Thursday, May 31, 2012

Adventures to Nakapiritpirit

Our 4-hour journey from Kampala to Mbale was rather uneventful. The bus was comfortable (for
Asian or Ugandan size bodies), the sun was tucked behind the clouds, and the roads were less traveled that early Sunday morning. Finding Pastor Patrick in the bustling city, or rather Pastor Patrick finding me, was no problem. He met us in Mbale and escorted us to the far-away Nakapiritpirit where the pastors’ conference would proceed.

Somehow the taxis to Nakapiritpirit were few and we bypassed an offer for a ride in the back of a pickup truck given the three plus hour journey in the now bright sunshine. Two hours later, a taxi promised a safe journey to Nakapiritpirit and we found ourselves in that 14 passenger van (3 people per row) sharing no fewer than 5 people per row. The next hour was filled with stops and starts as with any proper taxi ride until we arrived at Soronko where the conductor announced we were to exit the taxi and wait for a connecting ride to complete our journey. Um…

Assured of a taxi in the next three to ten minutes, we reluctantly exited. Seated on a bench at Soronko’s one and only taxi stage, we soon realized there were no taxis going to Nakapiritpirit and that we were tricked. Hoping and praying for any vehicle going our way, we waited. Nakapiritpirit is a subcounty in Karamoja, a not frequently traveled to destination so…we waited some more…and waited. I began planning the evening film ministry should our travels end here. What else were we to do if stranded? The monsters that emerge in the dark to gnaw at my flesh were my only worry.
A beautiful young girl latched onto my hand and I realized that I’d become the local tourist attraction. I chatted with another little one about her missing tooth. And yet another school girl shared my sweet banana. The men were chewing a weed that made them behave as though they were drunk, I know not what its American equivalent would be, and then it dawned on me that only one thing separated me from disaster with these people and that was the grace of God.

Three hours later a Land Cruiser agreed to take us to the point at which our destinations diverged for an astronomical amount of shillings, but what were we to do. The vehicle was already loaded with gear and people yet we managed to stuff our three bodies and luggage safely inside. The roads beyond Soronko were nothing short of horrendous. The recent and uncommon rains rendered the clay slicker than snot. In places the banks were built up higher than the car where those who’d gone before us sent muck spraying as they struggled to keep from getting stuck. Trucks were stuck, overturned, or broken down. These roads were not for the faint of heart.

Twas no surprise there was a slight wobble in the wheel and that all the parts on the car seemed to rattle and clank at every bump…and there were many. Standing water complimented the ruts and hid jolts that would quickly sober us. Ahead…on one side of that raised wall or the other would be the bridge flooded with water. The question was…which side? Before we could find out whether our choice would lead us to the other side or nose down into the river, the front passenger wheel fell off the car. Yep, just plain fell off the car with a thunk. Hmm, that shimmy was more than just an alignment problem.

Now dark except for the brilliant lights that covered the sky, we excited the vehicle while the men prepared to change the tire from under eight or more inches of water. The jack refused to lift that heavy vehicle over and over again. In a kindness to Andrew, I stepped forward and noted to the man holding his headlamp to keep the strap from soaking in the mud. Upon returning to my position safely away from the vehicle, I found my only pair of shoes left behind in the mud. Wishing I’d have taken a picture of these now missing shoes, we used a bottle of water to clean my knee deep dirty feet and legs and to somehow retrieve and wash those shoes…laughing the whole time.

Lightning danced in the distance, crickets chirped, frogs croaked, fireflies twinkled and How He Loves sang out from the music file on Andrew’s cell phone. I stood under the bright stars with my arms raised high and worshiped my beautiful God in the middle of this very dark potential hotel room. Finally another truck came by and could not refuse to stop and help. His jack failed to lift our car as well, although I wondered what good changing the tire would do with lug nuts strewn across the plains. But what do I know?

This truck, driven by a government official and very funny mosae (elder), promised to carry us to what would be our next point of diversion. We three hadn’t had so much room in any vehicle until this jostling ride. The springs in these seats had not yet been worn down and we bounced high enough to hit our heads on the roof of the car. The roads never improved but we made good time…until…we got a flat tire. Where on earth did a nail come from way out here? In no time the mosae had that tire changed and we were off again. This funny man ended up taking us all the way to his home. Would we be hijacked for his efforts and his desire to host a mzungu? No, his home just happened to be across the street from where our lodging would be in Nakapiritpirit. Praise God for small miracles. What was to be our 8 hour journey ended 17 hours later.