Wednesday, 25 April 2012
On this epic trip we visited about ten significant LRDG sites ranging from fuel dumps to whole trucks. This one we think is Sudanese Defence Force and attached to the Desert Air Force. The roundel on top of the cab has a yellow outer ring which those in the know base the identification on. We think it is a ‘Waterfall’ grill Ford truck, but anyone who may have further info please get in touch. The letters on the door appear to read ‘L48252’ or something like that.
Sunday, 22 April 2012
Safely back at The Mena House Hotel, Cairo and ready to celebrate! As the sun sets on the Pyramids our merry band of desperadoes were ready to sink a few beers and reflect on exactly what we have achieved. The first big drive through vast tracts of the Sahara in authentic Jeeps since World War 2. Nearly 3000 miles in total of which roughly 1300 were pure desert. Actual breakdowns were minimal and fortunately all things that could easily be fixed. We viewed 10 LRDG sites and artefacts and discovered an important new one (more info in a future post). We all got on well and found that 7 normally sensible men can easily revert to giggling school boys when separated from their normal habitats. The comments left both here and on Facebook by so many people have given us a lot of pleasure and raised a few laughs. Thank you. Ahead lies the complex logistics and beauracracy of getting both Jeeps back up to Alexandria and into a container for their return journey.
Saturday, 21 April 2012
My third visit to Siwa and reassuringly little has changed. The ‘Tuk tuk’ is starting to take over from the donkey and cart and these seem to be driven by pretty well any lad over about the age of 12. Motor bikes riden slowly potter around mingling with cars, trucks and donkeys in what appears complete chaos, yet nobody comes near to a collision, nobody wears a helmet and everybody smiles at each other. It really is a delightful place. Siwa developed in isolation to the rest of Egypt, cut off by its inaccessibility lying roughly 200 miles south of the coast and close to the Libyan border. We stayed firstly in The Desert Rose Hotel where an old Hillman Minx was in the garage that served as our service bay. We then moved on the The Siwa Paradise Hotel in town. Both had an air of complete calm. Photos show our service bay at The Desert Rose and Siwa by night when it really comes to life. We are now in an hotel 60 km west of Alexandria where we were enjoyed an Ice Cold near Alex moment and our first acquaintance with beer for 10 days. Today we head back to Cairo and Mena House Hotel to end the Expedition. Both Jeeps stormed the run north from Siwa yesterday running continuously at 50 mph without faults.
Friday, 20 April 2012
Those who fiddle with old cars and 4x4s will, I’m sure, be interested in the myriad improvised repairs we made to the Jeeps on this epic trip. As we rolled out of Alex on 8th April both Jeeps were running well and the long haul south was without incident. It was when we refuelled in Mut that problems started. At this point I should say that we were very fortunate in having Rick Pewe on board and Egyptian Driver/Cook and Mechanic, Taraq. Between the two of them there was not much that could not be fixed. Rick identified that the tappets needed adjusting on the Willy’s and the in line fuel filter was dirty from the poor quality 80 octane fuel we filled up with. An hours work and some locally bought replacement filters had that complete. We then retarded the ignition by a few degrees to get both Jeeps running well on the lower octane fuel. The one mistake we made was not marking the original ignition point before making changes. This made it a big job of trial and error to re time the ignition again when we had good fuel.
A length of fencing wire liberated somewhere along the main road from Alex was originally used to secure the radiator cowling which was rattling, but went on to become a replacement exhaust bracket on the Ford, number plate securing system, carburettor return spring anchor point and bonnet catch. The only breakage on the trip was a clutch tie rod between the pedal and the clutch cable. This looked serious, but Taraq soon modified an old bar-b-que fork to an almost exact replacement! In the Great Sand Sea we were cursed with a persistent strong wind - first from the south, then cooler from the north. Awful conditions to adjust the tappets on the Ford, but using both canvas tops as a wind break Rick had them done in an hour and we found more power to tackle the dunes.
Each Jeep has a different method of pumping fuel from tank to carb. The Willy’s is electric now pumped through two inline filters which have now been replace three times. The Ford has an engine driven mechanical pump that overheats in the scorching temperature we have driven through. To cool the pump we used the same technique the locals use to keep drinks cool. We wrapped an old rag (my shirt) around it and soaking it in water. Fixed!
Whilst deep into the dunes running fast on an inter dune corridor I noticed a new noise from the back of the Ford. It had clearly been dripping oil over a prolonged period from the input shaft seal and had run out - hence noisy bearings. We had the correct oil but getting it in required fabricating a special funnel from an old water bottle. It worked and within 15 minutes we were on our way.
The final problems (we hope) were in Siwa where we somehow filled the Ford with petrol containing an unacceptable amount of water. This had even Rick baffled for a while as there was clearly fuel at the carb and a good spark, yet the engine refused to run. After much fiddling we decided to dump the whole tankful of fuel, clean the carb and start again. As I write this 100 km into the fast run up to Alex all seems well.
Photos show adjusting the tappets in the Sand Sea, Rick fixing the exhaust bracket, the inprovised clutch rod and the cooling system for the mechanical fuel pump. It is a great testament to the Jeeps that they are so easy to fix.
Thursday, 19 April 2012
Looking back over the last 10 days I shall attempt to condense the many finds and experiences into short, but interesting Blog entries. fresh faced we hit the sand and our first LRDG sites were a six cylinder Cadillac engine and a cairn made of ‘flimsy’s’ - the rather badly designed method used to carry fuel prior to us nicking the jerry can design from the Germans. A rusty engine in bits may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but standing there in the scorching heat it was easy to imagine the physical struggle it must have taken to heave this engine out and maybe replace it with another. The petrol cans are plentiful all over the routes we took. At first they aroused much interest , but after seeing literally hundreds the novelty wore off.
Pictures show the engine, the cans and our early desire to keep the canvas roofs on as we adjusted to the heat.
Wednesday, 18 April 2012
It seems odd to be writing this after we have covered over 1200 miles, but it would be laborious to cover events in strictly chronological order. Our aim was to live the life of a small patrol of LRDG/SAS servicemen on a genuine route through the Sahara in authentic cars. We have succeeded beyond our wildest dreams and are now in Siwa for our first shower of 8 days. Sand and dust form a thick coating on our tired bodies that has prevented sun burn and not been particular uncomfortable. Sure, we have had breakdowns and had to keep on top of servicing with two 70 year old jeeps, but it is remarkable what can be done with a length of fence wire and some ingenuity. All laptop batteries flat and no electricity here so over and out for now. Photo is in the style of the original SAS promo shot. We have looked like this for 8 days now.
Wednesday, 11 April 2012
Breakfast in the Desert. Hot eggs and foul (pron. ‘fool’ - it’s brown beans). Over dinner last night we discussed the Willy’s problem and narrowed it down to the 80 octane petrol. That plus the dirt is the most likely cause of the poor running, so once we struggle through this tankful we shall move on to the 1000 litres in the Iveco truck. Over and out. Packing up camp! Picture is dawn over our camp.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
An easier day today as no driving in the morning. It was great to get a good nights sleep in Mut and after breakfast we had time on our hands waiting for the two guys to return from Kharga with the permits. Rick seized this as an opportunity to improve the running of the engine on the Willy’s which had deteriorated over the last 30 miles of last night. It appeared the fuel filter was blocked. This was changed for a new one bought locally and as a safety measure Rick fitted an extra one as the fuel is pretty dirty out here. Next it was a carb strip and that too was full of muck. With the fuel and ignition sorted he moved his attention to the inlet valve adjustment. The Willy’s has always popped a bit, but we thought it had been because of the big bore exhaust. Turns out on of the inlet vales was not closing fully. Within a couple of hours it was much healthier and we made the run out here to our first desert camp at a reasonable pace. Thanks Rick.
Pictures show us discussing our route, Rick enjoying getting his hands dirty and a black and white of where we are now.
Seems rather odd to have a 3G signal in the desert but we are not actually far from the nearest town. It will be gone tomorrow as we venture deeper.
After an exhausting couple of days we are deep in southern Egypt at a place called Mut in the Oasis of Dakala. (Those following the Live Map on the web site will notice the track stops short of Mut - Flat battery on the G Spot locator) We arrived late last night and are staying in an Hotel in the centre.
It has been a long and at times trying couple of days involving a lot of night driving to cover the vast distances we have had to. We are a good 2000 km from Alex now, but both Jeeps are performing famously, the only problem being a blocked fuel filter on the Willy’s - possibly from using too many old jerry cans out here. The muck and rust may have got into the fuel tank, then into the filter.
We were supposed to collect the desert permit here in Mut, but apparently the Military’s fax machine had broken so it is not here, delaying our entry to the desert. Two of the Siag team have gone by taxi on a 400 km return trip to physically collect it! If all goes to plan we should dive off the tarmac into the sand at about lunchtime. That will be the end of the good Egyptian 3G signal and any further updates until we reach Siwa on 19th.
Pictures show our morning prep in Bahariya outside the Hotel Qasr El Bavity (very nice), a stop on the long night of Sunday 8th (700 km Alex to Bahariya), John Sam and myself in the Black Desert and the Jeeps cooling off in the spectacular White Desert, and the whole team also in the Black Desert.
Sunday, 8 April 2012
We’re out! Just hitting the streets of Alexandria. A couple of days late, but the feeing of just clearing the port and customs is immeasurable. Heading south and switching the G Spot on. If you can be bothered follow our route on the web site ‘Live Map’
Friday, 6 April 2012
Despite not having our Jeeps yet, we all had a great day in and around Cairo today (6th April) guided by Cairo resident, team member and LRDG expert, Sam Watson. Our friend Darrell Hardman lent us his impressive fleet of Land Rovers and we visited Patrick Clayton’s Villa (Google him) in the leafy suburbs of Maadi. From there we went out into the desert on the edge of Cairo to Wadi Degla, where the LRDG practised their tactics. All that is left by way of evidence is one flattened and rusty jerry can, but it was a great day and many thanks to Sam and Darrell. All for now ...... more curry downstairs.
Pictures show Clayton's Villa and Wadi Degla.
Thanks for the comments Andy and Affer.
It was a frustrating day yesterday waiting outside the Port Gates to see if we could release the Jeeps from the port. The ship, Cap Harvey, did not dock until late the night before despite various assurances that it woas due in Alexandria on 31st, 2nd, then finally 5th at 06.00 hrs, eventually 22.30 hrs. giving us Thursday to try and retrieve them. Everybody finished early on Thursday in preparation for the ‘weekend’ – Friday.
Needless to say our attempts achieved only partial success. We have the paperwork in place, but if we had managed to get the Jeep out, it would be too late to complete customs. Slightly deflated we headed back to Cairo to be uplifted by meeting the rest of the team, sharing a beer or two and then a marvellous curry here in Mena House.
We are all moved to be in the same Hotel used by Bagnold and the preferred spot for pre and post drinks for the LRDG.
Pictures show; a wise local coping with the sun,Mahmoud frantically working in the minibus, Bob and Jason killing time and the whole group, plus guests Darrell and Sue.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
Big thanks tonight to Reem Marai, Mahmoud's long suffering wife, who prepared a magnificent spread for the rapidly swelling LRDG Group. Jason Patterniti and Bob Atwater, both key members of The Explores Club in the U.S. were guests of honour here in Maadi tonight. We ate, drank and talked desert, then retired to Mahmoud's map room to discuss details. jason is working with a researcher from a California at some new methods of remote sensing and we have a few things of interest to look at on the western edge of the Gilf el Kebir. Who knows what they are. Maybe an old tyre, or just maybe anew relic. We shall see!
Monday, 2 April 2012
Before and after raids on the enemy The LRDG would meet here, Mena House Hotel, for a few swift cocktails to take the edge off. It is an hotel steeped in history and where we too shall be staying on the nights prior to and at the conclusion of our Expedition. The chaos of the mad Gizza traffic is left behind as you pass through the high gates into a delightful garden, then into the hotels where all is cool and the staff are immaculately dressed in white. Mahmoud and I enjoyed a Cappuccino in the lounge yesterday. Very reasonable at 50 Egyptian Pounds (about £5 UK)