Return of the Prodigal Son – It´s all about Henry!


For those of you that get your alerts on the Whatsapp group, you will already know that this is a very happy blog!

We left you at the end of the last post excited that the MSC Chloe had finally moored in Cape Town but trying to contain ourselves during the long wait for Henry´s container to be unloaded and released from the port.

We had hoped to have him at the farm on the Monday, but the Abidjan agent caught our Cape Town agent out by using a paper Bill of Lading that needed taking to the port in person for release. That wasted the whole, frustrating day as we jumped every time a tractor past the farm thinking it might be the truck bringing Henry, only to find out at 4pm that it wasn´t going to be that day.

Tuesday came along and the agent got the paperwork to the port by 8:45am, all we needed now was confirmation that the container had been released. We waited, and waited. Then at 11am we were sent this photo by our Cape Town agent :

Fire had broken out in the port. All gates were closed, no containers were getting out – but more to the point, was Henry in the fire? I felt physically sick. My head was pounding. Was there no end to this saga? Had we waited 3.5 months for Henry to arrive only to have him burnt to a cinder 3 days after landing?

Fortunately not, after 2 horrendous hours, the fire was confirmed as being in the export side not the import side – Henry was safe. And at 2pm we had the thrilling news that the port had reopened and the transporter was booked to collect our container at 4pm.

By 5:30pm James and I were waiting at the gates to the farm staring down the long, dusty road. Staring, staring, kicking the dust, looking at our watches. It was rush hour, we were told it would be some time yet.

6pm….

I am not ashamed to say I was squeeling like a girl and jumping up and down hyperventilating.

To the amusement of both James and our agent, I took one look at the container number on the back and said thank god, it was the right container. ´You know the number off by heart??´ they both exclaimed. I had been tracking it multiple times a day for 3.5 months, of course I knew the number!

All we had left to know now was whether our Abidjan agent had actually put Henry in the container and whether he was still all in one piece. As the lorry was backed up to the ramp painfully slowly our hearts were in our mouths.

First, the customs seal had to be checked to ensure it was the right number and then removed.

And then, finally, after all this time, the doors were flung open.

My heart did a cartwheel. Even now, writing this and re-living it, I´m feeling slightly emotional! He was in there and he was all in one piece.

He needed to be checked for fuel leaks or any other obvious signs of problems before his battery was reconnected and his engine started.

All looked good, now came the tricky part – getting him out of a very tight container without damaging him.

There were a few false starts as he was badly wedged in.

But eventually, engine roaring like a true Defender, out he came….

It really felt like a dream, I couldn´t quite believe he was here with us after all this time.

But here he was indeed, in all his (rather dirty) glory, standing as firm and proud as he always had.

And suddenly, just like that, it was all over. We were reunited, the Sidetracked team was whole again!

My stomach was in knots, I actually felt quite ill. Whether it was the excitement of it all or the release of so much tension over the last few weeks, who knows. But once we´d settled him in and checked he was still as he was when we left him in Abidjan all that time ago in January, we went to bed early with no food and slept soundly until the next morning….

You won´t be surprised to hear that we were both up very early, raring to go. When I opened the door of the rondavel a huge grin spread over my face at what greeted me outside. He was still there! His immovable presence quietly but solidly keeping guard – just as he always had.

Then the work started. First was a full day of cleaning – I took everything out, cleaned and washed it and sorted all our things back into where they belonged whilst James did Henry himself, outside and inside. Bedding, towels, bags, clothes were put through the washing machine and hung out to dry. Kitchen equipment, gadgets, dried and tinned food scrubbed, boxes washed out. It took hours and hours – neither of us finished until late in the evening but by the end of that day he was sparkling all over. His spot lights, sand boards and roof boxes were replaced and everything was back where it should be.

James then set to work replacing and repairing all the things we knew needed sorting out after our trek through West Africa, which had taken its toll.

  • Dash cam front and rear replaced
  • Four new tyres
  • New leisure battery
  • Stub axel gasket replaced and new brake pads as the leaking axel oil had ruined the old ones
  • Full service
  • New wiper blades

We then had to sort the gas out. We had been using butane up to now but propane is the gas most easily available across southern and eastern Africa. So the butane gas bottle was disposed of and we spent a whole day securing a suitable propane bottle and converters for the stove. His new gas bottle was a big improvement over the battered old one and much more colour-coordinated!

But eventually he was ready to go, looking better than ever.

It all seemed to happen very quickly towards the end. One minute he was slowly making his way out of Durban port, still seemingly a long way off, then before we could blink he was here and ready to go.

Up to now we hadn´t been living in him, with all the work going on we had opted to stay in the rondavel at the farm. But now everything was done and there was nothing stopping us. We were ready to hit the open road and get back to our real lives.

On the Tuesday morning, exactly a week after Henry had arrived at the farm, we paid our bills, gave all the humans hugs and the dogs big fuzzes behind the ears and said our goodbyes. It was sad to go after all this time – I realised I had first started talking to Duncan, our wonderful Cape Town shipping agent, in December 2021 and he had been a stalwart of support, sound guidance and advice ever since, never mind being a lot of fun and now a good friend.

We took some last photos to remind us of our stay, our beautiful rondavel, the gorgeous sunsets….

Not to mention the new-found furry friends

And my constant guard and companion, always at my side from dawn til dusk and keeping watch outside the door in between…

But regardless of the human and animal friends we had made, we were ready to leave and start living again the life we have chosen – the life of nomads, sleeping under the same stars each night but never knowing exactly where, not having any pesky local knowledge, never seeing the same view more than two days running. And, of course, living, sleeping and breathing Henry – our protector, our freedom….our home.

The open road was calling…..


5 responses to “Return of the Prodigal Son – It´s all about Henry!”

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