We left Windhoek for Etosha National park in the North. Etosha is home to roaming giraffe, elephants, lions and is the centre of the safari tours so prevalent in Namibia. The journey is not achievable in a single day's drive in the truck, even if it were it would be unpleasant, so we scheduled a wild camp half way along.
The reason spending more than 4 hours in the cab becomes unpleasant is primarily temperature related. There is no air conditioning so we must drive with the windows open, preferably with one arm out of the window - 'trucker' style. The desert sun is intense and sun cream is not optional, we wear factor 50 when driving, especially on the window-arm. We find ourselves sitting in a dark green cab, on sticky leather seats, it's 40 degrees in the shade and much, much hotter inside. Sweat and suncream combine and coat the skin in a glossy emulsification. To top it all off, the cab is situated directly above the engine and only 0.8mm of highly conductive steel separates the floor from the engine bay. The floor heats up until it's too hot to touch, further raising the internal temperature of the cab. The rubber seals inside the window are blistered and burned and leaving a water bottle uncovered has nearly started a fire by focusing the sun into a point and burning the seat. For these reasons, we try to limit our time in the cab during peak daytime hours - but needs must.
A wild camp opportunity presented itself near the road which we usually try to avoid. A rock formation rose out of the desert dirt and a little-used farm track weaved around it. We ploughed through the sand barrier at the side of the road and joined the farm track. Weaving between shrubs and small trees, crushing many of them, we manage to hide the truck round the side of the rock formation just out of sight (and sound) of the road. We set up camp here but leave the ladder inside in case we want to depart without going outside (e.g. wild animals or thousands of insects). We cook dinner and watch the sun set. After dark, the sound of birds and small mammals scurrying around can be heard from the windows and we both read ourselves to sleep. Our senses are slightly heightened and we both wake up a few times in the night due to a particularly close animal or unusual noise. In the morning, a local farmer passes by on a small motorbike looking inquisitively at the truck but leaves us be. We follow our tracks back to the road and resume our journey North.
The roads are brutal and heavy corrugations slow us down and rattle the truck. In those situations we have no choice but to take it easy. Unfortunately this time we fail to arrive by dusk and enter the town where we intend to stay in darkness. A completely unpainted, unsigned, and unexpected speed bump literally a foot high appears in the headlights. I slam on the brakes and our screech turns the heads of all surrounding pedestrians. I release the brakes just before and our heads hit the ceiling and the truck crashes over the bump. We solemnly drive to the campsite, passing through a giant thatched arch, and check in.
Oppi-Koppi campsite is run by a Belgian couple who used to build overlanders. Presumably sympathetic to this foolish means of travel, they allow long-term overlanders to stay for free, and even keep a ringbinder of previous visitors. We add our name to the book and have our photo taken, in return we get a sticker. I inspect the truck and find, somewhat predictably, that one of the front shock absorbers is leaking oil. Unfortunately this means it needs replacing. We use the (free) wifi and I learn that a second hand set of spares goes for £150 in the UK, plus unknown courier costs not under £200. Buying 20 year old spares doesn't fill me with confidence, let alone the week of accommodation required to wait for them to arrive so I ring our friend Kallie. He gives me the names of some places that might be able to help and we commence our search.
Shock absorbers, I soon discovered, are remarkably vehicle specific given their generic appearance. The minimum and maximum lengths need to be similar (ideally the same), as do the mounting points at either end (stud, eye, sleeved eye etc). Even when the lengths match, and the mounts are the same, the specific diameters of the mounting points become relevant (e.g. a 22mm pin won't fit into a 16mm eye). By the time I had taken the shock off, measures the minimum and maximum lengths, stud and eye diameters, the inch-thick catalog in the store yielded just three entries. One an exact match, one a near-match, and the other a bodge job. These discoveries were made on a Friday afternoon and we resigned ourselves to beg for help online, bed-in, and relax for the weekend.
After a villa-weekend we resumed work on Monday morning by driving to the nearest big town, and began thumbing through the now-familiar catalogues of shocks. Eventually I ordered a pair that were close enough and committed to make them work instead of wondering whether they would. After many phonecalls and much waiting (their system went down) parts were ordered from Windhoek to arrive Tuesday morning. Back to the pool. Tuesday morning the parts arrived but the part number was muddled up in Windhoek (76106 vs 76016) and the parts did not fit. Calls were made and a courier summoned for the afternoon. We spent the day at a place that turned out to be a very un-vegan crocodile leather and meat farm, although they did also look after a small population of tortoises that were not destined for leather, consumption, or ornament. Finally, an hour before closing, our parts arrived. We decided to return to our camp again and to fit the parts in the morning.
The next day, we managed to get the shocks fitted with a bit of bodging and the fabrication of some custom washers and headed into Etosha for a test-run.
Kim has made a short video of our first day in etosha including our fix.
Sounds like a mechanical odyssey as well as a tour - well done for fixing the truck. Looking forward to some animal pictures
Looks great, like the video, nice touch.
Hi nice readiing your blog
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