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…..

And so the ‘fun’ begins. Bloody bureaucracy…

Sam Sunderland competing in the Emirates Desert Championship

Well I always knew this venture would teach me patience. Having taken the day off today, and expecting the truck to be available for me at the registration centre by around mid-day, instead, absolutely nothing happened. It seems that the computer system at Dubai Customs has been down for not one, but two days, and still isn’t operational as I write this in the late afternoon. So you can imagine the backlog of clearance requests which is building up at one of the world’s busiest trading ports……! Now I can imagine this sort of thing happening in Dar Es Salaam, or Mombasa, but Jebel Ali, Dubai – an incredibly modern port? C’mon guys, “CTRL+Alt+Del” and give it a kick…

Since, even if I were to be able to obtain the vehicle at this late stage in the day, I couldn’t get it to the test and registration centre much before it closed , I’ve ‘pulled the plug’ on today’s efforts and will start again tomorrow.

However, there is some good news, which I will be able to tell you about in more detail later. In summary, I’m in discussions with several companies involved in vehicle tracking, emergency medical training and support, and rescue equipment (for lifting bags) and each has offered me some very special deals on their products and services. Lots of very public thanks will be offered when the time is right.

So at least that’s put a smile on my face today, even if the inevitable bureaucracy delays are driving me up the wall….

And if you are wondering about this post’s photo? Well Sam Sunderland is the first British rider to ever win the daunting Dakar rally, which he did just yesterday. Better still, Sam lives, rides and trains in Dubai and is a regular competitor at the Emirates Desert Championship, for which I am the official photographer, so I couldn’t let the day go past without celebrating his success, “Well Done Sam” doesn’t begin to cover it, but it’ll have to do until I see him (I hope) this weekend in Dubai at the next round of the EDC.