With Cameron sick and unable to drive, our brave young Rach said yes to the challenge of doing a barge pick up with me. That’s how we get food and other supplies for our households, school meals and the community shop. For half the year, we do a monthly pick-up from town and the other fortnight, the barge lands straight into Gäwa.
Any other week, a town run would have been more manageable but the wet season had officially settled in, with consecutive days of no sunshine which make you forget how it feels to have the sun on you. There’s also been severe weather warnings for strong winds and a pretty impressive deluge of rain. I thought if it makes it harder for young Rach to drive then we shouldn’t bring the trailer. But she wasn’t fussed. The night before out trip, I was chatting with Cameron:
Me: Young Rach isn’t fazed by anything.
Cameron: Yeah, she’s like the terminator.
We woke up to torrential rain and wind gusts which I imagine could’ve carried off an unsuspecting cat.
With rain jackets ready, donned in our dresses, off we went on an adventure, the terminator and I.
Our first opportunity to get bogged presented itself soon after we left Gäwa. Resigned to whatever happens, I happily quipped, ‘At least we’re not that far.’ But there’s no quit in young Rach and somehow, ever so slowly, the wheels kept rolling along. We made it. That was 1 of at least 10 big, boggy puddles on the road. ‘Yätjkurr dhukarr,’ (naughty/bad road) the locals would say.
A windswept tree with wild branches sticking out was as our next roadblock. Literally. We could not drive over or drive around it. We snapped branches and hacked a sharp bit that could damage a tire. I thought my attempts at chopping wood at our Bible study getaways would stand me in good stead but I definitely need more practice. Young Rachel’s prowess puts me to shame, hacking back like a champion.
Little did we know that there were to be two more trees of increasing difficulty before Ban’thula. Tree number three was the heaviest and toughest one yet. It would not budge. Whilst young Rach put our axe to good use, we realised tying a rope and attaching it to the troopy would do a better job. First one snapped. Amateurs, using a flimsy tie-down strap. The second attempt with the proper rope was a success but the knot lodged itself under the tree so we chose to leave it there until our return. We didn’t want to lose more time.
We were close to an hour on the road and nowhere near town. I pulled out the satellite phone to let the barge company know we’d be very late. The phone wasn’t charged. Plan B – make a phone call from Ban’thula. As we drove into the homeland, we were so happy to see our elders and their family. They were pretty intrigued by us, two young girls on a mission to do the barge run. They found it incredulous that young Rach was driving in these conditions and that just the two us would be loading up supplies.
We called Gäwa a bit over an hour after we had left.
‘You’re only in Ban’thula?’
It took us thrice as long to get there.
‘Yep,’ and I quickly recounted our tree-lopping experiences.
We continued, even more excited after hearing that the barge was delayed and that we’d likely make it on time after all. We encountered the largest tree soon after and out came another rope. Young Rach surely made reversing with a trailer look easy. We were so used to moving trees at this stage that I didn’t even think about taking photos.
From there, it felt like we made it to the barge landing in no time. Through the river-like bits of road, we’d pray through and praise God at the same time. ‘Thank you, Jesus!’
It was an accomplishment to get to town but more was to be done: loading up the troopy with our supplies. Thanks to a couple of good Samaritans, it wasn’t as hard but it did make for a good workout. We made a new friend in town while waiting to hear from our Site Manager Devin whom we were hoping to pick up from the airport. His flight was cancelled. Again. It was time for us to go home.
If you ever want a good chance of getting bogged, a troopy full of chiller and freezer goods, towing a trailer with a pallet of dry goods through metres and metres of puddles caused by continual heavy rain is pretty good effort. By some miracle, the road was much better on the way back. Apart from losing a big tub of ice cream and some yoghurt when the back door popped open, we made it to our beloved tree number 3 with the rope still attached, in no time it seemed. We had energy to spare to do some more tree moving, so we did in order to retrieve our rope.
Five minutes away from home, in a dramatic final scene, our troopy slid, mud coated our windows opaque, young Rach groaned ‘Oh no,’ and all I could do was rest secure that we’d make it through. Like we did all the other times. Faith’s like a muscle, the more you practice it, the stronger it gets. We both agreed that we had our Heavenly Father to thank. I was also definitely praising Jesus for young Rachel’s prayerfulness and her hardcore driving skills.
With my dhuway Lattie, my maḻu Mark and my Cameron, us Rachels proceeded to unload all the goodies in the Gäwa kitchen and shop. Not your normal 7am-5pm workday. To think I had ‘classroom setup’ down on the calendar!
What a privilege. I reckon this tops jackhammering and cattle branding on your CV, young Rach.
We have a wonderful Lord.