. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath


Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition


Kensington Tours can help you plan your own expedition anywhere in the world.



#3 - Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
Jody Finver - 10 August 2001

(Moyale, KENYA) – This week’s entry was to be about my propensity to be singled out and bitten by all things that crawl and fly. In Capetown it was bed bugs. In Tanzania, mosquitoes. Topped off in Masai Mara (Kenya’s Serengeti) with an insect of unknown origin that caused my left hand, wrist and forearm to swell to Oompa Loompa proportions. In Nakuru, Kenya I saw two doctors. The first, concerned with secondary infection , a risk of compressed arteries leading to nerve damage, referred me to the second. Nervously and itchily, I waited 6 hours, with Gulin and Jeff rotating as my chaperone, to be seen by Dr. Mariuki. He was a dermatologist, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the line of patients waiting to be seen (15) probably had more to do with the fact that he was not only a dermatologist, but a venerologist. He treated STD's. Outside of him asking that I take my top off for him to examine my wrist (I so did not) I'm pleased to announce my hand is better. The antibiotics worked. And there's no permanent nerve damage.

As I said that was to be my topic, but it has been replaced. The following is pretty much a play-by-play account of the most ridiculous breakdown and repair. Followed by a bone of contention/letter to the editor.

We were driving through Northern Kenya heading to the border of Ethiopia. The drive required an armed escort. We had Stanley. He was to protect us from rebel Somalians and highway bandits. In the middle of nowhere, we stayed in his village that night -- a smattering of aluminium huts and a pseudo volleyball court. Early the next morning, we remarkably encountered another traveller, Jane, who was staying up the road. She was recounting how she came across this village, years ago, when she was driving and broke down in her truck. She eyed our Landrover jealously remarking how lucky we were to have such a truck. Uhhhh, can you say foreshadow?

As we said our goodbyes to her, Jeff broke the news. We had no officer to accompany us on the road. Sally looked at me. I looked at her. We looked at Gulin. Gulin glared at Jeff. Jeff looked at the ground. We all stared at Jeff. Hmmmm. “Well if anything happens, I'm warning you now… I am not stopping. You girls just duck down,” and Jeff started the engine.

Duck down. Riiiiight.

First blunder of the day. We stopped to photograph and film Turkana’s (local tribe), herding their cattle. In exchange we gave them pens. We obviously overstayed our welcome. A Turkana appeared next to our truck with a big, automatic rifle asking for money. Jeff, speaking Swahili, exchanged words with the young man. Sally quickly offered him a few pens. He took them and considered what his next move should be. He again asked for money. Jeff said no. So he took more pens. Actually, he took the whole box. We drove away before he could argue anymore. In retrospect, it would have been cheaper to pay him. Pens are valuable in negotiations.

Next. If there is any advice that I, the inexperienced manual transmission driver, can give to you about driving a Landrover around the world it is this…


I was turned around in the back seat, arranging our day packs behind a bungy cord and well, see…. the thing with the truck is that it doesn’t brake fast.. it takes a bit of time to stop. So when Jeff hastily smashed on the brakes and I lurched forward, snapping back into my seat, I knew that the sound of a thud indicated something was up. In the made for TV movie version of this trip this scene would be seen in slow motion… Sally saying “No, no, no, no.” Through the windshield I saw a cow’s head looking at us and then gracefully being replaced with four hoofs pointing up to the sky. Jeff closed his eyes and looking up to the heavens.

My jaw dropped, as did the cow's, spear carrying, Turkana owner. He was standing three feet away from Jeff in the road trying to steer his cows out of the way of the oncoming, braking truck. The Turkana stared agog. Magically, the cow stood up from our love tap and walked away. Jeff rolled down the window and as we rolled by the still shocked Turkana, Jeff smiled, “It’s OK.. Pole, Pole (slowly, slowly).” Then we high-tailed it out of dodge.

At the next police barricade/stop (where you sign in and register the car) we had no luck getting an escort. The chief wanted too much money and insisted we take two guards. We only had room for one. He spoke to Jeff as we drove off. We asked Jeff what the man said. “He said, don’t worry... God will protect you.”

Finally, in Marsabit, the last stretch to the border, we had to concede. Upon asking the police for an escort, we basically had no choice but to take Joseph and Michael and pay twice as much as the previously asked price.Gulin offered to contort herself like a swami and sit on the back ledge of the truck. Fine when we are stationary, but the way the day had been going, chances are she would have done an impression of a football and been lobbed through the windshield with Jeff's fancy braking. Instead, she, Sally, Michael, his big automatic, assault weapon and myself crammed into the back seat and off we went. One hour into the trip, on the most extreme, craggy, dirt road, through the most desolate landscape, in a region where it was not ‘safe’ to travel alone, much less break down...the truck began to lurch…

Jeff’s eyes conveyed the “not again” look. He said, “I think we have bad gas.” I pointed out to Sally and then said aloud, “The battery light is flickering.” We all looked to see the gauge was now reading dead. And chug, chug, chug, then chug, chug it chug happened chuuuuuug. The car just died. On the side of road. Miles from anything. Drops of rain would float down every now and then, just enough that I'd look up from under the hood and stare at the gray gloom above. It felt like the closing scene of the Terminator 1.

We set about to find and check the fuel filter as well as siphon some gas from a jerry-can (the reserve fuel tank once again was not working.) I grabbed the Land Rover manual and Sally and I began translating. Did I mention our manual was in Spanish? “Cambio del filtro combustible…” G'head laugh. After locating the filter and seeing the gas was clear, we decided to be on the safe side and use one jerry can. Gulin called me over and asked if I could help her lift the can to pour it in. I could lift it, but there was no way to pour. So I looked over to Mike and Joe, our armed escorts and grinning I said, “Boys, c’mere.” I handed Mike the can and said, “Be useful.” I handed Joe the hose and said, “Start sucking.” As Mike set down his gun (bigger than Joe’s) I said, “I’ll take that.” And there I was in the desert, holding an assault rifle on two officers ordering them to siphon and with great spirit and humor, the constables complied. Gulin documenting our breakdown with camera.

Back under the hood, I went to Jeff and said we should call Paul (our Land Rover guy in Zambia). Paul was amazing and diagnosed the problem immediately. Jeff grabbed our voltammeter and tested the fuel injection line. Dead as a door nail. He looked and me and said, “Jody, do you have any electrical wire?” What am I Ace Hardware? I said, “Noooooh, but I have a cigaretter adapter to my cd player we could strip or we could use the wire from the light that broke.” Sally interjected, “I fixed that last night.”

Having no idea as to whether wiring from a lamp would replace wiring for an engine, we grabbed our wire stripper and crimping iron. Sally and Jeff did a MacGiver and made a makeshift replacement. We plugged it in and it made clicky noises.

Sally started the engine and it worked. Hoorah!!! Jeff said, “OK, Sal cut the engine...uhhhh….. Sally, cut the engine.” From behind the driver’s seat Sally said, “Jeff, it won’t turn off.” I walked over to see Gulin, Jeff, and Sally staring quizzically at Jeff's hand. In it were the car keys.The engine was still running. “Interesting,” Jeff said.

After a bit more adjusting and also removing one of our spotlights, a livestock casualty, the truck ran (we'd have to stall to cut the engine). We set off for a bumpy three-hour drive to the border.

One hour later, my super-sensitive, Radar O'Reilly nose compelled me to ask the question I seem to nauseatingly propose all too often, “Jeff, what’s burning?” We pulled over. He got out. We watched him walk around the truck. From the right rear an exasperated Jeff said, “Well ,we just blew the world’s best shock absorbers.” We stifled ironic laughter as we drove 40 kph to Du bru, the next town.

Dubru is a small collection of twig huts and concrete single-room, cell-block buildings all remarkably claiming to be hotels. Sally and Gulin searched the 'hotels' for a place to get food, while Jeff and I changed the shock absorber. I handed off wrenches. I passed pliers. And then I got under the truck, changed a washer and tightened the bolts back up. Sooo coool.

The road was too bumpy to play cds and the silence was deafening. Fortunately, Gulin had bought a tape of Swahili music while in Nairobi. For two hours, we sang along to the same tape. “I love you like fish and chips. I love you like Nyama Choma (roast meat).” And at 6:20pm, we arrived to Moyale. The border. It was closed. We said goodbye to Joe and Mike, and set up camp. Hakuna Matata. It might sound hellish to you ,but I think all of us would agree, it was an awesome day.

Now to the bone of contention.

Jeff says the truck has no name. But it does. He is Max. No ifs ands or buts about it. Way back in Zambia, I went in to a store to use up my Kwacha and buy us water. At the checkout counter, I saw condoms that said Maximum. “It’s your life. It’s your choice,” was their bold tag line. As a joke, I bought packages for everyone as souvenirs and told Jeff this should be the name of the truck. He looked appalled. I said, “It’s like our trip. It’s our life. It’s our choice. Maximum will protect us.” Sally’s boyfriend was still with us and began to chant “Maximum... Maximum... he was a slave turned gladiator.” Gulin said, “I like Max.” Jeff just shook his head saying, “...no....you can’t….that is so wrong…”

We fought over this for a week. Finally, after dinner the night of the breakdown I said, “Jeff, I bet we wouldn’t have so many problems with the truck if you just embraced the name Max. That’s his name. It's his job to protect us. C’mon, it works.” Sally said, “Yeah, cause sometimes he breaks.” “And then we’re screwed, “ I finished. Through laughter, Jeff just shook his head and said “Ohhhh, that is so wrong.”

Later, smoking a cigar and sipping French pressed coffee Jeff said, “I wonder if I should name the truck Jinx”… Gulin said emphatically, “Jeff, the truck's name is Max.” I said, “The truck's name should be Maximum Jinx Willner.” Gulin grinned from ear to ear. She said, “Max.” Sally said, “We can call him MJ.”

“When the truck is being bad we’ll call him by his full name,” I said, completely ignoring the fact that Jeff was still resistant.

We’re now in Ethiopia.. It’s 11:45am. Jeff just said,” Great, now the left rear shock just blew.” The windshield wipers are stuck at a 90 degree angle. And the speedometer is the only gauge that works. On that note, Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Maximum Jinx Willner. Fondly referred to as Max. I think Jeff just needs some time to accept it, which is ok. After all, we have a year. Provided the truck holds up.

Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com