I’m not sure if I mentioned it earlier but before we reached Manja, two warning lights on the dashboard came on indicating what we later found out was an alternator issue and a diesel fuel filter issue. I had a “mechanic” have a look and he had no idea about the diesel indicator but agreed, the alternator could be giving out. The battery was being charged to a higher level than it should have been. He suggested driving with the lights on, running the air con and using everything electrical to reduce the overcharging. Okay, sounds iffy and temporary to me. Anyway, things went smoothly, relatively speaking and once we arrived in Morondava to have our suspension repaired I asked the guys about the warning indicators. They agreed, alternator and fuel filter but not to worry, you should have no problems getting back to Tana. “Not to worry”. I hate those words, especially coming from an “expert”. Our next stop out of Morondava was Miandrivazo, a 298 km drive and we made it without a hitch. We departed the next morning, October 9th and headed to Antsirabe, our last pit stop before heading back to Tana where we would drop off the truck and head north for some beach time. The truck started and off we went. We have two LED battery level indicators in the truck, one was low so I turned off the fridge thinking it was draining the fridge battery, the other looked okay. Anyway, I was never really sure which indicator was for the fridge and which was for the battery and as it turns out, the battery indicator was low, indicating around 10.9 volts and the fridge was 12.0 volts. We drove along through barren hills and semi-mountainous landscapes and at one point decided to stop on the side of the road for a stretch. I intentionally parked on a downward slope, something in the back of my mind told me things may not be right. We hopped back in after a stretch and the truck wouldn’t start so I did the old glide down the road and pop the clutch thing and fortunately the truck started. I then noticed the battery level getting lower. We proceeded then noticed the air conditioning was no longer working and then noticed the speedometer was stuck at 60 and the RPM was stuck at 2,000 and the odometer wasn’t working. This was not looking good. In the back of my mind I tried to remember if a car will still run normally even if the battery was dead and somehow I didn’t think so. Then we seemed to be losing power on the hills, then, chug, chug, cough, cough, the truck died. We had just passed a very small village, the road was flat (thank the heavens) and there was a small patch of gravel on the side of the road to roll to a stop on. Well, well, well, now what? I forgot to mention we called our truck rental company just after the truck not starting incident, and we were advised to continue to Antsirabe where a mechanic will fix the problem. I called again to tell them we were dead in the water. They would send a rescue team and I would try to find some tools. Preferably a heavy wrench to smack the head of whoever would tell me “it won’t be a problem” again! I tried to ask some young men about tools but they spoke only french then after an hour of resigning ourselves to waiting for the rescue I showed the boys the battery and used sign language to describe to them that I needed a wrench. No wrenches in the nearby village they signed back and at his point every women and child in the area had congregated around us and our chairs we placed in the shade waiting for our rescue. Then another very jovial women showed up, shook our hands smiling and everything was wonderful except she didn’t have any wrenches but, she indicated the little household just right over there did. She then told the boys and the women and waved goodbye. Aha! they must have thought, they need some tools and within minutes we had a several wrenches and a giant adjustable wrench. I/We went to work. I removed the battery from under the hood, the boys removed the refrigerator battery from the tight confines of the back of the truck and we put the fridge battery in place. It was larger than the original and the positive post was just an inch or so too far out of place to secure the terminal. Jesus, what kind of luck is this? The boys had some copper wire so we figured we could connect the positive terminal with the wire. Nope, it melted as soon as I tried starting the truck, I kind of figured this would happen considering the amount of current that is drawn when starting an engine. We tilted the battery, we wiggled the wires we tried everything and then, we got the terminal connector within a hair’s width of the terminal. A little smack with the large adjustable wrench and we got it on. With much anticipation I went to the truck and voila!. It started. The battery level showed 12.0 volts, how long that would last we didn’t know but it would at least get us closer to the next stop and hopefully to our lodge sooner. We made it to the lodge about two hours later than planned. We gave three of the boys 10,000 Ariary each and the women who had the tools 20,000. Their smiles were as wide as the world and we felt good. This is a lot of money to them, less than $20.00 CSAD to us and worth every penny and more.
Not long after we arrived at our lodge, Residence Madalief, a local mechanic showed up and proceeded to repair our vehicle. Again, great service from Roadtrip Africa although our contact, Peter tends to be of the “don’t worry, be happy” type and to date he has been correct but sometimes just a little too nonchalant.