This is the trip that never ends
It just goes on and on my friends
We started traveling not knowing what it was
And we’ll keep breaking down forever just because….
We left Monrovia at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, anticipating arriving in Voinjama around 6:30 that evening. We finally crawled into Voinjama on Thursday evening, 24 hours after our anticipated arrival time.
We smiled as we made it past our break-down point from last Friday and stopped to say hello at the mechanic shop where I had spent my day. “Our car is finally fixed and we are finally on our way to Voinjama!” Little did we know that just a short while later, we would have our first breakdown of this trip.
It was about 11:30 when I heard a clicking that I recognized as our rear left tire going flat. I quickly guessed that to change the tire would take about 20 minutes. I laughed at the “double and then double again” rule. Surely it won’t take 80 minutes to change a tire! Sure enough! Our jack was old and rusty and couldn’t lift the car up high enough. JM felt like he was being baked alive the full sun in the 95+ weather with 90% humidity. The rest of us weren’t much better in the confines of the stalled vehicle with flies buzzing about. Thankfully a big UN truck filled with Pakistani soldiers stopped for us and lent us their jack. We should mention that Sara was crammed in the back seat with Audrey, Angel and Isaac (the teenaged son of the Liberian electrician who was traveling with us).
We managed to go on over the rough “paved” roads and made it to the larger town of Gbanga. We arrived there at about 2:00 and filled up the tank, while having some young mechanics (all probably under the age of 16) work on patching the tire. Meanwhile, our “new” radiator started leaking and we were unable to go on. John-Mark worked on the vehicle for a couple of hours, eventually sealing it with some epoxy. When that was fixed we bought a new jack and started on our way.
It was too late to make it all the way to Voinjama, so we drove 3 more hours and decided to sleep at “The House of Love” guesthouse in Konia. We arrived after dark at about 7:30. John-Mark had to walk to the market to scrounge for dinner. Sara, Audrey and Angel shared a twin bed that night. By morning, we all were more than ready to drive the last two hours to Voinjama.
JM started prepping the car with more water in the radiator, topping off the oil etc. But when we started, the car’s engine was working way too hard so we knew there was a problem. We didn’t even make it out of town before it broke down again. Sara, Audrey, and Angel went back to the guesthouse for a couple hours, while JM worked on it. Eventually, he found the problem to be simply a loose spark plug wire.
But, only an hour down the road, at about 11:30, we had ANOTHER breakdown. This time it was a very serious one. Somehow the entire fan had broken apart, taking other vital systems with it. We needed a tow.
JM took a motorbike taxi to John’s Town, about 10 minutes away. No one would help for less than $150 US. The cell phone networks were down, so there was no way to call for help. He ended up taking a taxi to Voinjama. He was eventually found a driver with a strong SUV who was willing to do it for $75. Where is AAA when you need them!?
Meanwhile, Sara, Audrey, and Angel stayed in someone’s front yard. They provided a very small, very low bench that no pregnant woman 6 months along with an 11 month old baby on her lap should have to sit on for 3 hours. Of course it was the best they had, so I tried to be grateful. It was a hot day and the insects were fairly bothersome. I had to fight hard against boredom and entertain Audrey. About 10 small children, none speaking English, sat in the dirt and stared at us for the full 3 hours. I tried my best to be patient, not knowing where JM was or how long it would be until he returned. He finally got back to the village at about 3:00.
OK, so you are never going to believe this. We make it just 10 minutes up the road when our tow truck hits and kills this poor mother dog in John’s Town. It happened right at an immigration check point, which forced us to stop anyway. The dog’s owner along with half the town came running to the check point, demanding that the driver get out. We watched from our car as a big palaver ensued. We couldn’t hear many details, but there was plenty of arguing and at one point, a man was thrown on the ground and was being beaten by several others. The immigration officer did nothing to stop it. I was fairly traumatized. I’m not sure how it ever got settled.
About 45 minutes after the accident, we hit the road again. You’re not going to believe this. I hardly could. Even though we were being towed, our car breaks down again from overheating! We had stop to put more water in the radiator. The breakdown occurred in front of a few houses, so that meant having someone carry a bucket to who knows where to draw water for us. John-Mark laughed and said, “you know the drill!” Audrey, Angel and I hauled ourselves out of the vehicle and across the road to a bamboo bench to wait. This was the friendliest of breakdown points and one woman actually went to her garden to pick out the largest pineapple I had ever seen and some plantains to give to Audrey as a gift. I enjoyed sitting on the bench talking with the Lorma women. It started to really cool down and the wind picked up strong. I could see some major rain clouds rolling in. The car was ready to go just as it started pouring rain.
We FINALLY get to Voinjama, through the immigration check point, and are stopped at the police station. The police were giving the driver a really hard time for towing us. After about 20 minutes, the driver came over and asked us for one dollar US. Extortion from police officers for “towing.” Unbelieveable!
You’re not going to believe this! The driver got back in his vehicle and HIS car won’t start! We are literally 3 miles away from our house and we are stuck again! OK, so this break-down only lasted about 15 minutes, but it was a breakdown nonetheless!
We got home about 57 hours after we left Monrovia. (It should have taken 9 hours). We were so tired and hungry. Audrey seemed completely unaffected by the last two days events. It was as if everything that happened was completely part of our planned schedule. We needed a treat after such a long trip so I fixed the best taco meal you could imagine and sent our poor security guard out in the rain to buy us some cold coca cola. We totally crashed that night!