The nice men in taxis arrived (more about them later). Then Mr Numbskull, the 'mechanic', arrived. Ben started the engine to be greeted by a cacophony of tapping that even the most ignorant would recognise as a MAJOR problem.
Mr Numbskull pressed a long screwdriver to the engine block and then pressed his ear to the handle to listen to the engine sound - a mechanic's cardiologist so to speak. Having checked various locations on the block he muttered that it sounded like a problem with a con-rod. Ben had already figured this much out and was less than impressed to discover that Mr N had not brought any spare parts with him.
Engine switched off. Next the sump needed to be drained and the bottom of the block accessed. There followed a surreal question from Mr N about which way you should turn the sump nut to loosen it. Now I would be quite useless in breaking down an engine, let alone fixing it (the last time I stripped anything was a Honda 175 in 1976) but even I knew (as I think most people would) that the universal rule is tighten clockwise, loosen anticlockwise.
We left him at it. Another problem had arisen: Ben's wife Bing has misplaced her wallet. Apart from cash and credit card, it contained her ID card. It seems the Chinese authorities are a bit particular about the ID card - as in: no card, no travel within China. A frantic search finally recovered the wallet. All set, so?
No. Apparently the taxis were allowed to take a max of 4 per vehicle. We were 9. We finally secured a third vehicle and set off.
This is where the letter U comes in. We had about 125k to travel and it entailed negotiating several valleys: down a series of hairpin bends, level out, ascend a series of hairpin bends (all on roads subject to landslide and therefore plagued with boulders and potholes).
Repeat until exhausted. We were. Over 4 hours (the last one in darkness) for a little over 70 miles. Oh, and we were doing this in a miniature van called an Omni - think of a Ford Transit and then shrink it by two thirds.
Apart from the road conditions, our drivers' approach to the road commanded most attention. Personally I concluded they were loaded - on what I am not sure but this was no ordinary performance. They had been chewing away (and spitting) on beetel nut but even that stimulant could not explain their devil-may-care driving style. Enough said. We arrived in one piece.
A hot restoring shower, a gin and tonic, a quick check of the Internet and a great dinner. All is good.
Well, nearly. Mr Numbskull had abandoned Ben, problem unresolved. Ben is now on the side of a mountain in pitch darkness awaiting a new mechanic tomorrow to fix his sick truck.
Off to the madness that is India tomorrow. 530 wake call.
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