2 kids 2 cities 27 Hours

Trip Start Jan 22, 2008
Trip End Nov 27, 2008

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Flag of Central African Republic  ,
Friday, February 1, 2008

Well the good news that it was only going to take 9 hours instead of the usual 13 hours didn't last very long. We packed everything Wednesday night, made sandwiches for the ride, and got to bed early for our 0430 alarm. The truck was 30 minutes late but it didn't make much difference, as the Central Africans were great loadmasters. I had refused the first vehicle because it was clearly too small of all of the stuff we had. Since arriving in Bangui we had accumulated 2 cooking stoves, 3 pots, 2 mattresses, a car battery, and 8 seat cushions.  This was adding to the 4 trunks, 3 backpacks, 1 roller bag, baby carrier, portable bed, 2 shoulder bags, and stroller that we already had in tow. So we ended up with a Toyota truck that had a crew cab and bed that could hold the 4 of us plus Justin, the driver, all of our stuff, and a passenger/mechanic who rode in the back. This vehicle had the added benefit of belonging to a government official complete with special government bagging.
We hit the road promptly at 0620 and were at our first of very many Police checkpoints within just a few minutes. At first as we traveled on the paved road out of Bangui they seemed to be a checkpoint every few meters but they thinned out as the population and the pavement did. The trucks special ownership and the travel orders provided by WWF seemed to help a lot with the Police as we went through each stop. Through about 13 checkpoints (I lost count) we were asked for our Passports only once, and paid only 1 bribe of 1000 CFA (about $2.25). Lesley said that it was the easiest time she had ever had on the roads as we were never searched or grilled about our plans.
However the benefits that the truck had to offer were to be completely obliterated by events to come (more on that later). The roads in CAR are, well, interesting. The paved parts have massive potholes that require deft maneuvering of the vehicle and occasional quick braking. The unpaved parts (overwhelming majority) are small (about 1.5 lanes) and treacherous in the best of conditions. I simply can't imagine what it must be like to traverse these "roads" when they are wet. Logging trucks do not, veer, stop, or slow down for oncoming traffic. No matter what YOU must get out of THEIR way. The sides of the roads are littered with carcasses of vehicles that did not survive to their destination for whatever reason. Along the way are small little villages with the frequent sight of fields being burned to clear the way for crops. Driving through a stretch of forest was pretty amazing, the temperature dropped about 20 degrees, the humidity went up, and the road was alive in what could only be called a swarm of butterflies.
So back to that ominous sentence earlier in the blog, 8 hours into the expected 9 hour trip we were excited because we were making good time and we would be at Doli Lodge with plenty of day remaining. Then the real fun started, we were told that there was a small problem with the truck. We would have to stop in Nola, the last semi big town before Bayanga, for a brief repair. Apparently there was a problem with an injector, and then the rear axel, and before we knew it the entire rear drive train was being rebuilt. I was especially excited when they had the rear differential taken apart and then proceeded to beat on the gears with a small sledgehammer. 6 hours, lots of frustration, hunger, and total darkness later we were on our way. Just 60 km to Bayanga, some dinner, a shower, and a bed we couldn't wait. Oh but wait there's more! Just 4km from our destination bang, grind, and stop. Every warning light on the dash is on and the transmission has eaten itself. There we are 10 at night in the middle of the road and we are going no further. Justin walked back to the police checkpoint and tried to raise WWF on the radio but everyone was asleep. So we did the same. Our driver and mechanic slept under the truck while Justin, Lesley, Aanae, and Evan slept in the truck with the windows rolled up. The heat from the 5 of us kept us warm and we were sealed from the mosquitoes by the windows. At 0500 Justin walked to the WWF compound and at 0800 the sweet sweet sound of a diesel truck came down the road. The WWF had come to our rescue. We loaded up into the new truck and towed the old one back to the WWF compound.
At Doli Lodge we had a fantastic, if rather expensive, breakfast, showers and some much needed rest. We met and American man and his Polish girlfriend/wife who are spending 7 months traveling all over Africa on ATVs. Lesley has been into the village and seen our new home. Some work is being done on the roof and we are having some furniture made so we should be moving in on Monday. Lesley says that the house is very nice and that it is better than she expected. I'm looking forward to the move but I'm sure that I'll miss the shower (cold as it is), flush toilet, and power outlets at Doli.
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