Saturday, 16 August 2014

Twenty Hours Ago

The route from the hospital to town, passing between two villages.
For most of the year it is dry and sandy.
Twenty hours ago, my friend Sue and I left the hospital at Guinebor to go into town to run a few errands and go to a friend’s house for the afternoon. The trip to town, for much of the year, is an uneventful 20 minute journey, initially made up of 7 kilometres of sandy tracks passing through a couple of small villages before reaching the faster and more predictable (in surface, though not necessarily the fellow road users style of driving!), roads. However, at the recent arrival of the rains and their increasing frequency and strength, the surrounding landscape has become more lush and green, while the once sandy tracks have taken on an increasingly muddy, watery, clayey and all round unpredictable character. This makes for a far more interesting, potentially exciting, but also uncertain journey- will the route be clear? Will I come out the other side of this puddle, or will I fall into a submerged pothole? Will I get stuck in thick stinking mud? And if I do, will anyone come to help me, or, as they did in the first wet season here, will they just line up to watch the white girl sit helplessly in her car and laugh?! (One of my more humbling moments!)

Having a second person in the car with me and a rope at the ready in the boot, I felt confident as we set out yesterday. The roads, as expected had deteriorated since I had last left the hospital following a day of continuous rain. But with 2 pairs of eyes on the lookout for the best way forward, I was able to enjoy the experience of slipping and sliding my way to successfully pop out the other side of the villages onto the paved roads, all the while, smugly reflecting on the fact that in the UK, people pay good money for a days’ off road driving experience!

Things were going well, the sky was blue, not a cloud to be seen, the sun, as usual, was shining and the required errands were being ticked off the list. But then the winds began to pick up. The clouds began to gather and darken. And the distant rumbling of thunder became ever closer. As we sat in my friends lounge, the worried glances of mine and Sue’s faces were quickly noted by others, but as the rain began to stream down, there was nothing we could do but wait until the worst had passed.

Though heavy, the rain had not lasted long so we headed home once it had stopped, once again feeling confident that we would be able to negotiate our way through the quagmire that the roads had no doubt become. That was until we received a phone call from Sue’s husband, who, back at Guinebor, was ladling rain water out from their house, where the storm was so heavy, rain was seeping through the walls, as well as pouring through the windows. The space between our two houses had disappeared into a knee deep lake, totally surrounding my house. Beyond the hospital walls, the land had taken on a distinctly more oceanic character.  Getting back home for us, was now not an option.

An urgent phone call to a friend based in town saw us well looked after for the night, where unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding our impromptu stay, diminished the delight of satellite TV, air conditioning and an extremely comfortable bed… but only slightly. If you have to be stuck in town for the night, there were definitely worse places to be….!

As is often the case here, our unplanned stay in town was not the only challenge, but was also accompanied by the house we were staying in to randomly loose all power and then in the morning, following a phone call to confirm that after no further rains the roads were passable again, my car wouldn't start!

However, Dago, the hospital driver, and once again, my knight in long Arabic dress, within a mud covered rattley Rav 4, came to the rescue! With my car up and running once again, we set off in convoy to conquer the watery challenge of Guinebor! It was incredible to see just how much it had dried out overnight, for though it was worse than our exit journey yesterday and there were dodgy moments of following a skidding and half submerged Dago, the route was not vastly worse than the day before.

The rains dramatically change the landscape, causing houses
 to flood and routes to become impassable.

After a night of no rain the route had significantly improved
allowing us to drive home
All that was left to do once safely and dryly back home, was to feed a rather unhappy and hungry cat, assure myself that no permanent damage had been caused to the house and unpack the groceries that I felt like I had brought the week previously, and not, as was actually the case, only twenty hours ago.

The lake of Guinebor! Home, sweet watery home.

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