Published: December 20th 2009December 8th 2009
In Moyo town
The rig in Moyo town center after finding such goodies as chocolate and Pringles (Jalapeno flavoured!)
All change, after the last river crossing, which was just a normal drive down (albeit with the Boss from the UK HQ in the cab) we got to KK and found the truck had spat the dummy about 100 meters before we got to camp it had decided a gearbox seal was no longer going to work and was merrily pumping oil all over the floor, not a good sign!
Being as the truck has the only crane on it for the areas and is a vital support truck, that was me not going back to Juba, the only logical choice was that I was heading to Kampala in Uganda to try and find spares and workshop facilities, the long way round, past a place that a couple of the drivers knew about, that might have someone there who could help with gearbox parts, but then it might also be a wild goose chase round Northern Uganda!
I e-mailed a guy I had met last time I was in Kampala in June of 2008 when I was looking for some bit for the Warthog (my Range Rover) and he mailed me back that I should come by and we would see
Woman and Child
I couldn't find anyone who could tell me anything about this statue, under it's own canopy, with just a plaque saying "Moyo Town Council"
if we could make a plan.
Two days later, the truck and a Toyota Hilux that Mr Invisible (we have a few of those haunting the company, no-one was ever driving when it broke) had managed to seriously bend and bugger the front suspension on were loaded on the flat-bed that in a former life was probably an Argos trunker trailer on lovely English roads, not even vaguely reinforced for loading 15 tonnes of truck and car on and dragging across half a country on very bad roads.
Still needs must the devil drives! Off we went, me and my faithful driver/apprentice mechanic/guide/buyer/guard/tyre checker Duku, only just started with the company, he was firmly chucked in at the deep end with this trip! Starting with the border crossing, we arrived replete with letter of permission from the UN stating the aim of the trip and the vehicles and persons involved, the Sudanese tried there damnedest for any sort of bribe they could get, for the paper, for the stamp, for the rental of the ground you are standing on in the immigration hut, took 45 minutes of just saying "No" to get them to understand we knew how the system
When all this fell off at night, we stopped pretty quick!! It's all the truck brake airlines, now tied on with cut up inner tube!
worked and we did not require anything other than a stamp to say we had been through.
The Ugandans on the other hand, took about 5 minutes, visa paid for, stamp in passport then on to Customs and the guy didn't even want me to fill in the book, I had $150,000 plus worth of vehicles and because of the UN signs he wasn't in the slightest bit concerned, must remember that!
Breezed through and down the first bit of road to Moyo, the most Northern town along the border with Sudan, the change in crossing the borders was amazing, you could get Pringles and chocolate in Moyo, vital road food!
It was about lunch time so I changed some money and bought some water and the above mentioned essentials, then we headed off toward Koboko, where there was supposed to be a company which used a big fleet of the same type of MAN 6x6 trucks on contract to the WFP (World Food Program) in Congo and might have spares or even an idea which seal we would need.
The first 60kms to Yumbe were not too bad and only took 3 hours, but the remaining 50kms from Yumbe
Uganda left, DRC right
Had to stop and say I had set foot in DRC, villagers must have thought I was drunk merrily avoiding the potholes and mud by swerving all over the road!
to Koboko had us reduced to walking pace for some sections, it was raining for part of the drive and had rained along the rest of the road, I was glad the truck has 4 wheel drive, but it still took some interesting driving to get the whole lot along the road in one piece. We pulled into Koboko after 10 and about 1 km from the center, the inevitable happened, something broke, the trailer had started to have enough and the bracket that held all the brake hoses and electrics had sheared off and the truck came to a juddering standstill as all the brakes on the trailer were dumped on as the emergency circuit lost it's air pressure from the broken hoses! Oh joys!!
Still 30 mins later with some cut up inner tube and a leatherman having been employed to great effect we made it to the Police station, agreed on a cost for "tea" for the guys to look after it at night and walked across the road to the hotel and booked in, everything was closed as it was close to midnight, but at least it was clean and had a mosquito net, so after
Between Koboko and Arua
A pee stop again... somewhere on the road
a quick basin wash to get the worst of the dirt off, bed beckoned. Didn't last long though, at about 2 in the morning, the heavens opened and I discovered that louver windows when the rain hits them at the wrong angle, leak, LOTS... so I awoke to it raining on me and ended up having to drag the bed across the room to be blocking the door as that was the only dry spot!
After biscuits and tea in the market in the morning it was off to the truck workshop, where we did manage to find some of the bits we needed, so around 10 we were ready to carry on to Kampala, well taht would have been if it wasn't for the road being blocked with a few trucks at a small river crossing 2 kms out of town.
We hopped on a boda-boda (motorbike taxi) for a look see and sure enough, 3 trucks stuck in the same piece of road, trying to negotiate round each other in the rain and mud, no one was going anywhere in that direction in a hurry!
Back to the truck we met a policeman who claimed to know the
The Albert bridge across the Nile, late at night, the stretch of road after this was almost totally deserted and the stars in the sky just stunning
route round along the border if we would take him to Arua, he hadn't been paid for 4 months by the government and was going to see if he could sort it out. Well it wasn't comfortable, but there was a middle seat in the cab, so he took that spot and off we went through the middle of town, down some very small back roads and through villages where the road was literally as wide as the truck, so I was hoping we didn't meet a truck doing the same thing in the other direction!!
We came out on the border road, the Police man came out with, "Ei, this road, if you piss that side (pointing right) is Congo and this side (pointing left) is Uganda, always plobrem!" So I just had to hop out and pee in Congo!
After 15kms (and nearly 3 hours) of very slow driving we did make it to the main road, less than 3 kms from town!! Such is progress in Africa
Next stop Arua, the "capital" of the area Idi Amin was from and I was told the tar road and Albert bridge across the Nile were worth the extra
I spent under the damn thing, never done one before and never want to do one again!
500kms this way round would add to the length of the journey.
The last 40kms to Arua were certainly not fun, was late afternoon by the time we got there, fortunately just in time to catch an exchange bureau, a shop and a garage to fill up the truck, but we were on TAR!! Woohoo. It was still going to be a steady trip, we crossed the Albert Bridge at about 10pm, something Duku reckoned would not be possible because of the customs barrier, which I have discovered that driving around with UN number plates is a great thing!!! We drove into the night till past 2 in the morning and then we slept one in the truck cab at the front and one in the Hilux at the back just to give us a better chance of waking should someone decide to investigate what they might "liberate" with having to park so close to the road.
What a wonderful sunrise to wake to, the colour slowly coming to the eastern horizon, surrounded by pristine bush, early morning birdsong welcoming in a new day in this wonderful continent of Africa.
We trucked on gradually crawling closer to Kampala, we rolled
Elf and Safety
Our lifting gear, no brakes and leaking oil all over the place, spot the wood holding it in place! All the joys of "making it work"
in after lunch, which isn't an experience I wish to repeat, Kampala traffic in an articulated truck.... Again the UN plates did the trick on 3 occasions, I could see the joy in the eyes of the Policemen as they saw a truck coming driven by a Wazungu (White man) not a normal occurrence in Africa, the enthusiastic arm waving to get me to pull over and stop, but when I got closer I could see the eyes fall and shoulders slump when they spotted the number plates and I just got waved on, rather dejectedly!!
So having navigated across Kampala to Fifth Street, our destination, the work really began.
2 weeks in Kampala was a blur of spending days taking the truck apart or later, putting it together again and evenings, trying to do my "day" job, by e-mail and phone.
The biggest advantage to being in Kampala was that I got my first day off since I started! The guy who owned the workshop we were using said that he wasn't happy for me to be there working on my own on a Sunday, so that was it! I took that day to go and catch up with
That's what it weighs, almost the same as a small car! It took 4 days, but it was out!
the folk out at Jinja who I got to know in 2008 when I spent more than a week renewing my acquaintance with white-water kayaking.
Not the best day in the end as I slipped when launching, pulled my back that was already a bit sore fromt he amount of lifting and pushing of taking the gearbox out, in the end I didn't get to kayak further than the Bujagali falls, then I hopped in the safety raft and spent the rest of the day being rowed down the river chatting to a lovely Australian girl who wanted to raft but was totally terrified of the water after a near drowning when she was very small, her and her husband were on an overland bus trip and he really wanted to do the rafting, so she was giving it a go, a very brave woman!
It was just what I needed, to relax and unwind for a day, drifting down a beautiful river in the heart of Africa. Watching life drift by.
Come the end of the week, the truck was fixed but the paperwork for all the equipment, spares and tools I was to take back with me. So
Rising from Entebbe
The view out over Lake Victoria just after take off, all that water!!
it was decided to fly back to Juba and come back when the paperwork was sorted. So on the Saturday morning I headed out to the "in"famous Entebbe airport. Got on a plane and it was back to Juba.
There are more photos below