Saturday, August 8, 2009

Safari Roadtrip: Week 1, Congo-Uganda-Kenya

Well, I must first confess that I didn’t write a journal on this trip. I wouldn’t be able to read my own writing if I did due to the bumpy roads! BUT… if I had written, it would’ve looked something like this:

Day 1: It is truly miraculous that we are ready to leave on this trip, which feels like the hugest thing I have ever planned for. Three young kids across three African countries over completely uncharted 4 x 4 roads… hm. For a while I was in denial that this was actually my life. Then I started what comes naturally to all Sage women: PLANNING! =) I downloaded and printed page after page of car games from (very handy). We have all the words I can never remember to ‘My Poor Meatball’, battleships, tic-tac-toe, etc.; even a few pages of kid jokes.

Then there’s the food! For the first 2 days of driving (and likely the next 3 as well) there are no restaurants or drive thru Wendy’s, so everything we need to eat has to be prepared ahead of time. I suddenly remembered a travel food section of a cookbook someone gave me as a wedding present -great recipes for packing your own instant oatmeal packets. We bought, chopped and froze 2 lbs. local cheese for munching on the road as it thawed. We froze labeled water bottles for a cool afternoon drink. Next I needed crackers! Well, they don’t exist here. So we had to make them. I had a few more onion flakes left from our shipment stash and made onion crackers. The recipe we used took forever! The advantage was that there were tons of crackers (after 5 hours of rolling and baking). Next we boiled eggs and made raisin bran muffins for our first breakfast. Eating 2 meals per day in the car allowed us to get going much earlier. Then we packed up our water filtration system to carry along and some plastic bowls and spoons for eating hot foods. Lastly 2 packs of pasta and my last 2 cheese packets (go Kraft!) for an impromptu meal of comfort food wherever we might boil water.

I know this may not be the most interesting story so far, but for all those planning Moms out there. It IS possible to have a week cooped up in the car with your kids and feed everyone and enjoy it! I was skeptical, but it works.

Kent returned from his trip into the forest with 3 working days left to get several official documents necessary for our trip. Due to the circumstances, the necessary offices were only going to be open ONE of those days! Getting all these papers lined up would usually take 2-3 weeks, but somehow we had all of them within 8 hrs (that one working day!) This was only one of several ‘mountains’ God moved in order for this trip to work.

So off we drove with very minimal maps and no road signs; we had to frequently stop to ask local folks if we were on the right road. It was VERY bumpy. We had to switch into 4-wheel-drive only twice: Once to go through somewhat deep water where the road had washed out, and another time through deep holes. We were only stopped by officials twice. The first time the policeman laughed when he found out that we actually HAD all the necessary documents! The second time the soldier asked right away if we had a Bible to give him! Oh how we wished we did!

The Blue Mountains were really beautiful, and the road was often lined on both sides with towering eucalyptus trees. Once we got into Uganda, we expected to see good roads right away, but were sorely disappointed.

Day 2: We didn’t hit our first ‘pavement’ until the second day of driving near Nebbi, Uganda, but after 4 months of dirt roads pavement was so exciting we stopped for a picture! Then there was crossing the Victorian Nile (a big bridge like the Columbia between Vancouver and Portland only without many lanes or other cars), and lots of wildlife.

I’ll save the list of animals for next post, but we did see some crazy driving! And everything but the kitchen sink on the back of a bike or motorcycle: 2 guys and 1 goat, 2 truck tires, 30 plastic jugs, or 2 guys holding 4 chickens each! Kent, our faithful driver, had to readjust to shifting more often in and out of gears because we were traveling at much higher speeds. We got into the city right at 5pm for rush hour at its worst, and decided to stop off for dinner at a restaurant where they make American-ish food and have kid-friendly trampolines! We got to the missionary guesthouse about 8pm and had to leave at 5am to avoid traffic. Ugh.

Day 3: Our longest day of driving, 10-12 hrs depending on how the border goes. We were warned to expect hassles at this border. Once again God came through and not only did we NOT have huge fees to pay, we paid only $25 for our visas! We previously paid more like $250! We made good time and reached the next stop high in the Kenyan hills before dark. We did stop to take a picture of ourselves at the equator crossing. We actually crossed it 3 times, but decided one picture was plenty.

Day 4: SO COLD! We were freezing in the 50s and 60s high the hills. We all slept in 2-3 layers under 2-3 blankets. I could see my breath in the bathroom in the morning! I'm thankful someone warned me about feeling cold ahead of time and I was able to pack our winter fleece for everyone. Then as we crossed the Great Rift Valley, things really heated up fast and we continuously shed layers. We stopped by a cheese factory for some great cheese and were nicely surprised by the state of the roads as we left Nakuru toward Nairobi. From the highway you could see the cloud of pink on Lake Naivasha (hundreds of flamingos) but we didn't see any close up. We arrived 'back home' in Nairobi to fresh roses and a fridge full of goodies like grapes, low-fat yogurt, and chicken in a package!! We even ordered pizza sent to our door in 45 min. just because. And ate plenty of ice cream each day.

Day 7: After some rest, doctors appts, cooking for the return trip, and shopping, we headed off on our last day toward the Indian Ocean. Again we had to leave in the wee hours of the morning to avoid rush hour traffic. We drove out of town around 6:15am. This helped us make excellent time, and we saw some more animals along the way, which is always fun! Around noon we reached 'the shortcut' that is rumored to save time cutting north before the Mombasa traffic jams. We decided to find it. We found it. It was under construction and was mostly dirt. Then it rained super hard. It became mostly MUD. Deep mud. We kept thinking it would get better and it never did. It just got worse and worse. It was worse than anything we had to drive through in Congo! Kent stopped twice to drop a rock into a puddle covering the whole road to check its depth and whether we could pass or not. Kent learned a lot about 4 x 4 driving (never stop!) and Kim learned to shut her mouth and not look at the road and sing and pray. Anna fell asleep through it all. The boys thought it was hilarious fun. After nearly 2 hrs of slipping and sliding around the slick road (much like driving in deep, wet snow) we did reach the other side. And we were sitting by the pool by 4pm. What a miracle!

To be continued... Joel's birthday, resort life, conference, coming home.


Michelle said...

I love hearing all about it! I look forward to more when you get the chance. :)

Trista said...

7 days - can't even imagine!!! You guys rock!!!

Job 77 said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! That's quite the family road trip adventure.

I've never heard of freezing cheese and then eating it as it thaws. I'll have to try that.