Mechanical problems in the mountains (1987)

Updated: Mar 19

This incident took place somewhere along the old road between Phander and Gilgit in northern Pakistan. The journey had already been delayed when a ball and socket joint in the steering system failed. This had been repaired using a rock as a hammer, a length of wire and a square of lubricated inner tube.

The repair to the steering seemed to hold and we continued towards Gilgit with a growing sense of confidence. Under a clear sky, we made good progress, until there was a large bang that coincided with the rear end of the jeep bucking three feet into the air as we came to an abrupt halt. The Mullah and I were thrown into the air and landed on each other in a tangle of arms and legs. He roared with laughter and clapped me on the back.

The driver turned off the engine and the extent of the damage soon became clear. A bolt joining the leaf spring to the jeep had sheared, pulling the drive shaft out of its socket. With a collapsed axle, the jeep was in a sorry state and we were several hours from the nearest village in any direction.

The driver was not easily dismayed and was confident that everything would be all right. He pulled out a cloth bag filled with rusting screws and bolts and found a bolt that looked as if it might fit. The problem was that he did not have a nut that would fit the bolt. The Mullah and I were deputised to walk back along the track to search for the broken bolt, which might have had a nut that would be a match for the spare bolt.

The others went on a search for something that could be used to lever the leaf spring back into place. Unbelievably, the Mullah and I not only found the half of the sheared bolt with the nut, but the nut also fitted the replacement bolt.

Working as a team, we used brute force to lift the jeep up and with the help of a sapling, lever the leaf spring back into place. The driver eased in the bolt and tightened up the nut. The repair had taken just over half an hour and was a tribute to the driver’s perseverance and technical expertise.

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