Our Sundays here in Malawi are varied and never boring but a few weeks ago what should have been a routine Sunday visiting a bush church about 3 hours from home turned into a bit of an adventure! Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin………….
I will just tell it as it happened – by the end of it I felt like Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz saying “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home………”
The strange bit is that we had been stuck in almost the same place about 6 years ago, but not so badly, so it was in our minds to be careful when we went that Sunday…………..as we approached the turn to take us off road we asked the local Pastor “Is the road okay? Is there any mud?” The answer was “no mud”, so off we went on our merry way. Looking at the ground, there was indeed no mud and the ground looked firm, but as we proceeded Alan said “this is feeling soft” and he decided to turn into the church and quickly reverse the car so we would be facing forward for a quick exit, however we felt the truck go down! I got out to look and it did not look too bad but as Alan put the car into 4 wheel drive it dropped another few inches!
We were only about 150 yards from the church so all the members came out and set about digging us out. Our initial attempts only seemed to make things worse. Our experience told us the only way was to be able to build a road under the car with stones so there was something for the wheels to grip. So that is what they were trying to do. In trying to dig and get bricks under the wheels it was not long before they had dug down to water level! I thought “that is not good!” After a couple of hours (we had arrived at around 10.15am) we sent someone back into town to see if there was a lorry or something to help pull us out. While we were waiting for them to come back – we went ahead with the church service as all the members were there waiting for us!
Once the lorry arrived they said they would not come in to where the truck was as they were afraid that they would get stuck! However, the driver and his crew – well used to this kind of situation – were willing to come in and try to help us. Boy did those guys work!! They jacked the car up, wheel by wheel so they could get bricks underneath them. It took at least half an hour each wheel I think, then they managed to move the vehicle a few inches, then started the process all over again, many times!! At one point we tried to use our winch to pull us out but the surrounding ground was so soft and also the car was at an angle, so that just made things worse, churning up the road.
While this was all going on we had two really heavy downpours with thunder and lightning – the guys never stopped working – which did not help us at all. The ground was getting wetter and wetter and huge puddles all around. We were also hampered by the fact that we were surrounded on 3 sides by maize gardens! The truck already has a very poor turning circle at the best of times so this was not helping. (We did ultimately damage some of the maize but the owner was very understanding and we paid for what we damaged)
So by 5pm it was evident that we were going nowhere and I had started to psyche myself up for spending the night in the church, which would not be the greatest experience ….but the lorry driver said he could take us back into the nearby town where we could find accommodation. So……now I had to psyche myself up for climbing into the back of a 7 ton lorry!!! When we got to the lorry and I saw the height of the wheels my heart sank! How on earth was I going to get in there – worth catching on the video that’s for sure! Thankfully the driver said we could go up front – even that was quite a hike for me!!!
We found fairly okay accommodation in town and had a fitful nights rest, in between scratching our mosquito bites! We have never seen so many in one place! And the net was full of holes, we must have had at least 15 bites each! (Thankfully the incubation period for malaria passed without either of us showing any symptoms) The next morning we had to get a minibus back to the church site. That was the worst bit for me! They stuff 4 people into seats for 3, and that is not mentioning the sacks of dried fish etc…… and they drive far too fast!!!
However, we arrived safely back to church site around 8am to find the guys had already been working for a couple of hours. By now of course the road is really churned up and in a mess. They were continuing the wearisome process of jacking, digging, placing bricks, moving the car, start all over again……………and over and over………………by this time Alan had agreed to let the lorry driver do the driving of the truck. It was a risk but we had to trust that he knew what he was doing.
Over the morning it was one step forward and two steps back. We really needed to get the car straight so that we could try the winch again. So by around 2pm Alan sent someone back into town to see if we could get a tractor who could pull us out.
When the tractor arrived my hopes were raised “We just might get home today!”………5 minutes after arriving, the tractor was also stuck!!! I could not believe it and my heart sank! We were going to have to stay another night!!! Thankfully the tractor got out quite quickly and the lorry driver and his crew just worked on and on, they were amazing! Eventually the car was in a good enough position to allow us to use the winch with the tractor acting as an anchor. Slowly, slowly we reached the tarmac! It was now 5pm and we had a three hour drive ahead of us. That would mean driving in the dark which we really don’t like to do. We got home and went straight for a shower, a quick sandwich and bed!! Two days later we are just about recovered – not as if we did the heavy work, but the whole thing was really stressful, particularly for Alan who always tries so hard to look after our vehicles well. It is due a service anyway so we will put it in to be checked over.
So, that is our latest “Malawi” story! I really should write a book! Although it was stressful we did not get worked up, it was one of those occasions where you just have to do what you have to do! Hopefully we will not find ourselves in that position again this rainy season!!
Report by Alan and Sandra Skene