Day 213 Mozambique : Songo - Chimoio

Day 213 Mozambique

Trip Distance 531km (330 m) Total Distance 23807 km (14796 m)
Road Condition 100% tar    
Time to travel 7 hrs    
Cost of diesel M24.07(£0.54)    
Hotel Milpark S19 06.600 E33 33.082 M1600 (US$65) - Economy hotel room with 2 single beds - clean with en suite bathroom, aircon, satellite TV and fully serviced.  Wifi internet at M50/30mins.

It was a very fitful night's sleep that brought morning in.  With the prospect of 500km ahead of us and roads that we had heard were not ideal, in fact downright crap with major potholes and an enforced speed limit (due to conditions not cops!) of 20kmph for at least 100kms, we ate breakfast and set off.

Trevor drove the first stint of 120km and we swapped over about 20km before we joined the EN1 national road again so that he could have a cat nap.  As soon as I took over I could see a problem with the steering wheel (cat nap postponed!) - why was it off centre and the speed wobble was really bad?  Trevor didn't have the answer so after several minutes of heated discussion, we dropped the subject till I could have a look at the electronic workshop manual when he took over driving again.  20kms later at the junction with the EN1, I slowed down to a stop as we approached the local cops camped out there but they ignored me so I drove on.  Trevor slept.

The road to Changara was good but once we passed the town, everything that we had heard about the road came true.  As we negotiated (at the predicted 20kmph) the potholes, I swear I saw some ears flicking in one of them - as we got closer, it turned out to be a giraffe on his tip-toes trying to peep out!!!!  I drove on and 10kms later Trevor took over again.  Another 10kms further, now about 20km out of Changara, we saw roadworks.  Turns out they are upgrading the main road but as it wasn't finished yet (at this stage), we slipped off the main road onto a dirt diversion and things immediately improved.  For the next 30kms we drove a standard African dirt road - corrugations, holes and dips but much better than the main road and we could at least maintain a reasonable 60kmph.  I must mention at this stage that somewhere along the really bad road, we hit a deep pothole at a good speed and the off centre steering wheel went even worse - what could it be?  Tracking on the tyre out with that speed wobble?

Once I had the time, we had a look at the workshop manual but this didn't really give us any clue to the problem.  Suddenly Trevor said, "check the power steering pages," and there we think was the problem - something wrong with the steering rods.  Remembering that on the way out of Bwindi in Uganda, we had reversed and snapped off an aluminium bracket that looked like it was a stopper for the rear steering rod, we figured this was a good place to start looking.

For the time being we ignored the problem and with hours now in the afternoon, continued heading for Chimoio and the Pink Papaya Retreat.  Arriving in Chimoio we discovered that it was fully booked and with only dormitory beds available (we've stayed in some real dives with shared bathrooms, lack of hygiene and cockroaches but I draw the line at sharing no matter how clean!) we headed out to see if we could find somewhere else.  Tracks4Africa provided us with a waypoint to Hotel Milpark only 30km out of town - we thought we'd try that as a first go.  But first, groceries (Shoprite), diesel (BP) and money (Standard Bank). 

leThe day continued to get better when both of Trevor's VISA debit cards (note here: they are attached to 2 different accounts) were rejected at the ATM but with another VISA to hand we were able to draw money. Now, you've got to wonder about LloydsTSB thinking: after passing through 17 other countries and using the cards to draw money in relatively high risk countries like Egypt, Ethiopia and  Kenya (Nairobi!) and doing this over a period of 7.5 MONTHS, they stop the cards now!  I ask you with a tear in my eye.....  I understand that they are on the lookout for fraudulent transactions and it's for our own protection but SURELY our spending pattern would indicate after 7 months, they could track our progress down Africa and after Malawi, it would either be Zambia or Mozambique..... To top it off, to get the cards unblocked you have to call a number in the UK that every other person in the UK uses so after 3 aborted calls of over 7 minutes each (they cut us off each time) we eventually got through on try 4.  Trevor couldn't remember which branch the cards were registered at, so having asked me and the operator hearing me answer, she immediately failed the security and put the phone down!!!!  AAAAArrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhh!  Attempt no 5.... and even Trevor was losing his temper but another 10 minutes later (and with no suitable explanation as to why they had chosen this time to block the cards on 2 different accounts) they were unblocked (we hope).  £35 lighter in pocket from 5 sat phone/mobile phone calls, we finally settled into our room.

Between trying to draw money and getting it sorted with the bank, we had driven to the Hotel Milpark to find the staff friendly, the accommodation entirely suitable and a restaurant on site.  To top it all they had internet access so the 11 articles prepared for the blog could finally be uploaded and emails downloaded and answered.

After sorting the bank accounts, Trevor got himself under Sully and discovered the problem immediately - the rear steering rod was bent.  This was causing the right hand front tyre to point out whilst the front left was straight (and hence why the steering wheel was off centre).  Now how to unbend it?  He tried using racket straps arounnd the rod and using the axle for a stable point to ratchet against.  No go!  With the front tyres on the ground it just wasn't working.  What about the winch?  I was really nervous about using a 9tonne winch to do the work in case it caused a stress fracture in the bar if it pulled it too far in the opposite direction.  Trevor is, of course, a little less frightened and cautious, so he went ahead and tried.  Within minutes of attaching the winch to the rear steering bar, he straightened it.  Not 100% but at least the tyres were almost in line and the steering wheel centred again.  Phew!  Well done, Trev!!! And thanks.  Sometimes you have to be brave and just risk it.

With Sully looking much less cock-eyed and it getting closer to 7pm, we cleaned up and set off for the restaurant for some food with peri-peri sauce (this time homemade and extremely more-ish).  By 08:30pm we were in bed, watching satellite TV but with drooping eyes we switched off 30 minutes later and fell asleep immediately.