Richard Daniel Dungate - UK to Cape Town via the West Coast
I was refereed to Julian in December of 2010.
I needed someone of calibre to examine and prepare a 1994 Turbo Diesel 80 series Land Cruiser for a London to Cape Town Expedition that I was to undertake alone commencing February 2011.
I had some mechanical knowledge, but certainly not enough to appraise and prepare my newly acquired machine. Given this deficiency combined with my limited budget I needed someone I could trust to let me know what was essential and what was not. Also someone to explain what the consequences and risks of cutting corners would be, thus allowing me to make informed decisions. I was relieved to find that Julian fulfilled this role to the letter.
Having done the essential work, what I found to be the most important and reassuring service was that I was told I was "good to go". With my limited knowledge it was this endorsement from some-one that I could trust, that gave me the confidence I needed to board the ferry to Santander in Spain one cold February morning.
It was my belief that mine and Julian's relationship had finished there in a damp, misty yard in England, after I filled his palm with some greasy 20 pound notes. This was not to be the case however. Without a shadow of a doubt the most useful and unexpected thing that Julian did for me was continue to support me for the next eleven months as I made my way, sometimes painfully slowly, down the west coast of Africa to Cape Town.
The benefit of having a professional, well used to the rigours of African travel and the limited availability of parts and service was tested quickly after I lost all my gearbox radiator and oil in the Moroccan Sahara. After 4 hours trying to ascertain the problem myself and believing it to be steering fluid oil; with a mouth full of sand I phoned Julian who put me straight and talked me through the options. Without this I might still be with the Bedouin and his camel who I had broken down next to - He tried to sell me the Camel!
This service continued through the following countries and problems which included:-
Mauritania: Overheating. Removal and cleaning of all radiators.
Gambia: steering pump removal and rebuild.
Senegal: Air con rebuild.
Mali: On-going problems with ABS that I had been attempting to fix for three weeks resolved when Julian told me to remove the fuse.
Ghana: front wheel bearing change
Nigeria: With a severe steering wobble I had changed and balance the tyres 4 times when Julian told me it was the universal joints on prop shaft.
Congo Gabon Boarder: Front wheel caught fire after the wheel bearings disintegrated and destroyed the front stub Axle. Amazingly was able to source new stub Axle and Julian (+ a Haynes manual) talked me through replacement at the side of the track I was on.
The above is a few, but by no means an extensive list of the help that was freely extended to me in my many hours of need in difficult circumstances. When I left England my knowledge was limited and Julian's patience with my sometimes painfully idiotic questions was exemplary.
All I can really say is that when undertaking a Trans-Africa, a working Air-Con system and a good stereo are great things to have. But when you find yourself alone, far from civilisation, in a hostile country and the machine your life depends on suddenly grinds to a halt, imprisoning you in the landscape that was previously slipping by you effortlessly; the greatest resource you can have is a fully charged telephone and Julian Voelcker's phone number.
Richard Daniel Dungate.