Sunday, August 16, 2009

the long trip

Aug 8 09
We just got back from Cotonou. The kids went with us and this was their first time in a big town and their first time for such a long trip. It was close to 9 hours of traveling. We stopped a few times to stretch the legs and water some bushes. Sévérin kept asking if we were almost there. Uli told him it was still 4 hours. He also slept a good part of the trip. We finally did make it to the guest house. I gave them a lesson in the toilet, the sink and the shower and the hot and cold water. They loved the hot showers… thought I would have to chase them from the shower. And then they huddled into their bed. They had to get used to the fan which goes all night to chase the mosquitoes. The next day when we took the SMs to the airport for early check-in we parked the truck at the airport and walked to the beach which wasn’t that far. Hehee. It was great fun seeing their reaction when they saw the beach. Having never seen anything bigger then a very small river, the ocean was very large. I went and stood in the water and sévérin came and grabbed my hand as the wave came and ran over our feet.. Donné was wary of the water and it took him a while to get close. But pretty soon they were both dancing in the sand and running from the waves. When the guys called us and told us they were done at the airport we headed back and waited to say hi to someone they at least saw a couple of planes take off. Otherwise you can’t see any planes at the airport it is all is sealed off and you can’t see anything. The next day in the morning Uli, Toussaint and I and the kids drove back to the airport and parked in the airport parking for safe keeping of the truck and walked to this HUGE HUGE new store which when we walked in I asked Uli which country I was in. It was so weird.. it is big even by US standards. And has most of what anyone might want.. for US or European prices. The kids were just kind of over whelmed but they were amused at the automatic doors. When we got done seeing what was in there we headed on to the beach. Where the kids played in the waves and the rest of us chilled. When 1:00 rolled around we got food and headed back home. I worked on the internet. The kids played some. The next day the kids and I walked into town and did a bit of shopping. Then they had sensory overload and we headed home. They blew off steam and fell asleep and then in the afternoon we took motorcycle taxis to the second hand clothing market. There, clothes are piled up all over. Pants, shirts, hats, underwear, socks, sheets…. Etc.. and I have been there enough to know what I will or will not pay. So usually get good or better bargains then the Africans themselves. My lady who usually supplies me with wheat said she had some and asked how much I wanted. Well I had 30 dollars in my pocket and so told her I would take 30 kilos. And while we wondered in the clothes she went and got it. On getting home I saw the kids had sort of ripped the screen with their ball so they called a carpenter and he got us screening and nails and then wanted 10 dollars to do it and I refused. I told him I would do it myself. So he loaned us a hammer and Toussaint who is a carpenter was nice enough to do it for me.
The next morning we headed home and got to pineapple land(which is a town that sells lots of pineapple and other fruit and vegetables). At pineapple land we hit a horrid traffic plug up. Cars and trucks were all lined up 3 across going one direction and I am sure the oncoming traffic was doing the same thing. No one wanted to let the other go. We sat in that village for about 2 hours and moved about 1km. But we ate a lot of corn on the cob. Finally some military guys helped sort us all out and we headed out. But only a few km from there we hit a dirt road and everything plugged up again for another 30 min. But finally we were on the road again. Everything went fine until we were 65km from Basila. Suddenly my motor on the truck cut. I tried to re- start and it refused. I saw what looked like smoke coming out of the motor so with the last bit of speed, I rolled off the to the side of the road. We were in the middle of nowhere. I got out and stuck my hand on the hood to see if it was hot but it was hardly warm. So I knew at least there wasn’t fire. If there had been we would have been dead… well the truck would have been and all our stuff. It was 4:30 pm we gathered around and prayed that God would guide us and help us. Then I opened the hood and it was like oil smoking off the motor. After a few min we opened the radiator cap and there was no steam… we hauled out our drinking water and Toussaint poured it in… and then the steam started.. we realized that we had no water in the radiator. Our drinking water wasn’t very much but we put it all in. Then we started looking around and found a cute little spring beside the road and it was nice and clear. So we filled up the radiator and when the motor was cooled off. I started to poke around and found that the metal part where the radiator hose attaches to the radiator had rusted completely off. Well that wasn’t going to work. We were talking about what we would do and how to get into the next town, when of all things a motorcycle taxi drove up. So Toussaint got on and the zj took him into town. There they found some guys who where sort of mechanics and had tools. I could have done it but didn’t have tools that could take the bolts off. While they were gone we filled up the water bottles again at our little spring and then I remembered that I had some very old water treatment tablets in my pack that I can’t say I have ever used since I got here but I carry around for emergencies like this…. So I treated 3 bottles and then we had to wait 30 min to make sure all the bugs were killed and then we drank away. (by the way none of us got sick so I guess they worked.) All of us hadn’t even drunk 1 liter that day. By then the mechanics had gotten the radiator out and they took it to another town to weld it. Finally after an hour or more they came back and got it back in. By then it was 7:30pm and dark out, we knew we were not going to Natitingou that night but needed to make it to at least Basilia where we could find a hotel. We stopped in the first village to make sure the water was ok and then off we went. Then the rain started. It poured and poured and poured. I could hardly see because the windshield was greasy but took it slow and we made it through and finally made it to Basilia. We asked the military who were at the start of the village and they told us about 2 hotels. The first one was close but there was lots of music so we moved on. And after much turning and turning and driving over bumpy roads and horrid roads we found this little hotel off the beaten path. It even had a place to put the truck inside a wall. Toussaint went in first to find the price and he came back laughing, 6 dollars per room. We went in and got 2 rooms. Then unloaded all the wet dirty stuff from the back of the truck and by the time I was done moving the tarp that covered everything I was very dirty and that is how I stayed except I washed my arms and hands. The guy filled up our water bottles at the well and we headed to bed. The bed in our room was smelly. The blanket which served as a sheet smelled like it hadn’t been washed in a long time. It smelled of dirty heads. So I flipped it over and put the head where the feet were and then put my wrap around skirt which is just 2 meters of fabric where our heads would go and we crawled in. the mattress was so soft we hit bottom and ended up sitting almost upJ well the kids slept and I read and was still so hyper from Everything that every slight movement they made woke me up again. So I crawled out and put Donny’s socks on and my sweat shirt and my raincoat and threw a t-shirt on the concrete floor and Severin’s pants and laid down on them and covered my legs with Donny’s raincoat and went to sleep. Every hour I woke up to turn over. I got tired of not having a pillow so I grabbed Severin’s Crock shoe and used that as a pillow. (my bag of clothes was somewhere in the truck.) I slept more or less well besides waking up enough to turn over so my legs and arms wouldn’t fall asleep. I slept as cozy as a bug in a rug. The next morning we loaded up and were on the road by 6:30 and got into Natitingou at 9:30 am. Thus ended our very long trip. We thank God for the way he worked. He stopped us where there was water, and sent a zj, and mechanics who didn’t run off with the radiator and the money, and found us a cheap (we didn’t have much money left)hotel, and got us home fine with a motor that wasn’t broken. While the radiator was “on its trip” to get welded, we decided since the motor was cold now we would try and start it and make sure it was only the radiator that was the problem. It started right up and then I turned it right off. We just wanted to make sure it would start up.