Monday, June 28, 2010
how ludwig became chugalong susie
I think the first thing to mention is: I am severely missing the Brit. On his sad departure (along with the rest of England who are here, and are throwing toasters into the bath tub from soccer dysmenorrhoea) last night. House is empty. Heater is my substitute boyfriend.
But basically, during this last week, I've been raped by my vehicle.
My car window broke (again), and while watching a fresh-ish lion kill in the Pilanesberg over the weekend, clipped a rock and punctured a hole in my ignition coil/catalytic converter.
Can you imagine. I'm trying to sell my car and all this shit just breaks the fuck down. My Brit is luckily one of those amazing car guys, who just knows everything about gadgets and machines. And even fiddled around with the mechanics of my window. Wow.
But that's neither here nor there. Because it's getting expensive now. And just to get it all done before the next person test drives it, I've had to get all these things, breaking within days of each other, fixed fast. And therefore, sighing and handing over my credit card with a 'Do whatever you have to do. But I need it back by 4:30. Someone's about to test drive it.'
I know all the staff at Bryanston VW by first name, let's just put it that way.
Anyway. So we're all excited, as we follow a truckload of Ozzies who informed us there was a lion kill going on. Up dirt roads, rocks, dongas, basically crap that can potentially fuck up a car.
I'm being careful though, it wasn't like I was being reckless, I was just loving the fact I could give my Beetle a run on rally-driver roads before I sell him.
Stop, see three lions chowing on a dead elephant.
Quite something to see, for the Brit and I; Brit was hanging out of the car shooting video.
Start the engine, clip something, and Ludwig, my smooth 2.0 litre jet 'engine like an Audi' Beetle turns into a tractor.
It sounds like a tractor, it's shaking and wobbling, the emission light is flashing at me, shit is not gravy.
Brit looks under the carriage, does a sound check, and says that most likely a rock hit my exhaust, and messed up the catalytic converter. Which was causing the emission light to to flash a dangerous shade of orange. Which was causing the engine to overcompensate and fire on only three cylinders.
My genius Brit made that lengthy diagnosis of Ludwig's rapid terminating engine fail, all in a few minutes. Was impressed, albeit freaking out.
Did, however, parrot-learn that exact sentence to recite to the car mechanic. So it sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
Can still drive the car, it was just like I had to drive it like someone would drive a tractor. Slowly. In the left lane, and cantering along to the backfiring chugging. Ludwig's name changed to Chugalong Susie for the rest of the trip.
Had a half tank of petrol. Remember that, because I will.
By the time we hit the R556 - a road about 70 kilometres long - the petrol needle was going down awfully quickly. Chugalong Susie was fucking eating the entire petrol tank, nevermind the fuel itself.
For the first few minutes of the journey, we managed to piss ourselves laughing. Then, suddenly, on viewing the diminishing petrol, we were pitching tents in Angst County.
In the middle of nowhere, mountains, random guys sitting in the middle of fields (Brit: 'Where are these people who are sitting by themselves or walking along the side of the road going? Like what's that guy whose sitting on that chair in front of his hut doing all day? You always get the obligatory bloke walking along the highway towards somewhere....but what?'), scattered townships.
Oh and, both our phones were dead.
We'd had run out of juice. There weren't any petrol stations for miles. The sun was starting to set. There is nothing around anywhere. Our only saving grace was that the US match was about to happen in Rustenburg. And Bill Clinton passed us in a police escort.
Basically, we thought it reasonable to decide to rely on Bill Clinton. There's a sentence I never thought I'd say.
Clearly, the fear and therefore irrationality, had fast set in.
('Hi Bill, met your wife last year, she eyed my red beret. Can we siphon some of your petrol there buddy?')
I'm watching the petrol needle with wide eyes, gripping the steering wheel, and we're trying to hold our shit together. My hands are sweating beads, and I start to fully have a panic attack.
I'm panting, ok, fully making troll noises, not quite able to breathe like a human. My heart is going at a rate of knots, I'm shaking. I was literally gripped with fear - because we'd really be fucked if we broke down here.
It's been a while since I had one of those.
Brit was helping me through it, until he started to realise that the needle was now deep into the red. 'Yeah we're gonna need fuel. Like soon. Like now.'
Draw up to a spaza shop. Ask everyone around us, looking slightly wild eyed and desperate - 'Can we buy some fuel from you?' The best the Brit got was a shrug and a dude pointing to the paraffin.
'We could try paraffin, it combusts.'
'Diesel would wreck your engine. But you might get away with paraffin.'
I could see the headlines: Beetle Explodes Over Hartebeespoort; Someone Flicked A Lighter.
A dude wearing a Bafana shirt on the side of the highway (he can't be a tsotsi if he's wearing a Bafana shirt right?), says there's a petrol station 'one minute away. If you don't drive fast, two minutes.'
Chugalong Susie maybe had 100 metres of petrol left. Still. Jubilation ensues.
We risk it, get onto the highway and Brit tells me to take foot off accelerator and try to coast in neutral. The ground is deceptively flat.
At least there are more cars around, even if we were headed towards Shitsqueezer, North West.
I see a Total sign. We just coast in. I jump on the petrol attendant and exclaim that I am so pleased to see him that I could give fake birth. The Brit takes a picture of me and the petrol attendant and says, 'Mate, you have no idea how happy we're to be here.'
After getting petrol, driving in Chugalong Susie gets a little more treacherous. It's becoming worse, and I have to go up hills in second, foot flat.
After we got home, the Brit and I dressed up and went to Crank's in Rosebank. To drink a lot of rum.
And celebrate that we'd made it through a raaaaather edgy road trip.
We made it. The Brit and I have had a few near-disaster adventures on our travels. And we decided we wouldn't have had it any other way.
After the stress, we high five.
Car is now fixed, running golden. Brit has gone home. Feeling very flat.