As many of you know, I spent Wednesday night in a tribal village. The village is part of the Kuman language group and is “accessible” by vehicle.* It is a three hour drive form our current location to this particular village where missionaries have been working for decades. I have pictures and details coming soon, but I would first like to tell you about two particular items from the journey itself.
The Coffee Shop
On our drive along the Highlands Highway we stopped at a coffee bean processing plant with a coffee shop included. This is roughly equivalent to a Starbucks: “Only drink good coffee”
While we were there we got a quick tour of the operation. Here are coffee beans being dried on blue tarps right in the middle of the forrest:
And here is the warehouse in which they sort and bag the beans which get shipped all over the world:
The coffee from the shop was delicious–I came home with a bag of beans. If you remain friends with us until we come home, you may get to taste some in the future! (Not necessarily the same bag I just brought back, though.)
We spent two hours on the “Highlands Highway” during which time I learned that not everyone uses the word “highway” to mean the same thing. This highway was paved at times, but was just as frequently gravel; there were countless car-holes** and a few places where landslides had totally removed more than half the highway.
Along the way we would run into groups of men tossing dirt on the road or into a hole–sometimes they even had a shovel. Will (the missionary I was traveling with/my chauffeur) explained that these guys would act like they were working when cars came along and block the road so folks would have to stop. Then they would demand money for the “work” they were doing. This is called extortion, I believe. Will handled this by slowing down and pulling to the side of the road as if to stop, then, as the men moved over to collect/intimidate, he would gun it and slip through an opening while laughing. Fun stuff.
Two hours down the Highlands Highway we pulled off onto another road leaving us six miles to travel. This last six miles took about an hour (that’s an average speed of 6mph.) This road was really something. Unfortunately, any description of how uneven, narrow, steep, rocky and muddy it was would not capture the experience.
The last quarter of a mile or so was the best of all. At this point I can’t even use the word “road” to describe what we turned onto. Instead I would just call it a contiguous collection of spaces wide enough for a car. On the way into the village in the rain, in the dark I was convinced we were going to be doing some hiking with the vehicle left stuck in the mud. At one point we were moving up a hill with the truck pointed 45 degrees to the left of the direction we were moving. But thankfully we were in the most serious 4WD SUV I’ve ever been in and we made it.
This picture doesn’t show how deep the ruts were at some points, but it does show how stuck we were (this was Thursday on the way out.)
Here is the front wheel you can’t see in the picture above:
The car was straddling this hump on the side of the road and not going anywhere. Without another vehicle in sight, I was unsure how we would be getting loose. Will walked back up to the village and recruited about twenty guys. After two hours of digging, pushing, lifting and pulling the hump surrendered.
All in all the drive was an adventure and a great learning experience. One of the things I learned is that I want to go to a tribe that requires a plane for access. We’ll see what happens.
*Not a car–a hefty 4WD SUV only.
** Car-holes are like pot-holes but are the size of a car rather than a pot.