if you’ve known me very long or know me very well you have probably ascertained by this point that i’m a firm believer in the “its all about the journey” philosophy. therefore there will not be one blog post about getting to juba, being in juba and getting home to kotido. no, no. this is the first part of a 5-part series:
journey to juba: the “chain-roller” incident (released today, 14 april 2011)
journey to juba: the hedgehog incident (releasing tomorrow,15 april 2011)
journey to juba: the passport photo incident [crossing the border] (16 april)
journey to juba: juba-failed attempts but a damn good burrito (17 april)
journey to juba: the tyre incident (18 april)
the journey to juba began on a sunny thursday morning in my front yard in kotido. the car was loaded up, the dog chained up and doors locked: we were off towards lira with a final destination that day of gulu. the journey was going swimmingly until just after adilang where apparently i failed to notice a “diversion” sign. upon reaching the swamp area i noticed that the bridge over the wetlands was missing. gone. not there.
the car slowly came to a stop as i considered what to do next. as i surveyed the area, truly trying to figure out my next move i noticed two things: first there was another vehicle coming up behind me and secondarily that there were many construction vehicles in the marshy area.
the second vehicle also slowed to a stop, the driver and passenger walked to the precipice of the once-bridge and shook their heads. as they came back by my vehicle the driver and i exchanged glances that seemed to say, “eff.”
someone from the construction crew came to our assistance and offered this advice: “you reverse to there [he points behind about 100 meters] then enter. when you get stuck the chain-roller will pull you out.”
please note the grammar here: “…when you get stuck…” noted? good.
so we reversed.
as i was the first driver to come to the bridge and was therefore the first to attempt passing through the wetlands. which looked a little something like this:
well so i went for it. “with force” as one of the living with shalom youth would have suggested [HT to job!], but still promptly got very stuck in this very spot. the above photograph was taken from that very place.
if you look closely at the photo you may see the gentleman on the right, wearing white. see? up there on the road? okay, this is the point where the driver behind me decided to enter the marsh. (its always good to go second!) much to my chagrin, he and his small pickup truck made it over the edge without tipping over (although it looked like a close call at one point) and safely through the middle section and back to the road.
we, however, were stuck for over an hour. i tried. really hard. to get out on my own power. used the diff-lock. reversed. used 4-wheel and 2-wheel drive…at one point in diff-lock it looked like i was going to be able to wiggle gertie (thats the car’s name) out of the mud. but alas, it did not work.
after about half an hour, when no one had come to our assistance, housemate decided to go speed things along. while she was gone i tried to get unstuck some more, and after giving up, investigated the situation more closely.
the tyres were freely moving when the accelerator was applied, so it wasn’t that kind of stuck…carefully alighting from the vehicle i peered at gertie’s belly to see that the entire undercarriage was totally stuck in the mud. everything BUT the tyres!
“MY KINGDOM FOR A SHOVEL!” i shouted.
all my shouting merited was a sore throat and the fluttering of birds in the trees.
housemate returned with the foreman who promised that the chain roller was really coming. really. and then he went away again to make sure that the chain roller was really coming.
perhaps you’re wondering what a “chain-roller” is. i know i was at this point in the incident, and i was about to find out. something white was coming our direction through the more secure middle-bit of the wetland. i watched it come closer, pondered it for a moment, and then asked housemate, “do you suppose THAT is the chain roller?”
she peered out the window in the direction of the apparatus approaching our vehicle and said, “probably, yes.” and then she recounted a tale of her wanderings in search of the mystical chain roller–she was told that it was coming to help us as soon as its care-takers were finished doing whatever it was that it was currently doing. in what i can only suspect was an attempt to make her feel better, the fellow she was speaking with gestured somewhere in the distance and said something about “that chain roller, it is white. like you.”
well, what was coming our direction was in fact white (i wouldn’t go so far as to say that housemate is quite that white) and, we learned, called a chain-roller in these here parts.
here is a photograph of the chain roller with housemate in the foreground so as to compare their whiteness:
sadly i cannot upload the hilarious video i took of it backing toward us when it, too, got stuck. the hilarious part is my narration. perhaps its for the better, you may not find me that funny in verbal-narrative-form!
unable to approach from the front of gertie, the chain roller came around behind, was hooked up, and pulled us away from the uber muddy area. twice. after being released the first time the tyres just spun and spun–totally caked in dirt! it was if they were bald (but they aren’t!)
there was a gentleman working on the construction who decided that he’d be better suited for driving gertie over the scary hill and into the middle area. stupidly, i said “okay…” however, this did give me another opportunity to film from the backseat as we went over the edge. it is also good that i cannot upload this video as i swore a little. (sorry, mom.)
we were promptly stuck. again. housemate and i decided that had i been driving at this point we would have made it through, but i wasn’t-so we didn’t. we were stuck again, and AGAIN the marvelous chain roller came to our rescue. brilliantly, i had shifted myself from the back into my rightful driver’s seat and after being dislodged this time around we were in the clear. ptl.
mud was flying off the tyres the rest of the way to lira (um, like 2 hours later?!) and gertie was DIRTYGERTIE for quite some time after.
even with our 1-hour delay in the swamp/marsh we still managed to reach gulu by around 4pm and still visit the bank to prepare for the upcoming journey to juba.
stay tuned for tomorrow’s adventure: journey to juba: the hedgehog incident