Latest from the blog

20.04.2011 - Mali – Home

Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..


July 19th, 2010


Monday 5th July

After having had our first shower in 7 long days, we sat back at Georgina’s house and caught up having not seen her for 6 months. An early night was in order, especially after the stress of the drive through downtown Nairobi. We were exhausted following 7 days in the bush.

George’s house is secreted at the rear of the Stahare Boys Centre grounds, where she is volunteering as a music teacher. We fell into proper beds for the first time since Gondar and were out cold within minutes, extremely relaxed and with access to the comforts of running water, electricity and a full kitchen.

Tuesday 6th July

Up early sorting out photographs and blog on the computer before heading into town to find Immigration and Customs. As we had passed through an open border around Lake Turkana we had to sort Kenyan entry stamps for our passports and the car. Eventually we managed to find the relevant people in both buildings and even managed to get our Carnet stamped in without the customs chaps seeing the car! Unfortunately the incessant traipsing around that these processes invariably entail meant that we weren’t finished until 4pm.

We then grabbed a cheap bite to eat (an impressive first taste of local Kenyan cuisine) and hunted down the relevant minibus to take us over to Riaan, Stephani and Joel’s campsite, Jungle Junction. Impressive place, with the most Overland trucks we have seen in one place at one time since being on the road.

Flash bits of kit were on display on some overland trucks, but the most impressive was another fairly old Defender 110. A Dutch couple, travelling from South Africa back to Holland had rebuilt their entire car from the chassis up after rolling it over three times at 40 mph in Tanzania. After 5,000 Euros and a six week delay they were back on the road, keeping the dream alive. Very impressive stuff.

After saying hello to the guys and grabbing a beer with our friend Jan, the German biker, we headed to a local shopping centre for ‘buy one get one free’ Pizza and soft ice cream!!

A few beers followed whilst we watched Holland squeeze their way into the World Cup Final. There was free (fast!) wifi on offer, so we  left photos uploading for 4 hours to get blogs, articles and photos all sorted. Eventually rolled out at 2 am and got a cab home.

Wednesday 7th

Got up late following our night out and met Joel, who came over to have a look at his brakes on his Land Rover. After our mercilessly spiralling problems with the brakes before we left we were able to advise Joel and spent the rest of the day performing tests, whilst swapping bits between the cars to identify exactly what was causing the problem. Unfortunately for Joel, it appears the (expensive) vacuum pump is the culprit.

Thursday 8th

Day one of the cars major service. We gleefully utilised the Stahare Boys School’s wash station. After a ton or so of water had removed a ton or so of dirt, dust and debris, we were able to proper inspect the underside of the truck. To our horror, we found the rear crossmember welds had cracked, on both sides.

This was a major issue, not simply because it meant we needed to get the chassis re-welded but because some of the fuel tank fittings had been almost permanently fixed in place in a desperate (but successful) attempt to stop it leaking, literally the day before we left the UK.

Mindful of the major repairs now looming, we kept ourselves busy for the rest of the day, doing all the bits that we had to do, so that we didn’t get distracted later on by smaller issues which needed addressing.

As we tightened lots of bolts we found the roof was loose, cleaned all breathers, re-oilied bits and re-greased.


Friday 9th

Started the day with more work on the car and then headed out around Nairobi, seeking opinions on the chassis. Unfortunately there was a lot of waiting around at the various garages, so we ended up with a lot of appointments being shifted to the following Monday morning.

Saturday 10th

Started stripping the car down to provide access for the inevitable welding, removing the rear wheel carrier, ladder and rear towing assembly. That evening, we headed out on the town with Georgina for the evening, for our first taste of Kenyan nightlife.

Some time later, a quick check of the watch amazingly revealed that it was already 3 am and we were all fairly sober. Carl was cleaning up on the pool table against possibly the fattest African we had ever seen.

It was nice to get out and about in Nairobi and see a bit more of this surprisingly modern city. After Ethiopia and the desertion around Turkana, it almost feels like home with the creature comforts everywhere and lack of street hassle.

Sunday 11th

Sunday brought tiredness and lots of it after our attempts at Kenyan dancing the night before. Joel came over and we popped into town for a full English breakfast. What a luxury, our first sausage and baked beans since England. And bacon, wow, we had almost forgotten what it even looked like!

Monday 12th

The entirety of Monday was spent going from garage to garage, getting quotes, frowns and mixed advice with regards to the chassis welding. Some garages openly (and thankfully very honestly) admitted that such substantial repairs were not within their means, others said it was nothing to worry about and that ‘a couple of plates will suffice’.

 The one Western welder we visited said that we needed to change the entire chassis. Thus a fairly panicked night followed as we thought about his advice most seriously. We examined all options for chassis swaps; where and when, how much, could we nurse the car to SA?

Riaan and Stephanie left for Tanzania, so Joel moved in with us, at the gracious allowance of Georgina. Declining to sleep in the 2nd spare room with Carl, he pitched his tent in the back garden and soon had people admiring his camp.

Tuesday 13th

Tuesday took us to a few final garages and satisfied with various peoples explanations that our chassis could we fixed we sat down in the evening and weighed up the options.

It boiled down to one clearly very talented workman who was familiar with 4×4 chassis’s but who was very expensive, or a local truck and coach repair company who appeared to have all the kit but had struggled to convince us that they understood the severity of the situation.

 Amazingly, the owner of the local truck company, (an ex professional hunter and race-winning racing driver) loved the adventure we were completing and immediately offered to do the work for free.

A difficult conversation followed, both of us well aware of the implications of having the work done badly, but also all too aware that we couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of pounds to get it fixed. We agreed to go with the second company, desperately asking everyone we could think of for advice on how best to complete the repairs so that we could get the welding done exactly as we wanted!

We got down to the workshop and started stripping the car. Everyone there was amazingly friendly, we had the use of a hydraulic ramp and a clean workshop environment. It all made everything that bit easier, after the months of lying on the tarmac in Chalfont St Peter!

 None of the workers could help enough as we set about removing the exhaust, dropping fuel tank and cutting the wiring loom. At 4.45 pm the claxon went and we were ushered out, deciding to walk the 2 miles home through Nairobi’s industrial district as traffic was stopped dead and we would have needed to take two different buses to get home.


Wednesday 14th

Thankfully Joel gave us a lift to the workshop in the morning, saving us from navigating the buses or a walk. We continued stripping back the car as the welders wanted more room to work.

 Before we knew it the rear A-frame was off, along with rear wheels, rear prop shaft, rear springs and rear shocks, leaving only the trailing arms and brake lines connected to the rear axle.

Thankfully we changed all out brake lines to Hel Performance hoses so didn’t need to split the system but simply undid the hose clips and unbolted the callipers, leaving them free of the axle. Once the trailing arms were unbolted, we enlisted the help of 4 of the workshop boys and lifted the axle out. We were left slightly dumfounded at actually having removed our rear axle in the middle of Nairobi!

The chaps then set about taking measurements and cutting 2 foot long plates to weld along the inside and outside of the chassis rails. They also measured up plates for the top and bottom, as well as other various strengthening brackets for the rear floor, whilst also repairing other issues.

Despite it being his birthday, Joel helped us for most of the day and we then headed into town in the evening intending to catch a film, in keeping with his tradition of having been to the cinema in every African country he had travelled through.

However luck was against us as all films had already started. Unfazed, we got the bus home and agreed to get into town earlier the following night. Upon alighting from the bus, two guys seemed completely oblivious to Joel’s attempts to get past them and out the door. Strange, we thought, but put it down to the chaps having had too many beers.

Thursday 15th

Once all of the chassis was fully exposed and cleaned up we found lots of further cracks, some extending right along the welds and other branching out into the crossmember. Very worrying stuff but thankfully we were in the perfect place to have found them with everything stripped off and a welder at the ready.

The chaps were welding all day at the back end of the car so we got on with the rest of our service, draining the oil and attempting to tighten the front shocks.

The Koni shocks have been absolutely amazing thus far –  a far smoother ride than anyone else’s LR we’ve been in- this proved a much more difficult job than expected; having to tighten a 19mm nut against a 8mm stud is not the most sensible design.

We almost immediately felt the inevitable start of a slipping nut so began to improvise and eventually found a way to clamp the bottom of the shock with our Draper oil filter removal tool. We also got the guys to re-weld one of the additional bonnet supports which our friends at Nicol and Andrew Engineering had fitted, as it had begun to rub on the thermostat housing.

At the end of the working day, we headed home, aiming to get into town and see a film. Unfortunately Joel hadn’t managed to find his wallet and, after a phonecall to his mum back in Canadia, found that $15 had been charged to his card earlier that day in Texas of all places. Pick-pocketed the night before on his birthday as he left the bus, what a bummer. That’s why they call it Nai-robbery.

However, we did finally make it to the cinema to see Robin Hood. After George’s lustful witterings about Russell Crowe, we thankfully got to bed before 1am for the first time in a week

Friday 16th

In a real routine now, up early and down to the workshop, work all day, arrive home filthy, cook dinner and bed.

Up at 7.30 and down to City Panel Beaters and Painters, eager to make as much progress as possible before the weekend and still filled with a faint hope of having everything put back together so we could have the car for the weekend.

A truly manic day, never pausing after the chaps had finished the welding. The axle was heaved back into position and we began to bolt everything back on. For most of the afternoon we had the help of 4 of the workshop boys and, despite our initial monitoring and scientism of their competency, they showed how genuinely skilled they were.

With their help, everything bar the exhaust and tank was put back by 4 pm. The tank was sealed and resealed with silicone, to stop the leaks we had found whilst back in the UK.

 Oil was thrown in the engine, the front shocks finally tightened after stripping the bottom thread (then one of the locating studs on the spring cone snapped. Don’t ask.) and the old girl sprang into life!

We rolled off the ramp and out of the shop and just managed to pull out onto the main road when the engine died, leaving us stranded in the fastlane. We deployed the Land Rover Experience emergency triangle and racked our brains to think what was causing the problem. We realised it was either a blocked fuel line or an air leak in the line which was causing the engine to die.

We eventually got it to run by bleeding the system and by keeping the revs high and made it home, although not without the old 300 Tdi dying a couple more times. All the way home, the engine refused to rev over 2000 rpm, so it was a slow and anxious ride through the Nairobi rush hour.

Got back and celebrated with lots of beer, having truly worked our asses off the last few days. The car was mobile again after without doubt the most work we had ever done in such a short space of time and we had successfully got ourselves going again after breaking down!!

OK, we now had a problem to sort out, but when you are in a comfortable place with friends around, these things seem far less intimidating than dealing with it in the middle of nowhere surrounded by hassling locals.

Saturday 17th

We awoke with sore heads to discover that it was the 51st Founders Day at Stahare Boys Centre. Stahare is a very impressive boarding school which was setup to support some of the many orphaned children left homeless and parentless following the Mau Mau uprising.

The school has grown from just two small huts, still present in the school grounds. Even more impressive, it is now the 2nd best school in Kenya. Furthermore they appear to have succeeded in promoting a strong community spirit amongst the boys, something which many schools aim for but few succeed.

To mark the day one of the schools premier benefactors, the Kenyan President himself, attended a star-studded ceremony held on school grounds. In amongst the parents, teachers, schoolboys, venerable old boys, Ministers, MP’s, Bishops and other VIPs, one Canadian and two British overlanders tried in vain to blend in.

The President decreed that the rest of the school was, as always, most impressive. Sadly, he missed out on the guided tour of the To Hel And Back truck, so we will endeavour to drive her over to the palace at a later date. If only he would return our calls…

As Joel was set to leave on Sunday, we headed into town and played pool until 3 am, interspersed with some dancing. Yet again, Tom was accosted by a prostitute (honestly, I have no bloody idea why its always me! – T) and much fun was had by all.

Sunday 18th

Joel’s last day today. We all arose early and cooked up a huge breakfast to send Joel on his way, planning as he is to put the pedal to the metal (well, as much as one can in a Defender) and make the 2500 miles to SA in 8 days, as he has a wedding to attend and an academic paper to polish before publication.

We were all sad to see him go, a lovely guy who has been great company in addition to the lovely Georgina. We waved him off, declining to tell him about the enormous phallus drawn on his rear wheel cover in the dust. He’ll find out soon enough! Graffiti is a large problem in Kenya..

With all of us trying not to fall asleep after another late night, we got on with emptying Toms room of the car bits which had accumulated.

 Eventually the ladder and swing away wheel carrier went back on, but not after a lot of pain as the chassis and body have moved so much in relation to each other with all of the work, jacking the body and rough roads turning all our lovely alignment to pot.

Then it was to the main worry on our minds, why the engine wouldn’t run properly and had caused us to brake down three times on Friday night. We suspected a fuel problem, either air in the line or a blocked line so blew out all fuel lines, tightened all connections and fitted the new fuel filter which was due.

No change so back to square one and dismantled the connection where the line goes into the tank. Hey presto there was a great big blob of silicone which was blocking the line, this must have fallen into the tank when the old sender was removed, despite our best efforts to clean out the tank.

A quick spin round the block confirmed we were back to Mach 3 speeds, so we headed home to celebrate, for this problem had been a big cause for concern over the last few days.

Now we intend to see some more of Nairobi, rather than just the backside of a Land Rover, then hope to get back on the road towards Uganda.

To those of you who aren’t Land Rover enthusiasts, we apologise for the photos this week but due to the issues we had, all we have done thus far in Nairobi is work on the car! That said there were a few old photos from around Lake Turkana that we missed last time round, so we’ve added those, including the array of suggested objects and implements which were considered for putting Robert The Goat to sleep with.

Finally this week, we would like to big-up City Panel Beaters of Nairobi, very talented chaps who worked on our car,fed us and generally looked after us brilliantly throughout the last week. And all of this for free – they have taken the idea of welcoming guests to a whole new level.

  • Riders Retreat - mountain bike holidays in Morzine
  • Land Rover Experience
  • Watling Tyres
  • Draper Tools
  • Brit Part
  • hel
  • Koni
  • aalx designs
  • Bradt Travel Guids
  • Map Vivo
  • Antares - engineering with answers
  • EBC Brakes
  • Sentry Safes
  • Twisted Performance
  • X Eng
  • challenger 4x4
  • Goodwinch
  • K and N
  • Kenlowe
  • Waeco
  • Polybush
  • MM 4x4 Land Rover
  • Keith Gott
  • comma
  • Stigs stainless fastners
  • Tracmat
  • Alli Sport
  • BOSCH - invendted for life
  • Allparts - number 1 in car parts
  • Proppa
  • Goodyear 4x4
  • Aaron Radiator
  • Sign a rama
  • better Prepared
  • Devon 4x4
  • foley specialist vehicles
  • Labcraft LED lighting
  • Mammouth Premium
  • Plastor
  • Exmoor Trim
  • Terrafirma
  • sound reduction systems
  • aquarius
  • Master Lock
  • P and O Ferries
  • Dixon Bate
  • hibiscus
  • Ring Automotive
  • Roverland