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.
In Manja I had a “mechanic” have a look and he had no idea about the diesel indicator but agreed with me the alternator could be giving out. The battery was being charged to a higher level than it should have been so he suggested driving with the lights on, running the air con and using everything electrical to reduce the overcharging.
Okay I’ll try this but it sounds a little iffy and temporary to me.
From Manja things went smoothly, relatively speaking, and once we arrived in Morondava and were getting 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 and then 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 is for our little fridge and the other is for the truck and one of them indicated “low” so I turned off the fridge thinking it was draining the fridge battery. The other indicated all was okay.
I was never really sure which indicator was for the fridge and which was for the battery but as it turned out, the battery indicator was low and indicated 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 as 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 trick, the truck started and we continued on.
After a short time we 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 either. 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 and the truck died.
We had just passed a very small village, the road was flat and there was a small patch of gravel on the side of the road to pull over and roll to a stop.
Earlier in the day we called our truck rental company to report 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 and they told us they would send a rescue team and I told them I would try to find some tools. Preferably a heavy wrench to smack the head of whoever would tell me “not to worry” again!
I needed the tools to see if I could swap the fridge battery for the truck battery.
I asked some young men who had wandered by about getting us some tools but they spoke only french. They wandered away and then after about an hour of resigning ourselves to waiting for the rescue they showed up again and I decided to show them the battery and used sign language to describe to them that I needed a wrench.
No wrenches in the nearby village they signed back.
By now every women and child in the area had congregated around us and our chairs in the shade on the side of the road where we were waiting for our rescue. Joyce was holding a baby and everyone was jolly and from nowhere came a very jovial women. She showed up, shook our hands smiling and everything was wonderful.
She didn’t have any wrenches but, she indicated, the little household just right over there no more than 100 metres away did. She then told this to the boys and the women and waved goodbye.
Aha! they must have thought, they need some tools and within minutes we had several wrenches and a giant adjustable crescent 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 and 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 and we tried everything and then, we got the terminal connector within a hair’s width of the terminal.
With a little smack with the large adjustable wrench (that I wanted to use on the earlier mechanics) we were able to connect the cable. 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 we hoped it would at least get us closer to our next stop and ideally all the way to our lodge.
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 CAD but to us worth every penny and more.
We made it to the lodge about two hours later than planned.
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. Peter from RTA tends to be of the “don’t worry, be happy” type which I like and to date he has been correct but sometimes just a little too nonchalant but you do feel they have your back.