Posted: 19 July 2017
All was bright and dandy in the world. The team was strolling along in our private wagon and all was well in the world. The only sound that could be heard was laughter. Hahahaa! It had been a slow journey but as expected the roads were rough; containing many potholes and speed bumps. Of course the driver had to practice his emergency stops as he drove around all of them! As much as I complain, the underfloor heating was an unexpected luxury. Beep, beep, beep. A discrete beep droned on in the car, providing a minor downer on an otherwise pleasant adventure. Sniff, sniff, sniff. An almost barbeque smell became increasingly pungent as I dreamed of the Kentucky Fried Chicken waiting for me back home.
All of a sudden the bus swerved to the side of the road, screeching to a halt. Upon landing on the improvised lay-by, our diver insisted Alex was removed from his front row seat. Something was wrong. As the seat was lifted up a trickle of smoke rose… but the driver wasn't smoking. We puzzled over the conundrum but were reassured by our driver's calm demeanour. As we began to relax, the cabin filled with smoke within seconds. Thanks to Adam's cat like reactions he immediately shouted like a hyena 'OUT, OUT!' It was every man for himself. Luckily I was situated close to the door so frantically swiped the door open, pushing bags out of the way as I ran out in my bare feet. But others were not so lucky. Charis was one of the unlucky ones. In her hurry, she dived towards the door but was so foolish. So foolish! She did not anticipate the great fall from the bus into the wet mud. She fell face first onto the ground and injured her leg. We had ourselves one poorly pup.
Luckily, the team was all safe and sound. Barely a scratch on our bodies (this excludes Charis who was in a right state). We stood at the side of the road like the Von Traps as the local village people began to surround us. There was touching of the skin, with curious children asking 'what is this?' One boy even eyed up Esther's Ben 10 watch. We all just stood in shock at what just happened.
We didn't really know what to do. The near death experience had taken its toll. Of course Rachel decided to be like Frauline Maria and play a concert for all the village kids: like we didn't attract enough attention. As we worked through our worship music I suggested 'Hear my cry O Lord' as I had many needs (my need, my need, my need) at this stressful time. We all sang in harmony with voices that were trembling with fear and distress.
We were all too engrossed in song to realise that our driver abandoned us, leaving us to fend for ourselves like a common pack of wolves. Time went on as our driver returned with an engineer from a neighbouring village and attempted to fix the car. It was almost like some cheeky nuns had tampered with it?!!
Drip, drip, drip. Oh no I thought. A storm was coming. We ran back into the bus and huddled together. It was a low moment. There was not much hope at this present time. The team spirit was lacking – it didn't take a genius to work that out. I collected everyone together in another song: 'Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens…then I don't feel sooooooo bad!' Team morale was lifted in an instant as the rain drops continued to poor down. One positive thing was Rachel's fan crew had finally dispersed which pleased a large majority of the team.
We waited out the storm illuminated by flashes of lightening and accompanied by echoes of thunder in the background. As the rain cleared the villagers decided we were unsafe and tried to tow our vehicle off the road. In typical African spirit, this involved what seemed like the whole village turning out to rescue us. The small grass truck attempted to bear the weight of our vehicle: the rope snapped and we began to travel backwards at a hasty speed. Again Adam's reflex reactions came to the rescue as he screamed 'handbrake!' We were all too traumatised to move so just sat in the car as the villagers tried to push the vehicle off the road. Eventually they realised even with their combined strength we were too heavy and demanded we exit the vehicle. We reluctantly got out of the car and huddled together saying words of comfort like 'we will get through this'. Fiona remained a beacon of hope in yet another tragically sad but also hilarious time of need.
Once the car was towed to the side of the road it became a waiting game. The sun had long since faded into darkness. As beacons of light flashed through the car our minds turned to the Von Traps hiding behind the graves, awaiting discovery by an unknown enemy – it had become all too real. The team was hushed. Not a sound in the air. We awaited rescue and we need it fast.
All of a sudden (nb 'This Is Africa' so suddenly was of course four and a half hours) we saw a nun driving another mini van. On her arrival it was a military operation. The bags were rapidly transferred onto the new bus and with relief we piled in after them. But the relief was short-lived. The pitch darkness had caused the team a tragic loss. While we're lucky to escape to our refuge with our lives and possessions, we'll continue to remember the sacrifice of our sweet bag, lost in action. Mourning its painful loss, we continued to venture into the abyss, trekking into the Swiss (Kenyan) hills to safety.