Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th of Feb Heidi and I drive to Cambridge and then further to the East-coast of England. I leave her in Stansted airport on Friday with a feeling that I would not see her for a while. That evening she takes a flight back to Vienna. London has become too expensive a place to hang about while readying oneself for the next step in life. It seems that it is her plan to find a cheap flight to Australia asap and spend time on her own. I'll see her again. That is sure! When and where is not!
The 6x6 unit that was supposed to having been fitted onto my Land Rover still does not work. "The problem seems to be with the gear company" says Paul Foley. A whole patch of gears they produced seem to be too large, thus give too much friction which results in a noise that should not be there. So another week goes by. Heidrun has left me and I am staying behind for another weekend in Roydon/Essex/the UK near Harlow, a place I don't want to be anymore. And winter still prevails here with temperatures down to minus 10°C at night.
Monday 28th of Feb: The gears-company has acknowledged their mistake has reground the gears over the weekend. The engineering firm has fitted them to the differential and they seem to work well. "They're sending the box over now. You'll be on your way tonight" says Paul Foley with a big smile. He clearly has surprised me. Later that afternoon I hit the road with the magic box underneath that I have been waiting for so long. No noise. Africa seems in reach.
I have to do a thousand kilometres or so to test the vehicle. I drive north to Colchester to meet Stephen who I have met when walking the West-Highland Way in summer. Next day I drive all the way West to Wales and back. Still no noise and no leaks.
Wednesday after a final check at Foley's Paul and Stuart Foley wave me goodbye. They have become a bit like friends. They have done so much to the my Land Rover, their advice has been invaluable and the work of their staff extremely professional. All the time when we worked on the 6x6 differential problem, which was particularly embarrassing for Paul I never felt that I should not trust him. Paul, who has spent 7 years in Africa is a man who knows his stuff.
I leave London. John Lennon is on. Imagine's the first song. Wow! Coincidence? Imagining what may come I reach Dover amidst heavy snowfall. Winter it seems wants to stay in England for ever this year. But I am out of here. In Dover I have my personal goodbye with England by enjoying probably the best fish and chips I have had for quite many month and a light, fresh, pale Titanic what-ever bitter. Later I take the ferry to Dunquerque, France.
Tours and a very old friend
It snows much in France. While the police closes the motorway for heavy traffic I am waved through and have the opportunity to test the 6x6 driving capabilities. I spend the night near Abbeville. It is cold outside but not so much inside. Lots of snow seems to work as some kind of isolation.
Via Rouen and LeMans I reach Tours in the afternoon of Thursday the 3rd of March and meet Birgit and her children Kilian and Oceane. It has been about 20 years since I have last seen Birgit. And a couple of nights over a few bottles of French red and a few Pastis we delve into memories about those old days in Vienna.
News on the Land Rover front. The 6x6 unit leaks. It turns out the seals are of the wrong size. It is Friday and then Saturday I cannot get my hands on all the seals I want and need. Planning ahead I envision to see another garage in Madrid. I am pretty cool about all that. It is more important to understand how and why things work and most important I want and will make them work.
Sunday morning I leave Tours. Key in Madrid on my GPS. 1.047km. Massive Attack is on. Bordeaux 360km away. Crossing the River Gironde from Royan to Le Verdun sur Mer it is the first time that winter is no more. The warm gentle breeze fells good, fells like I am heading to the right direction.
After Bordeaux the police stops me. For speeding!? 77km/h. 85Euros, the gendarme wants. But he is interested in the car and my plans.
In the end he says: "Pay 85Euros to a little African". He is letting me off not without making me promise a couple of times to actually do so. La vie est belle. I put the Embrace on: All you good good people.... The great sunset and the warm temperatures make me shiver. I am looking forward to my future life.