The three passengers stayed out of the car to lighten the load. The driver walked over the bridge and located the dodgiest of the planks. They were almost all loose, and some had cracks in them that went from one side to the other. While some planks had been laid along the length of the bridge to act as guides for vehicles wheels, these were missing in one place. It was going to be an interesting test, but it had to happen.
The driver headed back up the north bank and turned the car onto the bridge. He wanted enough momentum to get across (and get out of difficulty if something went wrong) but he needed to go slowly enough to avoid making misjudgements and not to shake the bridge to bits.
He gently manoeuvred the car onto the guiding planks and apart from some wobbling as the cross planks bowed under the weight, he made good progress. But then came the part to the left side where there was no guide and I watched in horror as the front left wheel dipped down below the bridge level. But he kept moving and it reappeared within a second and with much relief he got over the bridge and back on to terra firma. At what expense to the bridge’s infrastructure was up to the next vehicle to determine.
We got back in the car and headed back to Fintonia. We had a celebration last bottle of wine from Gray’s stash with dinner that night and started to pack up. We were heading back to Freetown the next day. We only had to have a final farewell meeting with the Paramount Chief to thank him and the villagers for their tolerance of our work, and to our trainees and set out the plan for Kofi to return to continue the work soon.
I always have mixed feelings moving on from a location like this. I always like moving around and seeing new places so travelling excites me. And I wanted to go to a location where I could use bathrooms like I am used to. Unfortunately some of the mosquito bites had become infected, swollen up badly and had built up pus and I wanted to get some proper treatment. But I could not help but feel humbled by being allowed to stay in this village, to share some times with such friendly people. They may not have the trappings of comfortable life and they obviously strive for something better, but they are by no means foolish or coveting and appreciate and work with what they have. They know they can live here in the wet and dry season, they have water, they look after the immediate forest, they hedge their bets and farm in different places around the village to get optimal yields and protect their crops from disease and pests. And they are hugely sociable with each other. It was such a privilege to get a brief insight into this life.