Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Dreaded Journey (Day 2)

Only one thing could derail our return journey, so we thought, and that would be rain. And what was that pounding I heard? Yep, it rained that night…it rained HARD. Thankfully the early morning part of our journey was mostly on sand so the rain didn’t affect us the way we thought it might. But our second day of travel turned out to be no less hazardous than the first.

The very first obstacle, though seemingly small compared to the many others we’d overcome, landed us squarely in a completely stuck situation. Regrettably, I have no pictures for this one as I’d tired of getting my camera out every ten minutes for stuck pictures. I didn’t realize there’d be much of a story to tell about our return journey. The rescue team – an organization tasked with rescuing people caught up in the current war in the northern part of the country – was equipped with all the necessary gear and easily extricated us from the muck.

Our next challenge was a stuck of a different order. We reached the gold town – a very large town established primarily for gold prospecting – and the police officer refused to allow passage. She found all kinds of excuses to detain us and so all but the driver and Kizombo Sr. walked ahead for the exercise. As I passed the main corner, all eyes were on me. Um…well, you can imagine the kind of people such a town attracts. I quickly found Simone and Pepito and hid behind them as we waited. I’m not sure how, but an hour or two later that truck was released and a short visit to the police station resulted in setting off once again.

Not far after passing the gold town we stopped at a hotel for a bathroom and food break. We all needed a break. Our tolerance for all these challenges was running low. Though, not long after leaving the hotel the fuel in tank one ran out and the fuel tank switch refused to do its job. Sigh. Siphon didn’t work, playing with pieces under the hood didn’t work. Refilling the first tank was the only option and so Simone rode on the back of a taxi (literally) back to town to fill a small jerry can with fuel. More delay, hope is waning.
649 – gas tank thingy off

Next up, The Pit. We took every opportunity to ask how others so easily escaped from its jaws and applied what they’d advised. As a result…we passed through with relatively little damage to the vehicle. On the video Kizombo Jr. took, he can be heard saying, “This is our very last obstacle.” We’ll see…

Time was running low and our ability to reach Bukavu had been severely compromised given the various delays. Past all the log bridges and mud pits, we were now on the mountainside part of the journey. Apparently hauling at top speed around tight mountain curves was deemed the best approach to the remaining journey. About 15 minutes into the race our tire fell off the truck. Not only did it fall off but the steel ring (like a giant washer) broke in half. Now…we’re straddling the mountain road between two curves thankful we weren’t on the cliff side.

Breathtaking view!
Darkness approached as we borrowed a jack from a waiting truck and it became apparent that once again we’d stop for the night…but where? Apparently some little town was about an hour ahead and so once again we raced to beat total darkness. Once safely inside that small town we sought out the church pastor – known to no one – who kindly gave us shelter for the night. With a minimum of water, peanuts, and roasted corn, we hunkered down for the night. Pr Mike, Kizombo Jr, and I slept in the truck while the others slept in the pastor’s home.