Saturday 2nd May 09 Durban

Today I buy info maps. These are maps with tracks 4x4s can drive with occasional waypoints listed for important intersections. I will use this for my planning. I have a good idea of where I am going to head when I make a move. I pick up a few bits and pieces from the Windermere centre which is the local shopping centre and do quite a bit to getting my vehicle back to a semi-organised state for living in moving the jerry cans around and placing the bedding bag on the roof under the larger tent cover. I also spend some time on the internet getting planning information and top up the fluids.

Sunday 3rd May 09 The Bluff

I plan to leave today to head across to the Bluff and meet up with the others before they all part ways. I have a few things to do and while I am doing them am invited to join the crowd here for the big showbiz braai (BBQ) that Darren and Paul are having. I pop to the shops to get some meat but no drink as I will be driving later. It seems that the South Africans don’t seem to bother about drink driving. I must remember to be doubly vigilant later. The party is fun and I meet some really nice people. One who is a great contact to make is Ian Pardy. He has a workshop that he is happy for me to use for my oil change service that I was going to do before I leave Durban. Another couple let me follow them across to the Bluff so I don’t get lost and so wishing farewell and thank you to Darren and Paul I head off to meet the others. I arrive while they are having food and I sit and listen to the conversation while they eat. There has to be a joke in this next bit but I haven’t thought of it yet. There are some noisy bats here…………..

Monday 4th May 09 The Bluff

Today I just take a bit of a drive out to Umhlanga (umshlanga in pronunciation) and have a look around. It is a nice day and I have a good wander struggling once more with peoples difficulties in understanding me. I go into a foreign exchange place and ask if the rate they show includes commission. The guy says yes so I ask to change money. The amount he wants to give me is significantly less than the amount I calculate and so I tell him this. He says ‘oh that is the commission charges’. It seems like people don’t listen to the whole sentence and only hear the question they are expecting. It does make for a frustration time of it. Nothing spectacular to report other than today’s purchase, a Wildcard. This is a card which gives you access to almost all the game parks in South Africa for up to a year. It costs R940 for an individual international visitor and is potentially a huge saving as a single day admission to one park is usually around R140. Well worth it and there is also a family card for R2200. The highlight of the day is when I am back for the evening meal the others have clubbed together and got me a birthday cake which we have early as it is my birthday on Friday. There is also a card which I can’t possibly describe on a family viewing website and a present of an elephant which is to keep my other one company and appear in various photos along the way. I start them off by wearing it as a hat. It is Marc and family’s last night with us as they head off tomorrow so the 3 guys (Henri and Jurg don’t join us) head off to the camp bar for a quiet drink as I gather it has been noisy over the weekend.

Birthday party

Tuesday 5th May 09 Phoenix

Marc is leaving today, the first of the massed container travellers to break away. This is good as it will push everyone else on. I am heading off this morning to take advantage of a workshop facility I have been offered use of to do a service. I change the air filter before I leave and this proves to be a mistake. I have breakfast and say farewell for now to the family. Heading off to an area called Phoenix I hear a horrid noise from the car as I accelerate on an on-ramp. I immediately pull over. I look underneath and nothing appears wrong. I am drawn to this area as the noise goes away when I pull to a halt. This leads me initially to the wrong diagnosis. I pull away and the noise has gone. I mention this to Stephen when I get to the workshop. It is a place called Mandarin Motors. They import minibuses for use as taxis and send them out through Africa. This is the commissioning centre and workshop and I am allowed to use one of the bays to work.

I meet Stephen who is my contact here and he introduces me to a couple of guys who will help if I need anything. I get on and do an oil change and fuel filter change then in case it is the UJ which had the grease nipple broken causing the noise earlier I ask Stephen to take a look. He shows me how to check UJ’s and there is indeed a bit of play. I decide to change both on that prop as then I am sure of how long each UJ has been on the entire drivetrain.

On the way back to the campsite I am still getting a nasty noise but intermittently. The turbo seems more whistling in sound than usual and there is an occasional tinny clunking noise particularly if I rev . I arrive back at the campsite and am not really in the most chirpy of moods for the evening. After the meal Kevin and I head to the bar attached to the site and have a beer marvelling at the diversity of talent that is performing karaoke. I get the number and address of the place Marie-Estelle and Henri have used for their power steering pump and then it is off to bed.

Big noise on way

Wednesday 6th May 09 Minor disaster

I am up and packed early having said goodbye last night to Jurg, Erica, Henri & Marie-Estelle who are all leaving today but they are all up as well and I say goodbye once more and head into Durban. I call at The Centre on Milne St (031-3378521) who are Landrover and Jaguar specialists run by Paul. They have a listen as I am able to replicate the noise by revving highly and they are convinced it is a turbo issue. Taking the intake pipe off they feel into the turbo and declare play in the shaft which could be causing the fans to hit the housing. Oh dear, this is not the sort of birthday present I had in mind. It is going to cost as I find out as soon as they take off the turbo. It is badly chewed and looks like the casing is damaged. The fins are chewed up as well. Looking into the intake pipe I see the culprit, a BIG washer which is steel. I am puzzled then remember the air filter change. I couldn’t find a washer in the box and assumed there wasn’t one. It must have been caught in the papers of the filter. Note of warning to you all to check this as it is a hugely costly mistake especially given my limited financial means.

I call my friend Paul and am soon on my way back up to their place while I wait to hear what the Turbo people say about chances of being reconditioned.

Thursday 7th May 09 The waiting game

I am up quite early in order to hustle the Landrover people along to at least giving me a price. I am not hopeful about my unit being serviceable but we must wait and see. I called Stephen to see if they know a possible source for a turbo if I need one and when I ring the guy it turns out to be the chap who has my existing turbo. It is dead. We talk money and I decide that if I am putting a turbo on I have to go new as I can’t guarantee the integrity of any that may be sitting round in a scrap yard and finding one will eat more and more into my time here. Mine cannot be offered for exchange as the casing is also dead. This is a big blow but I have saved over the trip by doing some work myself. The turbo man makes me feel a little better implying that the turbo was getting on a bit and probably had the start of a fault before the washer chewed it to death. This is not the best news I have ever had but you just have to roll with the punches.

I now have to work out how to pay the Mark of Turbo Exchange and Sentinal (031 902 5977) for the unit as he is a wholesaler and doesn’t have VISA facilities.

This proves tricky as I go to use my Maestro card and get no joy. I try all sorts of options on the machine but t no avail. I call the help-line and find the fraud people have been notified because of unusual activity which is what I just caused. The block is lifted and I make a withdrawal. I have to do the same again tomorrow as I can only take out part of the sum I need.

Sorry but no witty funny stories today as the mood is down ready for my 45th birthday tomorrow. (I still think I’m 25).

Friday 8th May 09 Happy Birthday to me.

Up early again and have to try and work out what the plan is particularly for getting the car part paid for and getting my Landrover back on the road. I have to wait till the banks open at home to see how much the transaction yesterday cost me. I have already had my present from my Mum which is the sandals I will be using out here when I don’t use my boots. Stephanie has paid for (or will do when my credit card bill comes) my InfoMap set which is a set of maps which shows most of the driveable tracks in various regions I will be travelling to. It is also a day to get the rest of the money out to pay for the turbo exchange and so I head down to the cash machine.

At 3.30 I get a call to say the Landrover is ready and so I head down and collect it. After dinner it is out for a couple of quiet drinks and then a half successful Skype session with the signal dropping out quite often. Oh well, at least I got to speak to Stephanie for a while.

Some e-mails have come through which will make the weekend interesting but I’ll fill you in on that later.