We are GO for launch….

Happy Days

To say the last week has been emotional, would be an understatement of enormous proportions. To have come so close to getting my truck registered, only to find that the transmission was damaged, was to say the least, heart breaking, but if I’m to make it around Africa I need to have an “OK, problem, let’s solve it” attitude, so that’s what got me through the last few days.

Finally, following the repairs at Emirates Motor Company, my truck arrived (again) at Tasjeel in Warsan on Tuesday 24th January, and this time I was determined not to leave without a registration card. Which is just as well, since in the end it took me SIX hours to obtain the necessary approvals, during which time the vehicle was inspected on three separate occasions, by about eight different people in total. I spent 90 minutes sweet talking the manager of the test centre, persuading him that since Oberaigner was a Mercedes, n approved vehicle modifier, that the rules of ‘no modifications to chassis’ could not possibly be applied to MY vehicle. Thank You Henrique Pimental of Daimler Middle East for the letter confirming Mercedes’ relationship with Oberaigner.

Plates, plates! I got plates!!

Then there were the inevitable “But it has to be registered as a commercial vehicle”, “But it’s a heavy vehicle not a light truck”, “We don’t have that engine option for a Sprinter on our computer” and other such tiresome arguments to overcome, but I got there, having displayed the patience and understanding of a saint. Anyone who knows me will understand that for me to display such behaviour is nothing short of miraculous, but NOTHING was going to get between me and those number plates this time. So it was that at 8.20pm, more than five hours after I’d first arrived, I walked out of the office with the personalised plates in my hand. Having fitted them, I then had to walk back into the office, and spend another 40 minutes getting the registration card changed to show the correct gross vehicle weight. You see, I’d noticed that problem when the card was printed, but decided that ‘owning’ the card, and thus being able to have my plates printed, was more important than having correct details on the card. So when I raised the issue AFTER fitting my plates, well, they really had no choice but to correct it, right? I wasn’t born yesterday……

The video below is rather long, but it covers the whole gamut of my emotions, from receiving the truck the first time, realising it was damaged, getting it fixed, returning to Warsan and ultimately, my first drive of the truck on a public road. Bear with me for the plate fitting sequence – it gets better at the end 🙂
I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed driving those first few kilometres.

 

Registration plans…..shafted

Arrival at the test and registration centre.

If you were hoping to read that my truck was finally registered and on the road in Dubai…….well, so was I! In fact I rushed to the Warsan registration centre near the Dubai sewage treatment plant (I get all the best gigs) when I heard it was on a flat bed, finally clear from Dubai Customs and on its way to the Tasjeel test and registration centre. Imagine my excitement when I saw it pull up, on Dubai soil for the first time and just minutes away from being mine, all mine, registered and on the road…..

And imagine my incredulity when I drove it off the trailer and realised it would not move unless I engaged the diff locks. You don’t have to know much about vehicles to know what that means – that there’s a drive shaft or coupling or complete differential somewhere which is, to use the military vernacular, FUBAR. Yep, somewhere in my poor truck’s brief 127km history, it would appear, I think, that someone had engaged the diff locks whilst on tarmac, which had lead to the inevitable damage to the transmission. After 20 minutes of stunned silence (apart from a little gentle sobbing), I abandoned the idea of registering the vehicle, had it loaded onto another flat bed, and delivered to my office in Dubai where I have room to store it. Not the happiest journey I have made…

Right now I’m in the process of obtaining a new front left drive shaft (it didn’t take long to find the broken part) and getting my truck  repaired ASAP. With a bit of luck, I shall be in a position to try again next week, when I hope to have rather better news! Until then, I guess I picked the wrong month to quit drinking…..

Thank you Captain, I’ll take her from here…..

My vehicle's new registration plate.

It’s now more than five and a half years since I had the idea to buy an overland truck and travel around Africa. For the next four and half years that’s all it was – an idea, albeit one I was determined to realise. Finally, in late 2015 everything fell into place and my finances permitted me to take that leap of faith. Now, a year and a couple of weeks after I placed the order for the chassis and cabin, the NYK Castor Leader RoRo vessel is steaming around the Strait of Hormuz as I write this, and will tomorrow dock at Jebel Ali port – just a few hundred yards from where I first started working in Dubai 25 years ago, when there were only 300 companies in Jebel Ali. Now there’s more like 30,000; how times have changed!

The NYK Castor Leader's position at 20.30 Dubai time
My truck is aboard the NYK Castor Leader, just 8 hours away from home. At last!!

Last week I spent a few hours at the Road Traffic Authority offices in Dubai trying to meet the right people, ask the right questions, and gather the right information, which would allow me to tackle the issue of registering the vehicle for private ownership in Dubai – not a straightforward task when the chassis builder is almost unknown to them, the cabin is not something they normally deal with, it’s truck sized but not, by their definition, a truck because they classify Sprinters as vans, and it’s six wheel drive but the only records they have of Sprinters here are two wheel drive. So next week should be ‘interesting’ to say the least.

While I was at the RTA I was delighted to hear that just a week earlier they had started issuing the “T” suffix number-plates, which was perfect timing and I decided was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I treated myself to a personal number plate.

T  Tim’s Travel Truck

1  Life

2  Eyes

5  Oceans

6  Continents

3  Axles

Yes I know you can argue there are 7 (or 5, or even 4) continents but that number has other, personal significance for me, so feast your eyes on the plate that will adorn my truck from next week and for the next few years. “Truck” still doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m giving it a lot of thought. Tomorrow I hope to drive down to the port and sneak a quick look at my vehicle on U.A.E. soil for the first time. I should actually get to drive it (him? her?) on Sunday next week, for the first time in Dubai. Woohoo!!