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Eighties Overland: Part 4


Words & Images Peter Middleton

Gypsies? We glanced at each other as a backpacker couple in the lodge bar insultingly called us gypsies because we’d refused to take them to Nxai Pan. In fact, we quite like the term and I might have offered to paint the Landy with flowers, add a few shiny brass horseshoes, and put a stuffed
cat on the roof.

“I see,” I said quietly instead. Mandi gave me a warning look, one of those that only women can do with the narrowed eyes, lowered chin and tightened lips. But I was in too far, now. I wasn’t subtle in telling them, amongst other things, that we did not have an obligation to take them on our planned trip to Nxai Pan simply because we had invested in a vehicle and they hadn’t. In childish retaliation I called them tramps.

We resent backpacker expectations; having a vehicle is hard work, with constant pre-emptive maintenance essential. I spent a whole day cleaning
off the corrosive Makadikgadi salt. Brake drums were removed, wheel bearings inspected, chassis flushed, UJs cleaned and greased. The snorkel and
fuel filters are cleaned every day. The air filter on the Landy is fantastic, being comprised of a steel drum with washable steel mesh sitting in oil. Ours has the entry vanes welded up so that air is captured only via the snorkel.

I check the 23-year-old Landy every day, from front to back, searching for a loose nut, frayed wire or other potential issue. Mileage is recorded daily, as is fuel consumption at every fill; along with comparative road conditions. Each jerry can is numbered and a dated note made of where we fill up each one so that poor quality fuel can be isolated. A jam jar reveals water, when the fuel is filtered through chamois leather.