We rushed around town trying to see the sights before having to leave for Kunming and managed to get in a few - the old fort in the centre and the facade of the old cathedral (the rest was destroyed in a fire). It would have been nice to spend another day or two in Macau but we really needed to find out what was happening with the engine so we had to return to Kunming.
We booked a bus to take us directly to Guangzhou where we would fly back to Kunming but the border crossing from Macau proved to be a fairly tedious affair with long queues and the most pointless paperwork ever. It seems the Chinese authorities cunning method of keeping the country SARS and bird flu free is to get people to tick a box if they have it. Genius.
Interestingly, Dr. Margaret Chan of China has taken over as the Director General of the World Health Organisation, with her previous work in dealing with bird flu in Hong Kong factoring highly in her selection.
After getting the longest stare in the world from the border official checking my passport we were through. Ok, so I’ve lost a bit of weight but I’m still a sullen looking Irish man with a beard - how hard is it to check the features? Sullen? Check. Beard? Check. Irish? Check. Hmmm, not sure. I think I’ll stare at him for another few minutes to see if he’ll crumble and admit that he’s actually a cheery looking Brazilian called Pedro. Seeing Richard giggling out of the corner of my eye didn’t help me keep my composure either. In the end, we arrived at Guangzhou airport at about 11pm and the flight was at 6am so we checked into a nearby hotel after some heavy bartering which amazingly this time we won.
After touchdown on Tuesday morning, we headed to the garage to be told it was sorted. A quick test drive disproved that theory. There was no power from the engine and it sounded like a bag of nails. There was naught for it but to strip the engine down. “Why didn’t they do this in the last 2 weeks?” I hear you ask. Because we weren’t there to tell them to do it. Frustrating. They got to the job with some gusto though I’ll give them that - 6 guys had the engine stripped in under 3 hours and revealed that some cylinders were burning oil. There seemed to be a problem with the valves or the valve seats - we couldn’t really get the story out of them with the language barrier. They seemed confident they could do some repair with us ordering any parts though which was a relief. There was no choice but to wait and see if they could sort it.
Wednesday we lounged around the hostel harassing other travellers to relieve our boredom (sorry Nolan, Damien, Juliet, Lauren and others). Thursday, we went to the Vietnam embassy to apply for a visa. Another test drive of the car showed a marked improvement. The power was back but the acceleration was still jerky as if there was a cylinder misfiring. They said they would have another play around and see if they could improve it. We played football with the guys from the garage in the evening and luckily they weren’t very good so we did ok.
Friday was spent lounging again and on Saturday we returned to the garage. The engine hadn’t changed and after putting the choke cable back on and tightening the leaking water pipe ourselves we decided that it would just have to do. It was drivable and would hopefully get us to Thailand where there is a good number of Land Rover service centers. We cleaned it out and packed it up ready for hitting the road as soon as we had our Vietnam visa. In the mean time we hung around the hostel and lightly ribbed everyone we met (sorry guys) then hit the town in the evenings to experience the little nightlife there is in Kunming. We did find one good music bar though and had a good time gatecrashing some guy’s birthday party. Fair play to him - he made us very welcome, especially after he trounced us at a few games of cards. We were certainly looking forward to departure day though. Six weeks in China was more than enough and Laos was calling for us.
P.S. People shouldn’t comment on update posts because when they change the comments make no sense.
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Dwyer Rooney's excellent blog from our London to Sydney Adventure