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Day 105 – Into Mozambique

5th January 2012


We arrived at Quest resigned to finding out how much trouble we were really in; we entered like children queuing to find out exam results. As we pulled in, the guys appeared. We greeted Lovemore again and five or six guys started fiddling with the car. Underneath they were adjusting Redvers’ low ratio link bar and before long the gear stick was off, the handbrake lever and gear box cover were off and the ground was visible through the centre of the car. I looked on, watching and learning with four or five heads inside the cabin at any one time. Hands were everywhere, unscrewing, loosening nuts, removing mats and covers. Laughter and stories flowed non-stop while the team worked hard. After an hour and a half the linkages had appeared fine. Every time the guys found nothing was wrong with a particular part they delved deeper and every time it felt like the cost increased exponentially. The top of the transfer box was unbolted and it was normal inside. We were approaching gear box removal time. As two of the team were undoing the low ratio link bar the guy next to me started fiddling with the transfer case top that had one of the links running through it. When he turned the bar, the link at its end moved in time just as it had when the first guy had tested it. But then he held the bar in one hand and the link in the other. They moved independently; they were loose! He yelped out for an allen-key and showed the others; excitement rose, there was nodding and raised voices. That had to be it. I ran over to tell Laura, whom Lovemore had insisted should be sat somewhere more comfortable to read her book. The guys tightened the link and resealed and closed the transfer case. With the links reattached we had low ratio gears once more! A few more adjustments on the link bar and we were sorted. The floor was reassembled and final testing performed. Redvers was fully functional again. When I suggested a photo of the team, they burst out laughing and handed each other tools for the pose. They lined up in front of Redvers, some grinning with pride some looking serious with their super cool ‘Fifty-Cent photo-face.’ We had some big cokes in the fridge and so we passed them around for a well deserved toast to their success.

We went to speak to Lovemore to see what the damage was. It was ten o’clock. He asked what I thought we should pay which I found as impossible a question as Laura asking if she looked good in a particular dress. I avoided a figurative answer and suggested two hours labour. I watched over his shoulder as the figures went into the calculator. There was a forty eight before his shoulder blocked my view, then there was a two-zero-something, he moved again, then as the screen reappeared it read five-zero-six. My heart sank and I was already bartering and suggesting discounts inside my head. “Does fifty-one dollars sound reasonable?” said Lovemore. He hadn’t been using a decimal point on his calculator. I held the joy deep inside me and maintained my straight face only pausing to look down at the desk; feigning thought. I turned to Laura and said gravely. “It’s going to cost fifty one dollars hon. Does that sound OK? It could have been worse.” Laura repeated in a sombre tone with the faintest hint of pleasant surprise, “Fifty-one dollars?” I could see behind her eyes she wanted to jump through the roof with glee. I felt the same. “That sounds about right Lovemore; your guys have done a good job. I’ll just need to get it from the car. Thanks.”

Two hours, seven men (myself excluded) and a tube of silicon gasket sealant and our worst fears had been allayed. We gave them a tune on our weakening horn as we drove out. It wasn’t yet lunch time, we could get supplies, use the internet and still make the border at Forbes Post and Machipanda by mid afternoon. In town we did a decent food shop in TM. Laura bought her body weight in fresh fruit from the ladies selling at the road side, a dollar for ten peaches, a dollar for a bag of lychees, we had oranges and bananas too.

The Zimbabwe border post and customs went easily. As we entered the Mozambique offices an impending sense of doom hung over us with stories of people emptying out cars and their belongings being scrutinized. We had nothing that would cause serious trouble, at least nothing they’d find, but plenty that could create questions. We were assigned a sort of facilitator who accompanied us. We filled out the forms and handed over our passports. The chap took them to a heavy set, (read; massive and muscled,) man who looked at them and then motioned for us to come behind the desk and into a side office. Our heart rates increased.

Inside the office we were photographed and index fingerprinted. Laura insisted on blinking every time the guy clicked the mouse button to take the picture. Our jokes were lost on him. Our hearts slowed to normal as we saw a visa with our face on stuck inside our passports and he said we were done. Now there was only Redvers and his contents.

Our facilitator took us to a customs official who asked what we had inside. “Err, blankets, and clothes, and err, some stuff we’ve bought.” He looked suspiciously at us and asked could he see inside. “No problem.” We marched over and I opened the back door and removed the curtain obscuring a huge wooden hippopotamus’ arse. “What’s that?” he asked. “It’s a hippo.” I replied.

“Are you bringing it back?” he asked. “We’re going to Malawi, he’s coming with us.” “OK, OK. Go.” Joseph was making our lives easier.

As we left no man’s land the guard asked for a “New Years box.” I felt like asking him how he would say ‘Not unless Hell freezes over,’ in Portuguese but instead we politely shook our heads and drove on.

Another high-five celebrated our entry to yet another country, no more rivers, only Rio’s; white washed buildings with wooden shuttered windows, old stone churches and communist iconography on the public statues. We had entered someone else’s colony. Como estas amigo?

Posted by ibeamish 23:35 Archived in Zimbabwe

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