trusting . resting . following

The Adventure We Didn't Want.

October 30, 2012
The following is the story of what happened to my friends and I a few weeks ago.  It's really too long to be a blog post, but what could I do?  A lot happened to us that day!

Sinking in the mud, crazy-eyed old men, and parts falling off the under carriage of my car... thus began our weekend getaway...

Four of us single girls had decided it was time for a break.  (So thankful to have single friends here in Mwanza to spend vacation time with!)  We made a reservation for 2 nights at the "family room" of the Kijereshi Tented Camp right outside the Serengeti National park.

As we bumped along the nicely paved highway Beth, Alicia, and I laughed about past adventures like cliff diving and snorkling through millions of tiny jellyfish in Lake Tanganyika.  We told our new friend Tiffany, a short-termer who had just arrived, “Who knows what new memories we’ll make this weekend!”  Famous last words.

I knew that the last stretch of the journey was a bit rough, but I figured as long as it wasn’t the middle of the rainy season we’d be fine.  And it was the end of the dry season.  We hadn’t seen rain for a good 4 months!  Everything was BEYOND dry.  No worries.

Now imagine with me a “frog-stranglin’gulley-warsher.”  You know the kind of rain that doesn’t pour, it DUMPS… hard and long and heavy.   That very afternoon such a storm plowed through.  Somehow we missed most of the storm ourselves.  We never had to pull off the road because the windshield wipers couldn’t work fast enough or anything.  But by the time we turned off the paved road, the extravagant “dumping” had occurred.

Eighteen kilometers, the sign said 18 km.  The first and only sign along the route.  We pressed forward full of optimism.  My Rav4 is “all-wheel-drive” after all.  And at first things weren’t too bad.  We passed a few groups of huts, a few groups of women working in their fields, and a lot of open space.  However the further we went and the more we slipped and slid along, the less the dirt/mud path was evident.  After half an hour I wasn’t sure we were on the right path.  After another 20 minutes I wasn’t even sure we were ON a path.

Enter: crazy-eyed old man. About 6pm we stopped and asked a young teenage girl if she had heard of Kijereshi, and which direction it was.  She pointed off to the right, 90 degree angle from the direction we were heading.  Just then we saw a man a bit further a way.  I compared the “path” we were on to the open space between us and that man, saw there really was no difference, and made a quick decision… let’s just drive toward that man and ask him.  The closer we got the more we all regretted my snap judgment call.  He was a very OLD man, bent over, white hair, and rather scary looking red-blotched eyes.  Oh great, I thought, a witchdoctor.  What could I do? we had to try.  I rolled down my window and asked him the same question.  Of all things… instead of spouting off something scary or crazy, he chided us, “Mbona umeacha njia?” “Why did you leave the path?”  I wanted to reply, I’ve just been wondering the same thing, sir. He said we should get back on the path and keep going.  We thanked him, and sent up not too silent prayers of thanks for God’s protection. J

It took a bit of slipping and sliding in the mud to get back on the path, but we made it and continued on.  After more slipping and charging through mud puddles (the kind where you cringe as you go through, because there is no way to judge how deep or what’s at the bottom of each one), we came up to a huge mud puddle the whole length of the road.  No way around and no clear way through.  I had had enough.  Thankfully, Beth was feeling gutsy, so she took the “helm.”  She charged through what looked like as good a spot as any.  But the car had met its match.  No amount of accelerating could coax it forward.  Beth quickly switched to reverse and by turning the steering wheel back and forth found some footing and got the car out.  But we were still on the wrong side of the mud.

Ugh!  Was this adventure ever going to end?  We called the campsite to send help, and in the meantime a crowd had gathered of a dozen or so very curious kids and teens.  A couple of older teen guys said we should try the other side of the road, there were more rocks there.  We tried.  And got stuck.  Again.  This time though the guys pushed us through.  We all cheered, both inside the car and out.  It was kind of fun.  I gave the guys 2,000 Tsh (about $1.50) to split among them.  

We charged forward again with not a trace of optimism left.  Was this road ever going to end?  Were we on the right road?  Were we even on a road?  The next mud “puddle” was more like a mud “lake.”  It covered a good 30-40 ft of road.  No one was feeling gutsy any more.  We called the campsite again.

“Don’t worry we’re coming.”  It was time to sit and wait.  We waited and more kids/teens gathered.  The looked in the windows and giggled.  We really hoped that by ignoring them long enough they would get bored and go away.  Bored?  How often does a car with 4 white girls park out there in the bush?  Any time I looked at my phone 6 little faces leaned in and stared and made little comments to each other.  I no longer wonder what the life of a goldfish must be like.

I made another snap decision.  I could either stay put and get really agitated and finally blow up at them (which would only make them laugh no doubt), or I could get out and try to draw their attention away from the car.  I got out.  Asked a few of their names.  Then asked if anyone knew any songs.  One kid sang a pretty long song, he must have been in a church choir.  No one else volunteered.  I started one.  Two of us sang, everyone else gawked.

At this point it was starting to get dark.  What in the world were we going to do?  Some of the kids said we could get through the mud “lake,” and that most cars don’t get stuck through there.  Well, why not?  I was starting to feel a bit gutsy.  What do we have to lose?  I switched places with Beth again, turned on my headlights and away we went.  Just some minor slipping and sliding and we made it through!  

But now what?  It’s dark.  Should we really keep going?   We don't know if we’re even on the right road.  The camp wasn’t answering their phone.  I turned off the car and we sat in the dark.  Ok, Lord, we’re not having fun anymore.   The closest missionary friends we knew were Alicia’s teammates, the Helsbys, who live 2 hours away from where we were.  We called.  No answer.  Next were my teammates, the Brouwers, who live 3 hours away.  (And it’s not like they could have come rescue us, they have the same Rav4 that I do.)  Bill answered.  Whew!  If we die out here in the bush at least someone will know what happened! :-)

“Just stay put and keep your headlights off,” Bill said.  “The car is the safest place you can be right now.”  While Bill and Tammy brainstormed what to do and who they might call to help, Alicia, Tiffany, Beth, and I hunkered down for a long night in a car.  

      Lisa:  “Sorry, I can’t stand it anymore.  I know Bill said stay in the car, but I’ve got to find a bush!” (There were no bushes but it was dark enough that it didn’t matter.) 
      Alicia, rummaging for her jammies and pillow: “If we’re sleeping here, I’m getting comfortable.”  
      Alicia, again: “Well, Lisa’s got her laptop, let’s watch a movie!” 
       Beth: “No, that’s too much light, people could see us.”  
       All four: groan.

Tiffany peaking out of my poor muddy car.
What do you do when the urge to “totally freak out” comes upon you?  We tried to stay positive with bits of jokes and half-hearted laughter.  Little far-away lights would flicker on and off.  We were way out in the middle of no where.  The kids had left us an hour ago.  One light slowly bounced toward us from behind.  Could that be our rescue vehicle?  It stayed steady for awhile as if someone was pointing a flashlight at us, then it disappeared.

8pm.  Phone call, whew!  The rescue vehicle was on its way!  They asked us to turn our headlights on.  Yes, they could see us.  OH JOY!  WHAT RELIEF!  Please just try to imagine how relieved we all were, because I have no idea how to describe it.  Even now as I write 3 weeks later, I'm smiling from ear to ear.

A little truck drove up and about 8 guys jumped out.  Yes, we were on the right road, but we still had 8 km to go.  Why had they taken 2 hours to come find us?  Our rescue vehicle had gotten stuck TWICE on the way to come rescue us!  Is it just me, or does anyone else see the humor here?

Our rescuers
We started off, with the little truck leading the way.  Mud, rocks, tire tracks so deep I have to keep my wheels up on the sides, sliding back into the ruts, scraping the bottom... we clipped along at a good 5 km/hour.  At this rate I realized it was going to take another hour to get there.  Ugh, I was exhausted.  When half-hearted humor no longer works, switch to singing.

Then a louder thud and scraping.  We were dragging something.  I honked and blinked my lights.  The truck ahead stopped, several guys got out.  I got out.  A piece of the car was dragging in the mud.  One of the guys was a mechanic.  He came over and assured me that it wasn't anything important, just a plastic cover of something.  "Keep going slowly and it will eventually fall off."   Oh brother.  What could I do but comply?  We started off again, but this time their truck wouldn't go.  Five guys got out to push and jump start it.

9pm.  We finally saw a sign, "Kijereshi Tented Camp."  We had made it.  Ahhhh....... 

Nice road.  Friendly faces.  Hot food.  It was all wonderful.  Even hot water showers.  The next two days were great.  Lots of laughter and food and relaxing.  Thunder clouds rolled in several times, and every time I fought hard not to worry about how we were going to make it out of there.  Saturday came and it still hadn't rained.  We left right after lunch and it only took 30 minutes to drive what two days before had taken 4 hours!

The family house we stayed in.
Breakfast out in a grass "hut"
Baboons passed by several times.
Left to right: Beth, Alicia, Tiffany, and me.

3 comments on "The Adventure We Didn't Want."
  1. Hey, there. Just curious if I could use the picture with the four of you. I am working on a post for our Baptist Missionary Women Blog on how to pray for the single missionary woman. Another single missionary lady has wrote it for me, and I'm looking for some photos to go with it. Thanks.. :)

  2. Sure, Jen, feel free. Looking forward to reading the post! :-)