Monday, May 05, 2008

Offroad

After one week of counting down the days, I had become very anxious to reunite with Bre and Ammon. It got to the point where I was pacing like a puppy at the door, waiting for its master to return. On the night of their arrival Ben and I were reflexively lifting our heads at the sound of each passing car. “Where are those siblings of mine?! I’m sick of being an only child.” As soon as Bre stepped out of the car I attacked her with jelly bean jumps and hugs. I can’t remember the last time I felt so silly, screaming and spinning like little girls together. We practically knocked each other over with our aggressive encounter of love.
“She just wanted me back so I could take her to the bathroom since she’s probably been holding it for the past week!” -Bre. Ben was directly returned to his rightful owner. I have not suffered much from my loss of a husband, for I have already replaced the first with a dashing Dutch man.
We continued on from Calabar into the wilderness of Cameroon. We managed to get through all of Nigeria with only paying one bribe of half a bag of dried instant noodles that Ben had been eating at the time of crossing a road block.
We crossed the Nigeria/Cameroon border at noon, entering a route bound for trouble and full of potential chaos. Having been forewarned by many Overlanders before us, we were expecting the road from Hell! And so it proved…. to be a lumpy, bumpy, muddy ride!
There was visible contrast in the roads; the difference between night and day. The smooth tarmac road suddenly transformed into a thin, winding track through dense African woodland. We sat at the gates, peering through to the other side; this was the adventure we’d all been waiting for! The land seemed to blend together, no division between earth and sky.
We had been washed up in a whirl of green. All signs of civilization smothered by the overpowering strength of the jungle. We were really struggling to conquer each stretch of overflowing goo. We were at the mercy of the muck pulling us deeper and deeper, dragging us into the doom of its depths. Our tires were packed down and filled, windows splattered and trucks smeared with rusty-red paste.
“This is a nice intro to the country!”-Ammon



The vehicles were in a convoy of smallest to biggest. James in the South African truck and Bre in Ben’s were thrilled and so excited. They almost immediately jumped out of their windows and climbed onto their roof racks. Ben was our guinea pig in the front, taking on each and every slip and slide. Being first he would radio back to the rest of us to give us advice.
“You want to keep to the right but not too much right because it’s extremely steep on that side. It gets soft in the middle and you’re going to slide to the left so try to stick to the right.”
“Is this a button job?”-Kees had found a new love. These “Magic three buttons”, as he calls them, are located on the side of the driver’s seat. The best traction you can get to prevent slipping is with the diff locks engaged.
“I don’t know what they’re for but they sure come in handy!”
Everyone would line up on the opposite side, waiting for the upcoming event, cameras in hand. The most amusing part was watching the faces of our audience. We couldn’t fully understand what all the commotion was about until we saw the videos that night.

“Look at Patrick’s face!”-M
I was holding on for dear life with my arms tight around my legs, toes wiggling like mad, holding my breath and forcing myself to keep my eyes open. Meanwhile Kees’ forehead was glued to the windshield and his jaw was practically hitting the dashboard, knuckles white with strain from the death grip on his steering wheel! “I was scared!” It isn’t everyday you hear a tough guy admit to such things, hehe. Kees had been thrown back into his seat for this huge mission, Dad not being prepared for this kind of thrashing. Hhaha, little did we know that Kees was new to all of this as well. This discovery became quite evident with his repetitive “UNBELIEVABLE!!” He was shocked; if not more than we were, with the condition of the road and ability of his truck. “If you knew how little confidence I had in this truck you’d be terrified! If I had seen pictures of this before I would’ve stayed home! I never would’ve expected to survive this.”-Kees
“We’re going to get lost in Cameroon and eaten by head hunters,” –Dad said with excitement.
It seemed as though we had already been swallowed up into the heart of Africa. Branches were overhanging the road, coming down on us in a shower of leaf and vine. We were enclosed in a mesh, creating an arch overhead.
“As long as there aren’t these horrible little flies I’m okay. I’ll take the head hunters!” Black flies swarm, suck on eye juice.

On several occasions I have caught myself thinking “Oh geez, what did we get ourselves into?!” Always in good humour of course. “We are all in this together!”

“I’m talking to my truck, is that a bad sign?” - Kees


Slowly but surely we made our way through the muck and grime of 12ft. deep craters. It was like the aftermath of a blown up battlefield. Splashing mud and spinning wheels caused quite the scene. Obstacles were thrown in our path at every bend! There was a little bit of motorbike traffic and we saw only one car; broken and rusted in the ditch. “I really don’t think trucks are meant to go through these parts, haha. Especially monster trucks like this!”
We were struggling the most in our big, bulky truck so we were lagging behind. Finally after great effort and nearly drowning in the process we’d catch up to the others. Around almost every corner they’d come into view, stopped in their tracks…..
“They’re getting out of their trucks...”-Kees
Ben and Patrick would be out of trucks again with sticks measuring the puddles, inspecting and calculating our odds. Sometimes it looked doubtful but our group has high moral
“Not again!”-S
“Patrick’s getting out his boots. You guys ready for the next leg of the journey?”-M

It was a never ending quest of masterminding and figuring out which of the few routes to take. At the most extreme diamond runs, we always had to get out the cameras. “Lights, camera, crew, we need you over here!”-Ben. I always stayed inside to feel the ride, bumping and sliding, and to watch the others’ faces cringe with terror as they witnessed our thrilling escapade.
”Magic, all it needs is a little magic.”-K
A few times we doubted and worried, our odds looking exceedingly slim.
“I can’t believe this truck made it through!!” Said Kees astonished.
Wide eyed and flabbergasted, mom says, “We almost didn’t.”
The unknown kept us on our toes. There was never a moments rest. No matter the challenge, I always seemed to be surrounded by jolly, happy people.
Ben’s voice came crackling over the radio singing, “Mud, mud glorious mud. There’s nothing quite like it for cooling the blood. So follow me, follow, down to the hollow and there let us wallow in glorious mud.” Jolly indeed!
Our first day in Cameroon we covered only 14km in 6hours!
Savannah
PS. To be continued.....

3 Comments:

At 9:55 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing Blog!!!! But where are the pictures??!!?? I can't wait for the pictures!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sounded like fun!!! But 16 km is good on those kinda roads. Hope you don't wring an axle....

Cheers and Bear Hugs
The Bear

 
At 9:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now that's MY kind of trip!
Have you had to winch or tug any of the vehicles?
I am looking forward to the pictures too.
As for the 3 buttons...don't push the eject one...
Bruce

 
At 10:05 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since you're now on Cameroonian highways,(that's a joke, son) please let us know which one's you're on.
I see a number of them listed on Google Earth and it would be fun to have your gps coordinates, if you have them.
I would be really interested in following your progress and see the terrain.
Bruce

 

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