Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There's Grace Enough

Two months have flown by in a flurry of customs and registration documents. More often than not, I’ve found myself sitting for quiet hours in humid, stale office chairs hoping for miracles. Details and deadlines are the parents of innovation. In this unique time, amazing things have happened. We were able to bring in equipment to drill boreholes for clean water in the villages. In the areas where Overland works villagers have to spend half of their day just to collect water, and at times that comes from contaminated sources. I stood around a muddy hole, pockmarked with hoof prints from cattle, as the local headman showed me where his community retrieved their water for drinking and washing. My time in Africa has made me skeptical of large scale donor funded development, but I’ll toss my full support behind clean water projects. In Burundi I lived in an apartment without electricity, and I couldn’t cook or keep food. I was able to find ways around those issues, but when the water was cut things got desperate quickly. It’s encouraging to know that this technology will offer a measure of reprieve on the harsh living conditions that rural villagers face on a daily basis.

From Caprivi to the Skeleton Coast

To get the drilling equipment my friends Pete, Joe and I embarked on a 3400 kilometer (2100 mile) road trip from Livingstone to Walvis Bay, Namibia and back. Don’t feel too bad for us. Namibia is a diverse and beautiful country. They say when you enter Namibia you leave Africa. This is true if only for the road conditions: flat, straight, and good.
We drove in our 5 ton DAF truck. Due to fuel issues we averaged a stop every 75 kms or so to clean a filter or line. This, as you can imagine, wasn’t ideal. But it added to the trip’s nostalgia. Our drive took us through the famous Caprivi Game Reserve. Herds of elephants and giraffe roam this narrow stretch of Namibia that cuts into Angola from the North and Botswana from the South. It’s true African bush country- sparsely populated and homogenous with its bushes and trees.
From the Caprivi we pressed through small, well kept towns into a more hilly and mountainous area. We were blessed to stay on a 100,000 acre game farm with Pete’s friend Stephan and Anja. Amazing German hospitality afforded us 5 star dinners and breakfasts with hot coffee.
Namibia’s dominant feature is the Namib desert. We drove past (and climbed) the world’s highest sand dunes all the way to the Atlantic coast, my first glimpse of the west coast of Africa. They call this part of Africa 'the Skeleton Coast' for all the ships that have wrecked off it's shores (check wikipedia on that). Surprisingly, temperatures dropped from the 80s and 90s to the 50s and 60s once we arrived on the coast. The coast stays cool and foggy year round. Walvis Bay is the largest port in Namibia because of it’s naturally protected harbor. Just before Walvis Bay we passed through a town straight from the coast of Maine called Swakopmund. Apparently it has the world’s best oysters and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie visit there every year. There you go.
In Walvis, we loaded our equipment after two days and retraced our steps back to Livingstone. On the return trip we had to sleep in our truck at times on the side of the road. I spent a night sleeping on the metal bed of our truck under the tow hitch of a two ton compressor with Joe suspended in a hammock above. TIA.
Through thousands of miles of road and African red tape we arrived back in Livingstone. The process to register the equipment is on going but drilling should commence just days from the time I write this.
Thanks for all the prayers and encouragement these last two months. They’ve been long and trying, but rewarding.
Keep well.