Pirates to the rescue

It’s Sunday again and I had the best sleep ever! Woke up at 4am to one of my chooks squawking that I’d forgotten to lock them up or feed them last night! Sorry chooks, lucky the genet didn’t get them.

It’s Sunday again and I had the best sleep ever! Woke up at 4am to one of my chooks squawking that I’d forgotten to lock them up or feed them last night! Sorry chooks, lucky the genet didn’t get them. It started pouring around that time and as my newly reroofed tukul has large gaps between the walls and roof, I could hear things coming in out of the rain! I put the blanket over my head and ignored them, falling back to sleep till 10am!

It’s still literally pouring now, the river is rising fast and the compound is a swamp! The aluminum boat sank and all I can think is thank goodness we got back. If it had rained while we were there the car couldn’t have got there and the other boat is dead and now buried! Bugger me we are soooo lucky!

At 10pm on Wednesday night, I was tucked up under my mosquito net trying to keep the bugs out! They’ve been bad for the past 2 weeks and getting bigger by the night. I also have an ice brick under my neck and one under my feet, as it’s too hot to sleep! Yesterday we went to Jikow again, just four of us and a modified pack to lighten the load and reduce our time. After the last episode I wasn’t taking any chances and cracked the shits [Australian slang: got very angry] that I was being sent without a backup plan. So as it was, I plotted a map of the river and places we could stop to camp if an emergency occurred. During the three hour 40 minute trip I plotted spots, named them and marked the time so I could make a map. Places such as Little England, One Tree Hill and Croc Crossing were christened and noted for future reference.

We arrived at Jikow a little after 11am, after getting up and organized at 5.30am! After last week's overnight camping episode, the team staged a revolt and didn’t turn up so I had to actually go and get them. Anyway we ran the clinic with half the staff, just me, the health officer, the midwife and the pharmacist. I had to be very ruthless in my triage and still feel bad tor turning people who had walked three hrs to get there away. We finished the 110 patients by 2pm and set off home exhausted but in better spirits.

On the way we were pelted with rocks and clay by a bloke who was angry we went past his fishing net. This didn’t go down very well and the mood was pretty somber. Anyway we were making good time, the boys sleeping and me rechecking my mapping, when cough-cough-splutter, the engine died. We were in the big Baro River about half way home and so drifting with the current. The boat driver found there was water in the fuel tank and set about taking apart the motor while we slowly drifted along. The boys were horrified when I climbed onto the bow and with feet dangling began to paddle. No service meant I couldn’t get help anyway so I figured I'd get the momentum going with the current. But no “Big Baro dangerous you get in boat” so I traded my paddle for the fishing line from the emergency box, retrieved my dehydrated emergency vegemite sandwich from my bag and attempted to catch one of the hundreds of fish that leapt and splashed out of the water around me.

As the line is only about 10 meters long it didn’t reach the bottom and I had no luck. After an hour or so I was finally able to contact the base to tell them that we were stuck and floating. With three hours of daylight left and being at least two hours without a working engine away from home we needed help fast. Paddling was to no avail and as the river we live on is a subsidy of the great Baro, we would never be able to get up stream on it, and there was nothing but steep banks and high grass between here and home. If we went past our inlet we would end up in Nassir, South Sudan. An hour and a half later we got a call that they had indeed hired a boat from Mattar pirates, and they were coming to get us. It was dark by the time they arrived. As the boat slowly drifted, the kids from small villages who usually ran along the cliff tops calling and waving as we went by, walked along the bank laughing and waving, thinking this was indeed a treat to have the Kywai so close and be able to laugh at my poor attempts of their native language.

All the boys except the boat driver were Highlanders from Addis Ababa so didn’t speak Nuer, and the boat driver being Nuer doesn’t speak English so NOBODY could ask the kids to go dig me some worms!!! Even my Marcel Marceau impressions didn’t translate though they got plenty of laughs and imitation!

The big cargo boat used to smuggle coffee, sugar and oil over the boarder to South Sudan (10x more expensive) finally arrived and tied us to it. We all hopped in the cargo boat and settled in for the long ride home. It was dark and the fireflies, mosquitoes and bugs had a gourmet smorgasbord of fat Aussie flesh! At one stage the engine cut out as we ran over a fishing net. The boys all looked at me with a “I can’t believe our luck” look, but thankfully it started again and delivered us home around 9pm.

The team met us on the landing and helped cart the gear back to the pharmacy. They were pretty quiet, not sure how I would react as I’d warned the PC and log the day before that if they were sending me out without a backup and something went wrong I’d be pissed! Anyway, I was so relieved to be home and not spending the night in a 14-foot boat in a river infested with huge crocs and god knows what else, I was too exhausted and relieved to say much of anything!

I showered a luxuriously cold shower in the dark, and then enjoyed a cold coke and pasta with tomato sauce!!! So that was two disasters out of out of two trips. Now we have no motors and are unable to do the Nyawech and Jikow clinics without one. Just when the clinics were running better with a 30% improvement on the nutrition kids and 40 % increase in the ANC [ante-natal clinic] attendance, now we don’t know when we will get back. So we will see what happens in the near future.