From Tofo we drove north to Vilanculos before heading to the Bazaruto Archipelago, a tropical island get away. It should have been a pretty straight forward drive along the coastline, but it turned into an adventure…
We were in a small town, where the ´dot´ on the map is barely visible, and likewise the town had nothing much going for it besides two gas stations. We stopped for gas, and ended up with fuel pouring out of the bottom of the truck. The locals speak Portuguese and their indigenous language, and most do not speak English. So we asked the gas attendant for a mechanic, and he says no. I was in a panic, we just filled up our 40 gallon tank, there was already a pool of gas under the truck, and I was imagining someone striking a match. So, we head to the other gas station, and ask for a mechanic, and we are told to follow these kids who will take us to the mechanic.
Rather than a service station, we find ourselves in someoneś front yard. And in order to drive into the yard, we had to engage our 4×4. You see, whether or not a family has a brick house or a wood rondavel, the yard mostly consists of a few trees, maybe a few crops (corn or sugar cane) and sand. There is no grass or lawn, just sand. We park the car in front of two steel poles that they use as sort of a ´crane´ to lift up the back end of the car.
So, already itś a strange scene, but when we figure out the mechanic is 15 years old and his five assistants range from the ages of 8-17years old, it gets even more strange. The ´mechanics´ have to drain the fuel from the tank in order to remove the fuel tank from the truck, and they do this by collecting every plastic bucket around the house. They discover the problem is with the ´seal,´ which was poorly sealed when we got the new fuel tank at Komatipoort before leaving South Africa. The mechanic creates a new seal by using a piece of old cardboard box and using a screwdriver to cut out a circle, and putting silicone glue between the two sides before putting the lid back on and screwing it back into place.
Meanwhile, the family (3 women, one grandmother, 3 children and one uncle) invited us to eat lunch with them. We said yes, but thought this would probably mean we will get sick. Lunch was similar to Indian saag (a kind of creamed, chopped spinach, but without any spices, and some sand grits) and rice. After lunch, the two girls played hopscotch in the dirt yard, and the little boy played ´cars´ with an old plastic tub of margarine and an old lightbulb box in the sand.
After about 3 hours, the gas tank is reassembled and back under the truck, and the fuel back in the tank. Now, it was a matter of whether the car would start or not. It didn´t. They go back under the car, and switch two tubes. Then it starts! If you saw this auto-shop in the states, you wouldn´t even stop if your car were on fire. But these kids fixed the problem. We paid them, and also gave the mechanic a boogie board. They were so happy with the boogie board, they picked the mechanic up over their heads, like a hero!