Monday, 16 April 2012

10th Diema, Mali

With an early start and feeling refreshed we set off eager to make up time for our prolonged stay in Senegal. At the 1st fuel stop a puncture became apparent. The ease with which this was repaired undermined the series of mechanical problems we were about to face. Within 50km the 2nd truck developed an electrical fault.

  I soon began to realise the value of working with people who had a skill and tenacity to work with most problems - vehicle breakdown was a common incident in Africa because of the harsh road and hot weather conditions they were being driven in.

By this time the ambient temperature was not far off 50 deg C again. I had to keep diving into the shed of the petrol station to try and cool down.

Eventually we were on the road again, after several false starts, having to recall the mechanic back to make further adjustments. We reached Diema near dusk. We were dirty, tired and incredibly thirsty. The water we were drinking, while bottled, was not much cooler than the ambient temperature and did little to assuage our thirst since we were sweating salt as well as water from our bodies. Bob disappeared off to find accommodation for the night. Meanwhile we sought out sources of clean fuel. We were advised that some of the local "gas" stations probably contaminated some of their pumps with water, so breakdowns from this were not uncommon.

When Bob reported that the best hotel he could find had no electricity (therefore no fan or AC),  the rooms were cramped and the beds looked questionable we all decided to push on to Bamako even if it took us until midnight to reach it. What an irony - aiming for a city which hitherto we had feared to enter by day, never mind by night.

I took a nap as Nick drove my truck for the 1st 2 hours - I then took over around 10:30pm.

Half an hour later disaster struck. Doing 80 km/hr I hit a pothole spanning the road. My truck skidded to a halt and as I tried to hit the clutch to put into neutral I couldn't find the peddle. Initially I thought it had dropped through the floor of the car. What actually happened was that I had managed to crack the clutch cylinder, therefore the truck was completely caput.

We were, by then too spent to think of anything but sleep. Feeling disgusting with dirt and licking our dried, salty lips we made sleeping areas as much as we could in both trucks and feel asleep until daylight.

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