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February 5, 2013 / samwilson60

It doesn’t rain, it pours

We left Bangem slightly achy but very happy after our trek out to the lakes. We’d been reassured by various people that the piste from here to Kunda was passable, despite the unseasonal rains, so we gave it a go on the basis that we could turn back and retrace our steps if it got too adventurous. It was soon quite a challenge but beautiful and fun too, so we bumped and bounced our way on until we heard an ominous blow, to the truck’s suspension it turned out. We were now a long way from Bangem and the Tinker Beast had struggled through some patches even when she was fighting fit, so turning back was not an option. But we were also still a long way from Tombel, the next town, and had no idea what lay between us and it. We limped on to the next grassy verge large enough to pull into and considered our options. At the time it looked like the second leaf and a pin had bust, and we had the means to fix the latter there and then. This seemed like the best plan, even if it meant pitching camp in our lay-by, but within minutes the flies were chasing us off. As we simultaneously shuddered at the thought of trying to concentrate on anything with them around, we heard the first other car of the day approaching. We flagged it down and were soon joined by another, heading in the opposite direction. The two sets of locals, apparently long-lost friends themselves, were great – they hopped out to see what our problem was, reassured us that we could make it as far as Tombel in our current state, then set about catching up among themselves while we conferred and shared out biscuits. We decided to take their advice and were glad we had when it later transpired that what we’d thought we could fix roadside, flies permitting, was not the problem after all. We’d broken the main spring, and only the main spring, and for that we needed a replacement.

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As we limped into Tombel, and before even thinking about car mechanics, we stopped at the first stall we saw to check there was somewhere to stay the night. The guy directed us to the Great Inn, which seemed actually quite nice (we were so glad there was something, we weren’t expecting it to be anything special). The man on duty seemed nice and eager to give us anything we wanted, bar cold drinks (someone else had the keys to the fridge). We settled for a cuppa in the shade, then Sam set about taking the car apart while Cat tried to make herself useful washing clothes (hindered only briefly by the fact that the high-lift jack was already blocking the boot and with it the washing soap).

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Getting the suspension apart was clearly very hard work (penetrating oil as inaccessible as the soap), but Sam prevailed and remarkably still had the energy to head into town in search for a replacement spring. Armed with both the main and second springs, we got the hotel guy to find us a moped taxi that would take us to his brother, the mechanic. So far, so good. The mechanic and his apprentices first offered to weld the existing part but we dismissed this instantly as inadequate and so they set about digging around for a replacement. From what looked like a dress-maker’s they actually dug out half a dozen similar springs, but none of them quite measured up. This was surprisingly reassuring and we’d half expected to need a bigger town anyway, so we thanked our helper and sat down next door to consider our next move – which would involve getting to Kumba one way or another.

With the Tinker Beast immobilised already, it seemed fairly obvious we’d leave her where she was and get a taxi in the morning, hopefully returning that same day with all we required to get ourselves back on the road. Happy with this plan, we went to another bar in an attempt to get fed before returning to base (the fact that our host couldn’t get into the fridge didn’t suggest our dining options would be vast at the hotel).

We’re now used to the lack of variety in some towns but generally eat whatever’s on offer (preferably with a little less spice than the locals). The only thing on offer here, though, was snails, and while we were both curious, it took a long time and some heavy encouragement from our new friend Albert before we gave them a go. Instantly we wished we hadn’t. The only saving grace was Albert, who was more than happy to finish our leftovers, making us look more ridiculous than rude.

We left the bar with Albert and stumbled straight into the moped taxi rank. We knew it was feasible for the two of us to take one bike, even with the spring (a light load by local standards), and after the outbound trip we even had a rough idea of the going rate, so after a couple of attempts we found someone willing to take us back to the hotel for not much over the odds.

It was soon apparent he wasn’t as cautious a driver as our last, but he seemed no worse than most either. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as lucky. Once off the tarmac and on the dirt, he was forced to slow down but failed to notice another moped pulling out of a side track. Before we knew what was happening, they’d crashed, front wheel to front wheel, and the three of us hit the ground.

Sam was totally unhurt, but Cat’s foot was trapped under bike. We got her and the bike up and established that no one was seriously hurt, but within seconds a big crowd started forming. We paid the guy over twice what we’d agreed (for getting us to the hotel safely, which clearly had not happened) and told him if he came to our hotel we would clean and dress the cut on his shin as best we could. We wanted to do the right thing but staying here in the heightening tension of an ever-growing crowd was not an option and we were both clearly suffering from shock.

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One Comment

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  1. leelee / Feb 5 2013 12:12 pm

    cripes! sounds a bit hectic! good working on the mahooosive blog update folks – a lovely distraction from some very boring work commitments…

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