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Dug out a few of my many poetry books. Going to start each day with a random reading. Let art and literature help keep us whole during these strange, strange days. My reading today is Neruda’s Keeping Quiet. Share something you love. 📚 #poemsforthepandemic #poetryforthepandemic #poetry #poems #literature #librarianlife #librarian #covid_19 #coronavirus #bewell #staywell #read #readinglife
Things are still pretty chilly here in Montana, but Spring has been breaking through from day to day. I found this little adventurer hitching a ride with #totothelandrover just the other day. Spring also means the desert is calling. Toto will get her first taste of Utah in the coming weeks, a place very close to our hearts. #defender #defender110 #best4x4byfar #landroverdefender #landroverphotoalbum #overland #ladybugs #utahoverland #montanaoverland #venturesomemore
Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing women in my life, all over the world. #internationalwomensday #internationalwomensday2020 #feministasfuck #whorulestheworld #womenoverlandingtheworld #womenwhoexplore #sheexplores #kukonje #botswana #overland #overlandafrica #africaoverland
Today is my 111th birthday! Just kidding! I’m only one year old. 🎂 My name is Giada Katsana Tawana Motswana Letiahau. It means the Jade Kitten Lion Cub from Botswana. Letiahau is the name of my caretakers’ favorite place in the CKGR. I was born on the campus of the University of Botswana. When I was a little kitten a gentleman named Peter shared his lunch with me every day and taught me not to be afraid of people. I liked him so much I even let him pick me up. He let me sleep in his office when I was being bullied by bigger cats. An American lady fell in love with me at first sight when she saw me napping in a patch of sun outside her office building. She brought me food and played with me and turned on the water spigot so I could get a drink. She asked Peter if she could take me home and he said yes. She tricked me with some tuna fish one morning and stuffed me into a cat carrier, but don’t worry - I scratched her good. I met a vet who was nice, even though she stuck me with needles. She *did* get the fleas out of my ears, though, so it was ok. I lived at the vet for a month. They said I was very cute and cuddly, which is true, if I say so myself. In one year I have been in four countries and two US states. I took four plane rides, even one all by myself! I miss Peter but I feel happy here. I have a warm little house with big windows and lots of sun. My short caretaker has made up for stuffing me in that carrier by making me comfy nests all over the house. I sleep in the bed and walk on the table, which I’m not supposed to do, but I don’t ever get into trouble because I know how to roll on my back and act extra cute when I’m naughty. I know English and Setswana, but don’t follow orders in either language. My favorite things are my rubber ball and my tall caretaker. I like eating, wrestling with the rug, playing with my toy mice, looking at birds, watching other cats on TV, and “hunting” my caretakers. Sometimes I bite, but not hard (unless it’s the vet, in which case I draw blood). My birthday wish is that all cats everywhere have warm, happy homes and people who love them. ❤ #adoptdontshop #adventurecat #internationalcat #catsofinstagram

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It’s Mitsubishi Pajero Week here on Venturesome Overland, and – wow – did we have a week with the Pajero.

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Good to have a few tools at your disposal.

We’ll have a lot more to say about our recently curtailed overland adventure to the western reaches of Botswana’s national park system, but for now, be prepared for a lot of photographs of me – or more accurately, half of me – under the big blue Mitsu.

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To reel in a really long story, the big fish on the hook is that we broke down.

I say “we”, but I really mean the Pajero. Though, both Julie and I may have flirted with breakdowns as well.

I can only speak for myself. It’s awfully hot and gritty laying on the ground under the Botswana sun, even in the shade of the chassis of a three-ton SUV that’s leaking coolant on your face, wrangling ruined wires leading to nowhere, and especially with only yourself to blame.

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Yup.

That’s both a truck and a woman getting a much-needed tow.

***

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s review a few best practices for overland travel in southern Africa.

  • Plan for the worst: If things go sideways, upside down, or simply cockeyed, you may find yourself in need of help that might be a very long ways away. Always carry more fuel, water, food, and tools than you think you may need.
  • Make Friends: When the worst strikes, you might need to rely on the kindness of absolute strangers, and even people you know well. There is a lot of fear in this world. But in our experience, when you are at the end of your own options, there are always other humans. Most of them are willing to help. Be kind, be friendly, offer something in exchange for their troubles, even if they refuse.
  • Don’t Panic: Thank you, Douglas Adams for those immortal words printed in “large friendly letters” on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s admittedly hard to quash the peculiar anxiety you feel when you are well and truly stranded, but take stock of your mind and your world, breathe deeply, and if you’ve planned for the worst and made friends, the panic will subside. At least we had a towel.

***

Did I Panic? Maybe just a little. Here is where we found ourselves when the Pajero tapped out – on the southern cutline road that marks the border of Botswana’s Khutse Game Reserve:

We broke down late in the day, 80 kms from the nearest village, 50 kms from our destination at the south gate of the Khutse Game Reserve, and a long, long walk from, well, pretty much anywhere. On this rough track we had fractured a coolant hose, one very particular to our Pajero, and not readily repaired in the middle of nowhere.

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We lost so much coolant so quickly that the temperature gauge didn’t even have time to register the problem. The engine shut down on its own terms. We tried multiple times, but it wouldn’t run again, and in the fading evening light, our options narrowed.

But we had Planned for the Worst!

We had food, water, and fuel. So we decided to camp right there in that random spot on that lonely track. We set up the tent (a new-to-us roof top tent installed by Hi-Range Safari City in Gaborone that I was really hoping to review instead of writing this), made a modest supper, and turned in.

An hour later a Land Cruiser pickup was towing us at supersonic speeds across the Kalahari.

A work crew grading the road that we had passed earlier in the day had come across our makeshift camp long after we had gone to bed. The high beams of their Land Cruiser cutting even through the thick canvas of the Eezi-Awn.

As they pulled aside our beached blue whale, I leapt from the tent in my pants, and little else, asking if they could help (Some panic in my voice? Perhaps.)

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One of the culprit hoses.

We had Made Friends. The three guys from the road crew quickly diagnosed the same problem I had earlier, agreeing that the Pajero was well and truly dead.

They said, “Are you going to the Khutse Gate? We will tow you.” It was nearly 10:00pm.

“No, no. Just tell the Game Reserve staff at the gate that we are here, they will find us in the morning.”

“No, rra. Do you have a tow rope?”

“I do, but…”

“Let’s go.”

So we went.

***

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Futility.

That tow is one of the most crystalline experiences I have ever had.

The road workers waved off my expensive and never-used tow strap in favor of what I can only describe as their own worn length of linen, possibly stolen from the mummy in a long lost Egyptian tomb.

They wrapped it around the bumper of their Land Cruiser pickup, and tied it into the tow points on the front of the Pajero. There was maybe 10 feet between the two trucks. We rode ten feet on the tension of a threadbare strap for 50 brutal kilometers across the Kalahari bush.

I stared, hands welded to an unassisted steering wheel, at a tailgate that read

T  O  Y  O  T  A

for two hours as we jerked and swayed across the desert. We dodged porcupines, gemsboks, Mopane trees, and other obstacles that I never saw, and we made it. It was just a sandy patch of road outside the Khutse Game Reserve gate, but it felt like home.

A nice wad of Pula and many beers from our cooler richer, our new friends turned around and drove back to their work camp. We set up the tent again and collapsed.

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***

New friends are not the only friends.

The next morning, towed to within saving distance, but still equally stranded, we asked the camp mechanic at the Khutse Game Reserve to help. Donald is a recent University of Botswana graduate in mechanical engineering, and he said:

“Oh, rra, you’ve broken this hose.”

We knew the hose was shot, what we needed was something to replace it.

Jovan and Dina from Road Beneath Our Feet were scheduled to meet us at Khutse that very day. Still without a cell signal, I called Jovan using the phone at the entrance gate office. The completely random number on his caller ID was probably pretty confusing.

“Dude. We’ve got a problem. Can you stop at the parts store, bring some 14mm heater hose and plastic T-fittings?”

With remarkable and comforting calm, Jovan said, “No problem.”

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***

Recruiting some help from the camp staff, we fixed those hoses. We refilled the radiator, and we tried to restart our Pajero. With four more days planned on our Botswana adventure in Khutse, we had hoped for the best.

But it was worse than just a split coolant hose – I had overheated the engine, and likely blown apart one, if not both, head gaskets on the 3.5L V6. Starting the car only resulted in big waves of water blowing out the exhaust pipe.

We were finished.

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***

Don’t panic.

 

That’s me and Jovan, not panicking.

Julie and Dina pitched in throughout the afternoon as we all tried in vain to revive the Pajero, but to no avail. Another tow was the only way out.

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One last shot at redemption, and yet another Toyota to the rescue. Dina on the watch for any problems.

In all of this, we learned one more best practice for traveling in remote southern Africa.

  • Don’t Hurry: I am convinced that I fractured that coolant hose because I was driving too fast for the conditions. Slow down, consider the road, evaluate both your short and long term options as you move toward your travel goals. Err on the side of caution.

We were trying to reach the campground at the gate of the Khutse Game Reserve before dark, and I was pushing harder than the Pajero could actually handle on that particular track.

The drive to achieve the goal of the gate overwhelmed my mechanical sympathy for the vehicle, and I am pretty sure we paid the price for that decision.

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On the tow to the shop.

My mechanic says otherwise – he thinks it’s not that bad, it can all be repaired, and that one hose was bound to fail eventually. We definitely have at least one blown head gasket, but the Pajero is likely to ride again.

Stay tuned, because Africa has no shortage of surprises.

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