Bilbo & HeeHaw should be well bonded by now
A few years ago, Flypaper and I borrowed a brand new Volkswagen Touareg V8 and subsequently buried it in the Oman desert. You can read the full account of our troubles at … http://www.maor.co.nz/Other%20Stories/Initselement.htm
Contrary to popular perception, we do learn by the occasional mistake. Especially if it involves leaking a bit of personal blood or doing physical labour. The exercise served to educate me to the realization that highly sophisticated modern cars are great places in which to travel when they are making all the correct noises and moving under their own power. They do however cause a bit of head scratching when they stop. Especially if smoke escapes from the wiring.
With reliability, proven longevity and strength as important considerations, we decided the ideal vehicle to carry a washing machine from Shenzhen to London would be a Japanese diesel 4WD.
Diesel is the preferred fuel because, apart from frugal running, with the aid of a siphoning hose, it can be purchased from sneaky truck drivers who wish to supplement their income with some hard currency – or, for example, a replacement kidney. Also, diesel doesn’t suffer quite so much from quality issues as petrol can. A diesel engine doesn’t need a spark so that eliminates most of the mystery if it stops. Chances are it’s simply out of fuel at the noisy end.
Most roads we plan to take are good enough, even superb in places. There is a section where we will follow the truck tracks through a desert and other places where the potholes are used as wells and fishing spots after rain but it seems the locals survive in cars of dubious age, condition and parentage so that’s no worry.
A 4 wheel drive does have inherent strength, adequate capacity for Flypapers cosmetics and shoes, not to mention the astonishing array of drugs we will be carrying. Before you alert the boarder controls to claim your reward, I’m referring to the perfectly legal pharmaceutical medications my mate the chemist has loaded us up with in the event we see a good spot for him to open the first foreign branch of his business. We are permitted to be his first offshore customers if we become aware of having “three or more loose or liquid bowel movements per day” or require open heart surgery.
After research that included consulting some guys in filthy singlets at the local watering hole, we concluded the ideal vehicle would be a 1998 Nissan Terrano TDi. Primitive enough to be repairable with goat tendon and mud bricks. Comfortable and quiet enough to lull Flypaper into a false sense of security. Modest enough so that we don’t attract too much attention from the pirates along the way. Powerful enough to avoid being passed by rickshaws and tractors … and so strong we’ve decided to name our car ‘HeeHaw’.
Our traveling companions have an almost identical car – ours is blue, theirs is green. They called theirs “Bilbo”. We both carry a few spare parts, some consumables like filters and an assortment of tools that may supplement the local mechanics hammer & screwdriver collection. Tow rope, jack, jumper lead, etc were all checked and placed handy on the basis that if we can get them easily they probably won’t be required. We’ve studied automotive contrariness.
Modifications have included fitting an extra spare wheel to the rear of HeeHaw together with a couple of securely locked jerrycans – 1 for water 1 for diesel. The only time I suspect we may need them is if I loose the key. We have both fitted some shelving and partitions in the rear luggage area to enable access to things that inevitably find themselves at the bottom of the pile. In HeeHaw there are designated ‘he’ and ‘she’ areas ... ‘hers’ is bigger. (I understand that Bilbo is a ‘free for all’ area which I predict will be the subject of a negotiation around day 4.) The largest compartment has been tightly packed with soft, multiply toilet paper.
The cars were given a serious service that included the replacement of all fluids, new brake pads, shock absorbers, belts, hoses, tyres and anything that looks like it was ready to become rebellious and contrary was dealt to. Thought was given to various gadgets that no self-respecting motoring traveler would go without. This included the inclusion of GPS, inverter, 1.5v – 12v battery charger, compressor, multiple 12v outlets, compass, advanced security systems with immobilizer, tracking device, etc. We didn’t fit a roof rack because we suspected that would probably end up fitted to a Yak or Camel – without a Certificate of Fitness …or our approval.
Most of the modifying, servicing and packing was undertaken during the final 2 weeks before both cars were parked and securely tied into a 40’ shipping container. This wasn’t due to lack of organisation or effort by us. We had arranged shipment from Auckland to Shenzhen (over the bay from Hong Kong) in November – so we thought. When Flypaper & I returned from a motorsport event in Dubai in mid January we discovered the freight company had forgotten to confirm the ship that would arrive just in time to be cleared through import formalities a few days before we arrived to collect it. They scurried around and found a ship that would arrive in time – but it left Auckland 2 weeks earlier than the original. %#*# !!! This provided some real pressure and has resulted in other problems which have been solved through the application of more money to the Chinese agents. Bilbo and HeeHaw will be well bonded by now. They arrived in China just a few days before the Japanese tsunami. Flypaper's really caring sister called to tell me she heard Hong Kong Harbour was full of floating containers. For a moment I had visions of traveling through Central Asia in a Rickshaw - but then I heard her sniggering.
A week after shipping we were informed by the Chinese that our packing lists showed some items that are illegal to import into China. %#*# !!! This could prove challenging because Flypaper isn’t giving up any of her stuff and everything I packed is critical to our survival. I suggest you be glued to the TV on the 28th March. An international incident is likely to be broadcast from Shékŏu Port in Shenzhen. I’ve discovered that Shékŏu; literally means "Snake's Mouth". We couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate place to start.
We depart tomorrow for Hong Kong and on to Shenzhen to find HeeHaw & Bilbo. They may be impounded or being sent back. I’ve only just organised Green Card Insurance for Europe and our passports arrived back full of new Visa’s earlier today - just a few hours before we leave home. There's a few last minute dramas but apart from those we’re in great shape. The next blog will hopefully be a few days past the first bureaucratic battle. Hopefully we will be in China and hopefully, we will have passed the health inspection and the test making us the proud holders of Chinese drivers Licenses. Over the past month we’re trying to learn how to drive really badly while tooting. We've also seen and learned an astonishing number of rude gestures from other drivers. They may come in handy.