Breaking Point

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Warmth and sunshine – bliss. Out everything came, we had to loose half of it if we were to be able to move inside. Bumble performed admirably on the way down France, only one minor starting problem that appears to be a sticking solenoid or something associated with energising it.

I had purchased a water purification system with pump and shower attachment, which was still boxed up. We had the opportunity with my father’s vast array of house building tools to integrate this into the water tank.

Look a shower! – what luxury!

While Sue was packing and re-packing, I was scratching my head. As the day drew on Sue sneaked off for a siesta and I persevered with the plumbing. Saturday saw more of the same and on Sunday we had to hit the road to make our Tuesday rendezvous in Morocco.

Ready to roll

Our send off from St.Justin’s fete du village was brief as we hoped to make it south of Madrid before getting some sleep. Also amongst the guests was the President of the Gers Disabled Association.

St Justin ‘Fete du Village’
Farewell from the Mayor

South of Pau we began to climb the Pyrenees. Sue frantically shouted ‘turn the switch’, but it was too late. The reserve tank was low and the incline pushed all the diesel to the rear out of reach of the pump. The engine died and now the starter was lifeless.

The excuse I didn’t want to investigate the cause. Out came the rear floor and up with the engine cover. My suspicions lay with the inhibitor switch that had played up before. No problems there! Next the exciter wire to the starter solenoid, still no joy. As if by magic the starter woke from its slumber. Further investigations were postponed until the next time.

Switched back to the main tank we resumed our climb. Just North of Orlos a mad French driver overtook, cut in front of us and then swerved onto the grass verge. I nearly took out the next in turn to overtake us as I swerved to avoid the ambush. 5 minutes later on the same car sped past only this time the passenger was waving frantically. We politely waved back as they disappeared into the distance. Could this be a sponsor, do we know any down here? Perhaps a sponsor’s employee holidaying in the Pyrenees. There was a big Yale sticker on the rear; does Yale have a factory in Pau?


We cruised into Bedous, and there was the ambush again, either side of the Village Square, one holding a camera, the other waving frantically. I now recognised them, David and Charlotte Burton-Evans, the Chaplain of St.Andrews, Pau who had kindly sponsored us. We pulled into the square for a brief chat and photo call. Waived off again and the climb continues.

Ambushed by the Chaplin of St.Andrews, Pau. David & Charlotte Burton-Evans – sponsors.

We felt the Col de Somport beckoning only a couple of km to go. The engine oil temperature began to rise over the red, followed shortly by the water temperature, so close but caution told me to stop. I let the engine run for a good 15 minutes to allow the turbo and everything to cool down, lifted the rear floor and engine cover only to see smoke coming from the autobox area. It was too hot to investigate but didn’t look good. At these temperatures the hydraulic fluid in the autobox would have passed it’s prime so I drained what was left and replaced with new.

Overheating at the Col de Somport.

A look through the radiator grill doesn’t reveal a radiator but a whole mass of other parts fighting for daylight including the winch, intercooler, heater fan, air horns, hydraulic reservoir, air pump etc. The bash plate underneath also deflects air downwards away from the radiator, so in an attempt to improve airflow I removed the bash plate and heater fan – now I could see the radiator lurking at the back. We had kept the original V8 radiator, which has a huge cooling capacity and should be more than enough for the diesel. Sue had busied herself preparing supper, which we enjoyed with the Mountain View. Light was beginning to fade and it was time to hit the road again.

The engine started first time, select gear, and pull out onto the road – OK so far. The last 2 km to the peak were not to be as we progressed at no more than a snails pace. It felt as if the throttle cable had snapped – thoughts of injector pump failure, seized turbo etc! We could do no more in the dark so gently rolled back down the hill at idle to find a secluded spot to camp for the night.

Woken by an old lady fly tipping her garden waste adjacent to our camping spot – the sun was brilliant but the air cool. We rolled laboriously into Etsaut’s village square in search of a pay phone. They seem to only have card phones in France these days, nowhere in the town had any cards for sale, they all pointed to each other until I had exhausted all avenues. Our last chance was the Post Office that did not open until 13.30.

Out went the SOS call, my mother’s first words after the greeting were; ‘Where have you broken down?’ What faith, or rather what reality.

Mr Camsuzou appeared with his son as we finished lunch in the town’s sole cafĂ©. My French is still somewhat pigeon as the vocabulary slowly returns but we understood each other. I had my own ideas on why the vehicle had failed and what needed to be done about it, eager to make Morocco I pushed him for action. He was to have none of it; ‘I am a professional, in time I will give you my diagnosis’.

I wanted to say; ‘I maybe a tourist but I am not stupid!’ however I think I had pushed him too far already and it was time to leave a professional to do his work. I have since been banished from his workshop.

Here we are a week and a half later based back at my parents frustrated at the availability of English car parts in France.

On Sunday we were invited to St.Andrews, Pau for communion which included Chaka who lay quietly asleep at our feet in the pew.He snorted occasionally at quiet moments, for which people gave me very odd looks as not everyone was aware of his presence.

Chaka was invited to the altar to receive a blessing where he gracefully placed his chin on the rail and patiently waited his turn. Unexpectedly Sue, Chaka and I were invited to the front to give a brief presentation on Enable Africa to the congregation. This rather took me by surprise but we were able to fill in the gaps after the service as the congregation mingled.

Fingers crossed we will be underway by the end of the week. Once Mr Camsuzou has finished his work I want to move the autobox cooler to the front of the vehicle where it can get some cool air, fit a temperature gauge suited to the autobox and replace the 101 heater matrix with a combined unit from a series Land Rover, this will leave the radiator tunnel free for fresh air.

Mike Cloud of the Meknes Cheshire Home has been in touch through the website and eagerly awaits our arrival. He has contacted 9 newspapers and intends to use the visit to raise awareness of their work in Meknes.

We have received a great deal of feedback and good wishes so far, keep them coming and keep reading.

Neil Lawson – expedition team

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