DROWNED BUT NOT OUT

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  • John Tayler
    John TaylerMember

    We have just spent eight days in Gonarezhou National Park and had a bad experience. It might be useful for a technical boffin to advise readers about what to do in a similar situation.

    Unfortunately, we have no photos of the incident. Late one afternoon, we approached a river-crossing on the Runde River, having been told that it had been crossed three days previously and was OK. (What our advisers did not tell me was that the guy was pulled across by a tractor.)

    I suppose my mistake was not walking it first. So, off we set in my 1998 Prado diesel and promptly got stuck in the middle of the river, which was about 100m wide and with another 100m of sand in front of this. And the winch and hi-lift jack were useless, as the water level was at the top of the wheels. And, with my being a madala, and crocs around, we could do nothing. So we resigned ourselves to a night sleeping on the bonnet in our sleeping bag, with our feet on the bull bar. We accessed the bonnet through the sliding sunroof as we could not open the doors because of the water level. Luckily, at 8.30pm a Parks tractor came and pulled us out backwards, as the driver had been alerted by someone; but my laptop was a goner, though the hard drive survived as it was standing on edge near my feet and was just above water level.

    The next morning, after drying everything that was on the floor of the car, I also started the car okay, but then I could not turn it off − and also therefore could not get the key out. As it is an automatic, I could not stall it, and was unsure about being able to start it again if I just removed the wiring plug on top of the injector pump. So, there and then, we packed everything up and headed for a mechanic/auto electrician in Chiredzi via a very long and little-used road. (That is another story.)

    We found a guy who disconnected the two offending wiring plugs under the dashboard – one plug telling the wet engine turbo timer that it must not shut down, the other not recognising the gear park position which prevented us from removing the keys. He also helped by draining water from the diesel filter and re-priming the fuel supply. That diesel must have been tip-toeing across the top of the filter, as the car never faltered once in over 100km. We then returned to the Park and spent a nice five nights camping at Chilijo 2 campsite, sans baboon problems. On the way home, we spent a night in the chalets at the Kyle Recreation Park on the banks of Lake Kyle, which was very nice.

    Now, $600 later, I have had the car electrics sorted − including a new alternator coil. More water was found in the fuel, and also in the transfer box, gearbox and back diffs. There was also the small matter of a new laptop at $850.

    Something of interest: we also found that the front suspension was low and almost on the stoppers, and obviously this had not helped with the vehicle bottoming-out on the sand in the river, which eventually caused me to get stuck. So we have fitted better shocks, plus the original springs, as the old TJM springs had sagged to the point where they were an inch shorter than the originals. The big question? What should one do in the bush when an automatic car won’t switch off after taking a bath?

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