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June 5, 2013 / samwilson60

Make or break time

In Harare things instantly, if briefly, picked up again. Not only did the local clientele distract us from our gearbox woes, they actively helped us to solve them. On our first night in town we had a hilarious evening of heated political debate interspersed with lessons in DIY gasket-making. The owner of the backpackers even got onto his mechanics for us and arranged for them to come round first thing the following morning (a Sunday of all days). The mechanics themselves inspired less confidence but, even though they didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon, we were making progress before the weekend was out and that in itself was a massive win. The job itself – removing the gearbox and refitting it with a real gasket this time – was, for the most part, terrifying and would have been even without the thunderstorms, but with Sam providing free labour, permanent supervision and his own handmade gasket, we had her mobile and (touch wood) oil-tight again by Tuesday.

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Arts and crafts time, innit!

 

By Tuesday we’d also started – and finished – with the embassies. Harare was always going to be make or break time, even without the mechanical issues. We still had two more problem visas to get and, running out of places to get them, these were the biggest stumbling block we faced if we were to make it back to Europe as planned. Even in our excited optimism at Vic Falls we’d agreed our driving home depended on us getting at least our Ethiopian visas in Harare. The lady at the embassy there was lovely but very professional and absolutely unwavering in her refusal to even entertain our applications. This left us in a bit of a bind. We’ve always believed, when it comes to African visas, a “no” is just an invitation to negotiate/come back the next day but this time it felt different. There was no way around it and if we carried on regardless we could well end up stuck in Kenya with no way out, at least for the Tinker Beast. We really didn’t like that prospect so instead of visiting the Sudanese we went for lunch to discuss our options yet again.

The dream has always been to drive all the way home, anything less seems like an admission of defeat, but we have also agreed time and again that there’s no point in persisting if it means cutting out all the fun bits and stressing about Africa Time instead of enjoying it. Quite apart from the undeniable time pressures, we were now in danger of making ourselves miserable with the constant uncertainties and what-ifs. The options were as they’d always been: drive back, store our steed in South Africa or ship the car and fly ourselves. The latter had always seemed the least appealing option (expensive and no fun) but as we listed the pros and cons of the alternatives we warmed to the idea and eventually, if rather agonisingly, we settled on shipping as the most viable plan. It helped – psychologically and practically – to have met Ben and Jen (first in the Drakensburg, then again at Great Zimbabwe), as they’d long ago decided they’d ship their car home and were planning to do so at more or less exactly the same time we would. They also happened to be at the other backpackers in Harare, trying to make sense of the remainder of their trip much like us. Once we’d come to our decision and Sam had the Tinker Beast back in one piece, we met up with them to throw about the craziest shipping ideas we could think of (via Dakar anyone?), then braved the rain to clear our heads and check out the local music scene. We felt much better having talked it through and let it sink in, and while we were both sad at the thought of having ‘given up’, more than anything we were relieved at having put an end to the anguish.

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