The Grants' African adventure

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.

6 responses

  1. ragsie56

    10 out of 10 to Lance for driving behind the land cruiser with no brakes, minimal hand brakes and no shirt but the luminous yellow number as we drove with the window down so he could signal, if needed. No power no electric window. As for Steve…I heartily agree with your comment, Andy. Well said!

    June 28, 2012 at 6:06 am

  2. Sheila Grant

    Golly, gosh and gee…welcome to amazing Zim, The land of adventure…and wonderful people who will go out of their way to help. Nothing has changed. Don’t envy you, but something to tell the grandchildren!!!! Keep safe and continue to enjoy your holiday. Did you video anything?????

    June 28, 2012 at 7:54 am

  3. Stan

    I remember well breaking down on our way home from Antelope Park. We eventually got put on the back of a truck, with us all still in the bakkie and in the the back, only to be pulled over and detained by the police. Very long and interesting day!

    June 28, 2012 at 9:24 am

  4. Des Limkin

    Good to see that the ability of our adopted Aussies honed and tried in the outback has been put to good use.

    June 28, 2012 at 10:49 am

  5. grandpa1931

    Now that’s what I call “going the extra…180kms”. What a wonderful human being to go to that length to help those who were in dire need. In spite of the end of the day it sounds and looks like you had one whale of a time!!! Another day for the memory bank surely. Alls well that ends well?

    June 28, 2012 at 11:56 am

  6. The Inalds

    I’m so glad you made it home safely and I’m also glad we heard about this after it had happened and you were back home!!!

    June 28, 2012 at 8:33 pm

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