Customer Tales III - Chassis time
When there is a shortage of a particular truck chassis in South Africa, it requires some real “Boer maak-a-plan” ingenuity to replace them, as our manufacturing sector cannot provide them anymore. In this case our persistent customer told me that he needed to get a certain chassis for a certain model truck as they no were no longer made in ZAR.
(Honestly I cannot recall the exact model truck etc. I also want to protect the customer by not giving out details that could compromise his business).
He had an idea of an old battlefield up north, across from a river that he knew there were ranks of parked trucks that he needed the chassis from. BUT he also knew he would need to get permission to get into the old war zone and then get to the right person to close the deal.
So off he set with a passport and the necessary visa’s to legally cross international borders. Additionally and probably more importantly, he carried the currency of Africa: Cooler box’s filled with beer and meat.
Crossing a few borders legally, he soon ended up in some thick bush following a track pointed out to him by some laughing border guards. Clearly he was in a no man’s land governed by bandits or guerrillas depending on your view point. Getting things mixed up here would ensure that your corpse would be picked clean by Vultures and Jackals and no one back home would ever know. Simply stepping or driving off the track could result in a landmine detonation, not to mention that this was big five country with all the other critters that rule Africa not least the Anopheles Mosquito.
Within a day or two he came upon a “checkpoint” (essentially a tree trunk on a hinge that acted as a boom across the tracks he was following) guarded by two individuals whose clothing needed replacement long ago and a bath even before that.
The only thing that exceeded our brave traveler’s nervous state was the incredulity of the guardians of the boom upon seeing a civilian vehicle approach and then be spoken to by a white bloke asking about trucks. (Yes he spoke there lingo).
Armed with the ubiquitous AK47, the guardians of the boom must have been puzzled out of their bored minds. Can you imagine sitting on track surrounded by MMBA (Miles and Miles of Bloody Africa) where not 20 years before, the area was a hot spot in the Cold War. Now it was just hot and boring.
But not today. Expressing his desire to get in and chat to the "Bossman", our traveler was told to turn around and not come back.
Most of us would have turned around. The AK 47’s can be quite a motivator. However not our traveler. He turned back on the track and after a certain distance set up camp and then performed the most South African of rituals: He Braai’d. Jip, he set up a small camp careful to avoid land mines and over the next few days braai’d and tried not to drink all the beer.
Eventually the guardians of the boom, enticed by the smell of roasting meat, came to the camp. Over the next week or so a relationship was created, which after a time allowed him to drive to an old guerrilla base camp.
Lo and behold there was rank upon rank of the truck that was needed to be cannabalised. But first he had to meet the Mr. No 1. As I understand it, back in the day, the head honcho was actually the 2iC of the movement, that is, until the leader of the movement himself came to a sticky end- now he was the Big Guy.
No doubt, negotiations were carried out alongside or at least concluded with a braai. A price was struck and our traveler set out for an uneventful trip home.
Once home he got himself a huge army surplus recovery truck, prepped it out with all that he would need and a flatbed truck or two.
The salvage operation up north went on without a hitch until one of the locals started screaming and gesticulating like crazy to him: He had just driven into a mine field!
What to do? He could not reverse out of the danger zone. What to do?
Well, he thought, this is it and then drove the shortest possible route back onto the track.
Fortune favours the brave, but luck is great lady to have as a friend too!
He made it home safely and is pleased to be living happily ever after.
Speaking of Landmines:
Imagine the scene: You are ploughing your field (on land that an African Government has leased to you) and an object comes to the surface.
Usually it is encased in mud and thoroughly corroded. The shape is usually round but rectangular is found. Ball shaped sizes are also not uncommon.
Farming with landmines on your land is just one more hazard that could shuffle you off this mortal coil in the blink of an eye. Africa is not for sissies.
In this particular case I was horrified by my customer telling me this story. I asked him what the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) was in such an event.
Well, he explained, you report it to the local police who are meant to mark off the location and keep all and sundry away from it, ‘til the experts arrived.
EOD I suppose.
They would then do a controlled detonation. Now I am not exactly sure what happens if you blow up something that is designed to blown up, but, I can only imagine that you end up with a crater of varying sizes in your field but (hopefully) without casualties.
Eventually my customer told me the landmines were being ploughed up regularly and eventually they got so irritated with having to wait for the experts, that they would place (I do not want to be reckless and use the word toss) the object on the side of the field.
Using my sense of humorous imagination I can only think of the reaction of the experts upon arriving and being pointed to a corroding pile of land mines sitting under the hot African sun waiting to be destroyed. The controlled detonation must have been epic.
I can only imagine the chagrin of the farmer and his staff as they now have a really large crater to fill in.
Whatever your adventure may be: www.thequartermaster.co.za is here to supply good gear to the Good Guys and Girls of Southern Africa to survive and thrive in beautiful Africa.