Tuesday, January 29, 2013

That oughta do it

I lamented to Mik via Viber, that the road trip I had been looking forward to was dreadfully uneventful. I've been in town the last few days and couldn't hitch a ride on an airplane cuz none were going to Khwai. That place can be reached via tarmac/cal-crete/trail so World Headquarters gave me a Land Cruiser truck and some deliciously vague directions.

Sam and I loaded a few drums of Jet-A into the back(the weight helps add traction for water crossings but hinders in the deep sand) and I headed north-eastish.

I'd been warned that the men manning the Buffalo Fence(a proper Big-Five barrier designed to keep wild animals separated from the domestics) would likely search the vehicle, demand to see my papers, and generally give me a hard time. But it was hot. They barely lifted their arms to wave when I zipped through.

Thalpi(his name tag reads, "Rock," for the tourists) waited at the bridge to guide me in the rest of the way. I knew from my time flying over the area that we had several water crossing ahead, and I wondered if the after-market snorkel would be needed to keep the engine running. Alas, it was not to be. We easily made it to camp just as the sun kissed the horizon.

I did my scenic flight and thought that I would do a longer one the next day but the Canadians changed their minds. Thanks again, Canada. I loaded the truck with empty fuel drums to take back to Maun and gave the windscreen a rinse. I offered to do the same for Mary's (local school teacher/nature lover/all around self-sufficient badass. She spent Christmas break in the heart of the Kalahari by herself, which she prefers but a student had given her a bed night in the lodge so she offered to show me some different trails on the way back) truck while she finished her coffee.

The engine caught and sputtered enough times that I figured Mary must have a trick for coaxing the '85 to life. But Mary couldn't get it started either. "I think it's the accelerator," said Mary. I had noticed that the pedal stayed pegged to the medal but I just thought it must be part of the charm of her zombie apocalypse vehicle.

I lay on my back and tugged on the cable leading from the accelerator. I got up, brushed off about a third of the sand that stuck to my clothing and asked Mary to pop the hood. I found the carb and saw two cables attached to it. I wasn't yet at the edge of my mechanical knowledge but I could see it from where I stood.

"Mary, give that cable by the gas pedal a tug so I can see which one does what." She did. A plastic doohickey hung snap-fitted to the end of the top cable but wasn't attached to anything else. I popped it off and saw the fresh break. Judging by how the rest of the crack had faded, the watchamacallit had been hanging by a thread for some time.

I found where the other end of the thingamabob should have been and asked Mary if she had any zip ties. Of course she did. I attached the two ends with the cable tie and Mary cranked it over. The cable tie may have kept the throttle open just a bit too far cuz when Mary let out the clutch, the truck leapt like a crazed stallion. "It's fine, Shane, better to have too much than not enough." I'm sure she'll have the mechanic adjust it when she has him fix her brakes, which brings us to part two of our series on bush mechanics.

Luigi moved with his father from Argentina when he was eight. About the time he turned fourteen, his dad said they were moving back. Luigi said go ahead, but I'm staying. Luigi is a bon vivant and a madman.

The brakes on his truck failed half-way between here and Kasane. That didn't bother him one bit until it was time to back the boat down the launch. He debated hooking another truck up to his to act as the brakes but decided that finding a truck big enough to do the job was too much of a hassle. So we're standing by the boat launch cracking beers, hoping that will give us some enlightenment as to how to get that boat the last ten meters so we can get onto the water.

Luigi disappears into the house nearest the boat launch and comes out with a jug of cooking oil. He fills the master cylinder and has one of us pump while he bleeds the lines. The brake pressure comes back, Luigi says, "I prefer olive oil but if you're gonna spend that much, you might as well use brake fluid," and we hit the river.

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