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Around Fort Portal

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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me

I spend a couple of days in and around the Fort Portal area, in the West of Uganda. It’s a stunning region of the country, set in the small mountains right near the massive Rwenzori Mountains – big enough to get snow.

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Camping in Fort Portal

Driving back from Ishasha where there was a ton of mud and water crossings I start to hear a disconcerting noise from under the Jeep. Over the course of a few miles I diagnose it’s related to road speed, and it’s not the engine or the brakes. I finally nail it down to the front driveshaft, and that joint near the transfer case. The very joint I had replaced in South Africa.

I think I’ll just ignore it, but a handful of miles later the clunking noise is so loud I know I must take action. For the first time ever after almost 100k miles on expedition, I pull to the side of the road, get out my tools and lye on the side of the road to work on the Jeep.

It takes me a while, but eventually I get the front driveshaft completely removed. The CV joint on the transfer case end clunks loudly when I twist it, and I can pull the end cap off by hand and see only a small amount of very dry grease. Without grease the joint never stood a chance.

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Front driveshaft removed after about an hour

Back on the road the noise has stopped so I’m confident I have isolated the cause. At camp that night I get to work fixing another minor issue – the heat shield above the rear muffler has come adrift, and is rattling loudly against the exhaust. The Jeep sounds like a real African car, rattling loudly with every gear change. It’s a quick fix to put a few large washers on the nuts that hold it on, and I get it bolted up solidly.

Feeling good about the Jeep – now without four wheel drive – I set out North, aiming for Murchison Falls National Park. The road deteriorates quickly, and I’m soon in first gear bouncing over major potholes.
Chinese road crews are hard at work, and for a couple of hundred miles I drive through massive, massive construction work clearly set to turn the road into a multi-lane freeway. I have to pull to the side to let construction trucks past a few times, and have a few wheel spin moments in the mud without 4×4, but manage not to get the Jeep actually stuck.

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The road North from Fort Portal

Uganda is simply stunning – the longer I stay the longer I want to stay!

-Dan

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