Our distributor cap fix is working flawlessly. We're now at the head of the convoy, blasting over the steppe, perhaps at inadvisably high speeds. For once, the road is flat and straight and relatively well graded as far as the eye can see.
Our friends Charlie and Tim are right by our side. Any time I give it serious thought, I can't get over how surreal this experience is – I'm racing with a London Taxi in the middle of Mongolia!
Without warning, Charlie hits the brakes and pulls over. I follow suit, flipping a quick u-turn to join him, fully expecting to find the radiator steaming. When we reach the cabbies, Charlie is inspecting something at the back of the car. I hop out and immediately spot the problem he is eying: the tread on the Taxi's rear wheel has started to separate from the tire.
It has been about twenty minutes since our last breakdown.
With a sigh, we haul out the spare tire, tools, and jack. Breaking the giant lug nuts free is a mission; we each take turns standing on the tire iron and beating it with a hammer to loosen them. Finally, they break free. We're about to put the spare on when I decide to check the tread on the front tires. The Taxi is rear wheel drive, so we should probably put the best rubber we have there. Fortunately and unfortunately, the front wheels are practically new.
Neither of us wants to do it, but erring on the side of caution, we begin the arduous task of rotating all four tires on the Taxi. Tara watches intently, asking a few questions and listening as we explain the proper pattern to tighten the wheel lugs. Inside the car, Charlie's best mate Tim is sleeping soundly, trying to shake a fever. Poor guy :(
It takes more than an hour, but the Taxi is ready to roll. Sadly, we cannot continue onwards. The convoy never reached us. Either they took a turn we didn't, or someone else is having problems too. So, we flip around and drive back the way we've come, placing phoney bets on which car in the bunch has broken down.
When we pull up to our friends and it's the Jimny that is getting all the attention, we are quite surprised. Surprise turns to shock when we see the problem. Instead of something minor and fixable, the Jimny's rear axle has broken in two. A crack in the chassis and a broken shock have put too much stress on it. It can't be driven, and it can't be towed. It is, to put it lightly, totally fucked.
Everyone is inspecting it hopefully, but alas, there is no fixing it. Matt drives Freddie back into the little village fifteen kilometers away so he can see if anyone has a truck. They return half an hour later with the news that someone will be over in about an hour to lend us a hand. We have only to wait.