The warning signs were there, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Apart from the usual rattling, clattering and whining, there was the occasional whirring which I hadn’t heard before. “What on earth is that?” I would say to myself while driving along a reasonably fast stretch of road on my way somewhere. “Oh, it’s gone... Good!”

Given our mission, our destination and the isolation of our planned trip into north western Zambia, I started collecting all the spare parts I could think of. If something broke, I needed to be able to fix it in the bush. By the time we left the Joburg smog behind, I had accumulated an impressive array of spares for the expedition. I had all the obvious items: wheel bearings, spare hoses, fan belts, fuses, filters and even a spare fuel pump. Well, obvious items from my point of view.

The next “tell” came a few weeks later, as we pulled up at our accommodation in Lusaka. As I was the only Land Rover driver, we were obviously the last to arrive. All the others in our party were already standing around waiting for their wives to produce that ice-cold beer from the fridge.

“What was that that just dropped out from under your Landy?” someone chirped, as I heard my Defender’s engine shudder to a halt. “Bits of black plastic! Where the hell did that come from?” The obvious question was on everyone’s minds. We spent the next 15 mins scrutinising the underbelly and innards of the engine compartment for a clue. “Your viscous fan looks OK to me,” said the wannabe mechanic in group, giving it a forceful tug. “Maybe it is a bit of plastic from a hose clip or something.” How wrong we were!

Our next stop was Waka-Waka campsite, a day’s drive from Lusaka towards our destination. By the time we arrived at our camp, that whirring was back, and had progressed into a steady grinding noise. “Will we be able

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