western sahara adventure 2014, day 9

Three weeks in North Africa driving as far south as latitude 23

Camera: Canon EOS 1Ds MKIII
Lens: Canon EF 16-35 mm. f/4.0L IS

Today it happened again, Paul would have to work on Ken´s Land Rover Defender once more; this morning it was a shock-absorber that needed attention.

Earlier on the trip, when we were passing through a tiny village in the Anti-Atlas mountains, the Defender had a catastrophic and very sudden clutch-failure. Not in a way the normal failure happens, where you will experience that the point of engagement of the clutch slowly, but steadily, travels towards the floor of the car with each push; indicating a leakage somewhere in the hydraulic-system.

So, with a completely non-operating clutch we had no choice but to make a stop in a appropriate spot and have a closer look. We were all certain that this would be the normal fix; either a defective slave-cylinder or the master-cylinder needed some TLC. Ken, apparently knowing his Defender quite well, brings quite a collection of spare-parts, and naturally revealed a brand new replacement slave-cylinder and a full repair-kit for the master-cylinder, from the enclosure of his 110. So without any further delay and with determination in his eyes Paul pulled his toolbox and set off under the truck to fix the damn problem.

Step one was to replace the slave-cylinder, a fairly easy task although being in the bush with no access to a lift. To our dissatisfaction this did not cure the sick clutch at all. So the next thing would naturally be to trow the repair-kit at the master-cylinder that disrespectful thought that mutiny would be quite timely. This however proved to be a daunting task, on a very bad day a very bad British Engineer had been so careless as to construct a fullish bracket to support the clutch-lever and the master-cylinder; mind you such a silly piece of a bracket that it would not easily be dismantled.
Since Paul is´t getting any younger and his body will begin to ache from time to time he used the opportunity to lubricate his aging shoulder with some hydraulic-fluid during the repair-process, - just in case you know and naturally quite unselfish just to speed the progress up a bit.

The sun was quite close to the tip of the Anti-Atlas before all the clutch-bits was put together and bleed with hydraulic-fluid. To our astonishment the clutch was still very ill after all the tiring work. With this knowledge Paul took another leap beneath the sick patient; after awhile of fiddling the doctor announced the diagnostics: the clutch-fork was defective, something had broken or broken off it, it seemed. This was more than Paul our guide, slash bush-mechanic, would want to fix onsite exposed to the outdoors and the fading light; - although Ken after a short while unaffected returned from the inner guts of his sick patient with a brand new clutch-fork.

Naturally Paul promptly chose to tackled the situation by taking a short test-drive in the sick creature to establish that the unfortunate Defender could actually maneuver though the gears without a working clutch; not without an argument from time to time; but still it was doable. Right then, - we all then took off to locate a camp-site, as it now was well after sun-set and getting quite dark.

The following day we would all drive together into town to try to locate a local Land Rover mechanic that would be willing to take care of the Defender, and fix the malfunctioning clutch. The clutch-fork had naturally chosen to collapse on a Thursday, so when we arrived in town just after midday on a Friday, all of the inhabitants had gone off to the musk, thus delaying the search for a mechanic quite a bit. But finally Paul showed up at the meeting point in the afternoon, declaring that the Defender would be taken care off shortly, and maybe the mechanic would be able to fix it on the same day; giving Ken the option to catch-up with the rest of us in the evening. Which he luckily did.

So with that experience well behind us, we were not surprised this morning when Ken also on this occasion took a deep breath and dived into his spare-parts compartment, - and resurfaced with a replacement shock-absorber. Paul estimated the problem being so tedious that it was not worth him getting into his coverall, - a few bolts and bits decided to be stubborn and the fix did take a while.

An hour later the job was done and we were all then ready to go hunt for some additional adventure. With all the engagement we already have had with the Moroccan military, one would think that it would be the end of it; - but oh no no, not likely. Before we actually set of from camp this morning we observed loud noises and very tall dust-clouds not too far from our camp. There was no doubt in our minds that this was huge explosives going off, probably some artillery gun firing, and at lot of it, and it was frightening close to our position. With an iPhone compass and Paul's digital mapping software we soon clarified that the impact-zone was spot-on in the center of our planned heading.
We then back-tracked in an arc to meet up with the main-piste before heading south again. Cruising south on the piste we could observe a rather huge collection of military hard-ware and personnel placed on each side of the piste; and we where left with no other choice but to drive though the middle of the whole shebang, in order to follow the track. Very unexpectedly we were not stopped on one single occasion in this confinement of soldiers. My guess is that they already knew very well that we would be coming and exactly whom we were; but the others in the travel-party questioned my opinion; - we will never know. Maybe the military were simply taken by surprise, thinking no civilian would be here in the southern and desolated part of the Western Sahara.

In camp in yet another wadi we experienced some light local rainfall during dinner-time; and we could watch a heavy rain-storm pass us, not to far away, covering the sky with dark clouds. We all took shelter from the water-drops and made it an early night. The rain then intensified a lot during the evening and night.