The story

The Land Rovers crossing a remote river in Nepal Crossing a river in remote Nepal

We reached Nepal in the middle of December, after 6688 miles and six weeks of travelling. In Kathmandu, after several days making enquiries and following leads, we tracked down an aluminium welder who did a fine job of repairing the cracked gearbox. He refused to accept any money for the work and just charged us for the cost of the gas.

After Christmas, we were able to pick up the generator and spares from the airport and loaded them into the cars for the journey to the hospitals.

We had been told that the Royal Nepalese Army, with help from British Gurkha engineers, had been building a road through the mountains that nearly reached the first hospital near the village of Okhaldunga. After a two-day drive west from Kathmandu, we found the army camp, but were told the road was still 35 mountainous kilometres short of Okhaldunga, leaving a two-day walk. Carrying 300kg of diesel generator would lengthen the walk to five days. Even worse, the 20km of road that had been built was only a dirt track blasted from the side of the mountain, and the only vehicle that was allowed on it was an army tractor.

After much pleading with the Nepalese captain in charge, we managed to persuade him that our fine old Land Rovers were up to the job and he gave us special permission to use the road. This "road" worsened steadily as it wound its way deep into the mountains, at its worse points leaving only inches between us and a 2000ft drop into the valley. With gradients of about 1:3 in soft mud, and bends requiring three-point turns, the slow drive was frightening. Although we got through without incident, our fears were justified a few days later when we heard that the tractor had gone over the edge, killing several people.

When the road did finally stop, we had to winch the generator from the Land Rover into a crate, where it required a group of 12 porters to carry it for five days to the hospital, using bamboo poles to support the weight. The generator was successfully installed and we moved on to the second hospital to carry out the rebuilding of the three elderly generators there.

After two and a half months working in Nepal, we loaded up once more, and headed south into India. Passing into Pakistan, we took a slightly different route for the sake of variety, and encountered some truly horrendous roads. Although once sealed with tarmac, they had developed massive potholes and cracks. When the lilac Lightweight pulled alongside the three of us in Homer, we noticed the car had developed a frightening new pose; the two halves of the car seemingly joined at about a 30-degree angle.

Porters carrying the generator in remote Nepal The porters struggle with the generator

We discovered that the chassis was cracked through, and the car was being held together by the roll cage. We were forced to limp to the nearest town to seek urgent repairs and luckily we found an excellent welder who got us back on the road again. We took the return journey at a more leisurely pace and found time to take in a few sights along the way.

Apart from a recurring problem of oil seeping into the brakes, and the mysterious timing problem, we had no real upsets. We had taken spares of every conceivable nature and brought back about half of them. We took six halfshafts, fearing they would break regularly. As it was, we broke only one, and that was in the car park in Zeebrugge waiting for our return ferry.

After nearly seven months, 17 countries, and 15,000 miles in harsh conditions, our two old but very trusty Land Rovers had carried us back onto home soil, still going strong.

« Page 3