Lara for sale!
Lara survived her year remarkably well. When we dropped her off at the local Land Rover garage in the UK they were surprised to hear what she had just done. She was in excellent condition, although definitely due for a big service.
They replaced the clutch and a new seal was added to the gearbox to stop the (very) slow leak we had had for years. Of course we needed a new brake disc after the failed Lada pads had ground the disc to bits, but we knew that was a risk we took when we decided to use them, and they nearly got us home…
When they replaced the seal on the gearbox they discovered what could have been a huge disaster. Putting the gearbox back together in Mongolia, the Land Rover dealer had accidentally inserted one of the longer bolts in the space for a shorter one (not all bolts for the gear box are the same length). The bolt had poked through into the gear box and had touched the gears. Luckily the metal of the bolts is a lot softer than the metal used on the gears themselves so, slowly but surely, the gears had bent and ground the bolt out of the way. We were incredibly lucky that we did not destroy the gear box the minute we drove out of the garage in Ulaanbaatar!! Jon is going to frame the remains of that bolt, together with a piece of the exploded differential we kept, to remind us how intimately linked disaster and luck can be.
Anyway, now that we had made it safely back to Europe, our biggest ‘problem’ would be to get Lara back to Australia, as, in order to do so, she would need to be as clean as new. Can you imagine having to clean a car that has just traversed half the planet and picked up different colours of dust from 27 countries? It’s a daunting task for sure, not made easier by the fact that England was true to form and it rained cats and dogs pretty much every day.
The Land Rover garage owner came to our rescue. He very kindly gave us a spot next to his Land Rover series III restoration project. He also owned a Lotus from the 60’s, almost identical to Jon’s racing green Lotus 22. But we weren’t here to look at the cars, we were here to clean. He then also gave us the garage’s vacuum cleaner, a bucket with hot water and some rags and we set to it.
We spent all day, only interrupted by the cups of tea brought to us and a break for lunch in the excellent local pub across the road. By the end of the long day she was looking a lot cleaner on the inside, but she was far from ready for import into Australia. So, as any sensible woman would do, I left Lara with Jon so he could finish the job and I went back to Holland to spend a few more days with my family before we would fly back to Oz together.
Jon managed to finish the rest of the cleaning project and dropped her off in Southampton after using the local high-pressure cleaner for garbage trucks to blast off the last bits of dirt and a little of her paint. This time he wasn’t allowed to drive her into the container she would share with a Toyota Hilux. Instead she was left behind in the yard full of Porsches and expensive Mercedes and Jon had to hand over the key. Would we ever see her again?
We tracked her container on the high seas, hoping she was actually in it, and she seemed to be making ok progress after a delayed start. Finally, weeks later, we received the invoice from the yard in Brisbane. She had arrived, they had unloaded her and if we would be so kind to pay another $2000 they would grant us permission to pick her up. The price to get her from the port in Brisbane to our doorstep was as much as loading her into a container in the UK, shipping her half-way across the world, transferring her to another ship in Singapore and getting her to the wharf in Brisbane! Incredible.
But, we were lucky. No charges for cleaning! At least all our hard work wasn’t for nothing.
It was an emotional pickup. We were delighted to have her back, but the full reality of our trip now really being over was also sinking in hard. True to form she started up on the first turn of the key – she is a legend – and Jon drove her slowly from her parking space in between lots of Dutch armored personnel carriers from Afghanistan, out into the real world. A quick phone call to our insurance company to make sure she was insured on the way home and we were free to go!
After unloading everything and sorting out the remaining pressies we had brought over, we are now using her again for weekend trips around Brisbane, delighted to be able to sleep in her luxurious Taj Mahal once again, dreaming of possible next trips. But being back on the daily grind – after landing in Brisbane on Sunday evening Jon was back at work the next morning – means for now we are restricted to weekends away.
Cape York, the Canning Stock Route and the Simpson Desert were all being considered for a next Oz holiday when our new adventure finally became clear after weeks of negotiations and discussions. We’ll be leaving Australia for 2 years to embark on our next adventure in Africa (Kenya) where Jon has accepted a new job with a new (for him anyway) company!
Unfortunately we won’t be able to take Lara with us, so we are left with a final 2-3 week September trip with her in Oz before we will have to reluctantly sell her. Cape York here we come!
Oh, and if you are interested in buying our beloved Lara (or know somebody who might be), leave us a message so we can get in touch!