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1 month, 1 week ago

Postscript

By the peculiarities of rally awards we were given second place in our class. The prize was two Zebras.

Makes it all worthwhile. 

1 month, 2 weeks ago

The End

Colnago, Bianci, Scott, Specialized and many others are the brand names of the top end road bikes climbing up Chapman's Peak Drive, the terrifying toll road cut into the mountain of the Cape Peninsula. If we lose control of the car on the twisty bends here it's a 200 ft drop straight into the Atlantic.

But as we approach Cape Town the road flattens out and smart bars and cafes start to appear, until at Lui Bay the scene is more like California than Africa. The broad white-sand beach is crowded with colourful umbrellas, and teenagers are playing multiple games of barefoot soccer.

At Camps Bay there are spectacular modern apartments built clinging to the cliffside. Clearly this is where the very rich like to live. We seem somehow to have completly left Africa behind and are now in another place, monied and privileged. Beautiful hotels, chic bars and restaurants, art galleries, manicured public spaces, and all the trappings of modern city living. The appalling shanty town we saw on the beach not 20km back is from a different world.

But Camps Bay is where our journey ends. We crossed the finish line and were sprayed with Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc - Alex's new favourite fizz. There was whooping, horn blowing, high fives, hugs, photos, many swigs of the Blanc de Blanc. Tracy and Jamie are there to congratulate us and take a ride on the footplate of Rhubarb and Custard.

The cars were lined up for a concourse photo and the party was in full swing when one of the Alfa's started to smoke and the engine burst into flame. There was a scramble for fire extinguishers and two were used to put the fire out whilst everyone went in close for a look (not me - I moved as far away as possible). It was a sad moment for Philip and Eva, the Alfa's owners, and the car had to be towed to the hotel. But it kind of summed up the spirit of the rally. You never know what's going to happen next, but you can be sure there are plenty of friends who will be there with you - through the bad moments and the good.

Keep Chooching. 

1 month, 2 weeks ago

Last Day for the Beard

1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Western Cape

At a certain point as you travel west across the Karoo God throws a switch and suddenly the brutal semi- desert landscape becomes green and lush, with vineyards and cornfields and rich countryside. At first I thought this landscape was like England but on a giant scale - Duplo compared to Lego bricks perhaps. But then the monstrous mountain ranges appeared, one after another, and I realised this was something ekse, a unique landscape - as if the Rocky Mountains had been plonked down across rural France. There are even French names on some of the vineyards, but I think this is a pretention as the only accents we have heard are Afrikaan. We did however get to talk the language of wine at a delightful tasting. I was driving but the Skall did a full and thorough review of the offer. His recommendation ("Bloody good stuff this") is Graham Beck Blanc de Blanc 2013 Vintage fizz available from Bibendum in Primrose Hill. We did great work in today's test sections but I think we are still lying third in our class. We busted a wheel today but it was bashed back into shape with a large hammer. Cape Town tomorrow.  

1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Karoo

In December 1895 Leander Starr Jameson took an armed force from British territory into the independent Boer state of Transvaal, with the intention of a surprise raid on Johannesburg. The objective was control of the Transvaal's enormous gold fields, which Cecil Rhodes wanted to add to his De Beers diamond empire.

To suprise the Boers, Jameson's men cut the telegraph wires to Cape Town. As a result they failed to get the British Government's urgent message to stand down. At the same time they mistook a fence for the telegraph line to Johannesburg so that the Boers were able to be warned in advance of Jameson's plans.

Jameson was easily captured by the Boers, and his botched raid was the immediate cause of the terrible Second Boer War. The British relatively quickly won the battlefield but the Boers retreated into the Karoo - a huge semi desert area with terrifying mountain ranges - and fought a guerilla war. 20,000 Boers - including many women and children - died in British concentration camps before a peace treaty was signed.

It's almost impossible to believe that anyone can live in the Karoo. Temperatures rise to 45 degrees (only 42 on our visit) and the area is utterly hostile to life, with almost no surface water. Even today with modern roads the mountain passes (know as Drifts by the Boers) are hard work and slow driving.

Before the Boers, the area was filled with game, but when underground water was discovered the land was turned over to sheep and ostrich farming - the feathers were incredibly valuable in European fashion salons. Diamonds were discovered in Kimberly and a railway line was built across the desert.

The curious result of all this money flowing into the Karoo is that the little towns that sit on the insufferable plain are surprisingly cultured and elegant. Colonies of artists and writers sprung up, and even today the smart streets of Victorian properties support arts and crafts and delightful coffee houses. The homemade cooking is terrific everywhere. It's as if the terrain is so harsh that the locals desperately need something soft and soulful in their lives.

This is a brutal place with a brutal history. It's a landscape that made me shudder slightly, but this is also the kindest and warmest welcome we have had along the road. I like the Karoo very much. 

1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Wild Coast

The Thembo family are the chiefly tribe in the village of Mvezo in South Africa's Wild Coast region. This is an area where several large rivers make their way to the Indian Ocean and as a result the land is deeply scored with valleys and steep sided hills. Even today the roads are tortuous and difficult. One we travelled had a sign for the local Spar supermarket announcing, 'Only 133 bends to go'. These are not roads you want brake failure on.

It's perhaps strange then that such an isolated village as Mvezo should produce a chief of the Thembos who won the Order of Lenin and the Nobel Peace Prize and who became South Africa's first black President - Nelson Mandela. But maybe growing up in such wild country was good preparation for becoming a guerilla fighter.

If you can bear the tortuous journey into and out of this region you are well rewarded. The amazing coastline means that today the area has a booming tourist industry. Along the coast there are long beaches disturbed only by the surf of the ocean. The rivers flowing down to the sea support abundant fish and fish eagles. It's a good spot to be an angler.

Nelson Mandela left his home town for the big city. In his case Johannesburg. In our case we press on for Cape Town and the finish line.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

POSH We are often singing as we travel the road and our favourite tune has become 'POSH', Caracticus Potts travelling song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Here are the lyrics: . This is livin', this is style, this is elegance by the mile Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me First cabin and captain's table regal company Whenever I'm bored I travel abroad but ever so properly Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh The hands that hold the scepters, every head that holds a crown They'll always give their all for me they'll never let me down I'm on my way to far away tah tah and toodle-oo And fare thee well, and Bon Voyage arrivederci too O the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me First cabin and captain's table regal company Pardon the dust of the upper crust--fetch us a cup of tea Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H, posh In every foreign strand I land the royal trumpets toot me The royal welcome mat is out They 21 gun salute me But monarchies are constantly commanding me to call Last month I miffed the Mufti but you can't oblige them all Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me Oh rumpetly tumpety didy didy dee dee dee dee dee Oh the posh posh traveling life, the traveling life for me First cabin and captain's table regal company When I'm at the helm the world's my realm and I do it stylishly Port out, starboard home, posh with a capital P-O-S-H P-O-S-H, P-O-S-H...

1 month, 2 weeks ago

Brake Failure!

Disaster! We have had break failure on one of the test sections of the rally. We still completed but it was a bit hairy.

The sweeps (mechanics) helped us fix it but it failed again a few miles later. By that time they had gone to help another car.

Hopefully it can be fixed this evening.

1 month, 2 weeks ago

An Update on the Rally

With only a few days to go Rhubarb & Custard is lying third in its class and provided we don’t break down or foul up that’s probably where we will end up at the finish line. We are simply too heavy to beat the faster cars on the speed sections so our only way of gaining on them are the regularities - but they keep getting cancelled.

Breaking down is always a possibility. One of the Fangios has burnt out its clutch (again), one of the Mustangs lost fifth gear and reverse on the racetrack, the Ford Capri has retired hurt with a broken camshaft chain and the Shelby has lost an ‘H’ from its rear badge and so is now a Sell by.

We have had problems with the passenger door starting to fall off, but we fixed that with a screwdriver. The handbrake has stopped working but that will be fixed later today. There’s oil leaking from the engine seals and the rear axle but not in a serious way. Otherwise all in good shape. 

1 month, 2 weeks ago

Swaziland

We have discovered two other Buicks in Swaziland. One is a 1938 model and the other from the 1970s, both are huge limousines owned by Mswati III - king of Swaziland and kept in his car museum alongside the royal Cadillac. In fact that is the entire collection in the Museum, which is otherwise given over to pictures and statues of the royal family.

Mswati has 17 wives and at least two palaces. We stayed in a third palace reserved for visiting heads of state. It’s set out as a series of houses in an estate, each one has a Royal Suite for the senior dignitary and smaller suites for his or or her (but this is Africa so his is correct) entourage. The Skall and I had the room reserved for the secret service detail, so we went around with our fingers held as guns and peering around corners.

Swaziland shouldn’t really exist as the British plan was to make it part of S. Africa. But a combination of guile, legal manoeuvring and bribery kept most of the kingdom intact and independent.

It’s a beautiful place, very hilly, a cross between Scotland and the lower parts of the Alps. The approach road into the capital, Mbabane, is terrifying in an old car steep and twisty. We were in second gear the whole way to save the brakes.

Mozambique and S.Africa between them have pretty much got Swaziland by the political balls. They took some of the King’s power away a few years ago and the Swazi Lilangeni is pegged to the S. African Rand.

Still, Mswati still rules the roost domestically - although, perhaps with 17 wives his domestic life is more complicated than we think. 

1 month, 3 weeks ago

An Investment Opportunity?

1 month, 3 weeks ago

Cows

Here are two numbers - 1,600 and 7,500. The first is the US Dollar GDP per head for Zambia and the second for both Botswana and South Africa.

So even by the standards of its neighbours Zambia is poor, and you see the difference as soon as you cross the border into Botswana. Suddenly the houses are better, the roads are better, the cars and trucks on the roads are better. And - thank god - there is less litter (Africa is one filthy continent); but this isn’t because of greater wealth or more litter collectors, it’s because there are hardly any people in Botswana. - just over 2 million in a country the size of France. There are more cows than people here, somewhere around 3 million (mind you there are 3.5 million cows in France so Botswana has scope for a few more).

There’s a step change again into South Africa. Now the public toilets don’t fill you with horror, there are dual carriageways (never thought I would be so pleased to see one), recognisably proper houses and - wait for it - shopping centres (whoopee!).

But hang on. At the top I said that Botswana and S. Africa had the same GDP per head. So how can S Africa be so much more developed? Well, there are more cows for a start (13.5 million) but that surely can’t be the answer. No, it’s the fact that S Africa has 55 million people that makes the difference. This is a big country with a big population and a big economy. With all due respect to Botswana, S. Africa is a real place and Botswana is basically a big ranch with a diamond mine and a game reserve attached.

S Africa may not be the ‘real’ Africa experience, but it’s bloody interesting. We shall enjoy exploring it. 

1 month, 3 weeks ago

The Way of The Chooch: Part 2

Some more rules for life that we have taken from the road.

Swerving - Some problems aren’t worth solving. We’ve realised that swerving suddenly is very alarming in R&C which doesn’t have modern levels of roadholding. Accordingly we have agreed to simply run over anything smaller than a goat.

The Straights - we are often on perfectly straight roads for miles and miles and miles. Very boring. But sometimes that’s just how the road is - it’s not always a thrill ride.

Other Competitors - cars go past us all the time, and sometimes we see them going in a different direction or even in the opposite direction to us. You can drive yourself mad thinking about what they are all up to. We’ve learnt to ignore what others are doing and focus on our own rally.

This is the Way of the Chooch. 

1 month, 3 weeks ago

How are we doing?

We are now just over half way, and here’s the state of play with the car:

- We are fourth in our class (out of six, so not very impressive)

- Our speedometer has stopped working

- Our fuel gauge has stopped working

- Our passenger side wing mirror has fallen off

These are minor issues that we are not worried about. So basically all good.

Here’s the state of play with us:

- Alex has a minor fever and the squits. The doc says this is from swallowing river water whist rafting and it will go in a few days.

- I have a whiplash injury also from the rafting. It’s only unbearable when I lie down or drive, so sleeping and rallying are a problem.

We’ve put in some long days of 500km or more. That’s around ten hours driving for us, so pretty tiring. We have another long day today and then a rest day in Kruger. I’ve booked us both into the spa!

1 month, 3 weeks ago

Clouds!

1 month, 3 weeks ago

Free Movement

When you are a landlocked country like Zambia, road connections become your lifeblood. Right now the roads west, to DRC, Angola and the Atlantic, is seriously dangerous. We met a former truck driver who used to drive that route and he carried a sackful of dollars to pay off the various militias along the way, sometimes every few miles.

The alternative roads to the sea are east to Tanzania and Dar és Salaam or south through Botswana to South Africa. It is this second trade route that we are driving now.

On both sides of the Zambia/Botswana border it’s is an excellent and fast road - dead straight and flat as an elephant’s ear. Now there are many fewer villages - in Botswana hardly any at all - the land is given over to beef farming. Alex and I stopped for petrol at a farm house (not quite as bonkers as it sounds out here) and the farmer told us he had 3,000 hectares for cattle - that’s 30 square kilometres, a monster farm by British standards.

But they are cow crazy out here, with frequent vetinary inspection points on the road designed to stop the spread of animal diseases.The Botswanans have erected huge vetinary fences that stop wild animals infecting beef herds. These fences have also stopped wild animal migrating and destroyed ancient ecosystems.

At the border between Zambia and Botswana the concept of a vital trade route disintegrates as every vehicle needs to cross the Zambezi on a tiny and ancient ferry. We had to wait two hours whilst the vessel was repaired (with a hammer). Trucks have to wait days or weeks to make the crossing. It’s an embarrassment for both countries.

But Chinese money is building a new road bridge that will dramatically change things. In the future trucks and people will be able to move freely between the two countries.

For the wild animals caged in by the vet fences however, moving freely will never be possible again. 

1 month, 3 weeks ago

Gone with the wind

Alex has turned into Rhett Butler

1 month, 4 weeks ago

Walking

Viewed from our vehicle, the natural state of Africans is walking. Walking north, walking south, walking with a load, walking empty-handed, walking to school, walking home, walking alone, in groups, dressed in rags, dressed in a suit and tie, walking in the cool of the morning, the heat of the day and the blackness of night.

Where they are going, why they are going there and what they do when they arrive is a mystery. We can be miles from any visible village and there are still people walking. Always along the roadside, oblivious to the the clouds of dust and diesel thrown up by the trucks or the tons of plastic water bottles that form a carpet at the roadside.

One thing we are sure of is that they don’t walk from the love of it. If a bicycle is available or a bus or a motorbike or a tuk tuk they will all be preferred. But it’s a sign of how little money is around that we’ve only seen motorbikes and tuk tuks in Tanzania.

Still, everyone loves an old car - there’s constant waving and cheering as we pass through the villages (and there are hundreds of villages). Well, nearly everyone loves an old car. Stones were thrown at us in one village, smashing a side widow on a Mustang and denting the door of one of the Fangios (bloody good shots but completely terrifying to us drivers and Navigators)

To be honest, if I had no choice but to walk everywhere everyday I might be tempted to throw the odd stone myself. We are lucky Africans are so accepting of their lot and beautifully good natured. 

2 months ago

A Brush with DeathWhat no-one tells you about near death experiences is they leave you with a really filthy headache, slightly unsteady on your feet and desperately in need of a large whisky. But whereas what I needed was two neurophen and a lie down with a tumbler of Macallan 12 year old, what I actually got was another chance to be thrown out of a boat followed by a long, steep and nasty walk out of the canyon. Our day of rafting the Zambezi River below Victoria Falls started well. Above the falls the Zambezi is a broad slow-flowing river. Then it drops spectacularly into a narrow and steep sided canyon. It’s a dramatic landscape to float down on a raft. The basalt sides of the canyon rise up some 100m almost vertically, providing nests for fish eagles and rare black eagles. Along the canyon sides are lazy crocodiles, and the river is abundant with fish. It’s also said that the odd hippo goes over the falls but it’s hard to believe they could survive the drop. Anyway we didn’t see any. Tourists navigate the canyon in rubber dinghies manned by a guide. The short tour that we took included 10 cataracts (or waterfalls if you prefer) graded between 3 and 5, with one being a 6 and not available to tourists. We saw a canoeist attempt this and to be honest I thought he was dead - caught up in an endless whirlpool for almost a minute. He popped up quite happy, but the other professionals were clearly very concerned and relieved. For the most part the river is serenely beautiful but the cataracts are dangerous. Our downfall, my near drowning, was on cataract number 8. Here there are choices of approach - easy, medium and hard. Our boat (not me) voted for hard, with a 90% chance of flipping. And of course that’s what happened - You are flipped out without any chance to draw breath and thrown deep (very deep) down into the foaming water.  It’s impossible to know which way up you are or whether you are going to come to the surface at all. I  felt myself running out of air just as the colour of the water changed to light blue and I popped up above the surface. I desperately tried to draw a breath but immediately a mass of water smacked me in the face followed by another and another and another. I realised that you don’t drown because you can’t hold your breath for long enough but because your windpipe fills with water and you simply can’t cough it up.Strangely I found the boat with my hand and grabbed the safety rope running around it. Mistake. The boat pushed me further under the water. Henry, our boatman was on top of the upturned vessel and ordered me to the back of the boat. He promptly righted it, leaving me underneath - another ghastly underwater experience. In fairness his safety briefing came in useful and I knew how to get out from under. Then I was hauled into the boat, somehow still clutching my paddle. Very much in shock, breathing heavily and very unhappy. Everyone else thought it was great fun. By the final cataract I was beginning to recover. And then the boat tipped and I was in the foam again. More choking and another bad experience. I’m rescued but to be honest I would rather have taken my chances with the crocs than get back in that boat. Never, ever, again. 

2 months ago

White FarmersLunch - important on the road - has usually been an egg sandwich stolen from the breakfast table. But today is different, because today we are the guests of Roland and Mandy Smith who farm 1000 hectares of southern Zambia. Mandy and her neighbours have put on a magnificent display. Chicken, ham, salads, strawberries, ice cream. All home made and all amazing. Alex and I kept very quiet about the bacon sandwich and boiled egg we had eaten on the road not half an hour beforehand. Their farmhouse is in the Dutch style with a thatched roof. Inside is open plan and easy comfort, a big sitting room and a dining room to match. There’s a modern kitchen too, but that’s an illusion because the real work is going on in the back, where the old school prep table wouldn’t disgrace a stately home. To complete the picture are multiple dogs and a genuine welcome. Outside, the garden is something special. A glorious blaze of summer flowers across the lawn leading down to an immense lake. It’s a view and situation to die for. And some of the dogs have done so - crocodiles come up at night and take what they can. The Smiths support the local school, and each year they fly in doctors to help the local villagers - this is the only time they will see a doctor. If there’s a medical emergency in the rest of the year there is no help. It’s a strange and remarkable life being a white farmer in Zaire. Beautiful, hostile, important, unloved, forgotten. And yet part of a community and, somehow, a stake in the ground that defies the chaos of Africa and brings a little oasis of humanity. 

2 months ago

ZambiaBefore the Great East Highway was built, the land from the Malawi border to the Zambian capital of  Lusaka must have been utterly remote. The scenery stretches out to eternity in every direction.  Rolling hills smothered in trees and bushes growing out of carmine soil. The colours are to die for. Every conceivable shade of red, green, yellow and brown. And although the individual trees are substantial, the landscape is so vast that each one becomes just a smear of colour. If the impressionists had come to Zambia instead of the South of France they would have given up  - recognising that Mother Nature had beaten them to it and in a manner they could never match. But the remoteness of this region is hard on the people who live here. Now the villages really are straw huts. The children are ragged and the motorbikes and Tuk Tuks have gone. It’s often said that you can tell a man by his shoes. Here they have none. I stopped taking photos as it no longer felt appropriate. Bizarrely, in the middle of all this is a petrol station that takes credit cards - the first of the trip. About 30km outside Lusaka there’s a toll gate on the road. Everything changes past this point. Now there are modern warehouses, factories and recognisable shops. There are expensive cars on the streets and - hallelujah! - the Radisson Blu Hotel, with a swimming pool and hot and cold running four star luxury. We’ve seen a lot of different ways of living today but right now the one that appeals includes a hot shower and a bottle of red wine. 

2 months ago

The Way of The ChoochOn these long drives we have developed a philosophy of the road to keep ourselves sane. It runs like this1. Our objective is to reach the next hotel in time for dinner. But it’s not enough just to do the drive, we must also Chooch. Chooching means enjoying the journey, taking in the sights and scenery and appreciating what we are doing. It also means keeping up a good average speed and getting on with the drive. There are many obstacles in the way of good Chooching. 2. Trucks - good chooching means that trucks have got to be overtaken. This is an art form - since R&C hasn’t got much overtaking oomph. It requires patience and looking for the moment. When the opportunity to overtake comes then it must be grabbed and not fluffed. Some courage is necessary. 3. Trucks. Having overtaken a truck it’s important to understand that there is always another truck. 4. Goats. From time to time a goat will run out onto the road in front of you. You will swerve to avoid it. But it’s useful to know that where there is one goat another is likely to be close behind. Don’t get complacent. This is the way of the Chooch. 

2 months ago

MalawiCrossing into Malawi was a massive undertaking including four hours of pointless paperwork at the border crossing. Once across the road swept alongside the vast expanse of Lake Malawi - the other shore is quite invisible. There are beautiful sandy beaches here and the road is flat. What’s more, thank god, there are almost no trucks so finally we can make serious progress. And we need to as we have a long way to go until tonight’s hotel. But. The road leaves the lakeshore and starts to twist up into the hills. The road surface becomes rough and uneven and our speed drops dramatically. At least Rhubarb and Custard is built for the rough stuff, other cars are in real trouble and one of the Porsche’s breaks it’s rear suspension. Now it’s a race to avoid driving in the dark, but we just aren’t quick enough. The sun sets and we have half an hour of twilight before it’s totally dark - not even the moon to help out. We had assumed that when darkness came the villagers went to bed but in fact everyone becomes more lively and huge numbers of people are strolling up and down the side of the highway going who-knows-where? It’s terrifyingly dangerous as they are totally invisible until the last moment. Our right hand headlight is useless and points up into the sky, illuminating the trees. The left hand one gives us about 15 feet of visibility. Oncoming drivers are on full beam and so are those coming up behind. It’s a nightmare. The broken Porsche gives up but somehow a flatbed truck arrives from a nearby village and the spectators at the village football match lift the car up onto the truck. Their fee is £20. Finally, at 8pm, we roll into the hotel car park - exhausted. It’s another 10 hour day tomorrow and another border crossing. 

2 months ago

Village PeopleBack in Dar es Salaam we visited a museum of village life where traditional village huts had been reconstructed to show city dwellers what rural life had been like. Now we are driving through modern rural villages we can see that those old types of buildings no longer exist. There are some homes still made of mud, stone and straw but they are roughly put together and don't have the elegance of those in the museum. Most people live in a mud-brick built house with a tin roof. Some neatly kept with a garden and satellite dush, but most fairly basic. Shops and community buildings are built in the same way. Only schools have more substance to them, perhaps because here you have to pay to get an education. And people are willing and able to pay - we see School children everywhere wearing imacculate uniforms - including jumpers, which to us seems mad in such a hot climate. The children are wildly enthusiastic when they see Rhubarb & Custard go past. Getting an education here is the route out of a mud-brick building and into the modern world. Sure, the villages here have power and water and schools and some basic healthcare. And there's no shortage of beautiful local produce either. But everyone we see has a smartphone and is connected to the world outside their village. They see what the rest of the world has, and some at least will leave their villages to get it. The next generation may look on today's Tanzanian village houses as something for the museum of village life, alongside ancient tribal huts. If so that will be a good thing, and it will mean that Tanzanians are building their own future. 

2 months, 1 week ago

Motor Sport is DangerousEven before the start of the Rally two cars will not be on the starting grid. One of the seven Mustangs broke a back axel just as it was about to be shipped to Dar es Salaam. The driver and navigator have hired a Toyota Hi Lux to follow the Rally to Cape Town. Ten kilometres from the point where we collected the cars, one of the Mercedes was involved in a hefty side collision. The steering is affected and it isn't safe to drive - so John and Colleen hitch a ride in the Hi Lux.It's pretty dangerous out on the open road too. At many cross roads there's no obvious priority and trucks and buses will pull out from side roads in front of you with no warning. The roads aren't too bad and there are crawler lanes on the steeper sections - just as well as overtaking is only for the brave. The 200km to our first stop takes us five hours - and this is the A road. Others are quicker but several drivers encounter the local police and are handed on the spot fines. One of the Fangio coupes was stopped for having only one working rear light. It's pointed out that the 1930's car was only built with one rear light. The puzzled policeman was told to, 'Blame the Americans.' The BMW 2002 got away with a fine for crossing the white line because the number plate wasn't on the system. An invitation to accompany plod to the station was turned down. R&C of course has a flat battery again so we are jump started but after that it's a smooth run. Some swearing from the driver when other vehicles don't appreciate R&C's brakes aren't up to modern standards, but that's to be expected. The first 200km are in the can. 6,800 to go. 

2 months, 1 week ago

The RoadWe are now several hundred Kilometers from Dar es Salaam (I could tell you exactly how far but that would require getting off the bed, and I'm too exhausted to move). As it's a rally I guess I should tell you something about the road itself. We have been on the same road (I think the A7) for the entire time, without deviating left or right. Parts of the road are newly made with Chinese money. The tarmac is smooth and the painted lines are clear. We hate these sections because they are zealously policed and subject to rediculous speed restrictions, which are supposed to apply to villages only. And whichever Chinese Mandarin painted the no overtaking lines has never driven a car, as long sections of perfectly straight road forbid overtaking. As a result we have been stopped once for crossing the no overtaking lines and once for speeding. The latter is a total scam - no receipt is issued and the fine is simply  pocketed by the traffic cop. I think everyone on the rally has been caught out. By contrast the old sections of road are full of potholes and rough surfaces, often the road is rutted and deformed and the white lines have worn away. Here there are no rules of the road and it suits Rhubarb & Custard perfectly. We thrive on deformed roads because the car was built for Mongolia, and overtake when we think it is safe, not when we are told to. It's much more fun. Progress is chronically slow as the local lorries are overloaded and gutless or both. Overtaking here is an art form. Our system is that both driver and navigator have to agree to go - R&C doesn't have much oomph in the lower register so overtaking is like winding up an old clock. But we have surprised a few people with what the car can do when we put our foot to the floor. All is running well. We have low oil pressure at idle and a bit of oil weeping from the engine seals but nothing to worry about we think. 

2 months, 2 weeks ago

Dar es SalaamOut in the Indian Ocean, between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar we can see the distinctive triangular sails of Dhows, traditional boats that would ply between Dar es Salaam, India and the Middle East. The Dhows have a surprising turn of speed, but the winds are strong here - the menus at the beachside restaurants have to be firmly held if they are not to blow away. In between the Dhows are columns of container ships, waiting their turn in port and bringing a world of manufactured goods to Tanzania and all the landlocked countries of Africa that lie behind. The Arabs and Indians always traded with the East Coast of Africa and Dar es Salaam. Add in occupation by the Germans and British and the resultant mix combines Swahili with Arabic and Indian dialects overlayed with colonial English. In our taxi the radio news is in Swahili but I can make out 'Manchester United' in English and (lower down the news order) 'Theresa May' and 'Dominic Raab'. Bloody Brexit being discussed even here!Everyone is trading - the taxi stops at the lights and dozens of boys appear with bags of nuts, tissues, footballs and (strangely) windscreen wipers. Every piece of pavement (for which read dust at the side of the road) has a stall on it. Some with just a few coconuts for sale or offering to polish your shoes, others with extensive selections of bedroom furniture or just plain old junk. The city screams of enterprise and hustle and making your way in life. It's the complete opposite of the socialist republic that Tanzania's first president - Julius Nyerere - had in mind for the country.  I guess that the ancient trading spirit of the Dhows is too deeply in the blood here for any other way of life to take root - and everyone seems quite content that it should be that way.