Getting Started

For this journey I wanted an older rugged vehicle. I wanted a Land Rover. But several friends who have a lot less “driving in Africa” experience than me talked me out of my Land Rover and into a Toyota. So now I have an eighteen year old Toyota 4Runner. As I ready the car for this trip I have found it very difficult to get spares and accessories for this car/model. Not a good start.

With the work I carried out, a lot of tricky and clever welding was expertly done by Steve at Transweld Ltd. of Pagglesham 01702 258886 . And a huge amount of assistance came from a good friend Keith Pointing a motor engineer and pre-war Riley Specialist, with a part time interest in one particular post-war 4Runner.

Delays, Hiccups, Cockups, War and Pestilence all contributed to our late departure on this trip, I am not sure where the pestilence comes into it but I am certain it had a part to play somewhere.

We set off on a crisp and frosty December morning to get our ferry at Dover and our all-important international driving permit, there are two versions of this document, a 1949 and a 1921, but we only need the 1949 convention, amazingly it looks like it still made of cheap paper left over from 1949.

Damp, dismal France and Belgium, snow laden Germany, and as we approached Austria I decided to get off the dreary motorways and cut across country. Going up into the Austrian Tirol was spectacular, but trundling up one high pass a lorry in front was having great difficulties and as I executed my passing manoeuvre I got a bit of a wiggle on the ice, I engaged four wheel drive, super, this is the first time I have done this in earnest.

On the way down for some reason known only to mechanical science I lost the use of my clutch, there I was mid gear change no gears, great, I am on a ski slope I have all my wheels engaged but unfortunately none of them are connected to the engine.
My sat nag who sits next to me and usually says “you want the next left” “er no sorry the other way” was not quite so cool, she was screwing up the map and saying “wasappened?” “wotawegunnerdo?” “w.w.w.w.what?”

Eventually getting down to a town we went for a coffee, when we returned to the car all was well, it seemed that some mystical magic over heated the clutch fluid. So, no real problem.
Being woken at four thirty a.m. by snow ploughs driving up and down outside the bedroom window was not an encouraging start to the day.

road to Africa

Descending out of the high mountains I had to ponder on the notion, if my clutch fluid can overheat in the ice and snow what is it going to be like in Africa?

Once out of the mountains and meandering down the Adriatic coast, the sun was shining and everything in the world was lovely. Arriving at Dubrovnik in the early evening it started to rain.
In the morning it was pouring, I am sure that in some places the water on the road was deeper than the sea on our right, and some of the other idiots on the road should have drowned at birth. Escaping Croatia into Montenegro the roads and the rain got worse, I think they used water soluble bitumen on the roads as there seemed to be no tar but an awful lot of mac.

Setting off at eight thirty in the morning we got to Shkoder in Albania at 4.30 in the afternoon a total of 142 miles (230 k.) of driving. Possibly the worst conditions I have driven in.
The Sat Nag had a bit of a problem as well, no road numbers, no town names, and very few direction signs.

All the fuel pump prices are in euros not the Albnian ‘lec’ I pulled into a service station and a scruffy little man came running out, he stood by the pump and said “euro” I said “yes” he said louder (probably because I am foreign) “euro” Aah I thought he wants paying first, not knowing how much I wanted I just gave him 40 euros (2 X 20€ notes) he took the notes did a lot of mental calculations and typed into the gizmo thingy on the pump 56 euros, and said something in fluent Albanian to me, I was a bit bemused as to what he was going on about, so I just shrugged, he carried on and put 56 euros of fuel in the tank, when finished he said something more fluent, I stood there puzzled, With a lot of hand gestures and more Albanian I think he indicated something to the effect of, bugger off I am a busy man, have a nice day. As we drove down the road I got the navigator cross checking cost per litre, number of litres and 56euros, and the forty euros I paid does not fit in anywhere. I am still not sure if he was missing something or I am.

Passing through the shambles that is the capital Tirana led us to the mountains again, and snow deep snow, we had to go over two high passes and on both sides of each of them were lorries and cars stuck all over the place, luckily I have the 4WD and was able to weave in and out of them up and down, I got so carried away that I said to Helen “I am going to get one of these when we get back” when I had calmed down a bit I remembered I had one of these already.
This time no matter how deep or cold the snow I managed not to boil my clutch fluid. I must be getting better.

After Macedonia down to the Mediterranean coast where it is sunny and warm and everything in the world is lovely.

room with a view

Turkey, a quick stop in Istanbul to go to the Sudanese consulate to try and get visas there to save going into Cairo, no luck they do not issue visas to people on holiday, I am afraid that went straight over my head.

We had a couple of days off in Cappadocia, a few years ago we were staying with some friends on their boat, we left them to make an awful journey across Turkey to see this region, a torture we had to endure as we may never pass this way again, now it is right on our route. It’s a funny old world.

Down to Eskederun to wait for the awful, whimsical, frustrating ferry.

Amazingly we have crossed thirteen countries to get here.

There are a few photos on http://picasaweb.google.com/mickhelen99

There is a bit of a route map on http://www.zeemaps.com/map?group=468852.

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