The seats were left in standard, three-perch configuration, reserving the load bay for gear. A pair of ‘Laycorn’ boxes – heavy-duty army storage – was used for spares and tools, with further money saved by choosing a manual winch over a powered one. “We could use it at the front or rear,” says Martin.
Other kit included a pair of sand ladders, an official Land Rover high-lift jack (which broke) and a fuel/water separator, invaluable for purifying the diesel and transmission fluid usually watered down by unscrupulous Congolese middlemen. Sleeping bags were hung in netting hammocks suspended above the load bay.
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A sump guard, spare battery, a set of new BF Goodrich tyres and a tyre inflator completed the fit-out. “The tyres were brilliant,” says Martin. “They hardly looked worn at the end of the trip and we only had one puncture. Unbelievable.”
Given the struggle their jungle adventure represented, it isn’t surprising that Martin and his co-travellers have written a book about it. Their account is raw: impassable roads, obstructive officials in every town, a car that breaks frequently and takes days to fix, hostile crowds, biting ants, frequent chopping of undergrowth and endless tins of sardines. But there’s also humanity, from churches where they sought overnight refuge, or from locals who hunted down spares and extended hospitality.
The expedition started in late May 2013 from Kinshasa, when photographer Charlie Hatch-Barnwell flew in. His arrival was also a chance to pack his luggage with a new clutch, which had conked on the drive to the DRC. Martin and Baker, of course, had already been on the road for four months through Europe and north and west Africa.
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Progress out of Kinshasa was brisk at first, with 232 miles – almost a tenth of the total 2500-mile trip – completed in one day early on.
But as the roads deteriorated to rutted mud with huge potholes, just tens of miles could be covered in a day. Grimly, the jungle road was used as a toilet by locals, as Martin graphically describes: “To make it worse, 9Bob began to stink as human excrement was flicked up against it.”