Mitsubishi Pajero

Who advises car manufacturers about the names they give their cars? An advertising agency? A focus group? Well it certainly wasn’t anyone who speaks Spanish. Check out what “pajero” means in Spanish using Google Translate. Or read on and I will tell you at the end of this piece.


I’ll bet they didn’t sell many cars bearing that name in Hispanic countries.

This is my (t)rusty vehicle. I have nicknamed her Phyllis. She is still going strong, even though she has done 109,000 km since leaving the production line. For any petrol heads who read my blog, she has a 3.5 litre engine DOHC24v – Double Over Head Camshaft with 24 valves. The engine is probably turbocharged too, because if I put my foot down, she goes like s*** off a shovel. Unfortunately she burns oil and drinks petrol. She has survived dozens of doctors who have worked in the Luangwa Valley, even one who nearly drove her into a hippo this morning. (Well, it was a very early start, there was a hint of dawn mist, and the track was twisting and turning. I saw the hippo in good time and did an emergency stop. We were both covered in dust, but that was fine for her as she was on the way back to the water.)

This hippo was out for an early breakfast at 5pm. The sunset creates great light.
This hippo was out for an early breakfast at 5pm. The sunset creates great light.
Hippos are huge. You can see how broad in the beam this female is in a view from Luangwa Bridge. There is a baby hippo in shot, too.
Hippos are huge. You can see how broad in the beam this female is in a view from Luangwa Bridge. There is a baby hippo in shot, too.

There are a few dings in the bodywork, the sealant around the windscreen has come off and a few wheelnuts are missing. She is a pretty shade of dark blue, but this is the colour which most attracts tsetse flies. These are a real pest on a game drive. They can bite through clothing and are ambivalent to powerful insect repellent, like DEET. Being aware of this problem, I had packed a secret anti-tsetse weapon. I’ve got one of those battery-driven, fly-frying gadgets which look like an over-strung tennis racquet. As sold in Pound Shops everywhere. It has had so much use I am on my second lot of batteries. It broke yesterday and required splinting with zinc oxide tape. It works, but even after sparking and emitting smoke, some of the tsetse flies refuse to die and make a miraculous recovery. Those which do succumb I have seen being carried off by the resident ants which live in the vehicle’s ashtray. Rather appropriate for a cremated fly, I thought.

Last week, I had a lesson from Donald, the mechanic who drives a white RangeRover, on how to maintain the car. I nearly collapsed laughing when he said I had to top up the radiator with anti-freeze. It was 30C at 8:30am. But he explained that it should be called “coolant” and it prevented rust forming. Fair enough. I know about brake fluid and gear box oil, too.
I was taught how to change a wheel. The tyre spanner has been rattling around in the boot/rear compartment, and the jack is behind the driving seat. I know where to place the jack – worryingly, this is right underneath the front of the car and beneath the axle in the rear. The spare wheel is dodgy, but it should get me home if I have to use it.

The ground clearance is massive and with her short wheelbase, we can go pretty much anywhere. I can manage the four wheel drive, but shouldn’t need it at this time of year unless I get bogged down in a sandy river bed. I know where the MOT/Service Certificate is, and the car has its road tax proudly displayed on the windscreen for 2014.

I am logging and paying for all my private mileage, for example, when I go on game drives or to visit people socially. Fuel consumption is 6km to the litre, which costs roughly £1.20.

The guys at the Lodge are not very busy at the moment, so my car was washed and cleaned, inside and out last week. Of course, the tracks are so dusty that Phyllis looked as though she had never been showered and valeted by the time I reached the health centre.

For those of you who couldn’t be bothered to look it up, Pajero in Spanish means “w*nker”

By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.


  1. Thank you, Tish.
    The job is just for three months here, and I am not a government officer, just a volunteer medic. I don’t have the power and time to change things. Myanmar will be much more challenging.
    My work here is restricted by the lack of medication and lab investigations. Like practising with one hand tied behind your back.

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