We were traveling from Kasane near the Chobe
National Park back to Francistown. One stretch of road for about 100 kilometers
was literally covered in potholes. There
was almost no traffic, so we were able to use both sides of the road to avoid
the potholes. We were about two hours
south of Kasane and four hours north of Francistown,
when I swerved to miss a table-sized pothole in the middle of the road. Unfortunately, as I swerved to the left, I
hit another pothole on the left of the road.
This pothole was almost deep enough to hide a giraffe. We were immediately aware that we had a flat
tire and pulled over to take a look. To
our dismay we found that we had two
flat tires. Although we didn’t realize
it at the time, our situation was very serious:
- We had
two flat tires and only one spare.
car’s jack was missing.
were in the middle of nowhere. The
closest services other than petrol were four hours away.
were in an area prone for wildfires. We had passed many that day.
area was inhabited by elephants, lions and hyenas.
was almost no traffic on the road.
However, before we could grasp our predicament, a white
bakkie (small pickup) stopped and the driver asked us if we needed help. We told him we had two flat tires. He said more likely you have two bent
wheels. He had bent a wheel on the same
stretch the week before. He used his
jack and helped us put our spare on the front left and take off the rear left
wheel. He suggested that the best thing
might be for him to take our wheels to Francistown,
get them fixed and have someone return them to us. He would not get to Francistown before the shops closed, so it
would most likely be late the next day before we would get our wheels
back. His expression changed and he
asked one of the Assistants to get his spare from his bakkie. To both his and our surprise, the bakkie
truck spare fit our Nissan car. Our
wheels are 17 inch with low profile tires and his 14 inch with thick
tires. The total diameter of both was
almost equal and the wheel had the right number of holes for the lugs.
The man who stopped was named Tinus. He said he lived in Zimbabwe, but because of the
economic situation there was working and staying in Pandamatenga about an hour
south of Kasane. He asked us what we
were doing in Africa. We told him we were missionaries for The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He said, “If I had known you were Mormons, I might not have stopped,”
and then he smiled.
Just then one of his employees drove by and stopped. Tinus said he needed to go ahead because he
had an appointment in Nata, a small village with a couple of petrol stations. He asked his employee to follow us to make
certain we had no further problems. At
Nata, we met up with Tinus. He asked how the car was driving with his
spare. We told him it was fine. He said, “Let’s head on to Francistown.”
He followed us all the way to Francistown. Since the shops were closed, we made
arrangements to meet him at 7:30 am at a tire store. He had called around and determined that
there was no one in Francistown
who could fix our wheels. We discussed
alternatives, including buying new wheels.
He asked us to leave his spare at a friend’s store and then left.
We tried the Nissan dealer and they had no wheels. We returned to the first tire store that was
now open. We learned alloy wheels come
only in sets of four and would cost more than 3000 pula ($500). I said, “This Toyota HiLux wheel with a truck
tire works fine, can we buy two of them.”
The owner said we could and the total cost for both the wheels and the
tires would be 1200 pula ($200). Just as
we were discussing this option, Tinus walked up. He said he had left his bakkie at a nearby
repair facility to work on his electrical system. When I told him what we were thinking, he
said, “If you buy the HiLux wheels and those tires, I will buy them from you if
you can get them to my son’s home in Polokwane.” Since we have missionaries in Polokwane, we
said, “We’ve got a deal.” And he left.
Now, we had another problem.
How do we get our wheels and tires back to Johannesburg?
Our spare was now in its place and the trunk (boot) was full. A car top carrier was suggested. We tried a couple of places. None of the racks would fit our car. One
place suggested we might try Barloworld.
As we drove up to Barloword, one of the Assistants said, “There is Tinus!” And there he was talking to another man. Tinus asked us how things were going. We told him our new predicament. The man Tinus was talking to was named Seppie.
Seppie said, “I have trucks going to Gaborone all the time, I
would be happy to take them there.” We
dropped off the wheels at Seppie’s place of business and headed on to Johannesburg. We arrived in Johannesburg just three hours later than we
had originally planned; glad to be home and glad to be safe.
Every time we had a need, Tinus would appear. We call him our Zimbabwe angel. Whether Tinus believes it or not, we believe
he was heaven sent.