Eventually the window lightened and as soon as I could extricate myself from between my two colleagues, I headed out into the school playground. A couple of biscuits, some water and a quick swill with a toothbrush and we were ready to move. We waited for a while for the caretaker to assemble two younger relatives to go with us with a set of machetes. It was a grey soulless day, but the heat was already rising as we trudged the five miles back to where we hoped the vehicle still was. Steam rose from the dense thickets either side, and there were sandy pools of water standing from the previous day’s rain. When we reached the site we saw the full extent of the medium sized tree that had fallen across the road. Peering behind it was the red van and surprisingly it was still the only vehicle there – there was not even evidence of anyone turning around behind our car – nothing else had ventured out in to the torrential rainfall of the previous evening.
I thought the machetes were a little useless against the thick trunk of the tree – a medium sized tree in the tropics is still a mighty object. But of course that was not the intention. They set about demolishing the smaller branches off the top of the tree now buried in the undergrowth . While the tree had uprooted from a bank on the west side that would have been unscaleable even in a four by four, the east side dropped gently downhill and as far as I could make out with no muddy hollows to swallow up our vehicle. Kofi and I seemed pretty useless compared to the driver and two local guys who hacked away for about 45 minutes. We helped clear the excess shrubbery and throw it in to the bush, but my attempts with the machete in the thick humid air were futile – sweat gushed over my brows after a few swipes.
The last and largest branch was too heavy to bodily lift so the four of us dragged and levered it into the main part of the track, leaving just enough room for our vehicle to squeeze past. We stood and watched as our driver gingerly guided the car over the piles of leaves, macheted undergrowth and loose twigs and branches, hoping it would not sink into mud, suffer a puncture from the remains of the tree or veer off into impenetrable bush. It did none of these and with a roar he bumped the car back onto the safety of the sandy track.
There were cheers and whoops all round, and a lot of relieved smiles. It was barely 8 am. The two local guys piled in the back and we drove them back to the school; handing over a very appreciated payment to all, and to the caretaker for giving us some board the night before. And we were on our way.