We stayed a 3rd night at the Fort Simpson campground. In the morning the camper developed a lot of smoke when starting up. Rudy was not sure what the cause was and decided to call the VW store in Holland. Was it a leaking seal on the engine head or something else? Other than the smoke, there were no symptoms pointing in that direction (overheating of the engine, loss in cooling fluid). So, we drove on and kept our fingers crossed. Along the gravel road going south to Fort Liard, everything was okay. We saw again the same bear along the road as previous day. This time we managed to take its picture. The road follows the Liard river but you only get to see it through the thick forest. To tank at Fort Liard, we turned off the main road. The town is spread out along the river and looked well maintained. When the main road crosses into British Columbia, at the 60th parallel it becomes surfaced and thus smooth driving. But not actually quicker. By this time the car was dirty on the outside and full of dust on the inside (as Rudy being driving with his window open. Our aircon is still not fixed). On the bridge crossing the Fort Nelson river, a slow moving male bison was crossing the bridge as well. We slowed down and patiently waited till he left the road. It was nice to see how he followed the yellow line in the middle of the bridge as if he was told to do so. At the end he actually did not seem to know which way to go. Before reaching the Alaska Highway we camped at a small public campsite at Beaver recreation lake.

After worrying most of the night what could be wrong with the car, we drove to Fort Nelson where we would again have phone/internet coverage. The smoke, when starting the car, was a lot less then the day before. In the visitors centre we phoned Roland again and discussed the various scenario’s based on the days observations.  In the end it was concluded that the white smoke was most likely caused by water in the diesel. It appears to be a common problem at the end of winter/beginning summer. The diesel tanks are in the open air and water condensates inside the tanks. They are never cleaned and dried. Also, as not many cars drive on diesel,  it takes a long time for the tank to be emptied and refilled. This was a great relief. We would drive on, however….

….. going north west from Fort Nelson, the Alaskan Highway starts to slowly climb up into the Rocky Mountains. On the first serious hill we started to hear a familiar thump under the camper. We pulled over and checked underneath. The welded bracket holding the driveshaft had broken again. The forces on the driveshaft are just too high. We decided that the driveshaft has to be removed so that we can drive further on as a 2×4. Most roads in Canada, Alaska and the US are either tarmac or graded. There is no real need for the 4×4 (in the summer). We turned around and drove back to Fort Nelson. The Tourist Office had already given us a long list of garages in town. We started with one (free in 4 days time) and were sent on to another and another. No. 6 could do it in 2 days time. When we went back to this place the mechanic said that he did/could not do the work. We had one last hope: Jamie’s Trailer Repair, a bit out of town. We called and he agreed to see the camper. Finally somebody who was at least a bit interested. He looked under the camper and immediately understood what the job was: removal of the front and rear sections of the drive shaft. He had no bridge so it was crawling under the camper (standing on 30 cm blocks) and with great force removing the many tight and rusted bolts with Rudy’s help. The job was successful. The front section, which is connected to the motor, had one of the 3 bolts missing. That was the cause of the imbalance and hence vibrating of the driveshaft. I suspected that the bolt must have already dropped out before we left Holland. I complained at that time at the garage about the vibrations at 100+ km but they could not find the problem and put it on the off-road tires.

With great relief, we drove at the end of the day out of town and found a lovely campsite way off the main highway on a fast flowing river. We were welcomed there by an elderly Swiss couple who we had met before in Fort Simpson. They were camping here too. They have been travelling the world since the seventies. Their camper is permanently stored in Vancouver and they come back every year for a 3-4 months and tour Canada and USA for the past years.

Underneath some pictures of the removal of the drive shaft. I will place them later under the heading Passepartout