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10 April 2019 / leggypeggy

When the wheels fall off—almost

truck fallen through bridge

Oops! Now how to get out?

We were bouncing along to Tiwai Island, making excellent time even though the roads were rough. Most likely we’d be there by lunchtime. Then the truck went thunk and a makeshift, but sturdy-looking timber bridge went crunch.

In all of Jason’s and Adam’s years (almost 25 between them) of overland driving and guiding, they had never fallen through a bridge. Almost everyone on the truck is a seasoned overland traveller. It hadn’t happened to any of us either.

Truck falls through bridge

It was still possible for pedestrians and motorbikes to get past

Carrying a log

John H and Richard B carry out the first log

The jolt was disarming, but the reality of how stuck we really were was disheartening. Jason was sick and couldn’t help—we didn’t yet know that it was malaria—but there were 17 other people all brimming with suggestions of what to do next.

First challenge was to get everyone off the truck. Given that we were on a severe tilt to the right, it was quite far to clamber down the ladder-like steps on the left. Gary even had to give Ellen a piggyback exit.

Almost immediately a bunch of local fellows appeared, keen to help. They knew of a guy with a chainsaw who might be able to help. So what use could a chainsaw be? You’ll see.

Sierra Leone countryside

The chainsaw arrives

Log cutting

Log cutting begins

Log cutting

Mr Chainsaw at work. Fellow to his left uses a machete to mark out log lengths

John H (not Poor John) hopped on a fellow’s motorbike and they went in search of Mr. Chainsaw. He was found about five kilometres away, and quite willing to lend a hand.

So here’s what happened. The bridge was about 50 metres from a field of felled trees. Mr Chainsaw, who has the longest chainsaw I’ve ever seen, proceeded to cut many trees into metre-long lengths that were carried back to the bridge and stacked up underneath the truck.

Carrying logs in Sierra Leone

Local carries a log on his head with ease

Carrying logs in Sierra Leone

The look on Christian’s face shows that log carrying isn’t always easy

Our fellows stacked while locals cut and carried. Each log weighed a lot, but the locals treated them as pillows, popping them on their heads or shoulders. The original request for 30 logs was doubled and, in the end, there were 68 logs used to shore up the bridge.

Once all the logs were in place, we unloaded the back locker to reduce the truck’s weight.

Then Adam hopped in the truck, warmed up the engine and drove smoothly out of the mess. Yes, we applauded.

Carrying logs in Sierra Leone

Two of 68 logs

Carrying logs in Sierra Leone

Two more logs. Christian in the background

In addition to about 25 locals who pitched in, our main repair heroes were Gary of New Zealand, Jan of the Netherlands, John H of Australia and Adam (our main driver) of England. So a real international team.

The whole exercise took about five hours and we paid all the local helpers a decent amount as a thank you.

Stacked logs

A culvert view of stacked logs

Backpacks

The back locker is unloaded

Carrying a camp stove

Jan and a local carry a large camp stove

Re-storing a tyre

Christian, Jan and Adam put a spare tyre back on the truck

We don’t know how long it will take to fix the bridge, but the innovation shown in the efforts to shore up the bridge gave us confidence that it would be fully operational again soon.

All of us agreed that hiccups like this often become  one of the most fondly remembered events of the trip, but geez it was hot!

P.S. I’ve resisted adding a pic of every single person who helped. Trust me, there were plenty.

P.P.S. We head into remote areas again today, and cross the border from Sierra Leone to Guinea. I’m unlikely to respond to comments for several days. Any faster is a bonus.

On the road to Tiwai Island

Gary and some of the fellows who helped to repair the bridge. Josh and Dee in the background

Broken bridge in Sierra Leone

Another good view of the break

67 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. ksbeth / Apr 10 2019 6:37 pm

    this is absolutely amazing

    Liked by 1 person

  2. beetleypete / Apr 10 2019 6:43 pm

    How wonderful that the local people are so happy to help. And that man does indeed own a ‘serious’ chainsaw! I was glad to hear that you were able to pay them for their efforts, and you were left with a great ‘campfire’ story to tell. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 10 2019 6:45 pm

      The ‘campfire’ stories are usually the best part of overland travel.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Popping Wheelies / Apr 10 2019 9:51 pm

      This is a great example of how kind people can be if we take the time. Had you posted pictures of each person, I would have looked at each one out of respect.

      Liked by 2 people

      • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 8:54 pm

        I think the last photos capture those who weren’t in the ‘lugging logs’ pics.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. macalder02 / Apr 10 2019 6:45 pm

    Despite the inconveniences on the road, it gives a lot to write. The photos show the size of the accident and how the solution develops. In the end, an adventure not to forget. There is already a script for an upcoming movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Eliza Ayres / Apr 10 2019 7:07 pm

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. BoomingOn / Apr 10 2019 7:48 pm

    Well, that’s a bit of high drama. Glad you managed to get through in the end. Team work!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dorothy / Apr 10 2019 9:50 pm

      Amazing solutions the locals find for fixing things without high technology.

      Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 8:57 pm

      Amazing how everyone had such a can-do attitude.

      Like

  6. gerard oosterman / Apr 10 2019 7:55 pm

    A Stihl chainsaw is the answer to any cutting of trees. This one did have a formidable bar on it. Awesome job, Peggy. A real adventure and sure beats the sports- bra buying experience earlier on. Propping up a broken bridge is a different kettle of fish.
    Well done.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 8:57 pm

      Love your reference to ‘propping up’ things. Gave me a good laugh.

      Like

  7. derrickjknight / Apr 10 2019 8:06 pm

    An amazing enterprise

    Liked by 1 person

  8. lexklein / Apr 10 2019 8:34 pm

    What a story! Part of me wishes I were there – it just seems so exciting in a weird way – and part of me wonders if I’d have freaked out. You are having such an adventure! (Another one – I know you’ve done this before!)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. fragglerocking / Apr 10 2019 9:18 pm

    Well done to all! Exciting times!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. gigglingfattie / Apr 10 2019 9:38 pm

    Wow! Always such interesting stories!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Gilda Baxter / Apr 10 2019 10:08 pm

    Amazing team effort. I am impressed with the locals, they are very resourceful, kind and helpful. I hope Jason, who you mentioned had malaria is ok now? Such an incredible adventure you ate having. Keep going and safe travels 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:00 pm

      Jason is fully recovered now, although he was knocked out for several days.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sande Olocho / Apr 11 2019 12:57 am

    All said and done and looking on the bright side of things, this is Adventure in bold letters. I envy you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. weggieboy / Apr 11 2019 1:52 am

    Incredible! I enjoyed seeing how the locals came together with you travellers to resolve what must have seemed to be an impossible problem to resolve!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:01 pm

      It seemed impossible until the chainsaw turned up. What a brilliant invention.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Christopher Tamlin / Apr 11 2019 3:18 am

    Great effort all round. My first instinct would be to brew up some tea and have a think. Always worked in the past. We crossed a bridge in Nigeria on 04 that had a few bits fall off it. Local pronounced it finished. Was metal though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:16 pm

      Adam likes your tea idea. He had a couple of smokes while he had a think.

      Like

  15. Lynette d'Arty-Cross / Apr 11 2019 4:31 am

    Such teamwork and kindness. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Dave Ply / Apr 11 2019 5:51 am

    Now both tourists and locals have a story to tell the kids…

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Invisibly Me / Apr 11 2019 7:43 am

    Yikes! But it’s amazing to see so many join together to help, very heartening to know there are so many good souls in the world and that everyone was okay as I’m sure this could have been a lot worse. Safe travels across to Guinea. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:03 pm

      It could have been much worse. In Guinea now and everything moving along quite well, even if quite slowly.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Chris Riley / Apr 11 2019 8:09 am

    Im betting that’s going to be one of your better memories of this trip. Goodness, those logs were huge, even if the locals carried them as easily as a rolled up blanket. I do hope Jason is ok? Did he manage to keep travelling with you, or did he need some serious medical help?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:04 pm

      Jason is good. He had a night in hospital while we were in a village called Kambama. And yes, these events make the best memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Coral Waight / Apr 11 2019 9:43 am

    Gosh!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. a mindful traveler / Apr 11 2019 12:08 pm

    Speechless, what adventures. Those logs are super heavy! Christian did well!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Gary Walker / Apr 11 2019 3:00 pm

    Gosh, what a stressful day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:05 pm

      We were all relieved when Mr Chainsaw showed up.

      Like

  22. pvcann / Apr 11 2019 7:43 pm

    I love how the African way is to take it as it comes, and what else can you do, you can’t call roadside service. A wonderful story of community working together and getting through. So good to see the photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Sy S. / Apr 12 2019 2:34 am

    No Structural Engineers, Infrastructure Government Officials to approve and money allocated.. for this mini-bridge project Simply local people resourceful enough to solve this problem and lucky to have a person nearby with a motorized saw. Glad that nobody was hurt and nice that all the local people involved received some money from people on the truck for helping out. Peggy. this might just be the highlight/best adventure story for your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:07 pm

      Oh Sy, you made me laugh. This is a highlight of our trip, but stay tuned for the day we got towed out of the mud by a bulldozer.

      Like

  24. Alison and Don / Apr 12 2019 4:54 am

    Oh so fun! I so enjoyed reading this. Ingenuity (and locals!) is key when traveling through Africa. I’m reminded of when I did the 4 month overland trip years ago we were warned “there is no such thing as an itinerary in Africa, there is only getting there”.
    I know you’re having a great time despite the heat and despite (and perhaps a bit because of) the bridge building.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:09 pm

      You are 100 per cent right. Having a good time despite and because of a whole range of things.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Apr 12 2019 2:54 pm

    What an incredible experience. You were so very lucky to have encountered such a willing, hard working group of locals ready to pitch in. They seemed to know exactly what to do – not their first rodeo I suspect. Whatever else happens on this trip, the truck breaking down on the bridge is likely to be the first story you tell. Should this happen again, please try to exit the OTHER side of the truck – it might be a higher climb down, but those folks in the shadow of the truck’s lean – good grief. The photo makes me want to run. I hope Jason has medical care – malaria is very serious, as I’m sure you know.

    Let’s’ see now, what’s for supper?

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 14 2019 9:10 pm

      Jason is back in form. In addition to the bridge breaking, we had got towed out of some mud by a bulldozer. No shortage of adventures.

      Like

  26. Curt Mekemson / Apr 15 2019 4:44 am

    Quite the adventure Peggy. I remember way back in Peace Corps training before going to Liberia (1965), we were taught how to build a bridge. The help from the locals was special. And head loading is always amazing, even more when it involves heavy logs! –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 15 2019 7:28 am

      I love to watch head loading. Makes me feel so inadequate.

      Like

      • Curt Mekemson / Apr 17 2019 3:10 am

        I tried when I lived in Liberia, Peggy. I think my record was a minute. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Apr 18 2019 4:13 am

        I need to get a cloth wrap. Maybe that would help.

        Like

  27. Sy S. / Apr 20 2019 11:45 am

    Aside- Traveling in an overland truck and camping out in the boon docks for an expanded period of time, takes some special people who know how difficult it can be. And as Peggy mentioned there is sometimes one person to deal with and their personalities… and not helping much with overall chores. But on balance you and your current group have been lucky.

    Read on- My tennis friend got back from a three month overland traveling/camping truck tour covering the southern part of Africa. He said one woman should have never been included… For one she took along about 12 pairs of shoes?? and a lot of clothing. The other people on the truck had to deal with helping off loading and on loading all her stuff. Second, there was a small hill they needed to climb and she complained she could not make it.. So the head person of the tour/trip had to carry her on his back up the hill (a small woman, but still). I don’t know details, but the two above is bad enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 20 2019 5:13 pm

      Yes, overland can be extremely challenging. While we have a few people who are keen on doing any chores, everyone can do the activities or decides beforehand that they might struggle.

      Like

  28. The Lockwood Echo / Apr 20 2019 7:15 pm

    Crikey! Can’t get over those guys carrying those huge logs on their heads. As already said, what an amazing tale of resourcefulness, community and hard work to get a job done. Humans helping humans. If only there was more of that about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Apr 23 2019 3:17 am

      We’re constantly experiencing humans helping humans. No wonder Africa moves me.

      Liked by 1 person

  29. jeanleesworld / May 14 2019 8:20 pm

    Thank goodness everyone was so helpful! And I love the kindness and ingenuity here; it gives me hope that humanity’s not so lost yet! 🙂 xxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2019 6:06 pm

      We have often been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity shown by people as we have travelled through West Africa.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. carlystarr / Jul 11 2019 10:37 pm

    I loved reading this. Bloody amazing the way the locals all pitched in! Wonderful read, thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jul 11 2019 10:57 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the post. We were so grateful for the effort by locals. Without that, we might still be there!

      Liked by 1 person

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