Now that it is raining, getting into to wooded areas of Olbalbal has become a real challenge. These places are mostly on the edges of the huge catchment area that fills with water during the rains and from which Olbalbal gets its’ name.
We are a good few people here on the mission and we all cook our food and eat together. Our “family” includes two teachers and their families, Fr. Arkado and myself. Also there is Musa, the little boy of three years that we care for. To cook our “ugali’, a stiff porridge made from corn meal and the rice that we have twice a week takes quite a bit of firewood. We cook beans and wild spinach to have with the rice and “ugali.”
A couple of days ago, with teachers Matayo, our catechist and Naomon, the lady that cooks for all of us, drove the Toyota Land Cruiser as close to the pond as we dared; then we spread out in search of fallen trees from which we collect the dried branches that fuel our cooking fire. After loading up the roof rack with firewood we piled back into the car for the short trip back to the mission. It had been raining lightly all the time that we were collecting firewood and I should have realized that we were in for trouble. On beginning to pull away from the spot we were parked, we realized that we weren’t going anywhere. The wheels were spinning in the soft mud. No problem I thought exiting the car and turned the mechanism on each of the front wheels that would put us in four wheel drive and get us out of that slippery soft place. Back in the drivers seat, I gunned the engine expecting the car to move. It didn’t; in fact it began to dig itself in, going down instead of forward. In seconds the car had dug itself down to the axles both back and front and each wheel was in a hole and the whole car was hung up on the axles.
Thus began an ordeal that lasted three hours into twilight. First we had to find a wide tree limb to place the jack so that it would not sink as it took the weight of the car. We then jacked up each of the four corner of the car, one after another, and put most of the firewood that we had collected under the wheels to get the axles free of the sticky mess. Then we cut lots more branches to place in the path of the car so that, if we did get out, we wouldn’t sink right back in. Alone in the car now, carrying no people and no firewood so it would be as light as possible, I started the car and gunned the engine in four-wheel drive. The car came free with a jerk and a thump and, using the initial momentum, I kept it moving as fast as I could till I was sure that I was free of the mud a quarter of a mile further on.