MUD…or…Why We Don’t Usually Plan Long Trips During the Rainy Season

20180915_103748Given the current socio-political situation in the English parts of Cameroon, we deemed it wise to leave Ndu for more stable areas during this period leading up to and including the presidential election.  So, we are on a road trip.

I must admit that living out of a suitcase has lost some of its appeal, although I was happy to trade the clothes I used for two months in Holland/Manitoba/Alberta for a different batch. This time around travelling in the villages, I am determined to master the art of the headtie, and am proud to say that the one I put on this morning before we went to Suude Do’are is still firmly in place at 3 pm.

Anyhow. I digress.  We are on a road trip.

Saturday we drove from home to B****.  It is impossible to drive any distance, particularly for an extended trip,  without consulting with all of our colleagues, and of course, we can’t possbly be allowed to travel with a partially empty vehicle, so the truck is FULL. We have the privilege to taking two of our sponsored F**** students back from the hospital, their place of work and study for the past 3 years, and are looking forward to returning them to their friends and family in Nigeria. And all their clothes and some household goods. And the things we had collected to planned to deliver to various points. And stuff for another missionary living in transition who’s along our route.  I think you get the picture. We did have to leave a few things behind, since taking anything piled on the roof…
a) is subject to frequent dousings in the rain
b) Makes us look like the Klampetts in Africa and
c) raises extra questions along the route as to whether we are actually using our private vehicle for commerical purposes, and should we be paying taxes or fees, etc. Unnecessary complications under the current travel situations.

So with everything was somewhat safely stowed inside the canopy of our faithful Hilux, we set off at 7:30 am. This being the tail end of the rainy season, it is not a great time for extended trips. On a very good day in dry season, this particular trip can be done in 7 hours- or so I am told, since I have never yet been so fortunate. This was definitely NOT the day that would happen either.

Our first checkpoint is only about 15-20 minutes away from home, and took 20-30 minutes to clear. Early on in the ‘discussions, a payment of 10,000 cfa ($20 US) was suggested to prevent them from having to bring the Brigade officer out to sort out the irreuglarities in our passengers’ paperwork, but eventually we produced enough police station documents, explanations and a mission order to allow our friends to continue with us without said ‘payment’. And we were finally on our way again.

We were delighted that the first of the epic ‘mud flats’ that Jeff had encountered in July had been filled in, and so full of optimism, we bumped our way along. (Interestingly enough, my Fitbit cannot seem to distinguish between me walking/ jumping and me being bounced around in a truck. So I have some good stats for a day of mostly sitting the truck!!) But there were plenty of other mud holes to negotiate, and eventually we three passengers got in the habit of climbing out and walking, to reduce the vehicle weight while Jeff negotiated the messes.  One is particular- at the entrance to the village of A***, had, like those in many other villages, its own cheering sections and peanut gallery to make useful suggestions, and sometimes to help push. This particular mudbowl derailed our travel schedule.

20180915_104135Two thirds of the way thru Jeff slid sideways into a mess and could not go forward or sidewise. Still able to back up, eventually he headed the direction suggested by the penut gallery (counter-intuitive, since it was the deepest water and huge mudbanks) and with a minimal of rocking and pushing we were thru-


but – as a helpful bystander pointed out, we had a flat tire. Apparently the pressure of the drops, bumps and turning the tires in the heavy mud actually made the tire loose from its rim, and we lost most of our air

We were very glad this particularly mud hole WAS on the edge of a town, as we were able to limp to a mechanic a hundred meters down the road or so. We had to bucket the mud off the tires to even get to the tire nuts, and it took a few goes by Jeff and the mechanic to get the truck up and the tire off. Sure enough, there was no puncture and after an extensive time of taking it off the rim, checking, cleaning and reinflating (all an interesting procedure to see on the side of the road with minimal tools and a super skethcy air compressor) we happily negotiated an overpayment to our very helpful mechanic and his assistants, and got underway.

20180915_112255All in all, I think we spent an hour and half on this part of the adventure. We were not thrilled to see another truck stuck in a mud hole just around the corner on the way out of town, but Jeff managed to get around him, and we were on our way to our next planned stop, to deliver stuff to Ginny, about 20 minutes down the road.  There we also discovered that in one of the heavy lurches to the right, some of the goods inside had shifted hard and popped our newly replaced canopy window partway out of its housing. Very glad for the the new roll of Gorilla tape I brought from home and placed in the dash.  We’ll see how long that holds. I should take some pictures and if it’s still there by the time we are back in Ndu, I should take photos and ask them if they give free product in exchange for endorsements of use under epic conditions.

All in all we took over 11 hours to arrive at our destination and only had to push our own vehicle once or twice, thanks to Jeff’s good driving, some advance scouting, (reminded me of running rapids!!) and great 4 wheel drive.   Wonderfully enough, we encountered NO further hypervigilant officers at checkpoints or customs, else we would have had an even longer day. We were all delighted to see our friends, but all went to bed about 8:30 pm.  To get a sense of the physical activity inside and outside the truck, my Fitbit logged my activity at about 12,400 steps for the day! And I was not arguing- it really felt like it! Glad we have a few days here before the next leg of the journey.

20180915_110255We may or may not have much internet where we head out next.  I have spent a couple of attempts over the last couple of days of leaving the guesthouse and going to a high point to get any internet at all to post this, so we’ll see if I can get a good enough connection to attach the photos. If not, you’ll have to use your imagination for the time being. Apparently I have to have a better WordPress subscription to post video, but I think you get the idea.
Love to all and pray for a less eventful next leg of our travels.