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Day 79 – Roadside Recovery Part Two

10th December 2011

rain 24 °C

For twenty kilometres from Sioma camp back towards Katima-Mulilo the new road was open. It was heaven, perfectly surfaced and brand new; the cambered road seemed to draw us back to Livingstone, but our dream road soon ended and we were back in the mud. Somers had attempted a bit of driving further on the road, which although cheeky on her part, seemed justified as the road was as finished as the open section. We soon encountered trouble though; an oncoming truck started swerving violently to block our path, its lights flashing at us whilst two faces looked sternly from the cab. As we stopped Numbers one and two leapt out of the truck like Somalis toward an oil tanker; with rich pickings in their eyes they moved like sharks towards us. Number two stopped, stood squarely as if trying to impose an air of power or control he’d control the perimeter whilst Number One tested the prey. Number One approached us vociferously complaining about our actions. We protested meekly, the ‘road closed’ sign had been removed from its position and we’d been told that this section was open. Their anger may have been justified but they lost their high ground the second Number One said, “Maybe you have something for us since you are wrong.” The shark had nibbled the bait. “No chance,” I said. Somers turned Redvers around. Number Two lost his impetus a little and looked unsure of what happens next as we turned around. Number One threw his hands first to the sky in anger and then to the ground as if he’d missed out. I shook my head at him as patronisingly as possible and gave Number Two a thumbs up. We were back in the mud.

Only a few kilometres on and we found another stranded Toyota, another saloon again, bald tyres and he reckoned a few litres of fuel. We offered help, the chap was keen and said that we only had to free him from this section and he would find another way. Perhaps past Numbers One and Two. He was accompanied by a guy who said he was stuck further on and could we help him out after the first guy. It seemed the least we could do. We got the first guy out and our new found friend hopped on the back as we drove to his car. The poor guy was covered, head to foot in grey mud. He showed me a flat tyre. When we tried to inflate it air hissed out from between the rim and the tyre. He had no spare, naturally, and so we put the pump away and attached our ropes. I pulled over on a dry section a kilometre further on. I asked what his plan was. He told me a friend could fix his tyre ten kilometres down the road. This meant another half hour to forty five minutes of driving with him in tow. In for a penny and all that we continued. Fifteen kilometres later we had stopped only once, to pick up a solitary soldier, as well as his rather large Bergen and his all important AK-47. At this point I got out to ask what was the plan. The driver told me that he was low on fuel and that just fifteen more kilometres and he could sort it out. The soldier suggested it was more like twenty kilometres. We had started the precedent as Samaritans and we reckoned we could manage another hour of laborious driving. We dropped off our armed escort and continued for twenty two kilometres. By now our fuel was running low, and we still had two hundred kilometres to travel. It was now half past three and even at full speed we wouldn’t be back before dark. A line was starting to appear in the sand and when our driver added that he thought his engine wasn’t working, and clarified that his tyre and fuel friends were all in Sesheke, fifty kilometres (four hours towing) away, I started to lose my patience. I explained carefully that he’d lost my trust, by not telling me his true situation to start with. I explained our fuel meant we couldn’t afford to take him all the way, and that night driving wasn’t particularly safe especially for mazungus. We dropped him and his car off at a large village that had an adjoining Chinese base for the road works; they would have petrol and tools, he just had to work out how to get them. We departed, unsure of our current moral stand point, had our good actions outweighed leaving him behind, would we have done the same to George and Ethel from Doncaster in their Series 2 Landy had it been them we’d met? The answer is probably not, but we had done something, I’d like to think more than most, and now it was home time.

We arrived back in Livingstone an hour after sunset. We worked out that we’d still have been in the mud if we hadn’t bailed out when we did. Our worries soon dissipated as we ate fresh pizza at Olgas, an Italian NGO (non-government organisation) inspired local initiative to get the locals running a successful and profitable business that benefits the community. Our satiated bellies thought it was a complete success.

Posted by ibeamish 04:35 Archived in Zambia

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