Our main goals going into our second week at Oltulelei were to finish transporting materials to camp, set up the remaining tents and common areas, and continue digging the foundation for the massive beam anchor. Goals always come with obstacles. And we got more than our share: the supply truck loaded with bridge materials and steel parts bogged down in the middle of nowhere! Not to be outdone, JACO, our old but faithful Landcruiser pickup truck, chipped in with a dead battery. That’s when we knew the honeymoon was over!
After push-starting old JACO and driving through muddy bush roads—depending on directions from people who didn’t speak a word of English, our team finally reached the truck. Upon arrival, Matthew assessed the situation. Let's just say it was not good. The heavily loaded truck was seriously stuck!
With no other options and dusk approaching, our crew of locals began to shovel around the truck’s tires and to lodge pieces of wood around them to help gain leverage. After many unsuccessful attempts, the crew decided to completely unload all the items off the truck to make it lighter so that JACO could pull it out. It was 9:00 pm when JACO finally managed to get the truck unstuck and the crew loaded the truck shortly after. We were so relieved. The worse was over.
Famous last words. Driving back to camp at such a late hour and in such poor visibility wasn’t ideal, but we pressed on. Despite driving slowly and carefully, the truck got stuck again. Some things can't be made up! This time it bogged down on private property. Let’s just say the owner wasn’t impressed! Due to the late hour, Matthew left the truck overnight and made it back to camp around 1:00 am. In the morning, the team received word that a nearby safari camp (Cottar's 1920 Camp) had dispatched a large tractor to pull our supply truck out of the mud. The tractor was essential in assisting to dislodge the truck and assist in crossing the Sand River. We are beyond grateful for the help from the Cottars team.
By some coincidence, or perhaps a miracle, our BtGA team of workers arrived on the site at the same time as the supply truck. With the team’s help, we finished setting up camp a few days later. Later in the week, the first layer of anchor excavation was nearly completed, and Débora was able to start testing soil mixture ratios to be used as grass starter for erosion control along the riverbank and gullies.
Murphy’s Law says that if anything can go wrong, it will. We saw that law in action this week. But we also gained something: we realized that a bridge is a labor of love, patience, and sacrifice. When things go wrong, and they will, those are what we depend on to set things right again.