The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Returning from Lake Bosumtwi

After a wonderful three days at the Lake it was time to pack up and head to Accra to pick the first year medical students at the Airport and bring them halfway up to the clinic where Andrew would meet us for lunch, at Linda Dor, at least that was the plan. Along the way, as we pick riders and such the engine starts to make interesting noises. We check the fluids, add water, but the oil is OK and so we continue. We’re on rural Ghana roads, and the skies look like rain, which is wonderful, but I’d rather be on some sort of pavement, or better yet, inside our house in Accra. So we press on, stopping to buy plantain, tomatoes, and other vegetables at the local market. When we’re all loaded up we turn to start the car. Nothing, zero. Opening the hood again I see the battery cable is completely disconnected from the battery terminal—yes those were some rough roads we were on. I have a fleeting thought about wondering just what else has shook loose, but it is soon that thought is forgotten.

At Linda Dor, this wonderful halfway spot to the Lake, we stop for lunch. We don’t know anyone who has actually eaten at Linda Dor, it is usually just a clean paid bathroom stop half way (between ¢1000 & ¢5000 depending on the mood of the attendant). For us the food is great, and I’m especially excited about getting Grasscutter Soup. I wasn’t sure I would actually do it, but at the urging, or should I say cajoling of Suzanne, how could I miss this opportunity? She, however is not so courageous, its Jollif Rice and fried chicken for her. I wrote about Grasscutters in a previous post about bushmeat [click here] but this is really the first time I’ve seen it on the menu. I expect it to taste like chicken, but it doesn’t. It tastes like a smoky beef jerky that has been cooked in a watered down barbeque sauce, and it was delicious once I got over the freak-out factor. Suzanne even tried some, but didn’t ask for seconds. Now the interesting part is if you eat at Linda Dor, the bathrooms are free!).

So then we’re back in the car on the Accra-Kumasi highway, and our car is making more funny noises, but the fluid levels are fine, and it isn’t running hot, so we decided to take it slowly and limp back. As I look back on it now, deciding to take it slowly assumes that we have control over the road, like going slowly is our choice, when really it depends on the other traffic, road construction, markets, and accidents. Every now and then one lane of the “duel carriageway” (meaning 2 lane road) is closed, and so traffic stops and we are treated to the opportunity of roadside shopping. We buy some garden eggs, something we’ve forgotten earlier. Garden Eggs are a tasty white eggplant that has the shape and color of a chicken egg. I use them in Groundnut Stew, something we’re planning to make with the Interns.

At the roadside market I see some bushmeat I can’t identify. We talk, and I ask their names. “Antelopes,” he says holding up his left hand, and (teeth clicking sound) “as for dis name, I only know name in the local language.” “Are they dead?” I ask pointing at the one on my left, and he explains the one he is holding is dead, but the other is very much alive, clinging to the dead one, and looking at me with beady eyes. “Give me some chop money,” he says, meaning he wants to eat. I want his picture, so we strike a deal, I take his picture, and dash him “some small ting” and we’re all happy. Then its our turn to move past the road construction, so I start the car, and its still making funny noises.

At about 100 km outside of Accra traffic stops again. We’re on the down hill of a valley and can see traffic stopped all the way down and up the other side. We watch a large tow truck inch toward by, followed by a row of taxis and trotros in its wake who sneak by. We pull off, and stand on our car to see a fuel oil tanker truck lying on its side blocking both ways. Eventually the tanker cab is righted, and soon cars are inching by, and so we start up again. When we get to the tanker truck, we see its been dragged off, and fuel oil has leaked all over the place. We’re stopped by an excited group of Ghanaian men who want us to pay something to pass, ¢5000. Its for the tow truck, they say, and all I have is ¢20,000, which is fine. They are getting too excited, and who knows what will happen next. “Obrunie paid 20! Obrunie paid 20!” he shouts waving the note, and we drive past all the other men collecting, and we’re on the open road again, going up the otherside of the hill when really bad funny noises start to come from the engine. So much for limping.

I can see the rain clouds, I know we’re 100km away from Accra, in rural Ghana where there is no cell coverage, and well, the thought of pulling off just in case, isn’t really an option, until the engine stops altogether, no warning, no engine oil light, no spike in temperature, just clunk, and screech (as the tires lock) and we roll off to the side of the road. We didn’t actually have to pull off, Ghanaians are funny that way in that it is perfectly OK to have a stalled car right in the center of the lane, blocking traffic. Minutes after we’ve stopped, a man comes out of the bush, asking why we have stopped. We explain, “the engine is spoiled,” pointing to the tell tail trail of oil, and puddling. Our friend flags down several different vehicles, and different options are explored. I start praying. I’m amazed how at peace I am, not really worried. I keep trying to get myself more anxious, like I’ve really got to get excited, mad, or do something, or we’re going to either get stuck out here after dark, or have to abandon it, and who knows what will be left when we return.

Kids come up to us selling strings of tree snails. Suzanne starts playing with the kids , I ask them what we would do with the snales (eat them), and where they found them (in trees, duh), and then how much they are (20). We're just hanging out, not sure what to do except not worry.

Then our friend flags down another flatbed, and this one has a wench, and a tiltbed, exactly what we need, and they are already going to Accra. While the price they will do it for is about all we have on us, and well, quite expensive (at least by 3:30pm standards), I know that in an hour it won’t seem like so much.
So they load the car on the flatbed, we say good-bye to our friend and dash him a small ting, and then sit in it all the way to Accra, until the flatbed truck has a blowout!
Great, the driver hops out, looks at it, and says, flat tire, but there are two...lets go, and he runs back and hops in the cab, and pull out into traffic.
We call YaYah (our mechanic), and he waits around to check out the engine when we get there, but when he sees it, it is like he already knows, as Bones used to say on the old Star Trek, “he’s dead Jim.”


Anonymous Loreli said...

GREAT shots. GREAT write up. I'll be praying for the Jernigans and for your car. Are you cabbing it like the Cockrams? :)

9:38 PM, June 04, 2007  

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