Following 24 hours of being towed out of the desert by three different vehicles, happily we found Kharvarno in Teheran an expressed gearbox specialist which we found by googling in Damghan.
You have to understand that Iran is very different from the UK. These guys are old school. They don’t even blanch at the problem. Once our car was over the pit and various bits dismantled, they pronounced that we had a completely knackered gear box. A whole cog had ground away and was sitting in the base of the gear box as a pile of filings. The clutch was still functioning but slightly worn and pitted.
We were despondent. A gear box replacement in Iran, how bad does it get? There are so many import restrictions that we thought perhaps we were f......d. We were thinking cripes, our Turkmenistan visa starts in a few days and what about our rendezvous with Nora in Uzbekistan? We were really struggling with our plan B!
But these guys were like, no problem, don’t worry, we can find something, maybe not new but relax. So a couple of hours later everything, including our gear box, is in pieces on the ground and we are told a suitable secondhand landcruiser gear box has been found.
Every problem is solved by a cup of tea.
So our general elation was short lived. After we had sped away to change shed loads of money to pay for the new gear box (and clutch). It had arrived by the time we returned with funds. In the mean time they had totally dismantled the new gearbox, which we had paid for, with a view to removing the main spindle.
On arrival they said, good news it has arrived. Bad news it is the wrong type! It was then pronounced to be 4 gear rather than 5. My despair was palpable.
But these guys did not even flinch. No problem, the only difference is one spindle. The main spindle but don’t worry. We will try and find a replacement. Really? No chance.
In the midst of all this despair, they offered us lunch in the garage.
The whole team stopped together and prepared to eat on a tidy mat in another shed. I got our table out of the car and the food arrived on another small bike. Rice, lamb, salad, bread and Iranian beer. Even the old cleaner stopped to eat together with the team and a very young Afghan refugee who was learning the ropes.
I should not have worried, for true enough, after lunch, a new spindle arrived on the back of another small bike. There was much measurement and it was pronounced to be very similar. But too long and the end too thin! Huge despair.
They did not flinch. A huge amount of additional measuring followed and we were taken into a machine tool shed with a massive machine cutting tool. The thin end was chopped off and the fat core ground down to form a new end and shortening it in the process. We left for the night hopeful.
The following day was Friday, the Muslim day of rest, but the team decided to come to work and finish the job. We turned up and the first thing they showed us was the newly formed spindle.
The huge job of putting it all back together was underway, only punctuated by photocalls, tea and (a new chef arrived) to prepare breakfast. The chef was one of the sons of the garage owner, whose interests lay elsewhere. This gave Jim the opportunity to explain about the French Michelin guide and family, who were big in tyres and cooking!
The chief mechanic ploughed on as we sat around him in plastic chairs scrutinising his every move. A makeshift breakfast bar was set up and the new chef laid out breakfast.
Happy noises from the mechanic as the cogs all fitted back together. I offered him the manual just in case. He just smiled politely and carried on.
As I write, the story is not finished. We are waiting with baited breath to see how things things progress.
Sadly at the end of day 2 the gearbox is back in but we have a missing gear! So another day in the garage. We feel for the guys who have worked so hard.