Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Don't drive out here at night" he said to the guys - then proceeded to do just that...

It's 01:45 in the morning here in Tanzania and I'm sitting in a wooden hut in front of the glow of a laptop. I'm covered in mud and sticky with sweat after a 90 minute conference call. It wasn't the conference call that got me in this state.  I was in fact 30 minutes late for this conference call after a 3.5 hour 4WD trip down to the lake that involved roughly 2 hours of de-bogging, winching and digging plus around 1.5 hours driving of actually driving. Conference call was good but the drive was even better. :-)

Today the last charter flight brought in the wet season caretaker so that we can head off on Friday on a 5 day 4WD trip to Dar Es Salaam and eventually Zanzibar for some diving. A couple of hours after Nic got here we had a request to help a women who was in distress during labor and needed a lift down to the medical clinic 20km away by the lake for a helicopter medevac to the nearest hospital. I suggested that Nic go down to the lake to see it before the roads get cut off.

Four hours later at 9pm we'd had dinner and they still weren't back. Pete & I had a bottle of wine under our belt but there's no RBT here and you can't do more than 15km/h anyway so we grabbed the keys to a Landcruiser, the med kit, satphone and a bottle of water. We figured they'd probably got bogged, had a flat or just slid off the road... A great intro to Africa for Nic lol but at least it would convince him of the futility of trying to drive in the wet season. We ended up all the way to Mgambazi down by the lake and that place is dark by night! It's a village of probably 1,000 people but you could scarcely find the glow of a fire at 10 o'clock at night. With nobody around to ask for directions, we got onto the satphone and rang camp. Turns out the vehicle had got bogged on the way down to the lake and decided to go back to camp by another little used track - the logic of leaving a known track for an unknown track that we hadn't used before on a dark and wet night escapes me but either way, that's what they did.

They'd arrived at camp about 20 minutes after we left so two of the guys grabbed the pickup to drive down and let us know. This was nice gesture but no way were they going to catch us and we'd left instructions to come get us if we weren't back by 2330. As it turned out, if they hadn't come for us I would have been back an hour before my conference call (rather than 30 minutes late). Simple stuff but when I had to reverse out of a bog to have another run at it, Valerian (our senior technician) had the landcruiser pickup right up our clacker and proceeded to reverse sideways and get stuck. Long story and 5 or 6 winching/digging attempts later we managed to slip/slide/drive up the by now very chewed up hillside, that the first vehicle had given up on. Just another day of boys own adventure in Africa :-). Can't believe I get paid to do this. Perhaps one day I'll grow up - but I doubt it...

More importantly though, no-one was hurt and although we haven't heard how the mother and baby are doing yet, at least she got to the clinic before sunset, in time to be evacuated to Kigoma by helicopter. Her home is a farm near our camp where in May this year, her husband hanged himself so hopefully her luck has changed and things will be working out well for her in hospital. We'll find out how soon enough via the bush telegraph and are all keen to have things go well for her.