Two "tyring" days driving in Sudan

Img_4014 Posted by David Gough on Thu, 28 Jan 2010 | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

No sooner had I landed at the Yei airstrip, from a week’s visit to Maridi, before I was whisked away by car for the 90 mile journey to KajoKeji to meet Bishop Anthony Poggo.

For some reason John [Spens] decided to bring 2 spare wheels on our journey to KajoKeji, “I think Poppy suggested I bring an extra spare wheel because the spare tyre was quite bad,” explained John Spens. He had just purchased the vehicle the day before I arrived back to Yei from a week’s visit to Maridi, so the 5-hour drive from Yei airstrip to KajoKeji was the first real test for the used Toyota Landcruiser.

As usual before we departed John prayed for our safe journey as well as for the vehicle’s reliability on the Sudan roads. John had driven from Yei to KajoKeji before but it was his first time driving this vehicle and the road conditions were typical of most of Southern Sudan – thankfully it was the dry season so there was no rain. The best road conditions had a murram red gravel surface, but often just a red dirt track, in other areas it was very sandy and other stretches of the road was precariously stony. Driving in the intense heat with clouds of dust penetrating everywhere and covering everything, as other vehicles fly by making your very skin red, your hair dry and your clothes dusty. It was certainly not easy driving.

Then John pulled over to a sudden stop, “I think we may have a flat tyre,” he said. For the next 30 minutes we battled with unfamiliar equipment in the mid afternoon heat of more than 35 degrees and on an uneven dirt track. Finally we managed to change the wheel after crawling under the vehicle to find a good location for the jack. At its limit the jack just about lifted the vehicle enough to change the wheel. After clearing everything away, we got to our feet and looked at each other and laughed – we were covered, head to toe in red dust. All in a days work of a CMS Ireland Regional Mission Partner.

After a welcome shower and a meal on arrival at Bishop Anthony Poggo’s home in KajoKeji we enjoyed a good night’s sleep. Following our monitoring meeting the next morning, we commenced our journey to Juba. This was the first time John had taken this route and he was a little concerned about what lay ahead on the 4-hour journey, which included a river crossing, on the way to the capital of South Sudan.

Just about halfway, we came across a broken down white Honda CRV and we stopped to offer some help. Samuel a Customs Officer on his way back to Juba explained, “All the engine oil had gone, could we help him.” His wife was sitting in the shade under a nearby tree. John offered them a lift to Juba so they climbed aboard. The journey proved quite a trip across various landscapes, down steep gorges, stony tracks, past several de-mining areas, across 2 rivers and along sandy and dusty tracks.

Then it happened again, a second flat tyre in 2 days. We clambered out again and again battled with the elements in little shade to change the wheel, finding a suitable spot for the jack was again a big problem because of the lay of the vehicle. Samuel was a great help to us as I unscrewed the second spare wheel off the rear door and he and John tried to place the jack in the best location. “You are an angel sent to help us,” John told Samuel. “No I think you both are the angels rescuing us from what is an insecure part of the country, miles from anywhere.” Changing the wheel took over 45 minutes in the harsh conditions and we never saw another vehicle on the remote and little used road.

As we drove on towards Juba, John said, “In nearly 4 years in Sudan this is the first time I have had 2 punctures on a journey. It must be more than a coincidence that this is also the only time I have travelled with 2 spare wheels. Thank you Lord.” Cecil Wilson always reminded me that situations like this were not coincidences but Godincidences!

Samuel again proved his worth when we arrived on the outskirts of Juba, guiding us into the city centre as we approached from an unfamiliar direction. We thanked God that Poppy had insisted John brought 2 spare wheels and also for our safe arrival to our destination.