Yes, it is true, Bridget has a new set of clothes. Following her visit to the little red car factory and museum in Maranello she has been pestering me for a ‘nice red outfit’.
I have to say I think it suits her and clearly so do some of her fans. I have already received a letter from a young lady in Germany. I can’t make out her signature but I think it is Michelle Shoemaker, back in history her family were probably all cobblers! Anyway she says she is currently working out her notice from her present employer and asked if she could drive my car next year? Of course I shall have to refuse her request as Bridget will be otherwise disposed.
The new floor pan has been fitted and so all I have to do now is re-assemble everything with as few parts left over as possible. I am hoping she will be ready by Christmas and we can start our ‘work-up’ in January 2013.
Tell us what you think of her new look.
All the examinations and problem diagnostics are over; it is time to rebuild Bridget in preparation for next year’s run.
The experts have identified the damaged box structure of Bridget’s chassis, the distorted floor pan, and the damaged passenger seating anchor points. I now need to strip her down to the bare shell for the experts to repair and repaint.
There is the usual gallery of pictures available of the progress made, stage by stage. There have been some surprises already and I am making some small changes to Bridget’s mechanics as I go along. These are mainly replacement of parts that are showing signs of ware, but also upgrading her timing chain to a duplex one.
The surprises so far; when unbolting the engine mountings, one was found to have sheared off! So for the past six thousand miles she has only had one supporting mounting, which may have been the reason for the judder every time she pulled away. The second surprise was the damage to Bridget’s sump. Remember, she is fitted with a sump guard made of ⅛” steel, however she had received two extreme blows, one either side of the sump, that were so severe that the bottom of the sump was concave.
I have also discovered the fault that caused Bridget’s fuel gauge to cease working. The fault was not as I had thought a disconnected wire, or even a damaged or faulty sender unit; the sender wasn’t even fitted. When I first discovered its absence I searched the tank to see if it had fallen off, but it must be that I failed to refit it when I installed the new fuel tank in Nairobi.
Bridget is now a rolling shell just waiting for the bodyshop to call her up and I am spending my time checking, maintaining and cleaning all the parts that will be re-installed in her when her bodywork is repaired.
Bridget arrived safely into Southampton on the 21st March and Alan and I fetched her back to Abingdon. She started first time which after three months without running was very good. She appeared to drive well for the sixty mile journey.
I had arranged to take her first to Frontline Developments in Steventon to establish whether or not her body had been twisted when she was dropped. If so then the most probable remedy would be a new body shell. Alan noticed when following us back from the docks that she was ‘crabbing’, confirming what Bruce, in South Africa, told me. I wasn’t hopeful.
However, like a fretting father, I was worrying unnecessarily. Frontline pronounced that Bridget was one of the straighest Midgets they have checked for a long time. Her ‘castor angle’ is rather flat!! The castor angle is the angle, measured in degrees, formed between the axis of the kingpin and the perpendicular to the ground, looking at the vehicle from the side; I googled it. One effect of a positive castor angle is lack of steering return after cornering, this is something that Bridget has suffered from eversince I bought her. So the castor angle error may not have been caused on the African run.
They noticed the wear on the inside of the front tyres and checked the tracking, finding it considerable out. They corrected that, then jacked her up to check if there was any damage to her steering. The front off-side wheel moved around as if on a universal joint! The bearing has gone and probably the hub itself. The nearside front wheel also needs a new bearing. The steering rack ends need replacing. No other damage was found on the steering.
In addition to the forgoing, it was already established that Bridget would require a new windscreen, her plastic one having served its purpose. Also, a rear brake light needs replacing as well as one of her reversing lights and her handbrake needs to be repaired.
Next it was the turn of the body panel and paint specialists, Kennington Motors of Oxford. Having examined Bridget I was telling them how it would be nice for Bridget to keep her ‘battered appearance’ for a while so that some of the enthusiasts could see her with her battle scars. She will be on show at Kimber House until the end of March, then at Silverstone for MGLive 2012 and possibly one or two other events. Dave Cook, the owner of Kennington Motors, declared that it would be perfectly safe to leave Bridget in her current condition until later this year, then he would remove her seats and repair her floor panels. Bridget’s boot, that had over a litre of brake fluid leak into it, would have to be washed out and repainted and then she would have a complete body respray.
What has to be decided before then is what colour she should be? Remain the current ‘racing green’, return to her original black or go for Ferrari red with yellow detail. Nothing but problems! As long as she is ready for her next, and final, endurance run in 2013.
Now, I’d better prepare another order for Moss Europe.
Waking a little after 8:00 am yesterday, the 16th December 2011, I was surveying the snow that had fallen overnight and recalling my drive in Clanwilliam only ten days earlier in 50°C. What am I doing here at home, in time for Christmas?
Regular readers will know that I was met in Grunau, Namibia, by no less than ten South African MG enthusiasts in six MG cars; two midgets, three MGB GT’s, two of which were V8 versions, and one MG TF. What they may not realise is that the round trip for most of those people was over three thousand miles each. To me, that is truly the mark of friendship that is always proffered by the members of the MG Car Club.
The welcome group was headed by Bruce Henderson, Chairman of South Cape MG Car Club, in a MG Midget and consisted of Ricky Cooper (MG Midget), Kevin and Jenny Loader (MG TF), Rob and Theresa Mercer-Tod (MGB GT), Stewart and Thelma Cummings (MGB GT V8), Alan Uzzel and Tony Escott-Watson (MGB GTG V8).
We made our way, first to the Felix Unite lodge on the Orange River and then via the border crossing to Clanwilliam in South Africa and on to Cape Town. Nigel and Joan Stokes met up with us in Cape Town; Nigel having driven from London to Cape Town over an eleven month period in 1970, in his MG Midget which he arrived in to meet me.
The following day we met-up with the Cape Town MG Car Club, led by Joan Parker the President, at the Crankhandle Club house. Several of the welcome group showed me around the Cape Town area including a run to Cape Point, the most southerly point of the Cape Peninsula. We were joined in Cape Town by Norman Ewing, President of the South African MG Car Clubs, who flew over from Johannesburg.
From Cape Town, the official end of the Odyssey run, we drove to Knysna, some five hundred kilometres east. Knysna is situated in a most beautiful coastal location on the Indian Ocean with mountains and hills bounding the land side. Although the population is only forty thousand, classic cars abound, with many Jaguars, Austin Healeys and MG’s. Knysna is the home of the MG Car Club South Cape and I was invited to their Christmas party. It was just the occasion I had hoped would occur, offering me the opportunity to present a commemorative plaque, from the MGCC UK, marking the African Odyssey run, to Bruce Henderson.
From Knysna we drove the last leg to Port Elizabeth where I would hand over Bridget to the safe keeping of a shipping agent until she could be loaded onto a ship bound for the UK. Bruce handed me over to the safe keeping of Terry Estment, Chairman of Port Elizabeth MG Car Club. Once again the MG marque of friendship was in action, offering me a nights rest in a place of safety. Several members of the club’s committee came to dinner that evening to make me feel at home.
The next morning, Terry dropped me at the airport and I caught the plane home. In a very short period of time I had come to enjoy the South African life style and climate.
Bridget and I had driven over eleven thousand miles through forteen countries. Since buying her in 2006, I had now driven Bridget in thirty-eight different countries and she has given her all in the effort. Bridget will need a complete re-build when she returns, from her floor panels to her rubber bumpers. Every panel will need to be removed, cleaned and if re-usable, re-sprayed.
With regard to myself, I need to recharge my batteries before considering the future options. I have learnt some important lessons on this journey; to travel alone, not to commit to timescale restricting appointments. I still have the urge to know what is on the other side of the next hill. I enter into these challenges with the understanding that in certain conditions I may have to abandon Bridget and return home alone, but this didn’t happen this time and so we were lucky.
I was deeply impressed by the work that CoCo is doing in Songea, Tanzania and how we could make a major difference to that community, with very little effort, and so I will be attempting to make that difference.
During 2012 I will rebuild Bridget and together we will do some local runs around Europe preparing for another longer adventure, possibly in 2013.
Finally, I want to put on record my gratitude and thanks to my sponsors Moss Europe and Scorpion Signs, to CMC LandRover in Nairobi who made repairing Bridget in Kenya possible, to the MG Car Clubs in South Africa and at Kimber House. I also want to thank those that have given so generously to CoCo just because we asked them. Most importantly I want to thank my family and close friends who put up with all the rubbish surrounding these escapades just because I want to do them.
Arriving in Kongola mid-afternoon I saw several signs for lodges but for some reason wasn’t particularly drawn to them. Just as I was about to turn around and retrace my steps through the town I spied another sign for a lodge some two kilometres further on. I drove along and turned off onto a dirt road following the lodge signs. A further two kilometres down the dirt road and I came to a collection of crude buildings, a sign stating ‘Car Park’ and what looked like a gateway. I was just about to squeeze past the gateway when someone called out. I asked which way the lodge was and he said to take my bags out of the car and put them by realised how fortunate it was that I hadn’t squeezed past the gateway, for there was the river. Being so low down I wasn’t able to see the water from inside the car!
This was the entrance to the Mazambala Island Lodge and as the name implies it is located on an island. A boat was summoned and I was transported to the lodge where I was met on the landing stage by the Assistant General Manager. He explained the safety rules regarding walking around at night and showed me to my cabin. At dinner, in the evening, were a party of guests that had seen Bridget in the garage and chatted to me about travel adventures. The lodge is a film-set piece of Africa with the classic veranda, safari bar, viewing platform and accommodation cabins. I was expecting Rod Hunter or Deborah Kerr to appear at any moment.
My plan for the next day was for a relatively short drive to Rundu, and so I decided to take a boat safari in the morning, before breakfast, and explore the marsh. During the dry season elephants come to the banks to drink and only three weeks earlier there was a leopard nearby. They explained that with the start of the wet season the elephants were unlikely to return as their waterholes would be full, but other wildlife would be about.
As it transpired there were some small Nile crocs, about although I didn’t manage to catch any on film. I did catch hippo, antelope and many great bird species. I had breakfast on my return and left the lodge later than planned, but very happy.
Bridget and I travelled on to Rundu, Namibia, a distance of two hundred and thirty miles. Bridget was still travelling well despite her ordeals, but on stopping at a hotel in Rundu I decided to check under the bonnet because she appeared to be suffering some engine vibration. I found that the nearside front engine mounting was breaking up. I also checked the front tyres and discovered that they were wearing badly, probably due to the track rod ends being damaged. I changed the front wheels with the back ones and hoped that they would last to Cape Town.
Leaving early the following day we set off for Windhoek, capital city of Namibia. It rained heavily for the first hour then remained cloudy for much of the day. Bridget’s damaged under side seemed to scoop up much of the rain and through it into the boot soaking everything, but at least the temperature remained bearable for the rest of the day. Windhoek was a drive of some four hundred and fifty miles which we completed in eight hours.
Windhoek is a small city by most capital city standards, but with a couple of reasonable international hotels and lots of parking meters!
In the morning we set off for Grunau, four hundred miles south of Windhoek. The plan was that, if we made it, we would meet up with the enthusiasts from South Africa. We arrived by 15:00 having stopped at a café for a piece of carrot cake and coffee, and we were still ahead of our friends who started arriving around 16:00. Having covered the best part of one thousand miles in the past three days, Bridget was working well.
The South Africans started to drift in from around 16:00, but had not had a particularly good journey. There were two Midgets, two MGB V8’s, one MGB GT and one MG TF, only the TF had problems with a ‘T’ piece hose that had fractured. They eventually arrived some six hours after the lead car, but were very philosophical about their misfortune. They gave me a terrific welcome and a somewhat needed lift in spirits.
I was considerably more relaxed the next day when we took a leisurely drive down to the border with South Africa and to a town called Noordoewer on The Orange River. Here we booked into an excellent lodge to spend a restful day watching nature and drinking the odd beer or two.
The crossing into South Africa was the easiest and quickest border crossing of the entire journey, discounting Europe of course. Once through the border we drove to Clanwilliam, some two hundred and eighty miles away, in temperatures reaching fifty degrees Celsius. That evening the day’s temperatures were the topic of much of the conversation including how well the cars had coped, although Bridget had been overheating climbing many of the hills. Nobody foresaw the problems that were to occur the next day on route to Cape Town. The day started with Ricky’s midget misfiring which eventually turned out to be down to a broken head gasket. Bridget ended up towing him to a service station where a breakdown truck was able to take over.
Then Bruce’s midget ran dry of water and needed to be towed by one of the V8’s until the engine cooled enough to be restarted, after we refilled the radiator. The problem turned out to be a small leak that only happened when under pressure if Bruce exceeded fifty miles per hour.
In spite of the incidents we made it to Cape Town, stopping on route for the obligatory photographs at Bloubergrant, taken by Bruce’s son, Ian.
Once again, against the odds, Bridget had delivered me safely to my destination. I have very mixed emotions about the whole odyssey, which is normal at this stage. There is elation at having arrived, sorrow at it being over and relief that I don’t have to consider the next day’s route. I have previously found that it takes a couple of weeks before being able to rationally sum up the whole thing, but I will post a closing journal shortly.
After leaving Songea I overnighted at Mbeya ready to cross the border into Zambia early the next day and then drive to Mpika, a distance of some two hundred and fifty miles. It rained from early evening all through the night and was still raining the next morning. This was to become something of a habit over the next week.
I got up at six o’clock the next day, in darkness because of an electricity outage, washed and packed the car. Leaving at six-thirty as dawn broke; we motored up to the border only to find that it wasn’t open until seven-thirty African time, which meant shortly after eight o’clock. Fortunately we were processed through Tanzanian immigration and customs in a little over half an hour and made our way to Zambian immigration. They appeared very efficient and stamped my entry visa within minutes of our arrival; I thought at last we had found a border control that knew what they were doing.
The first customs officer I met quickly stamped Bridget’s carnet but then said I would have to go and purchase a carbon tax certificate, pay a road toll and pay a local council levy before returning to finalise the carnet process. Paying the carbon tax and getting the certificate was simple and fast but then I went to the location of the Department of Transport and Safety to pay a road toll. There was a notice explaining that the toll was not a tax, but a charge for using the road. However the office wasn’t open and would not be open until nine o’clock! Nine o’clock turned out to be nine-thirty and then they declared that they wouldn’t process any payment until they had cleaned their office and sorted out some files and stationary. So myself and some thirty other soles were kept waiting while they did this and then they took our money. By the time I had paid the local council levy and got Bridget’s carnet completed we had been at the border post for over four hours!
If we were to have any chance of keeping the rendezvous with the South Africans we had some serious motoring to do. I had already scrubbed out all the rest-days bar the one at Victoria Falls and now I decided that we would go from Mpika to Livingstone in two days rather than three. The town of Kabwe appeared to be the mid-point and so that is where we headed early next day, arriving around one o’clock in the afternoon. I found Tuskers Hotel in the centre of town and visited Barclays Bank to use their ATM machine shortly after. I have never seen such a long queue for an ATM as there was here. The cause appeared to be that it was the only working ATM in town and being a Saturday the banks had closed at twelve-thirty. Barclays have no reason to be proud that it had the only working machine in town, as they had two machines but only one worked.
Kabwe reminded me much of some of the ‘colonial’ towns of northern Australia, almost entirely made up of wooden, single storey buildings.
The following morning, early again as the temperature is much cooler for the first couple of hours making things easier for Bridget, we headed off to Livingstone. Generally speaking the roads in Zambia were proving a lot better than in the two previous countries although they still provided some un-marked speed humps. I was taking things decidedly easy as just one more un-noticed bump or pot-hole could finish off Bridget for good. It is surprisingly tiring, driving and having to continually scan the road surface ahead ensuring that you stay alert the whole time. On arriving in Livingstone, and having completed almost nine thousand miles of the journey, I decided to treat myself to a little luxury and stayed at the Zambezi Sun hotel.
The hotel was good, but the setting was excellent. There are two hotels in the same grounds, both owned by the same organisation. A three minute walk from my room and I was gazing at the Victoria Falls. The dry season had only just finished, two days earlier according to my experience, and I was warned that the falls were almost empty. Everything is relative, and the falls were still spectacular. I even think they may be better this way because so much more of the cliff is clearly visible as opposed to just sheets of water.
As well as the falls the bird life is interesting and there are zebra, giraffe and monkeys in the area some of whom stroll around the hotel grounds. The Royal Livingston Hotel has an outdoor stage area with a bar where you can sit and watch the sun go down and occasionally the nearby shore is visited by hippos. A full rest day here was very good.
Once again the plan had been to cross the border into Namibia and drive into the first town, Katima Mulilo, which allowed plenty of time for immigration and customs procedures, however this time the crossing took a mere forty minutes. I now had time to spare so a quick look at the map and I decided to drive further on to a town called Kongola. According to the map there were some lodges there where I should be able to get a room for the night and then the following day’s drive would be a mere two hundred and eighty miles. This would be followed by a couple of long days covering some nine hundred miles arriving right on time to meet my friends from SA.
The drive from Morogoro to Songea was fascinating and I dearly wish that I had more time to spend in the area. Shortly after leaving Morogoro, with its lovely mountain scenery, we entered Mikumi National Park. Our route took us some thirty miles across this park and even though I needed to get on I still saw hundreds of Thompson Gazelles and numerous giraffe.
From the far park gate to the turning for Songea the scenery was really interesting, lush, green, several hill ranges and mile after mile of grasslands. The small round bushes that festoon the Massi Mara remind me of the wool balls that appear on a badly washed jumper.
The final one hundred and fifty miles from Mikambo to Songea were truly beautiful, and the first one hundred of them have to go in the book of ‘roads I must drive my MG on before I die’ However the state of the road deteriorated into potholes and some sections with the surface tarred and gravelled, but the potholes were not filled first, so what you got was camouflaged potholes. We arrived in Songea just on 18:00, smack on schedule for once.
I checked into the hotel and waited for Oswin, Coco’s man on the spot. He arrived just as I was starting into my first Tusker beer. He filled me in on the following days schedule and also broke the news to me that the models cars, so generously donated for the children, by Rob Gammage, have been stolen. I was gutted, but fortunately the children didn’t know about them and so will not miss them.
Primary education in Tanzania is available to all children from the government, secondary education however, is generally inaccessible unless the child is particularly academic, or from wealthy parents that can send them to private schools. Coco support a primary school that was originally built by the community, but which the government wouldn’t staff. With Coco’s support the school started operating in 2006 and now has some 180 pupils. The first of my photos in the CoCo Songea picture gallery is of some of those pupils that were due to take their final National Exam the next week. Failure at this stage can condemn a child to a lifetime of poverty because they will be unable to get a secondary education. Those in the photo have been receiving Coco sponsored tutoring to assist them through this stage. Pass results have gone from the around 20% to 90+%.
Coco also runs a secondary school with over a hundred pupils and also vocational training courses. Photo 2 shows the main school building on the left and an extension on the right. The extension has been built by some of pupils studying a building course. They are unable to complete the project currently as they don’t have the cost of the roofing materials, plaster or paint.
Photo 3 shows the woodwork classroom where the pupils make doors, window frames, desks and chairs, as well as carrying out repairs and maintenance of the school. The 4th photo is of the tailoring classroom where they make soft furnishings for the school and all of the uniforms.
My 5th photo shows some 30 pupils who despite it being their annual holiday stayed at school for an extra day just to welcome me as their guest. I also persuaded the staff to join in the shoot.
A shot of the schools science lab demonstrates the minimal equipment that they currently have to teach physics, biology and chemistry. The final photo is of ‘Oliver’s House’ where some of the resident pupils sleep. This house and the surrounding ground was bought and given to the school by Sue and Chris Vernon following the tragic death of their son in a road accident in Africa.
As well as schooling, Coco run a micro financing program in the community and adult education services particularly centering on malaria and HIV Aids. Finally, they also run a highly successful agricultural program teaching the community how to grow crops without industrial fertilizers, etc. This year the community sold over twenty tons of maize, a feat never previously achieved.
I only spent one day in Songea and it really wasn’t anything like enough, but Bridget and I have to press on. We drove from Songea up to Mbeya not far from the Zambian border which would lead us into our next country.
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.
The plan is to drive down to Moshi, Tanzania in the morning after I have done some last minute checks on Bridget’s repairs. I have replaced her fuel tank, fuel line, brake line, rear shock absorbers, front disc pads and a few cosmetic items (most important as any woman will tell you). There is a picture in the Gallery under the heading Nairobi, of Bridget with her new windscreen. When we return to the UK she will need several replacement panels and a re-spray. So I am taking applications from spraying specialists wishing to secure the prestigous contract for spraying Bridget in her new corporate colours (details currently not disclosed).
As well as the picture of Bridget, there are some photos of Marabou Storks, a truely pre-historic bird, not unlike my cousin!! There is a colony, if that is the right word, of these birds in the area surrounding CMC Motors Group in Lusaka Road, Nairobi. Standing at a height of three feet six inches with its neck distended (the stork that is), it has a wingspan of around eight feet. It’s bill, or beak, is approxiamtely eighteen inches long. Perhaps a twitcher, not a tweeter, will enlighten me to the difference between a bill and a beak.
As I am checking out from my hotel tomorrow, it is necessary to empty the room fridge comprising almost entirely of ‘Tuskers’. When I say almost entirely I actually mean entirely. Therefore please excuse any excess of spelling mistakes, and rude comments particularly about anyone remotely resembling my lovely cousin.
With Bridget, willing and able, we are hoping to make Songea (approx.one thousand miles) by late afternoon on Monday. This town is important as it is the location of one of Coco’s projects and I will be blatently asking you for money. All the Bridget voyeurs around the world will be asked to donate via the Just Giving page at least a tenner (GB£’s not dinar or shillings, etc.)
From here on, communication is expected to become more sporadic and so I will communicate as and when I am able.
Putting motoring matters aside, what is Kenya like? My first impressions, given the location of my entry, were understandably of rural Kenya. The north of the country is eighty percent plains where you can literally see for miles. The landscape is splattered with bushes but few trees; most of the bushes appeared to be covered in very sharp thorns and the trees that do grow resemble mushrooms with flat top foliage, often no more than fifteen feet tall.
The hills and mountains at the edges of the plains are mostly barren at the top, very craggy, with some vegetation at the base. Rarely are there any trees.
The rural population still includes many very traditional tribesmen looking quite ferocious in their colourful dress. They carry traditional tools and weapons and presumably hunt and forage as their forefathers would have done. Mixed with these are the villagers that are scratching out a living by growing their own produce, keeping a few head of cattle, sheep or goats and living in traditional round mud and stick huts, or oblong mud huts with corrugated iron roofs. Most of these inhabitants wear western clothing, with the males particularly keen on replica football shirts in particular those of English teams. In most villages there is the obligatory satellite dish delivering television although often powered by solar panels or occasionally a generator. Many huts only have hurricane lamps that give the village a fairy light appearance at night.
The other notable natural phenomenon is the night sky. As there is little or no light pollution from nearby towns or cities the various celestial bodies are far brighter than anywhere in Europe which also means that there appears to be many more stars than can be seen certainly from Britain. It also enables the observer to see shooting stars, etc. very commonly.
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya and in common with all capital cities is not representative of the rest of the country. Also in common with most capitals there are several different lifestyles largely as a result of income. It is particularly notable in Nairobi however because the span of difference is greater than in most countries that I have visited. The poorest live in conditions that are only slightly modified from the tribal lifestyle described in the preceding paragraphs. There is a large middle ‘class’ of people that have poor grade housing, second hand vehicles and a taste for modern gadgets such as mobile phones, computers, the internet, organised sport and nightlife. Then there are the thoroughly modern, progressive, business orientated individuals, who are well educated and fully conversant with modern living and business methods. These are generally highly successful, with high quality housing, house keepers and drivers and all the accessories of modern life.
The city obviously reflects the lifestyles with the centre having ultra-modern buildings as well as some colonial style government buildings. The roads are smooth, paved ways some being dual carriageway style. Then there are suburbs with relatively modern buildings, but a little run down, with no paved roads so that there are large potholes that fill with water every time it rains. This causes quagmires everywhere.
There are large estates of blocks of flats that look as if they were government sponsored and are quite squalid. Finally, there are the slums that require no further description.
The divisions clearly affect the way people behave. Kenyans are, I believe, a naturally friendly race, but deprivation creates pressures that drive some to unattractive practises. In many ways similar to the behaviour of a lot of Egyptians, Kenyans will try anything to make a ‘shilling’, although not as ‘full-on’ as in Egypt it soon becomes evident to all, that what they want is your money. Begging is common and often blatant with just a simple request of “Give me money”
Such behaviour is not universal, and when absent, the people really are warm and friendly.