a tremendous difference to the children in Tanzania.

Tags:

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment