We sometimes get asked what was the biggest problem we have had to overcome on our trip. That’s a tricky one to answer, but I think the process of making the decision to go in the first place was the biggest problem. Logic and common sense are usually a part of our decision making process, but in this case they had to take a back seat, and we had to let our desire for adventure take over just a bit. Once we got by that problem, it’s all been easier since then. We have learned that you do hit problems, and we have also learned that you overcome them in whatever way you can, and usually in whatever way you want to. Once you get enough confidence that nothing is going to stop you going where you want to, for as long as you want to, in the style that you want to you are half way there.
That said, we have had a few issues. Maybe more than some, but I’ll guess less than others too. Some people do not like to talk about problems on the road, but it is part of the whole overlanding scene, and as long as we push our vehicles and ourselves to endure months or even years of cold, heat, bumps, floods, bugs, bad fuel, bad food we will have hiccups along the way. BUT, never so many hiccups that would make us want to stop. As far as we are concerned, and to quote the world famous explorer Mr. Robin Lyons, “It’s all Part of the Adventure”.
Some of the problems were not things we ever expected we to have had problems with. For example, we bought a new GPS, a pretty recent model from Garmin, a Montana 600. We’ve been really really pleased with it, and it takes in open source maps, and way point files supplied by all and sundry (mainly our overlanding sage, Phil Flanagan). It does seem it has a flaw whereby the touch screen can go a bit bonkers if it’s in the heat too much. After a period of time, the touch screen protector starts “touching” the screen and your just driving along, trusting your way to this brilliant yellow box of magic and it starts hopping and skipping through various menu options, and the only course of action you have is to switch it off and cool it down. If you have ever been in the cabin of a Unimog that has been running for 6+ hours in the heat of Colombian Jungles, you know that trying to cool anything down in the cab is not going to happen quickly. We eventually just turned it on so that it would record the tracks, and we went back to using paper maps for the actual navigation. That would have been called a workaround back in my IT days, now is was just the obvious thing to do. We did find a Garmin main dealer in the city of Medellin, and we left it in for a new screen, and since we did not want to wait there for 10 days for the repair we arranged to collect it from their other office in Bogota about 3 weeks later as our route would be bringing us that way (assuming the paper map did not crash, reboot or have it’s batteries go flat). We now have it back and working perfectly. We’ve even given it it’s own sunscreen so that direct sunlight does not over heat it over and above what the Unimog manages to do.
We also did not expect the battery in our Satellite phone to go dead, but it did. It seems we needed to apply a firmware update to stop this happening, but never got the communication from them. Them being a communications company – this fact did not go unnoticed!. The problem is that the battery is so flat, the phones charger circuit will not attempt to re-charge it. We attempted to give it a little head-start by destroying a USB cable, and working out which were the + and – wires, and attaching them to the battery directly to charge it up. This almost worked, it lets the phone start charging, but it stops charging after a minute or so. Seems it did not get the communication either. This one will have to wait until we can get a new battery – ideally pre-charged.
We even had part of the Moglanders air conditioning system malfunction on us in the on position. By Malfunction, I mean that it broke. and by Air Conditioning System I mean the window wonder. And of course by “on” I mean with the window open. For some bizarre reason best known to the mechanical gods, the connection between the little round thing that the handle screws to, and the long flat bit that connects to the window to raise and lower it, decided to spring apart. It would appear there is nothing much to hold them together in the first place, so guess it was not so bizarre. Nothing that a little bit of drilling and inserting of a self tapping screw to hold the parts together would not fix. It has been grand ever since, though we wish it had a cooler setting than “wide open”.
And of course the rear hubs, which have both let us down now. We think it’s because there is a lot more weight on the back axle than the front, or possibly the front ones should have the bearings replaced as a preventative measure but either way, Unimog hubs should not have this issue on a truck that has not made it all the way round the world. Yet 🙂 The first one we damaged in Argentina, and got a complete hub assembed in England by Atkinson Vos and shipped to us complete to just bolt on, and the second one repaired locally in Colombia by Colomba’s Mr. Unimog. Easy. What a man Luis Felippe Mendoza.
We also have had a broken window, which broke back in Bolivia. We replaced this with a bit of paper thin yellow shower door material as a temporary measure in Bolivia, and replaced that with a piece of very strong 4mm thick perspex in Peru. It doesn’t sound too strong, but the originals were only 2mm so I think it’s a lot stronger now 🙂 I’ll admit, the window does not open any more, and on some of the very hot days that is a bit of a pain, but it’s working well, and whenever we get within range of a company supplying camper windows, we will be in the queue for a new opening window.
Oh, and if you want to see what 5 years of constant use does to a camping chair, this prime example is one that has been in use by us since 2011, and by the previous owner of the Mog for 2.5 years before that. Dave – I’m afraid it’s well and truly dead now!
Other things have worn out and been replaced. 1 pair of trousers, and 2 pairs of shorts. half a dozen t-shirts have been re-cycled into cleaning rags. 1 wine glass is no more (Sorry Claire). It happens on long trips, expect it. By all means prepare for it – bring those few spare parts that are hard to find, or the special sized Allen key for draining the gearbox oil that only 1 mechanic in the whole of South America seemed to have (all others used mine). Do carry extra fuel filters because you will have one clog sometime. But all these things you can deal with, plan for and take reasonable action before it happens or after it happens.
What I’m trying to say in this post is that if it can go wrong, it does not mean that it will go wrong at some point. Or maybe it will. Who knows? We never thought we would have a gps touch screen go funny, or for Merv to wear a hole in the seat of his carhartt work jeans, but it happened. Its certainly not a good enough reason to not go in the first place! We carry a nice set of tools, a reasonable set of spare parts and a large jar of cop-on. So far, the cop-on has been the most useful, even if I default to using the tools first and the cop-on second, it still is the best thing we have with us. Most of all, do not worry about problems. After all, they are just Part of the Adventure.