Not so long ago, Sheri and I were in Botswana photographing wildlife when a short river crossing led to a long day in the bush. It was a day that started off well enough. Up at 5 a.m., we were off at first light to photograph a male lion we heard roaring outside camp the previous night. Our search was successful, and by mid-morning, we'd wrapped up our photo shoot and were traveling along a sandy track that follows the Khwai River. Bouncing our way through the bush, we came to a point where the sandy track disappeared into an inky black tributary feeding the Khwai. On the other side the track continued, leaving a somewhat routine river crossing in between.

We knew what to expect. We’d crossed here before. The water was deep-ish - enough to seal off our Webasto’s air intake but not so deep to roll up our windows. Unfortunately, there's nothing routine about the bush, and I got it wrong. Perhaps I went in too far right. Or perhaps I sped up, breaking the bow wave. Or perhaps it was something else. I’m not certain. What’s certain is that during our crossing, water poured into the engine compartment with enough force to sheer off three of our fan blades, which sent them flying like shrapnel into our radiator.

On the other side of the river, our Land Cruiser was running rough - a clear sign something was wrong. We stopped to survey the damage. Under the hood, we found bits of the broken fan blades and two ugly gashes in our radiator. Underneath the car, coolant was pouring out. It was well beyond any radiator damage Sheri or I had seen before. It was a show-stopper; we were going nowhere.

In the middle of wild Africa, a long slog through rough and tumble bush lay between us and the nearest workshop. It was late morning, and the temperature was already 111 degrees. A morning that started off photographing a lion had now taken an unfortunate turn. Staring at the radiator with a large chunk of damaged fan blade in one hand, I ran the fingers on my other hand along the shredded cooling blades. While I had no immediate solution in mind, one thing was certain; QuikSteel wasn’t going to sort out this mess. 

 

Assessing the Damaged Radiator After Pulling it Out of the Truck in Khwai, Botswana
Jens, Sophie, and Jim Assess the Damage to our Radiator, Khwai, Botswana

At that moment, standing in the baking sun, we found ourselves filled with a familiar sense of uncertainty that often accompanies the opening minutes of such situations. But before uncertainty could fully take route, something happened. Something as familiar as the sense of uncertainty we currently felt. A helping hand, driving a Land Cruiser similar to ours, emerged from the bush and offered assistance. At best, we hoped for a tow. That alone would have been a lot to ask given our distance from anywhere. When I described our situation, however, he stared at me briefly before jumping out of his Land Cruiser to have a look. In a thick German accent, he said in good English: “You won’t believe this, but I had the same thing happen, in almost the same place, three years ago. And fortunately, I now know what we can do to fix it. Would you like my help? It won’t be pretty. But if you trust me, I think we can get you out of here.”

 

Repairing the Radiator as Elephants Pass in the Background in Khwai, Botswana
Repairing the Radiator as Elephants Pass By, Khwai, Botswana

With Jen’s help, we pulled the radiator and laid it on the side of the sandy track. Over the next five hours, in the blazing heat and with elephants and Cape buffalo strolling past, we went about an ugly but most effective repair, which made good use of a Leatherman and bottle of curry powder. It was hot, dirty, and exhausting work. But by late afternoon, we were going. Patched up enough to get us out of the bush and on our way to Maun for proper repairs. All thanks to a helping hand from another traveler. And all he asked in return was to pay it forward.

Our radiator story isn’t unique. Over the past 20 years, there have been countless occasions where we’ve received inspiration, advice or a helping hand from other travelers. And just as often we’ve been entertained by their tall tales, colorful photos, and remarkable film clips. Wander Libre is our opportunity to pay it forward. It’s an opportunity to share our own tall tales while offering a little inspiration, and the same sort of information and advice we’ve sought ourselves over the years. Through Wander Libre, we hope you’ll find just the inspiration and advice you need to pursue your unique path to exploration.

 

 Is Wander Libre for you?

  • It’s for anyone craving a regular source of travel related entertainment and inspiration
  • It’s for those who share our passion for travel and who seek a little guidance on how to travel more, or perhaps transform their passion into a lifestyle.
  • It’s for those who dare to dream and who could use a gentle nudge to transform those dreams into reality.
  • It’s for travel and wildlife photographers seeking a little entertainment, inspiration, or advice.
  • It’s for anyone interested in discovering overlanding and it’s for overlanders seeking planning advice and useful tips from the road.
  • It’s for explorers seeking ideas for their next big adventure.

 

What will you find on wanderlibre.com?

  • We aim to provide a regular source of entertainment and inspiration intended to stoke your wanderlust, keep you inspired, and offer a distraction from the daily grind.
  • We aim to answer the question: Why we wander, and we aim to show, in colorful detail, our lives on the road in hopes of inspiring anyone interested in travel to lead a travel rich life.
  • We aim to share our passion for exploration, photography, adventure, and all things wild.
  • We aim to introduce overland travel and other opportunities to explore the world in new and challenging ways. Food for thought, which we hope inspires your next adventure.
  • We aim to provide useful resources and advice on travel, overlanding, photography, and lifestyle design, as well as useful tips from the road intended to make your journey more rewarding.
  • We aim to share the earth's pristine natural beauty and highlight the issues facing its endangered wildlife and threatened wilderness habitats. It’s our hope that by sharing we can provide motivation for all of us to join the effort to conserve our natural world.