Our Car Breaks Down…Part II

Our blog posts have really slowed down for a number of reasons.  First, Kate has found some work and has been kept busier than she was the first couple of months, which also means she is smiling more than she was those first couple of months.  Second, we have been away the last few weekends and therefore have not had as much time to post.  Third, our internet connection lately reminds me of the days when dial-up was often busy, and would only last a few minutes.  We basically hope to get on line, and then wonder how long it will last, making it hard to upload pictures.. 

So Kate and I enjoyed a great Easter weekend at the lake, and we will blog about that soon.  However, while it is fresh in our minds, we thought we would blog about the crazy saga we went through on Easter Monday. 

We were driving home from the lake, which is about a 3.5 hour drive.  We had a full car, with me driving, Kate in the front, and 2 friends in the back.  We were also caravanning with another car full of azungu. 

When we were about 1.5 hours away from Blantyre, driving in the middle of nowhere, our car died (again!).  We went from going about 60mph to coasting with the engine off and the steering wheel locking up… 

One problem with Malawi roads is that there are never more than 2 lanes, and there is RARELY any shoulder at all.  So the car died, and the only thing to do was to stop on the side of the road (not the shoulder, but the SIDE of the road).  

Thank goodness for our friends in the other car.  We opened the hood, and not knowing what could be wrong, decided it would be best to ride into the nearest town…”town” actually meaning the nearest grouping of four or five cement buildings.  So I get in the car with the other driver, and we drive about a half a mile down the road.  The group of buildings consisted of a bar, a peanut stand, a food stand, and ….a “Body Shop” which means a mechanic!! 

We walk up to the mechanic store and tell the owner about our situation.  As it is Africa, and it is Easter Monday, there aren’t many mechanics in this “town.”  About 5 minutes later a man stumbles up to us, and I know the rest of the day is not going to go well… 

“Hi bambo, how are you?” I say.  “Mm good… but’ve been drinkin’.” .. To suggest that he was drunk is a HUGE understatement.  

 Unfortunately for all of us, he was our only option.  So we put him in the car, along with a few of his sober, non-mechanic friends, and go back to the car. 

On the side of the road

The “mechanic” then spends about 3 hours in the following cycle: mess with the engine, drink, direct his friends, drink, go back into town for more tools, drink, repeat… 

Amazingly, they get the engine running again, but the mechanic is now too drunk to stand up.

He then says “I mam mechanic, when fixes it I do test drive.”  He gets in the driver’s seat and starts demanding the keys, which I had quickly taken out of the ignition just before.

“No buddy, that is not happening… you are drunk.” 

 We argue, me speaking English and him speaking gibberish to the point that he wants to fight or break the car.  He says “Ill dismantle the car, I’m professional!!”  He then pulls the lever to pop the trunk and gets out of the car to somehow dismantle it.  So I hold the hood down and don’t let him open it until he basically forgets what he is doing… 

The thing is the more he drank the more in love with Kate he was..earlier in the day, Kate had given him a loaf of banana bread to hopefully slow the drinking and sober him up.  When he realized he wasn’t going to win the fight to get to drive, he just said “Weeers madam wit dat cake?” 

While we were waiting for the car, and watching the situation unfold, we decided we should draw straws to see who would have to spend the night on the side of the road and who would get to go home before the car was fixed.  Seriously though, we would have been in huge trouble if we didnt have our friends there with us.  They made sure we kept our spirits up, and were a huge help when the car dismantling situation was going on. 

Drawing Straws

To finish the long story, after lots of drama, we ended up paying him a reasonably small amount of money and drove home in the dark, hoping and praying that the car would make it…and by some Easter miracle, it did.   Now it is in a real mechanic’s shop, and may be for a few days.  We are just happy to be alive and lucky to have friends who were good in a crisis.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Our Car Breaks Down…Part II

  1. Barb

    Whew – what a story and I am sure it scares the mommies to read of some of your tales – like the croc right next to your boat eye level and now the drunken “mechanic”…….seems every day turns into a bit of an adventure for you all. Wondering too is it rare to see an elephant there???? I know they were becoming endangered because of ivory poaching …. they are majestic though…….congrats on the job Kate.

  2. Douglas

    Thanks for your blog. I love to read it because I love Malawi – I was brought up in Zomba and Blantyre as a child.

    I now live i Scotland but want to bring my wife and daughter to see Malawi.

    I may have some questions for you if you don’t mind….

  3. Ginny

    Glad you made it home safely and that you couldn’t share this story with mom until after it was all over! I actually made banana bread Friday and thought Kate and the drunk mechanic. Miss you both!

  4. Douglas

    we once had a breakdown incident in the middle of nowhere in Malawi. Amazingly a couple of local mechanics walked out of the bush. They’d obviously seen the car stopped outside of their village.

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