This trip, we are coming with a second vehicle. The Church has agreed to contribute $ 2.5 million to build a water system for Luputa. The source is a great spring about 40 kilometers from Luputa. The water will be captured in a large reservoir, and then brought by a "gravity feed" pipeline to several villages along the way and then to Luputa. The Barlows (missionaries who are the Humanitarian Directors for the Congo), David and Anna-Lena Frandsen (church volunteer missionaries who travel the world for the church reviewing large water projects), and Robert Hokanson (a church employee in charge of the world-wide water initiatives for the Church's Humanitarian Services) are here to review the water project, meet with the tribal chiefs, and select a project manager.
We're traveling in two Toyota Land Cruisers rented from Catholic Charities. After paying $ 12.50 a gallon to fill up the two vehicles, we put our trust in our two drivers -- Omer in the trusty green truck we used last time, and Alphonse, in the white Cruiser. You'll see pictures of the white truck because I sat in the back of the lead vehicle and took pictures of the following vehicle throughout the trip.
The first 80 kilometers from Mbuji-Mayi to Mwene-Ditu is paved with potholes. The remaining 40 kilometers to Luputa is dirt in the dry season and like this in the rainy season.
The distance we traveled was probably a lot more than the straight line distance, due to zig-zags and detours. Here's the zig-zag -- the first picture in the blog with the palm tree is on a detour.
The Land Cruisers, and our drivers, are amazing. We were in the lead vehicle, and didn't have the perspective of what our truck looked like as we drove through mud holes, water, etc. The people in the following truck said they just looked and held their breath. But thanks to Omer's skills, we never got stuck. Then, from the back of our truck, I would take pictures of the second vehicle, and we were always amazed to see them make it through. Half Land Cruiser -- half boat!!
On the way back, it was time for lunch and we pulled off the road. Omer chose wisely, but unfortunately, Alphonse didn't. Despite his best efforts, he was stuck. Bro. Barlow is not too happy!!
Fortunately, a passing truck has a steel cable, and with a help from Omer and our trusty Land Cruiser, Alphonse and the white Cruiser are soon out of the ditch.
You share the road with people pushing load on bikes, other vehicles, and this herd of goats. Goats are a very real measure of wealth. A male goat is worth $ 40, a female is $ 80. So here is a lot of money, and you give them a wide berth.
Well -- just had to throw this one in -- as always, you are amazed when you see trucks overloaded with stuff and the always-present people riding on top and on the back, at 35 miles per hour.
At the end of the trip, everyone is exhausted and bumped and bruised. Except you know who -- what a great companion. I love her!!
Anybody who smiles like that all the time is the best!!!!