Tuesday 26 November 2013

My Landrover

During my first two years of teaching in Nairobi I spent as much time as I could "in the bush" - because that was why I had come to Kenya. During my second year I was co-opted on to the committee of The President's Award Scheme (Kenyan version of Duke of Edinburgh's) with responsibility for expeditions. The scheme had been given two Series IIa, LWB Landrovers with full canvas tilts. (I have no idea why a canvas cover is called a tilt!) When they decided to auction one I managed to buy it and set about making it into my dream machine! The British Army were already fitting weld-mesh cages under their canvas covers to prevent robbers with sharp knives or machetes gaining entry but I decided to go further.

I was much stronger then

In this picture the metal frame is in place and waiting for side panels.

I had a frame made from hollow-square and got a rail welded around the roof on short, hollow-square pillars so that the roof could act as a roof-rack. I planned to have three square plywood panels on each side with perspex windows. Each panel was secured with two coachbolts (domed on the outside for security) fastened on with butterfly nuts so they could be removed to allow airflow in hot places - we had no air-conditioning! When they were off, the weldmesh would still keep the contents safe. On my first trip we discovered that simply removing the first panel on each side (and the cab roof) made it very comfortable so the second and third panels were replaced with sheet metal welded in for extra strength.

Side panels in place
Roofrack extended to front bullbars to carry a microlight

The roof over the cab was held in place by four locator pins and two more bolts with wingnuts. It also had drop-down legs so it could be used as a table. I got the chassis extended at the front so I could follow the common practice of placing two fuel cans inside the wings - but now they were inside the bullbars. I got an old ammunition chest welded in the space between them, below the radiator, so I could carry tools and access them without having to empty the back. It already had long-range fuel tanks under the front seats but I added another rack on the roof which could carry seven more five-gallon containers. 

When I finished teaching I was immediately offered a six week safari - to take Paul Newman's script-writer on a hunt for locations for a new movie. The brief was - "No tourist areas". I couldn't have been happier. After travelling into more and more remote areas, we ended up near the Ugandan border. We found a very impressive little bush hospital run by a formidable Irish nun called Sister Bernadette. She insisted we should stay the night and when we saw the lovely guest cottages we instantly agreed. We spent the afternoon on the verandah talking about her work (she was well over 70) and a young African boy slid along the decking and ended up next to me. Sister Bernadette explained he was from Uganda and had been shot through both knees because he refused to join the child army - the notorious LRA. He was only 10.


We had a lovely supper on the veranda and as we finished Sister Bernadette leaned over, produced a huge bottle of Whisky and asked if we would join her in a glass. We did. Then she produced a box of cigars and soon we were all (including her) puffing away contentedly. I made a comment along the lines that she was not your average nun. She laughed and said she was very lucky because she was doing exactly what she had always wanted to do. She had been born into a large Irish family and what money there was for schooling had gone to her brothers - as was the way at that time. Her only way to get more than a basic education was to be a nurse or a nun. Since (like me) she had always wanted to see Africa, she chose the second path and joined a convent which sent missions to Africa. I proposed a toast to her and we all saluted a truly inspiring human being! I only wish I had had the means to play her this track - http://youtu.be/FE-BKrAAZGc

No comments:

Post a Comment