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Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The problem of mud

It’s been raining now for almost 10 weeks on and off. You may remember me describing the puddles in the road. Well those puddles have turned into lakes. The lakes have in turn flooded and the excess has run downhill creating streams. The problem is that downhill here means following the road. Have you guessed where I’m going with this yet? From now on, until the rains finish in April, we are and will continue to drive through (often) quite large streams of brown water. All this rain is very good for crops. It’s not so good for traction!

Smoke starts to rise from the spinning tyres. The land cruisers 4 wheel drive is no match for the water logged ground. Preparing to PUSH! I watch the 60cm (2”) tyres try to grip the reddish brown soil and instead just generate smoke. I have never seen tyres smoke like that before! This is not the first time today I have been out, up to my ankles in mud, wondering just how exactly we are going to get out of this situation. I am out with HBC, trying to get to one of the remotest villages in the Parish, a place called Kiyola. We are already 3 hours late because, as I mentioned, this isn’t the first time today we have found ourselves in this situation.

So how does one increase the traction of a 1.5 tonne Land Cruiser? You find tree branches! You then place these under the tyres and stand on them, hoping they don’t rip out from under your feet. Alternatively, you push with all your strength, rocking the beast back and fourth hoping you don’t end up face first in the mess that the car is about to leave behind. This is no time to reinact a scene from “Carry on camping”! When the car does eventually find some grip, it lurches forward and a cheer goes up. This is followed by a trek to the idling car, which has been parked on steadier ground. It certainly makes for an interesting day.

It’s an odd thing to feel the car slow down while the engine revs higher and higher as the tyres quickly lose traction and turn into inefficient shovels, slowly digging the car deeper and deeper into the mud. The car stop, reverse is engaged and the car lurches backwards (if you’re lucky). Reverse back 20 meters, stop, engage first and HIT IT, hoping to build up enough momentum to carry you through the worst of the slick. Another fun feeling is when the car decides to move to one side all of it’s own accord, just because the road is at an angle. Whoops, there goes the back tyres. The car starts to go sideways and Patrick, the driver desperately tries to keep the whole thing straight as gravity and physics laugh in his face.

Sadly, in the end we had to give up. A group before us tried to reach one of the Chona people that either watched or helped as we attempted to escape the mudvillages before Kiyola but had to turn around. We met them on the road and they told us it was impassable. There is a type of mud here, black in colour, which is like ice when it’s wet. There is a patch of this mud on the road to Kiyola, at a steep decent (to add insult to injury) and although there is a track around it through the bush, both were impossible. Had we gone down it, we would not have been able to climb back up later. So the visit was abandoned, probably until April unless the situation improves. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to provide a local service…

Until next time,
A mucky puppy

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