Official website: www.londoncapetownrally.com

Day 25 Livingston (Zambia) to Tsumeb (Namibia)

Today we are driving from Livingston in Zambia to Tsumeb in Namibia. 1042 Km. No competition again. Border crossing in about 100km away as I write this. We don't have visas for Namibia. We are all expected to do visa on arrival.

The border crossing went smoothly. We are getting better at it, I think.  At this one they had us fill in a large ledger book for the carnet. A big book with columns for all details going across two pages and a row per car. We got a system going where one person fills in the left page and another person fills in a different row on the right page. Then we swap positions. Worked well. There was no undue fuss and no photocopies of things required.

At the Kenyan border when we were doing the carnet, the official wanted a photocopy of the front page of Mark's passport. The only one we had was black and white and was half a page in size. This was rejected.

"It must be A4 size" she said.

I went back to the car to see if I had a copy that met the requirement. I didn't but I did have an A4 color copy of my passport. I took this back and handed it over as a copy of Mark's passport and she took it!! Maybe we all look alike.

The car has been sprayed at quarantine points twice now. They mainly spray the wheels and tyres.We are required to get out of the car and tramp on a wet towel to clean the soles of our shoes.

At a town called Divundi, we bought petrol and had to pay in US$s as their ATM didn't work. When asked, they directed us to a shop down the road where they said the ATM would work. Mark went in and returned minutes later with a handful of Namibian $s. As we were about to drive off a local ran out to tell Mark he had left something behind. It was a $100 bill, about $14 in Oz terms. Locals here seem honest which has been a worry in some places.



left: Mark drying his shoes after the drenching at Victoria Falls. 

He seems to have caught a cold.  I'm still healthy.

 

left: Elephant warning sign, with 80kph advisory

 

We have done 800km in Namibia and it has all been fast smooth tar. Wide with cats' eyes in the centre. Traffic density very low. Speed limit 120kph with school zones 90kph.

Most police checkpoints until today have been very cursory. We usually slow down a bit, wave to them and get waved through.

Today we had to stop, and Mark was motioned to back up to behind the stop sign. The officer then pointed to the stop sign and asked for Mark's license. Mark gave him his international driver's license which he looked at for all of 10 seconds before a few questions about the rally and then we waved through. We're getting closer to civilisation I think.

All wine seems to originate in South Africa and so far it's all been quite drinkable.

 

Day 26 Australia Day - Tsumeb to Windhoek (Namibia)

Today's rallying was all in Namibia. 628km

There was one World Cup section this morning 18km in length. We were 5thfastest, dropping 33 seconds. This was followed by three map reading sections on really smooth gravel. These were cleanable and despite my suspicions, had no tricks to them at all. I'm not sure why they didn't just give us a route chart. 

The afternoon had another World Cup section, this time 55 km and a map, not a route chart. We were stuck in dust from just before the 20 Km mark and dropped about 6 or 7 minutes.

We are coming to the realisation that there is nothing we can do to improve our position. We are 12th spot, and 11th place is roughly 20 minutes ahead of us.

In a 20km section we can probably count on catching him and getting back at least a minute but there aren't enough competitive sections left in the rally. The car in front is a Toyota Hilux and it was in 3rd position until they ran off the road and rolled it. It has no mirrors at all, so passing him requires us to get beside him first so he can see us. We did it the other afternoon but there was only a little dust. Today it was impossible.

The car is also getting tired. It doesn't steer all well anymore and the back steps out alarmingly some times. Left handers are worse than right handers. I think our strategy has to be to drive to the finish.

 

It was hot today. Clear blue sky with some cloud in the afternoon. It really does look very like Australia in many parts.


Mark's head cold isn't improving much. We are staying at a casino!

left: the fastest car in the event, a Porsche, outside one of the two hotels crews are staying at in Windhoek.  They're coming third, after also being penalised an hour for using canister shocks.

Day 27 - Namibia - Windhoek to Ai-Ais

Writing this on the morning of the 28th.

Yesterday was a hard day of rallying. Made hard by the fact that we were going all day mostly at high speed and it was extremely hot. At the end of the day I think we were both suffering from a bit of heat exhaustion

 At one point, it was painfully hot just to zero the tripmeter. The cumulative reset has to be held down for a couple of seconds to reset it and I resorted to pushing it with a pencil to avoid burning the tip of my finger.

At the end of the day, after we had completed the last 2 competitives, we had 2 flat tyres on the 150km transport to the hotel. These were both rear tyres and the ones with tubes but that's another story.

We then found ourselves short of time and needing to average 130 to get to the end control on time. We also needed to stop for fuel which was 78 Km before the end of day control at Ai Ais resort. We had enough fuel to get to the end so we decided to not stop for fuel, get to the end and sort ourselves out from there. We thought we could borrow fuel and drive back the 78km to the garage.

As it turned out we didn't need to do that. The resort had a garage of sorts where we got fuel and they did have some tyres for sale. Not quite the right size but they hold air and will be our spares for the next 2 days.

There are only 2 days to go. Less than 1000km in total. 600+ today and 332 for the final day. 

Today promises to be a bit like yesterday. Namibia is very like the Australian outback. It's a big empty country with few people, mostly desert with spectacular rock features. 

The roads are generally gravel, wide and smooth. The average speed on most competitives is 100 to 110kph. 

Transports are often similar speeds but on arriving at a competitive start you are informed that the 'standard' time, i.e. the time you are due, is now a later time. This has the effect of making you early at the start (you didn't have to drive that quickly) but means there is less time for the competitive if you are going to stay on the standard time. All a bit silly in my opinion.

Mark is driving well (and enjoying it) despite the way the car handles. Wide smooth roads are good for a car that jumps sideways at the least provocation. We are putting this down to something bent in the steering.

Did I mention they have started seeding of a sort? We are moved up 2 places in the start order to avoid 2 4WD and another car, a Datsun 240Z, is behind us. We chase a Volvo who are good about watching for us and we in turn try not to shower them with stones.

 

The Ai Ais resort is in the middle of what looks like a lunar landscape. Its main feature is a huge indoor spa (left).

Rooms are around this with an inside door to the spa and an outside door to parking. They take only Namibian dollars and we are yet to pay for tyres etc.

  The hotel does have credit card facility so the plan is to pay the hotel who will pass it on to the garage.

 

The man who did the tyre changing was one of the hotel security guards. He was dressed in full uniform and looked a bit out of place fitting tyres. Instead of the usual AK47 often carried by these guys, this one had a slingshot in his back pocket!  

The 2nd last day of the rally today. We had decided to go steady and make sure we get to the finish. There were three world cup sections today on good fast roads. 130kph on the first one in Namibia, then after a very efficient border crossing, one stage with a time check in the middle and a short 11km one at the end of the day.

We finished the first two OK, but soon after the engine began to miss. We then changed in succession, the fuel filter, the spark plug (it was missing on number 1) and the plug lead. None of these fixed the problem but we hadn't lost any time through it yet. We next tried the crank angle sensor (distributor equivalent). This didn't fix it either but we were 5 late on a transport. and had to do the section on 3 cylinders. We finished the day on 3 cylinders and but made it to the hotel.

At the hotel we changed the Haltech computer and a coil pack. All to no avail. We then rang Jamie in Sydney and woke him up. He put us on the track. Swapping the injector plugs moved the problem to another cylinder. It was a wiring problem very similar to what we had on the way to Batemans Bay last year. We needed Murray and Craig who sorted it last time.

After a lot of bridging wires and running wires back to the computer and some help from one of the UK crews, we think the problem is fixed. If not, then we will get to the finish on 3 cylinders.There are 332km to do tomorrow with 2 stages for the leaders to fight over. The leaders of the rally are only seconds apart so it will be interesting to see how things pan out tomorrow.

I think this guy stopped here at the start of a special stage is the new leader.

It also occurred to me as I filled in forms for the Namibia/South Africa border that I have probably been writing the wrong number on forms I've been filling in. I remember my old passport number but keep forgetting I'm on a new passport for this trip.

I now have Mark's head cold and feel somewhat miserable.

right: entering South African from Namibia

Next: the finish