Broken Axle

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Martin Hash
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Broken Axle

Post by Martin Hash » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:14 am

My wife, Gwynne & I, spent 8 months in Africa driving around in an old, broken down converted Scania truck. There were eleven of us, which was few enough not to be a crowd, but still enough to have somebody else to talk to when 24-7 living caused friction with your normal companions. We had started in Gibraltar, and mostly driven around the perimeter of the continent. Finally, we were in Ethiopia, near the end, but not near enough for Gwynne.

When we first started the trip in West Africa, it was me who took a couple months getting used to close quarters, poor sleep & dysentery; Gwynne was a trooper. However, I finally got into don't-give-a-shit mode, and could have traveled indefinitely. For me, I looked forward to every day as an adventure, and was rarely disappointed. Gwynne, on-the-other-hand, had been slowly wearing down. The constant bugs, numerous vehicle breakdowns, daily packing & unpacking our meager belongings had been taking their toll on her psyche. By this point, she was counting the days, so it wasn't good timing when the axle broke off the truck 600 kilometers from the nearest city, Addis Ababa.

We had been driving across the veldt for a few days, through the Omo Valley, made known to me by National Geographic magazine when I was a kid. This was the place where the women painted their faces, enlarged earlobes, and went topless. When I was a pubescent male, I didn't know much about Africa except these women, and now we were there. Life couldn't have been better, but it never stays okay. While driving up a steep incline, the truck jerked hard and stopped abruptly. Climbing down, it was immediately apparent that the axle was crooked. In fact, if we hadn't have been going uphill, the whole thing would probably have fell off and the vehicle turned over. That's how I knew it was going to be okay, because it always turns out okay. However, this might be a little less okay than usual. I got out my only possession of luxury, a cheap folding camp chair, and set it up near the twisted wheel so I could rest and think about the situation. Gwynne, well, she got mad.

Gwynne wanted to go home; I mean back to our house in the United States, and she wanted to do it now. I didn't mention where we were, she was certainly aware of that, but rationality doesn't always play a part in these kinds of situations. She didn't say anything to anybody else but I could tell she was seething. For my part, I talked with our driver, Chris, about what to do? Chris didn't know either, but he was a pack-rat. I mean it, Chris would jerk the truck to stop just to jump out and grab a bent piece of iron, or some squared lumber. The truck had a whole compartment dedicated to junk Chris had gathered along the side of the road. He was rummaging through the bin, picking out things he thought we might need: leaf springs off of some other vehicle, old truck inner-tubes, a long piece of 4-inch diameter bamboo.
Broken Axel small.JPG
Omo Valley (Ethiopia)

I could kind of guess what Chris was intending, I am an engineer, but Chris is a Master Mechanic. He used to be in charge of maintenance on Australia's 4 vessel diesel submarine fleet before they mothballed it and retired him to civilian life. He came to Africa to drive truck, lucky for us. So, even though I could grok Chris' intentions, with 4 White men and a measly tire jack, we weren't going to be doing a damn thing with a 4 ton truck.

Did I mention we were in the Omo Valley? The Omo Valley, hot damn. While I was sitting in my camp chair, drinking a hot, spoiled beer, some native children formed a ring around us. They were smiling, pointing & giggling. I smiled back, glad we could be such fulsome entertainment. After a while, local women joined the circle. They were topless: like I said life is good. The women found us as entertaining as the children. Chris was rolling around under the truck but the beer and the chair turned me into a spectator: the villagers watched me & laughed, and I watched them.
Women & Children small.JPG
The next morning, Chris was covered in grease, I was making weak coffee, and the spectators were back in force, I mean a hundred of them, maybe more, and this time there were men scattered in the crowd. The men were tall, real tall, dressed just like National Geographic said they would be, shirtless, painted, but instead of holding spears, they were holding carved wooden rifles. Some of the barrels of the carved guns were bent and the carving was rather crude but I could still make them out as AK-47s. The men didn't smile.

A some point, a villager led a goat into the midst of everything, and slit its throat. They made a fire near us and cooked the goat over the flames, then cut it into strips and handed them to us. I don't like goat meat usually, but for some reason this particular meat, blackened on the outside, raw on the inside, was delicious. The native people started drumming on leather-covered instruments and jumping around, dancing. They danced all evening.
Dancing small.JPG
The next morning, the men brought homemade rope which they threw over a tree branch and wrapped around the truck's middle. They also tied a rope to the axle. A hundred men, women & children hoisted the truck up, and another group pulled the axle forward into place. Chris used countless strips of cut up inner-tube to lash the bamboo stalk to the broken axle wedged between the strategically positioned upside down leaf springs.

We not only drove out of there, we made it all the way to the river border with Sudan, where we left the truck with the keys on the dashboard, making it someone else's treasure and problem. Gwynne cheered up; after all, the Nile was before us, and Egypt lay only a week away, a place we'd both always wanted to visit, and it was well worth it, better than our high expectations, because it always ends up okay.
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Speaker to Animals
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Re: Broken Axle

Post by Speaker to Animals » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:44 am

I have seen the flies drive a man nearly insane. I was across the sea from there in the Saudi Arabian peninsula, but man, those flies were relentless. I used to watch people in Africa on television as a child and wonder why they wouldn't brush a fly off their lip. Then I lived in a tent in the Saudi Arabia desert for months on end through the summer. They were everywhere. You can't stop them.

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Re: Broken Axle

Post by heydaralon » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:55 pm

Speaker to Animals wrote:I have seen the flies drive a man nearly insane. I was across the sea from there in the Saudi Arabian peninsula, but man, those flies were relentless. I used to watch people in Africa on television as a child and wonder why they wouldn't brush a fly off their lip. Then I lived in a tent in the Saudi Arabia desert for months on end through the summer. They were everywhere. You can't stop them.
Arab brides will cover a broken broomstick with shit to keep the flies away from her vagina during the wedding ceremony. All the sweat, dust, and parasites make vaginal intercourse a tall order in the Arabian penisula. That's not even taking into account the bush. This post is purely anthropological. I am not making any value judgments, merely empirical observations. They are among the most freethinkng and cosmopolitan women on the planet, and their knowledge of the suras and teachings of mohammed makes them a sought after commodity in the West. The musk that emanates from their pubic region makes even the strongest Christian rethink his commitment to the Lord, and begin to give Islam a chance. I am speaking from first hand experience.
Shikata ga nai