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May 4, 2013 / samwilson60

New friends in and around Pretoria

Despite the now fabulously clear skies, we had to be on our way the next day. It was Sunday and we’d promised ourselves we’d be in Pretoria shopping for visas by Monday. On our way we were practically driving past the home of Sam-Sam’s parents, who’d kindly insisted we had beds there if we wanted them. As always, we were greeted by so much more than comfy beds. Barbara and Mike were great hosts and full of helpful advice and tips. Unfortunately, most of them revolved around our now quite alarming gearbox problems (the Tinker Beast sounded on the verge of collapse in anything other than fourth gear). Despite their busy schedules, it was clear we had a home in Benoni for as long as we wanted but after much deliberation and a lovely evening with Barbara, Mike and Candy, we limped into Pretoria and straight to a gearbox specialist we’d got very positive vibes from over the phone.

We got off to a promising start – this was going to be expensive, no doubt, but the garage owner seemed to talk sense and understood the urgency. Before abandoning the Beast, we had to get to the other side of town to find somewhere to stay so took one of the mechanics with us and lucked in at the second of two potential abodes. Within seconds we could tell it was unlike any backpackers we’d been to before – in all the right ways.



After we’d unloaded all we needed, we waved the mechanic off in the Tinker Beast (fingers firmly crossed) and were ready to drop. Instead, we dragged ourselves back out for a monster walking tour of the city, or rather its embassies. We soon decided we didn’t have the strength to deal with the complicated ones just yet so went for some easy wins, starting with Tanzania.

The week passed relatively painlessly and we kept our minds off the gearbox with the usual visa faff, other shopping (essentials only!), daily IPL cricket and European football, and – in Sam’s case – a bit of DIY. We’d hoped to hire bikes while Tinkerless and the backpackers had precisely two, both of which had been trashed. Clearly missing being able to tinker with the Beast, this was the perfect tonic for Sam. He spent a whole afternoon trying to get them back on the road and, having taken the least worst parts from the pair, got one of them at least up and running. The owners seemed amused and grateful in equal measure and Sam was on a roll, finding various other odd jobs all over the place.

With only one bike, Cat had the pleasure of touring the embassies while Sam worked through the mammoth photo backlog. As the end of the week was approaching and we were getting nervous about the lack of communication from the garage, our new friends at the backpackers decided to take our minds of it all by roping us in to their pub quiz team. It was a great night out, we actually managed to help with a few of the questions and we certainly unwound, until the morning after the night before when Sam had to drag himself over to the garage to find out what was going on.

The family running the backpackers were so lovely we felt almost guilty to be so keen to leave, but it was Friday and we were crushed when we found out that the Tinker Beast was still not going anywhere, and nothing could be done about it till Monday. Our new friends did a great job of lifting our spirits and with all the sightseeing we’d thus far not done, the weekend actually passed quite swiftly. We just had to ignore, for a few more days, how hideously behind schedule we were.


Freedom Park



Our larger-then-life nemesis in the botanical gardens

We finally got the Tinker Beast back on Tuesday but she was clearly still not right. We needed a change of scene and the oil leak was so slight we half hoped it might clear itself, so we went for a test drive up to a nearby meteor crater. If all went well, from there we could hop straight over to Botswana. If – as it turned out – we had to return to Pretoria, at least we’d have seen something new. We’d got blank looks from everyone else we’d mentioned the Tshwaing crater to so we’re particularly grateful to Barbara for the tip.


IMG_0001 IMG_0003

By Wednesday, the clock by now ticking like never before, we were back at the backpackers with the Beast back in the garage. Aaaaaaaaaaargh! But then, just as we were losing all hope of making it overland back to Europe by September, we got the magic call. We have been reunited with a seemingly fixed Tinker Beast, it’s now crack of dawn Saturday morning and we’re aiming straight for Botswana. Wahoooooo!



Leave a Comment
  1. The Rider / May 4 2013 9:54 am

    You will be coming right through my town. Welcome in our part of the world!

  2. Peter Cullen / May 6 2013 2:43 pm

    Fingers crossed for the gearbox

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