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The ‘off road’ adventures of La Chica

May 8, 2016

Life is not always glamorous for La Chica, sometimes it gets plain dirty. La Chica has been on the road a lot in the past few weeks. Her new projects are underway in two new locations in Masai land, and she’s been visiting the new villages and subvillages involved with Testigo’s permaculture training. But it’s not been easy, or plain sailing (or should that be plain driving?).

Hilux view Engare

A recent trip to Engarenaibor for a Masai ceremony had some great highlights (more on those in another blog). But it also found Old Red’s brakes failing. La Chica was forced to drive to the village with brakes that only slowed the car down a little bit when La Chica’s dainty foot was pressed flat to the floor trying to stop Old Red. She drove very slowly between Engarenaibor town and the project site, with a car full of Masai. She returned more than 100 kms to Arusha hoping that she wouldn’t have to stop in a hurry.

And only this past week La Chica did a marathon trip into Masai land. Leaving La Chica’s house with her passengers, they all started coughing, and La Chica had to meet her mechanic who found that there was a leak in the exhaust pipe, and the exhaust smoke was entering the car because the back door rubber was worn and not sealing properly. The solution – open the windows when driving up hills….

Departing Arusha in the rain, La Chica encountered so much mud that there were stuck buses and trucks littered along the road. She managed to drive Old Red sideways, and was rescued when a kind (and mud stranded) truck driver took over the wheel and drove through to a drier section with less mud while La Chica watched, horrified, waiting for Old Red to fall over sideways.

mud  copy

Then with the very rough muddy road, with corrugated sections, the electrics under Old Red’s bonnet were affected, and Old Red’s windscreen wipers stopped working. Poor Goodluck had to jump out of the car every time Old Red passed through a puddle, and wipe the windscreen with his hanky so La Chica could continue driving.

On the same journey La Chica smelled trouble! And five minutes later Old Red was boiling over – the water tank overflow was bubbling green liquid like a witches cauldron (only this was coolant). La Chica and her passengers waited for the bubbling to stop, topped up the radiator and continued on the perilous journey. The constant hazzard of livestock on the road presented an extra challenge, as Old Red’s horn was also disconnected with the bumpy road, and so La Chica had to slow right down and wait while crowds of animals took their time crossing the road in front of her. She also hoped the cars driving behind her were being careful, because one of Old Red’s brake lights also stopped working.


Cows on road

The bumpy road was noisy, but over the noise of the road there was another strange noise – oh no, this time the suspension was gone on the front right side of the car – seems the bush had broken in the African bush so Old Red no longer had a bush in the bush. La Chica just ignored the noise and kept driving.

The crew arrived safely in Terrat, in Masai land, and got some of Old Red’s problems fixed, but La Chica woke the next morning to find Old Red had a flat tyre.

Flat tyre close

me with flat

Despite all of Old Red’s challenges, La Chica bravely decided to journey from Terrat to the District Office of Simanjiro – over 100 kms away, with her Masai friend Marko driving.

View to District

Marko driving

They arrived well, and met with the District Office secretary, but on the return journey when they stopped for a break, La Chica noticed oil pouring from Old Red. This time, the transmission fluid hose had split. With no spare parts, La Chica was very lucky that a passing truck driver stopped and gave her a spare piece of hose pipe. Marko, showing great talent as a bush mechanic, took the hose from the radiator overflow, replaced the split transmission fluid hose, and used the donated plastic hose in the overflow tank. The journey proceeded.

But it didn’t end there! The spare tyre was making a loud rattling noise – it seemed that when the local mechanics had changed the tyre, they broke some bolts, and didn’t tighten the remaining ones, so the wheel was loose. Marko tightened it, but with only three bolts, and only on one side, Old Red remained unsteady.


La Chica had yet another journey to make on this trip. To the Testigo project village of Loiborsoit ‘A’. With no rain for a few days, she decided to brave the road, and drive four of them to the village. The journey became ‘exciting’ when La Chica was faced with driving through twenty metres of mud with no way around it. Old Red slid sideways, got stuck, reversed out and slid forwards, somehow getting them through the mud.  They arrived well in Loiborsoit ‘A’ but needed to have mechanics sort out the tyre and bolts that had been changed in Terrat.

checking tyres

On the return journey La Chica got her friend Lengai to drive, and it started to pour rain! The muddy patch became a muddy road, and as they drove in the descending darkness waves of muddy rust coloured water sprouted up on both sides of Old Red. Although the petrol gauge showed empty, Old Red made it back to Terrat village in the dark.

The return journey to Arusha was relatively uneventful.

Old Red overheated again, so La Chica and the other occupants played cards as they waited for Old Red to cool down. That only took half an hour. La Chica is still trying to cool down from the challenging road trip!

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