Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dead Hippo

I had just sat down. It had been a long day, but not a hectic one. Up at 5am to help with breakfast, driving to camp we stopped at a bushman camp that was pretty cool, took some notes for next years tour. Got to the Bots/Namibia border where I dropped and walked accross while Shanny took the vehicle back to do a refreshment stop for the riders at 140 km (it was a 207km day). This was one of the easier border crossings of the tour. Good thing because I would wind up crossing 3 times today.

Camp was just 200 meters on teh Namibian side of the border. The dinner truck arrived and we set up the kitchen, made soup fo the riders (carrot and onion) and started prepping for dinner. Tonight was spaghetti Bolognese (24kgs pasta, 13kgs ground beef, 8 kgs carrots 8 kgs onion, 11 loaves of bread and 2 tubs of margaine). It's one of the easier dishes we make and a rider favorite. As the tour progresses and the kitchen staff get more weary we have been serving spag bol more and more, it's hard to be creative every night. Staff apathy is slowly growing. It's a long trip and the teh routines get old sometimes. I'm in need of a few days off myself and may take some time off to hike Fish River Canyon in Southern Namibia.

Anyway. About 3 pm I finshed helping in the kitchen and sat down with an attendance sheet, sat phone and a book (Pillars of Earth by Ken Follet - about the building of a Cathedral) to wait for the riders to come in. The first group of riders showed up 15 minutes later. Full of energy and glad to be in camp after the longest day of riding on the tour. I was on the opposite end of the energy spectrum. Feeling tired and sluggish from a day of rather droll tasks. It's alway shard to get your enerry level up and be all smiles and encouragement to riders at the end of the day. Today I'm not even gonna try. I just tick them off the attendance list and tell them where to camp, shower, where the bar is etc... At 5 pm its looking the the end of another rather uneventful day when the Sat phone rings.

"Paul, It's Shanny" he says calmly. "We have a problem. The hippo (as we like to call our 4x4 runabout vehicle because it's big and ugly and hard to turn) has lost all it's oil and is making a clicking noise. We're stuck and neither of us (he was with the owner of TdA, Henry) know anything about cars. "

Stuck. On the other side of teh border. I had no Namibian Dollars, know Botswanan Pula and know vehicle other that the two overlanders and it will be dark in an hour. Hmmm. It would cost $50 each way to cross the border with the big trucks and you have to pay in local curency. Problem is there is no bureau de change or backs at the border. And the gas station near where we are camped is out of money in it's ATM (that's what happens when 45 freakin riders cross a border together) and their exchange rate is half what it should be. I borrowed 1400 pula from some riders, exhanged half into Namibian dollars, bought 15 liters of oil(whick took an hour because the couldn't find teh key to the freakin cage where it was stored), and drove accross the border with Steve, our driver mechanic to go get the hipp.

We tried to repair it but thad no luck. Oil was spewing from around the oil filter and we could'nt find the crack. So we had to tow it, behind the overlander, 30 km over the border, in the dark. Fun. I got behind the wheel of the hippo and steve towed us, rather expertly, to the border. We were going about 45kph but it felt like 140 to me. My front bumper was 2 meters from the back of the overlander and I couldn't see around it at all. But we made it the border, crossed without incident and arrived at camp.


Anonymous said...

Hey Pauli

That is a killer book for an epicurean trip. My climbing partner and I did that one during an alpine wall climb. Good luck with the Hippo. Hope it is a 20 cent gasket that will be fashioned from a canning jar seal.

pete b

Paul McManus said...

UNfortunately the hippo was dead. The bracket where the oil filter mounted cracked. The rental company is sending a new truck to Windohoek today but we had to tow it all the way to gobabis, 110km. But it certainly could have been worse.


Keef said...

Wow... Great story Paul.
Sounds like you're imbedded in a war zone.

I'm surprised (not really) that the riders menu doesn't take advantage of more of the locally available edibles and spices... You probably do on your own... But I'd love to hear more about the local drinking and food customs. Keep the great posts coming! & let me know if I can do anything here in Tally for you.. (house & such) Best Regards from the Roberson family!

Arash Shane Robinson said...

Awesome post. It's great you're writing these. Saw Rice last Thursday and we talked about you an old times.