After purchasing the drilling rig, and importing it from China, it arrived in Durban, South Africa in November 2016. We hooked it behind the Land Rover and towed it approximately 50 km when both the wheel bearings gave in. It had to be loaded onto a flat bed tow truck and taken in for repairs.
After lengthy discussions and researching various options it was decided to do several modifications to the rig. Both trailer wheel hubs were changed to ones with drums with braking systems, and larger wheels were fitted. Heavy duty suspension springs were added as well as a new axle. A tow-hitch with a self-braking system was included.
The drilling rig was tested locally and worked well. We were ready to take it up on its first drilling trip into northern Mozambique.
On 2 April 2017, I, David Botha, and Caleb Makhela loaded up two vehicles, one carrying supplies and tools and the other towing the drilling rig. The plan was to enter Mozambique at Komatipoort and then head north up into the Morrumbala district in the Zambezi province of Mozambique, north of the Zambezi River.
The trip started well, without any serious issues. On the evening of 2 April, we slept over in Komatipoort, entering Mozambique the following day.
One of my concerns was getting the rig across the border on a Temporary Import Permit. Even though the officials tried to bribe us to allow the rig to enter, we refused, and eventually, they let us in on a temporary import permit.
We stopped and purchased HDPE pipes as well casings to just outside of Maputo. The Land Rover, which we were using as the load vehicle, had been previously fitted with a carrier to enable it to carry these pipes. Towing the 3-ton rig meant that the going was slow, and that night we made it to Xai Xai, where we slept over.
We left at sunrise the following morning, hoping to make the 800 km journey up to in Nchope, where we planned to spend the night. I have travelled these roads on many occasions over the last eight years. On my first trip in 2009, the roads were in a very bad state, but had been worked on and resurfaced, and the last time I had driven them, had been in much better condition (over the last few years I had entered Moz through Zimbabwe, but had avoided doing so this time because of the import issues with the rig)
However, the heavy timber trucks that drive up and down on this only tarred road in Mozambique, had obviously have taken their toll. The road had again deteriorated and in some places became almost un-drivable. After slowly driving through very badly potholed areas, about 12 hours later we had only travelled 600 km. We pulled over to sleep for the night.
On inspection of the trailer, it was discovered that the front tow-hitch wishbone was in a bad state, and the metal walls were separating. It was decided the following morning that the rig would be unhitched, the front wishbone removed and taken to the nearest village about 60 km away where we would look for somewhere to have it welded and repaired. I was up at 5:30 the next morning and started to unhitch the rig, assisted by Caleb Makhela. In order to unhitch the ring from the tow hitch, it required raising the rig with a hydraulic bottle jack.
The soil in Mozambique is very sandy, and even though we had put a block beneath the jack, it slipped as it unhooked from the vehicle, the rig twisting sideways, falling down and pinning my leg beneath it. The rig weighs approximately three tons, and the pain was intense. Caleb tried to lift it but was obviously unable to. He called for help and David came running. Both of them were unable to lift the rig. After scraping and digging they were able to get the jack back under it again and slowly jack it up. My foot was twisted 90 degrees out of position, the sole of my foot facing to the left instead of downwards. My upper thigh had been crushed and indented. I immediately knew that was the end of the trip, as I was in serious trouble and the only one of the group who knew how to operate the rig.
Fortunately, David had been trained as a paramedic and was able to relocate my foot and splint it. The closest hospital was in Chimoio, about 180 km away. I was loaded onto the back seat of the double cab van, and we immediately headed to Chimoio. The bad condition of the roads, and the pain I experience as we went over the bumps made for a long, slow journey. Eventually eight hours later we arrived at the Chimoio hospital.
X-rays determined that my ankle was badly broken.
As Portuguese is the main language spoken in Moz, and English not at all, effectively communicating with the Dr there was impossible. I took photos of the x-rays and sent them back to South Africa. I was advised to fly back home to be operated on. The following morning we drove the five hours to Beira, where I caught a plane and flew back to Johannesburg. The following morning I was taken into surgery. Plates and screws were used to put my ankle bone back together, and the ligaments on both sides were reattached. I spent two weeks in a back slab cast while the swelling went down, and then another six weeks in a full cast. I am now almost fully recovered from this injury and walk only with a very slight limp.
Where to from here:
My initial plan with the rig was to take it up and down from South Africa to northern Mozambique on each trip. The idea was to be able to use it in South Africa to drill Wells locally and use the money generated from that to help pay for the trips to Mozambique. With the deteriorated condition of the roads in Moz, this is no longer a viable option.
In order to be able to continue with the plan to provide the people of Mozambique with water, the option that remains to us is to have the rig permanently imported into Mozambique. We would need to drive it very slowly up to northern Mozambique, which would probably take about five days. We would leave the rig up there, and just travel with the fans, every time we went on the drilling trip. We could cut through Zimbabwe and be able to do the trip in two days.
However, even though we are trying to assist the people of Mozambique, the government is insisting on a 50% import duty, which would come to about $7000, which we just don’t have.
The other option is to keep the rig in South Africa, where there are also needs for clean water. Here the roads are in a way better condition, and the ring would not take such a pounding. However, the need in Mozambique is far greater.
The rig could be used locally to provide boreholes for those who could afford to pay, such as farmers, and the profits generated could be saved until we had enough funds to permanently import the rig into Mozambique. We can also be drilling in villages in South Africa, providing them with clean water at the same time.
One of the challenges but this plan is someone would need to be trained locally in order to be able to operate the rig on a full-time basis. My work commitments just won’t allow me to do this.
Your prayers in this regard, for wisdom and direction, are much appreciated.