Monday, February 18, 2013

Lucky then not so lucky then lucky again

The day started out with luck on my side.  I woke up around 5:30am Friday morning, motivated and ready to travel to Nampula to run some errands and then to Nametil to visit Adam for the weekend.  I walked for about 15-20 minutes out to the highway, thankful for the good travel weather of white fluffy clouds and blue sky, not too hot and not raining.  As I reached the road and headed towards a parked chapa waiting to fill up, a VW SUV approached and I somewhat half-heartedly stuck my hand out to flag them down, not expecting them to actually stop.  To my surprise (and probably theirs too at seeing a white girl out here), they did stop and I eagerly got in the car with an Indian girl and Mozambican lady, both probably in their early 20s.  Leather seats, air conditioning, seat belts!  I was in Heaven!  This was going to be a good ride in to Nampula J

About an hour and a half of pleasant chats and pleasant driving, we reached the city and I headed to my Peace Corps office.  I spent the next hour or two running around buying extension cords for my school’s computers (I bugged them enough that they finally just gave me the money to go and buy them myself!), printing and getting copies made for my exam this week, and buying some snacks for the weekend.  By now, it was getting sunnier, humid, and hot, but I was proud of myself for being so productive.

Around 10:30am, I headed to the station for Nametil, chatting with my cab driver along the way. 
Then my luck turned around…

The transportation available for Nametil can be a little unreliable, not really sure when, or even if, a chapa is going to come to the station.  So, when there is a chapa there, it’s usually better to get on it rather than stand by and hope something else comes.  The “station” is in no way what the term might imply.  It’s just a corner on the side of a busy dirt road where a chapa or truck parks and loads passengers or goods, people walk around selling bread and random other things from soda to perfume to stickers to kitchen supplies, and other people just hang out watching the hustle and bustle.  It’s not really a place one would want to wait around for an extended period of time.

So when my taxi pulled up and I saw a chapa there, partially filled with passengers, I did think to myself about how it did not appear to be in the nicest condition, but I didn’t really have many other options, so I got on, taking a seat in the back row.  A man sat on my right with a young child in his lap and two other gentlemen filled the seat on my left, squeezing us all together in the cramped space.  The seat in front of us had no back to it, but with my bags in my lap, it was actually not totally uncomfortable. 

We then proceeded to sit there for over an hour, waiting for more passengers to come, those last two people seemingly taking forever to get there as we sat dripping sweat in the back seat, feeling absolutely no airflow from the small open windows up front and the trunk unable to be opened, of course.  People started getting restless and uncomfortable, acknowledging how this was not good for young babies to be sitting in such heat, but the driver was nowhere to be found.  People threatened to get off and wait for another car to arrive if this one didn’t leave soon.  Finally, the driver appeared and it seemed like we were going to leave.  After a few failed attempts, the engine finally started and we were off…

The road to Nametil is a pot-hole-ravine-crevice filled dirt road for 72km (about 45miles), worse than any of the “shortcut roads” my dad has ever taken us on.  The constant bumps are not only rough on your body as you strain to not hit your head on the ceiling, but also on these cars that are already not in the greatest condition.  So, when about an hour in to the ride, at 12:50pm, our chapa came to a halt on the side of the road and someone explained to me that a part had broken (some kind of triangle, they said), I was disappointed and frustrated but not totally surprised.  The passenger next to me recommended I take all of my bags with me, this chapa was not going anywhere anymore…..excellent.

So the 20 or so chapa passengers filed out of the car, gathered all of our belongings and walked to a small tree to wait in the small amount of shade there for another vehicle to, hopefully, pass by soon.  There was really nothing else to do!  No cell phone service, we were out in the middle of nowhere!  It was really pretty sitting there alongside a riverbed, but there was nothing around…

About 30 minutes later, an already extremely overloaded pickup truck was the first car to pass and a few daring people decided they would try to squeeze on to the bed of the truck, finding places to stand and hold on.  No thank you!  So then there were about 12 of us left under that tree, waiting. 

They started chatting with me and I told them I was a teacher, heading to visit my colleagues and boyfriend in Nametil.  They asked me questions like, do you have roads like this in your land?  Is there a shortage of cars there?  Can a white person and a black person get married?  What color would their children be?  It’s possible the baby could be white?!  A brief genetics lesson…on the side of a dirt road…out in the middle of nowhere…. …only in Africa…

Finally, at 2:25pm, a big flatbed truck came past and we explained our dilemma to the driver who informed us that he was not going all the way to Nametil but to another village about 30km outside of the city.  I had already decided that any kind of forward movement would be better than sitting here with no phone service.  If nothing else, I was getting closer and could at least probably call Adam and let him know what was happening.  Soon, the rest of the group was also convinced to jump on and we all were headed in the right direction, laughing how little by little, we would get there.

About 30 minutes later, we arrived on the outskirts of a town called Mecua, still about 19miles away from Nametil, but closer than I was before!  Thankfully, there was cell phone service here and I was able to call Adam and let him know about my situation, hoping there was something he could do to help from his end, but knowing that there wasn’t really much anyone could do.  (He did go up to his station to see if there were any drivers waiting there who maybe would come and pick us up, but no luck…)  Also, at this point, my phone was blinking at me “battery low”.  Of course, right?! 

It was 3pm by this point, meaning I still had about three hours of sunlight time left, but also meaning I only had three hours of sunlight left and I started to get a little nervous.  The road was unusually quiet, a few cars only leaving towards Nampula but none coming in to Nametil.  And the group of us continued sitting there, waiting to see what would happen.  “Estamos mal,” they kept saying.

Finally, at 4pm, a van headed to Nametil stopped for us and fortunately, a fellow female passenger knew the driver and convinced him to give us all a ride.  Thank god!  What a sigh of relief!

So after having left my house around 6am then leaving Nampula at 11:45am, I finally arrived in Nametil at 5:30pm, exhausted and hungry but so grateful that I made it.

And then we had delicious chicken for dinner with Hidden Valley Ranch and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce Adam and Kevin had brought from home, and I was a very happy person again J  Simple things…

So after a quick 38 hours or so in Nametil, Sunday morning I headed back to Murrupula, a much less adventurous ride this time, thankfully J

1 comment:

  1. What a saga! I remember joking after a similar ride from Delhi into the Himalayan foothills where the Tibetan community lives, that this must be like the journey to Shambhala (two tire changes - after waiting for passing trucks to provide appropriate tools, and a mountain road rebuilt by the passengers around a head on collision). One burns off a certain amount of negative karma, surely? Glad you made it to your destination safely!