The Spirit of Zimbabwe
We always knew when we went on this holiday that there’d be some tense and scary moments. Our missed plane at OR Tambo was one of them, today we had another. Antelope Park is 160km from Bulawayo. We made it up there safely yesterday but towards the end of the journey the car started making unusual noises and the oil light flicked on a few times.
Ten kilometres into the return journey the noises started up, accompanied by the oil light. I wasn’t too perturbed as we have Lance with us and I’m not being biased in suggesting he’s one of Australia’s top diesel mechanics – his position and salary from BHP establishes his bona fides. He topped the oil up, the noise went away and off we went.
Another twenty kilometres down the road we realised this was not going to be a quick fix. The car noise returned, the oil light started up. It was not looking good. We incrementally limped our way into the one shop town of Shangani. We’d hoped to get some engine oil there for Lance to do a full oil change. There was lots of beer on sale, but no oil. A truckie gave us a litre of diesel oil and off we limped again.
Finally, 90km from Bulawayo, we realised we were really in trouble. The oil pump had given up the ghost and they’re not exactly easy to come by and limping into Bulawayo was not going to be possible either. It’s mandatory in Zimbabwe to carry a fluorescent vest, warning triangles and fire extinguishers in each vehicle, or face huge fines. Suddenly we were using two of the three, and if we tried to coax the car further we’d be using all three.
It seemed our best bet would be to call Debbie and see if someone could come out from Bulawayo to tow us. Apparently a tow truck would have wanted $3000 for the trip. Leaving the car by the roadside was not an option as the car would probably be stripped by the next morning. So here we were on a narrow shoulder, dusk fast approaching, stranded.
Anne and the boys started praying and before they’d even finished their amen our knight in a shining Landcruiser arrived. A cheery Zimbabwean guy driving in the opposite direction pulled over, assessed our predicament and decided the only solution was for him to turn around and tow us the 90km back home.
A few problems presented themselves, chief of which was the lack of a tow rope. The national slogan for Zimbabwe is “make a plan”, so that’s what we did. The best we had was a roll of mutton cloth, so we plaited it up and connected the vehicles and off we went. The mutton cloth snapped a couple of times, once as we passed through roadworks and the road crew downed shovels to tie the cloth back up for us – the word “boopa” being used liberally. They did a good job – the mutton cloth held after their endeavor for 60km until we were met with a steel tow rope bought out to us from Bulawayo. Joseph’s Swiss army knife was needed to cut it off in the end.
I wish I could say the steel cable did the job but it snapped twice before we finally made it home. Gweru to Bulawayo – 160km in five and a half hours!
And our knight? He refused payment for bailing us out. And he really did rescue us from a very precarious situation. We tried but he refused point blank to take a cent. Steven Trenchard – a Zimbabwean patriot and a wonderful example of the Zimbabwean camaraderie and helpfulness in everyday life.
What a country.