This post was written while we were in Chad.
As I finished writing my last diary entry, I heard the sound of a truck backing up (beeep-beeep-beeep)! It was Abdullah, ready to load up these bags, boxes, furniture and luggage into his truck. There was stacking, pulling, pushing and organizing. But in the end, they did it, and I was thankful.
We were on the road by 5 PM. As the sun set, we were in Matta, a very popular rest stop, almost exactly one hour from Abéché. As the men started their evening prayers, the women lit the fires under their cooking pots, preparing for the travelers who would be passing through all night.
On the way out, Abdullah was driving very slowly on the road, like he was a large transport truck or something. It was a cloudy, dark night despite a half-moon which would occasionally peek through.
Around 08:30 pm, we heard a deep sound as we bumped a bit on our shocks. It was the noise of a tire that is half flat. Despite the heavy load and the small car jack, they fixed the tire, and in 20 minutes, we continued our journey.
Around 10:00 pm, we stopped in a small town to buy aspirin for Yusuf. The store was closed, but the man who sold tea at this dark hour could go and get the aspirin, as long as we had some tea. So, as we watched the clouds clearing around the moon, we drank tea, cross-legged on a mat.
That tea really woke us up! It was a good thing, too, for at midnight, just before Guéréda, a challenge in the form of a long, soft, sandy wadi (dry river bed) awaited us. We made it about a third of the way with the speed we had, but the road of sand rose too much to make it across easily. We spend an hour digging the truck out with the shovel from an abandoned truck, placing the sand tires from that same abandoned truck under the wheels, and going as far as we could, until we finally reached the hard part a third of the way from the other side of the bank, which helped us make it to the other side.
At around 3:00 a.m., we soon became exhausted. So we went on to a small rest-stop village, to a tea place. Abdullah took matters into his own hands and pulled a mat out of a restaurant, and we slept there that night. He had his rug and blanket, and stayed inside the restaurant. Good thing, too; as the driver, he needed his sleep, and I was snoring up a storm outside! Just before sunrise at 5:30 am, I woke up to the morning coolness, and I huddled beside the coals in the hearth of the restaurant.
We arrived in Iriba around 7:00 am. Abdullah was eager to unload the stuff and head back to Abéché, so we stayed in town only long enough to see the furniture blessing God has provided, greet our landlord and eat a small breakfast of humus and bread (which they clearly did not like, with the way they left it alone…).
Abdullah tried to raise his price to 200,000 CFA to hire his car to get home, but I had no such money to give him. We were at the station in Iriba, unloaded our stuff, and were preparing to take other transport, when he offered to bring us down for 60,000 CFA, plus permission to make pickups all along the way. There was no way he would allow me to go back by some other means; it was half preserving his honor, half making as much money as he possibly could.
The Final Leg of Our Journey
I thought the extra cost would be justified by the rapidity of our return trip to Abéché. Seems like I was wrong! We stayed in Guéréda from noon until sunset, while he accumulated as many passengers as he possibly could. While he worked, I drank bottled water, sodas and ate roasted meat until he became ready to go. In this place, people were drunk and insulted us in the most repulsive way. They picked fights with each other with fists, or short pieces of steel bar in their hands, or wandered around in disheveled clothing. No wonder I saw so few women in this part of town during the time I was there! I gained a great appreciation for those who call this town home, and the challenges they face as a result.
So, with three soldiers, seven passengers, and luggage up to the truck bed, we were finally on our way again. Abdullah threatened to throw the guy who had stealthily gotten drunk, but in the end, he didn’t. As we arrived at the car-eating wadi, eight vehicles were either stuck in there, or waited on either side of the bank. But Abdullah showed his skill by zooming in and out of there like lightning! With less of a load, it was much easier.
All through this trip, it was a great chance to get to know my traveling companions better. We had some amazing conversations, and a lot of them was in Z! As we began our day, Abdullah asked questions in Z. I either succeeded or failed to answer, moving to Arabic if necessary. Every time I succeeded, he went on and on about how amazed he is that I could speak Z! It got old, but that he meant well made it tolerable.
But, at Matta again and close to Abéché, I was fading fast. After four hours of sleep in the past forty, my head was a pell mell of fuzziness and confusion. Finally, we got to the gate of the orphanage; he told everyone to leave, and we brought the vehicle into the yard. Stumbling in the dark room, I brought his money, but kept trying to find a pen, to sign the receipt.
What are some of your favorite places to stop during a trip? Let us know in the comments!