Saturday, November 2, 2013

Stuck in the Mud

Our difficulties with travel continue with this adventurous story:

After six weeks in our new home upcountry, we made a plan to return to Monrovia to continue our search for a vehicle, get supplies and food, and of course, access Skype to visit with family. We were thankful that Samaritan’s Purse again booked us seats to fly back to Monrovia. The only tough part would be the two hour muddy drive from Voinjama to the Foya airstrip, but since SP was sending a rugged Land Cruiser, we knew we’d be in good hands.

The plane was scheduled to leave at 9:30 am on Tuesday morning. We got the call around 7:30 the evening before informing us that the rugged Land Cruiser was no longer available to pick us up first thing in the morning. This left one option – and not a good one. We had to arrange for a taxi car to drive us. The driver assured us that his little Nissan Sunny was up for the job. He had just driven to Foya the week before and the roads were passable. 

We piled in the old sorry-looking car and hoped for the best. I was encouraged. The driver made it through the first mud slick easily. Unfortunately, just a few minutes later, we hit another mud puddle and got stuck. Anxiety set in. Out jumped the driver and John-Mark to start rocking the car while the driver literally burned rubber, trying to get enough traction to push the car forward. It did not help that the tires had almost no tread left to begin with! He jacked up one of the tires and gathered rocks and sticks to put under and in front of it. They even went to the nearby village to get some men to help push us out. Thankfully, they got help and after about 20 minutes we were on our way. If we didn’t get stuck again, we’d still make it in time for the flight.

A very short time later, we got stuck again. More of the same. Rocking, pushing, etc. Thankfully, a rugged NGO vehicle came and towed us out. We might still make it in time!

We made good time for a bit, but the mud slicks were getting more frequent and deeper as the trip went on. Before we knew it, we were stuck again, and again, and AGAIN! At one point, one of the back tires couldn’t take it anymore and went flat, requiring us to put on the spare tire after we were towed again from the mud. We got seriously stuck about 8 times. The mud was piled high and we were truly in a watery – muddy pit with huge ruts on the side. The undercarriage of the car would be sitting on the dirt in the middle again. I couldn’t open my door if I wanted to. John-Mark climbed out his window to help push us out. I was thankful for all the passing motorcyclists that stopped to push us out. John-Mark would give them little “thank-you” gifts for their effort, although we were pleasantly surprised when some Mandingo guys refused payment for their effort. John-Mark told them. “Alla ye i sala” (God will pay you –a common way of saying thank-you here).

In addition to getting stuck, anytime we hit a bump, which was every couple seconds, muddy water seeped through the holes in the floor. My feet, in flip-flops, soaked in a mud bath for the duration of the trip. People pay good money for mud baths, don’t they?

As time went on, my stomach sunk as I knew we were going to miss the flight. What was the point of going forward? John-Mark had been able to call earlier to let them know we had been stuck and the woman said the pilot would wait for us. I wondered how long he would wait, especially since at this point, we were out of cell phone coverage and had no way to update on our status. We sent word with passing motorbikes and even a Samaritan’s Purse truck, hoping someone could get through to let the pilot know that we were coming as quickly as we could. At this point, I was needing the lullabies coming from Noah’s glowbee as much as he did. The anxiety was almost more than I could bear, knowing we had people waiting on us. It was the first time in all of our vehicle problems that I wondered it I could go on, wondered if I could make a trip like this again.

 Just before coming into Foya, we had to pass through an immigration checkpoint. The guy sat at the top of the hill, not lowering the rope so we could pass. He finally called down to us, “what do you have for me today?” It wasn’t until the driver handed him 20LD (about 25 cents) that he let us through. Even though this is a normal occurrence, I was feeling so annoyed… annoyed that we had just come through a very difficult trip and this guy was indulging in corruption and delaying us even more from getting to our destination.

The 40-mile drive, which usually takes only 1.5 – 2 hours took us 5 hours! The babies and Angel did incredibly and surprisingly well. Audrey took everything in stride, like she always does. It is almost like she thinks it is the most normal thing in the world. Given her experience since coming to Liberia, it is normal. Noah was patient too. At least all of our stops allowed for feedings and diaper changes. John-Mark and I did our best to keep a positive attitude despite our anxiety and fatigue. (Between crying babies in the night and my being sick through the night, I had had very little sleep). I could tell this trip was even wearing on John-Mark.

We finally arrived at the airstrip with our beloved pilot, Chris, still waiting graciously for us. The driver and John-Mark were covered in mud. Even Audrey and Noah had specks of mud on them. Needless to say, we gladly entered the plane for the hour flight to Monrovia.