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Departure of JoLon Imp 2013

April 5, 2013

Thursday 13h30 Geoff and I said our goodbyes to our adorable families and commenced our blindness banishing Rhino saving journey from Johannesburg to London. Plain sailing it certainly was not. As the car was to the hilt packed and the two of us climbed into our respective comfortable Ford Fiesta seats and drove slowly out of the driveway to begin the long haul Janice, Geoff’s wife noticed some fluid dripping generously out of the front of the car! Ooops, so the first repair was affected within spitting distance of my front door! We found the breather pipe of the petrol tank was leaking so we cut and not pasted but cut and re-joined the errant fuel hose to the breather pipe. Add to this the fact that the tank filler cap was also hard and seriously suspect so we had further fuel loss here. In fact three days into our trip we are still learning the idiosyncrasy of the little Imp; the fuel breathers were one incestuous little mess the way I had put them together when installing the twin tanks and it took two days of fuel overflowing days to figure out how to overcome this particular problem.  Now at the Victoria Falls in Zambia we feel we have sorted the problem out. But more about that later.

Our first fire baptism was the inordinately heavy traffic on the Pietersburg highway north of Pretoria, all the ZCC faithful on their happy way to the largest Christian gathering in Moria. Add to this that at every single police control our little Imp was stopped, only of course for the police to admire our vehicle and ask questions about our trip.

Well we breathed a quiet sigh of relief as we branched off the main highway and turned towards Moli molie on a quieter road.    Our happiness with the quieter road was soon turned to shock disappointment when the car suddenly started losing power, eventually failing completely. In desperation we flicked the fuel pump switch of the second tank and hey presto, the car kicked back into life again. Relieved we carried on but holding our breath nonetheless.

Now the days building up to our actual departure from Johannesburg was an extremely stressful time leaving both of us rather ragged and damn close to exhausted but we stuck to our guns nonetheless. The main cause of our massive anxiety was the inordinate delays in obtaining visas for the various countries we planned travelling through. On Tuesday the agency that we had entrusted to facilitate our visa acquisitions contacted us to say our visas for

Ethiopia were not being granted as the Ethiopians needed this doc commissioner of oaths confirmed, others signed off in blood and so on and so fifth! Geoff and I decided to rather take back control of our destiny in respect of our visas and on Wednesday as sparows we converged at the offices of our agency in Pretoria and claimed back our passports and went to the Ethiopian Embassy ourselves. It took only five hours and we both had visas granted for Ethiopia. This of course had now robbed us of precious time away from our preparations of the car and our equipment. Nevertheless we now had all but the Sudanese visas which we were informed we would be able to get them in Nairobi in just one day.

So back to the road trip itself; along the route we happened to meet up with some fellow Historic Single Seater Car racers and lots of people enquiring about our car and the trip we were undertaking. Arrived just as darkness fell in Ellisras and topped up the fuel tanks and decided that we should take a run to the Botswana border at Martins Drift. Well driving at night was always going to be risky due to possible potholes and the ever present danger of whacking a buck of some domestic animals around one bend or another. So good lights were a prerequisite and in this regard we were well away with good quality headlights supported by two modern and very effective spotlights. We this was all going well until all of a sardine we found ourselves pummelling along in complete darkness with again the engine having failed……. What now? Well the extra spotlights were too much for the 40 Amp fuse we had installed. So out we hop armed with the incredibly effective Streamlight Knucklehead and within minutes we were on the road again. Weary but deep down happy we arrived at the Botswana border post expecting to be delayed for at least one full hour to clear both the South African side and the Botswana formalities. What lay in store for us was nothing short of a nightmare. Armed with Job like patience and good manners we stood in the massive queues waiting our turn to be attended to. Well we were upset of course when people jumped the queue but we kept our clam nonetheless. We kept our cool the entire time, THE ENTIRE FIVE HOURS!

In fact the queue of about 3 or four wide stretching for hundreds of people out of the immigration hall was orderly at first but as the weight of numbers grew and the effectiveness of the Botswana border officials seemed to wane so the impatient crowd became more unruly demanding a faster service. Their ire was directed to the single policeman who was manning the entrance door and we could see that he was starting to lose the battle. From our side, we had progressed from about position 80 or 90 to being 20 or so in the line but then it all went pearshaped with the line of three or four wide collapsed to a massive 12 to 15 wide milling crowd shouting and screaming for the lone cop to allow them to enter the immigration hall. To this the completely ineffectual copper glibly suggested that we simply fall back in line of two wide and then he would begin to again allow people to entre to have their papers sorted. Now picture the scene, hundreds if not thousands had broken rank out of sheer desperation and were swelling across the entire width of the passageway, what chance was there of an orderly line being formed again, and who would be the first to go to the back of this particular line and how many more hours would it then take for them to get through the border. What a mess it really was. Both Geoff and I were squashed mercilessly in this angry throng that was jostling and shoving in an attempt to get through to the immigration officials. In spite of the obvious danger we gritted it out and in fact weaselled our way to finally gain access to the immigration hall. In fact as we entered I could hear the angry crowd outside complaining about the ‘Mlungu’ – the white men who had been granted access. Well shocked but the blatant bad manner behaviour of the crowds and totally exhausted we slowly drove out and away from the dreaded Martin’s Drift border post.

Within minutes we had found the nearby campsite and had our tent erected and before the dust settled we were both asleep! We were asleep for a full FOUR HOURS before we again leapt to our feet and packed up our tent kit, paid for the camping and drove into Botswana.

 

I was in no shape to drive and Geoff took up the reins and managed to whole day’s driving; we managed to get as far as Nata where we set up camp at the Nata Lodge and at sundown we managed to jump into the lukewarm water of the spotless swimming pool before tucking into a fine dinner and off to bed for a full and uninterrupted sleep in very pleasant surroundings.

Up bright and early and things were looking much better for the day ahead. With the little Imp loaded up again we mosied off and onto the road that runs through the Chobe National Park where we were treated to numerous sightings of elephants and other wildlife right next to the road or even crossing it.

But our day also had a small botheration in that the top petrol tank fuel pump failed so we set about sorting the problem out and even at the early stage of the days heat the petrol tank had begun to swell up with the heat that was being generated by the front mounted radiator and when I blew into the breather tank there must have been a blockage that had cleared and the fuel, now lukewarm squirt blasted out and went straight into my eye!! Now with my thumb holding the breather pipe closed to prevent the fuel from pouring out and my other hand trying to comfort my stinging eye and shouting to Geoff to GET THE EYE DROPS QUICK! He first thrust a bottle of cold water into my eye comforting hand and with the smarting in my eye becoming unbearable I let the fuel overflow do exactly that, overflow, I set about doctoring my eye with the water and holding my eye open I poured the water generously into the open eye and washed out the 95 octane and the applied a few eyedrops and within minutes I was fixed up and back on track. But not our fuel pump was not working properly!

 

Another day, another border crossing this time with an irritation of another sort; hordes of forex toters hassle and hound you and make you feel jolly uncomfortable and even vulnerable, certainly not welcome in Zambia. The Zambian government would do well to ban all these rubbish hasslers out of the immigration areas much like the municipalities do in Johannesburg where the toters are welcome to try to garner business outside the gates of the municipalities but not inside the gates.

 

 Tonight Sat 30th March we set up camp on the banks of the great Zambesi River and tomorrow morning we will take a walk past the Vic falls.

We have now arrived in Lusaka and are staying in my niece’s home in Lusaka  and tomorrow morning we hit the great north road to Tanzania.

Well what a welcome we received at Mary-Anne’s home where her whole family fussed over us from our arrival until we departed the next marooning. Mary-Anne you and your family set us up perfectly for our arduous journey, a million thanks!

 

(it has taken us until arusha in north Tanzania to get to an internet so the photos we will upload later.)

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