I recently travelled out to Nyamebekyere, one of the most remote villages in the cluster, for a series of community focus groups with my colleague Eric. Unusually, we had a driver who was new to the cluster and he was driving an automatic, but we thought nothing of it at the time.
Hot and tired, we finished the focus groups and joined the car, only to realise that the battery was completely flat. It was already past 5pm (it gets dark here from 6pm) so we realised that we had to act fast before the light went – exacerbated by the fact that there is no electricity in Nyamebekyere.
Mobile phone reception was also very patchy, so we spent the next 30 minutes shuffling around the football pitch on the other side of the village, holding our phones about 50cm off the ground, trying to find the one small patch of mobile phone reception that was apparently there! Eventually we had success (although we looked hilarious) so we knew that we would be ‘rescued’ but that this was several hours away.
To our delight, while we’d been scrabbling for phone reception, a passing tro-tro had given our vehicle a jump start so we thought we’d soon be on our way. We said our goodbyes and started driving, and this took us through the semi-permanent mud pool on the edge of the village. And of course….our new driver…in his new automatic 4X4…took us straight into the middle of the water, where the engine promptly cut out!! Some swearing followed with the realisation that we had no battery, no tro to give us a buzz and this time were surrounded by knee-deep water and mud, with failing light. I repeat, there was swearing.
We decided to evacuate the car while we still had some light, so shouted to the kids who were playing nearby to bring across a plank of wood that we spotted lying around. You can see my not so elegant departure below!!
The villagers returned to watch this spectacle, and there was further debate about how we could restart the car. We had success at one point and managed to get the 4X4 out of the water, only for it to completely breakdown a few meters after that. There was nothing more to do other than wait, and luckily, it was a clear night with a full moon and no rain. Once everyone had lost interest and drifted away, it was actually very peaceful, and I spent the time watching bats flying around and listening to unknown animals going “eeek” in the bushes.
After several false hopes, our rescue vehicle finally arrived about 3 hours later and the evening then accelerated as we drove back to the office in record time. It usually takes 1hr 45 mins – 2 hrs but we returned in a high-speed-rally-driving-by-night-record-breaking time of 1hr 20 minutes!!
Thank you to Michael for driving all the way to collect us and to all the villagers who tried to help. I’m not sure what happened to the 4X4…I have a feeling it may still be there……