Friday, January 18, 2013

African Adventure, part 11

Or otherwise known as

Pray always, and don't forget to check the lug nuts!!!!!

Soon after we had made our bathroom break, and were anticipating getting closer to Ndola several things happened at once.  Tom and I noticed a change in sound, and were both checking our mirrors to see if somehow our load was compromised.  I asked him if he thought the sound was odd.  At about the same time Meghan, who was seated on the rear passenger side seat was feeling really nauseous, as Mary had been before the bathroom break and why they had switched seats.

In the midst of this we were praying our family Rosary, and all of a sudden we heard a gut wrenching series of loud sounds like an explosion, the passenger side of the vehicle dropped as if we had a blowout, and Tom managed to maintain enough control to stop.  

Unfortunately, by this point in time the roads had degenerated to the point of absolutely no shoulders and a 10" to 15" drop-off because of erosion to get off the road.  Fortunately the truck and bus traffic, which had been steady, was practically nil.  Vendors selling mushrooms and tomatoes were on the opposite side of the road.

We got out, safely, and saw that we had lost our rear passenger side wheel.  We were sitting on the end of the axle.  The Zambians who had witnessed this were quick to swarm over and they found out wheel.  The new tire was good, but the wheel was unusable.  Apparently when we had the tires changed back in Livingstone the tire mechanic had not tightened the lug nuts.  The nuts had slowly worked loose, making the wheel wobble, wore the bolt holes in the wheel into large ovals, until finally the stress snapped the wheel studs sending everything off to the side.

Since we could not stay on the road Tom had to put it into 4wd, and "drive" until we got to a dirt crossroad that allowed us to get off the road.  Before you see the photos, know that we all count it a blessing that we stayed "greasy side down" (as Tom puts it.)  This could have ended in a much worse situation.

Good news/bad news:
Good - we had cell phones and were able to contact the Schultz family in Ndola.  Andy readily agreed to get John, John's tools and come help us out.  
Bad - we were all dealing with diminishing cell phones charges.
Good - we did have two families (both white, I will readily add) who stopped to see what they could do to help.
Bad - nobody had the necessary tools, not surprising as we did not either.
Good - we did still have three wheels with wheel studs we could rob
Bad - front ones were not easy to extract, so that meant sharing the remaining 6 between the 2 back wheels.
Good - we did have plenty of "help."
Bad - most were drunk, and vehicles are not part of their world.
Good - nobody was standing on the side of the road where the tire blew off!  And, it was the passenger side!
Bad - nothing bad to contrast with that!
Good - we did manage to get photos
Bad - our batteries in the cameras were dead by the time John and Andy arrived, so we didn't get pictures of them.
Good - the weather was calm and dry.
Bad - storm clouds were gathering as quick as the daylight was fading, and rain began to fall just before Andy and John arrived.
Good - we had a jack ..
Bad - it couldn't lift up the car quite high enough.
Good - the Zambians quickly dug a hole for access.
Bad - this is how the roads get ruined ... Andy told us that this was standard practice whenever trucks/cars/buses break down and need wheel/axle repairs.

So ... the saga continued.  We were beyond grateful that we had the families in Ndola to count on for help.  The drive out to us was quite far, and we completely understood the act of friendship this involved.  Especially since we had only known them since Thanksgiving in November.

Tom had a much better description ... and below the photos I'll put it in.  This is from an email he sent to colleagues back in Canada to keep them apprised of our adventures.

And .. I apologize that they are not necessarily in order.  Blogspot is free ... and I don't have the patience to edit (given that I feel happy just to get the photos posted!)

Here are two lug nuts with sheared bolts that Meghan, Mary and I found.

Storm clouds .. not good news.

There was a policeman right where we pulled off.  At first we thought that was good.  But, you can see him walking across the road.  Apparently he was "off shift"  At any rate, no help arrived.  Definitely a different culture than in the US or Canada!

Mary was really upset.  It took a bit to find the humor, but having Meghan with her helped. 

We took several walks back to where the wheel departed the Trol.  We managed to find the cowling that was torn off, plus three of the lug nuts/ studs.  You can also see the traffic ... as I said, we were very, very fortunate this had not happened when we were passing, or when the traffic was this heavy.

The scratch is where the hub dug into the road when Tom was driving us off.  The wheel was lost back where the dark trees are on the right side of this photo.

The daylight is diminishing!  We set out the warning triangles, and promptly a truck ran over the top of one ... it was not on the roadway, but the narrow shoulder.  I honestly shudder when I see the vendors and their little children vending along the roadside.

More of our "right foot adventure."  We started this back when Meghan, Mary and I drove the first U-Haul from Canada to Houston.  Inside the truck was a right foot sandal.  Then on the walk Meghan and Mary took, they discovered another discarded right foot shoe.  Hence, our "right" feet in this photo.  If you can't find the humor in the situation, all hope is lost, right?

Meghan is showing the height of the drop-off.

Taken soon after we stopped.  Tom is calling Andy, and hoping the Zambians don't get hurt!  Peter is taking the spare tire off the back.

Mary, Yvonne and Kate!  Behind us is where the vendors were standing.  Oh, my!  If they had been on  the other side of the road, someone would have easily been killed with the flying tire and parts!

This is the distance Tom had to drive to get us safely off the road.

Our Trol back at home.  The part where the cowling was torn off.  

Mary with a piece of that cowling.  We brought both pieces home, but don't have much hope that we will be able to get them reattached.  They were fairly beat up underneath.

This is what was left of the shield on the back side of the brake.  It was damaged in the initial loss, and then worsened because of having to drive enough to get us off to the side.  Small loss, though.  "If" we can, we'll find a replacement.

And finally, once off the road, the deep gouge left.  We were so very, very fortunate.

Here is Tom's account.  I included his entire email, since it shows his point of view for the vacation:

Good Morning,

Thought I'd send you an email because my Christmas adventures are too long for Skype.  So, the Thursday through Monday goes like this.

On Thursday morning we leave Chingola for Lusaka because 3 of our kids are flying in for the holidays.  It's a 5 hour drive and we make it with o mishaps except I get a speeding ticket.  They said I was doing 128 which was next to impossible where we were at and the fine was 540,000 ($108).  Anyway, they got an Aussie in front of me and he said it should cost 120,000.  So, after much heated discussion I was able to continue into Lusaka with my wallet lighter by $24.  The bastards were just writing themselves a little Christmas bonus at the expense of all the white guys on the road.  Gotta love it.

Okay, so now we are in Lusaka at around 11:30 and Peter's plane arrives at 2:30.  I figure we need to be at the airport around 3:30 because he has to get through customs, so I decide to get an oil change.  So we drop the car off and they assure it will take less than 2 hours.  We go to lunch and come back in 1-1/2 hours and they've barely started but no problem.  It took these guys 5 HOURS to do an oil change.  Go figure.  Meanwhile, Peter's plane arrives early and he calls.  I tell him what we are up to and to call me when he clears customs.  he calls 20 minutes later and says he's ready, but wants to know why there are so many posters for Zimbabwe.  So I go crazy and tell him to find out where the hell he is at!  He asks security and finds out he got off the plane in Harare instead of Lusaka.  I start yelling over the phone for him to get back on the plane before it leaves.  He no longer has his boarding pass because they took it at customs so the only reason he gets on the plane is one of the flight attendants remembers him.

Now all is going well and we finally pick him up at the airport, feed him dinner and take a nap at a friend's house until we need to pick up our two daughters at 1AM.  We then load the patrol which now has a safari style roof rack and the 6 of us head for Livingstone and Victoria Falls.  All is uneventful until dawn when the left rear tire blows.  Okay, no problem.  There are two men here who can fix this.  Except the lug nuts are so tight that we actually bend the lug wrench which is a piece of shit Chinese special.  So we flag down a Land Cruiser hoping his wrench will fit.  It does and life is good.  As luck would have it, he owns the largest bus line in Zambia and knows the owners of one of the largest auto parts store in Zambia and he arranges for me to get a 20% discount on tires.  So I get a new set for $1300 which is a very good price here considering they are 275 - 17's.

Now off to the lodge and Victoria falls.  Wonderful!  The photos don't do it justice.  This is a must see.  Plus we had hippos at the lodge in the river.  Didn't see them but they sang to us all night.  Also all kinds of baboons at the falls.  Everything is looking up.  We get back to Lusaka and make plans to go home Sunday.

All is good until Sunday afternoon.  They didn't tighten the lug nuts and I lose the left rear wheel at 110 kph.  A very exciting few seconds.  Anyway, I put it in 4WD and drag the beast off the road so I can see what the damage is.  The fender flares were torn off and the rotor rock shield is a pretzel and the lug bolts are toast.  Okay, I can fix this, nobody is hurt and we are all laughing about it on the side of the road.  Now, here is where it get funny.  There are 10 Zambians that want to help me fix this and 6 are so drunk that I think I may get drunk just standing next to them.  First they think they can just pick up the rear corner of a 3 tonne vehicle.  Yeah right.  I convince then that we need to use the jack and we need blocking material.  We get the truck in the air and right away they want to shove the wheel back on.  No matter that the rotor is full of gravel and the studs are history.  These guys are real mechanics.  Okay, so I pull the caliper off and get the rotor cleaned out and the old studs removed.  Now it's time to rob from the other side to get this beast back on the road.  Well, with the way it is sitting, my newly purchased lug wrench will not fit to remove the other caliper.  So I call a friend in Ndola (50 km away) and tell him my problem.  He gets a hold of another friend and they come with the needed wrench and 20 minutes later my truck is drive able.  I am just glad I know how to twist wrenches when the need arises.

Now I am just having trouble getting the parts I need.  Had my daughter buy them in Houston and Fedex to a co-worker who is in Kansas for Christmas.  So I am hoping to have everything back to normal in another 2 weeks.

After that few days of adventure, everything has been boring.  But boring is nice.

1 comment:

  1. It increases my knowledge....can you guide em how can i write like this...

    Plastic business cards