INSIDE THE TRUCK JUST BEFORE WE LEFT FOR OUR TRECK THOUGH THE FOREST - IT WAS DARK (THIS IS A FLASH PICTURE BY JOHN PAYNE)- COLD - UNCOMFORTABLE
WHAT WE WERE DOING MOST OF THE DAY - WELL I TOOK PLENTY OF RESTS
OUR TRUCK ON THE ROAD ABOUT HALF WAY TO LEON - I AM IN THE VERY MIDDLE - NO SLATs TO LOOK or BREATH THROUGH - NOTHING TO HANG ONTO - ETC -ETC
FROM THE OUTHOUSE - The ex -pig and chicken house we slept in after our trek through the jungle on a rainy night. WHERE WE BEGAN THE TEN HOUR JOURNEY AT SEVEN AM.
THE WONDERFUL (AND BEAUTIFUL) LADIES WITH WHOM I SPENT THE LONGEST RIDE OF MY LIFE
Photographers met us as we arrived - word of our overloaded truck had preceded us. A picture of truck was on front page of next mornings paper.
NOTE THE TRUCK IN THE BACKGROUND - IT WAS STILL BEING UNLOADED!
THE WONDERFUL (AND BEAUTIFUL) LADIES WITH WHOM I SPENT THE LONGEST RIDE OF MY LIFE
When I first began this blog it was to be just about my little tussle with Prostate Cancer. That chapter in my life seems to be over - at least for now. My general health overall has degenerated in the past two years to such an extent it is hard to believe that I was ever a strong, active, hard working (and playing) guy. I now have (starting from the feet) Peripheral Neuropathy, Pseudo Gout (both knees), Tendinitis/Arthritis (both shoulders), Lip Cancer, Glaucoma (both eyes). I just looked at what I just wrote - looks like I am a real mess - but I figure in a year or so I will be in much better shape. Anyway I can still read and write.
The other day I took a bag of old slides down to get put on a CD - just got them back a few days ago - they brought back a lot of memories.
These pictures are from Nicaragua in 1985, they brought back the following (mis)adventure.
I was a tired, hungry, cold, wet, and not terribly happy, 50 year old sitting on the steel floor of a one ton pickup truck with a bit of canvas pretending to be a roof. It was about 7:30 PM on a narrow winding road in Nicaragua, we were returning from working during the day digging a gas line. (See picture above) Our driver stopped and was talking to the driver of another truck going the opposite direction. He evidently told him about a "fiesta" that was being held at a farm about a mile or so off the road - he said we were invited. When we stopped a few miles later and were told we were going to walk a little ways into the jungle to a fiesta I had two immediate thoughts - a fiesta should be warm, dry, have food, and be fun. I was unhappy, had a very sore back end,cold, wet, tired, and miserable, (SEE PICTURE AT TOP OF PAGE) did not want to go back into the rain in the pitch black night - but hey this was an adventure - so we all started along the trail. How our leaders knew where we were was beyond me.
Eventually we came to a house in a little clearing - it even had electric lights, above a small bulb at the entrance was a little sign.
"PROTESTANTS ARE NOT WELCOME IN THIS PLACE".
I immediately became a card carrying Catholic.
There was very little in the way of food, so I didn't eat. The actual "fiesta" consisted of about 12 small children singing in a large room that had seats around the perimeter made of one two by four - got a little hard on the bottom after a bit. But the singing of the children and the one guitar really was wonderful. After about half an hour the children left into the dark rainy night and we were invited to sleep here for the night. We took up the offer. There of course were not beds but we put our sleeping bags on the floor of an old chicken coop and had a fitful sleep.
In the morning as I returned from the outhouse I took a picture (see picture above) I realized what a miserable place this was, and wanted to leave as soon as possible. We were told that a truck would be coming in about an hour ( at the path entrance) - it was going to the old ex Capitol city of Leon, where there was to be a celebration of some sort or other, we decided to go.
Now this must be made clear, I had absolutely no idea where we were (one of the many advantages of not knowing the language), had no idea where Leon was, or of course how long it would take us to get there. I did think the whole of Nicaragua was about three hundred miles from end to end so it couldn't take more that five or six hours to get anywhere.
We started out in the beautiful warm Sunshine and got to the highway - ie dirt road - about eight o'clock just before the truck arrived. It was quite large and looked very safe and inviting. It had a roof made of canvas to keep the sun and rain off - great advantage I thought. I was much older than all the others at fifty, except John Payne who was forty four.
I decided I needed some rest so went to the very back of the truck and put my pack sack in one of the corners, sat on it and I believe went sound asleep for a short time. The others with our group stayed at the back entrance, John and Tom I believe stood on the outside ledge for most of the ride. When I awoke we were coming to a stop and a few ladies and children got on. Now remember this was in the middle of nowhere - these people just showed up on the side of the road. This was a very large truck so I just said Ola and nodded off again. This seemed to happen about every five or ten minutes, and the inside of the truck was getting slowly filled. I noticed a strange ritual seemed to happen at every stop, each group seemed to sit around the outer edge of the truck, soon there was no place for newcomers to sit with there backs against the wall, or look out through the four inch openings between the slats. I was quite surprised at the number of people, I was being squeezed on both sides, a little girl on one side, and a rather large lady on the other.
As more people got on they would gravitate to the sides of the truck and stand over those of us that were sitting, and reach over us to hold onto the side boards. This made me feel a little uncomfortable, particularly with the little ones, as they could not reach over us. As more and more people got on it was apparent that sitting was taking up too much space, so I got up and motioned to a little girl to take my place, she stood on top of my pack sack, and gave me a big smile.
Now I was one row removed from the sides (and slots) of the truck, but figured no big deal could hang on over the little girl, and of course we would be in Leon probably within the hour. At the next stop a man got on the truck and was calling - Larry - Larry - now I figured he could not be calling me, but he saw me and came over - in very poor English he explained his little girl had very sever dysentery and he had heard I has some special medicine. How he heard this or found me is still a mystery. Anyway I did have some special drops for sever cases, I tried to explain how to only put a few drops in water - every two hours etc - I gave it all to him and he left after hugging all the air out of me. I hope it helped. Another ten people got on at his stop.
The truck was pretty full by this time, every one now was standing, I had moved back to the third row from the slats, but could still hang on, with a bit of stretching. It was sort of working out this way - the smallest children were next to the sides, from there they could see out and get some fresh air. The next shorter girls or ladies were next, after that I don't know if there was any logic at all. Did I mention it was now about two hours into the trip and getting quite hot.
The body heat and body aroma coupled with the bouncing and sliding was starting to make me a little nauseous, although I wasn't worried about throwing up - I don't think there was anything there. The trip continued in this manner - more on - more squeezing - Since I was about the tallest person on the truck, I continued to gravitate toward the center of the truck. This was so the others could maybe see/breath, or maybe hold on. I found out I had the advantage that I could hold on to the one-by-fours that made up the support for the canvas roof if I stretched. I noticed about this time that it sounded like new arrivals were getting onto the roof - in fact you could see the indentation of their bottoms in the canvas.
As more (I couldn't believe they were allowing more) and more people got on it became tighter and tighter until one could not turn, or really move at all. It was getting very hot and stuffy, and I had now been standing for at least three hours. We stopped again and suddenly there was a flurry of excitement - evidently there were people outside the truck selling corn and melons. The lady I was squashed against managed to make me understand that I could buy some of these goodies, if I had any money. So with great difficulty I managed to get my arm down from the roof, along my neighbours body and into my pocket. And getting it out with some money was even more difficult. She grabbed it and passed it from person to person until (I suppose) it reached those next to the slats of the truck. I also understand I did buy a considerable amount of food. Eventually I ended up with one cob of corn. As I was about to take my first bite, a sweet little four year old, in her mothers arms looked at me, so with a great effort I managed get my arm over another ladies shoulder and give it to her, her smile made my day.
I found out a few days later, that where we received this food was the little town of San Ramon, where we were actually billeted - I could have got out and retired to my little room and bed. How I could have got out I do not know.
As more and more people got on the truck - mostly on the roof and outside - the canvas roof began to rip and people began to fall through. Eventually there was no canvas at all and the people on the roof were sitting on the one inch part of the one by fours making up the roof.
At about this time it started to rain, just a light rain - not cold - but it made the road muddy and slippery. This is all conjecture, as I could not see what was going on - in fact I believe I was getting a bad case of claustrophobia, or just plain going insane. We did get stuck at one point and I understand a military tank dragged us out, in any event we did continue - the sun came out and it got even hotter.
Eventually I decided I just had to get up and on to the roof, unfortunately the last few stops we made people could not get into the truck at all, so some of them squeezed on the roof. Looking up it was apparent there was no room at all on the roof. This did not matter I just had to get up and out of this suffocating place. I jumped and grabbed the one by four at a small gap between two people. There was not enough room for my hand and I fell back. For some strange reason a lot of the ladies around me were all laughing and cheering me on ( I think), so I tried again. The people above had moved apart a bit and I was able to get hold with one hand for a few seconds, and tried to get my other hand onto the board. I fell down again. The two above now moved apart another few inches, so I could try with both hands. Why they did this is beyond me, as there definitely was no room even if I did get up. On my third try I got hold with both hands and pulled myself up until my face was above the board and I was trying to squeeze between the girl and boy sitting on the board. I couldn't do it, but this time since I was completely off the ground and above the ladies in the truck, I fell horizontally on top of all them. I was on my back on top of a sea of heads. I felt many hands trying to help me back up. They were still cheering encouragement (I think) and laughing uproariously. I eventually got both hands on the board and manages to squeeze up and onto the board - unfortunately I knocked the girl off and onto the people below. Well the truck was bouncing and turning corners etc what do you expect. The ladies below seemed to like this almost as much as me falling.
"Oh, I'm very sorry, let me help you back up."
I was much stronger than I am now! I don't think the group on the top of the truck were all that pleased that I had arrived - they didn't look pleased at all. But everyone sort of moved a little one way or another and I was able to grab the girl and eventually got her back up. She didn't seem to happy either.
But It was like heaven to me - fresh air - could see for miles - sitting down - wonderful.
I felt like a new person as I smiled at all my fellow outriders, a few smiled back as I used my vast mastery of the Spanish language "Ola, Ola".
It didn't take to long before sitting on a one inch board began to take its toll on my skinny bottom. In fact as I (and I noticed all the others) squirmed and tried to take some of the pressure off with my hands - difficult because there really was no room for you hands on the board because of the person next being wedged against you. I did manage to get my hands under my bum - for awhile this helped, however soon the pain on the hands, made one remove them and revert to squirming.
You must remember that this is all going on while the truck is turning- slipping, and most alarmingly tipping precariously in the turns. I very quickly learned that as the truck turned one way all the people on the roof leaned the other on the signal from one of the men at the front. I of course did not realize these people were actually keeping the truck upright when I was in the bowels of the truck with the riff raff on the floor.
Although I was in considerable pain, I wouldn't have gone back inside for anything. After an hour or so we got out of the hills and ran smoothly on the plain toward Leon. It was now about 5:30Pm, the sun was lower, the temperature probably a nice 30C, and I was beginning to believe I might survive this ride after all. Although I must admit, I thought of jumping off the truck more than once! I was sort of dozing (in pain) when the guy yelled out something. I opened my eyes and turned to look to the front - notice two things simultaneously - First - everyone around me was crouched down, - Second - a tree branch was about three feet from my face. I closed my eyes, whap, pain, falling, blood, laughing. Yes laughing, as I managed to crawl back to my perch everyone on the top of the truck, and many below were laughing at me uproariously. They really thought this was hilarious. I on the other hand did not. We arrived at Leon in about an hour, I jumped off the truck before we were quite stopped and almost broke my neck, but boy was it wonderful to off that truck and on solid ground. When the ladies I had been standing beside for most of the ride saw me they put a big bandage on my forehead - then I took their picture.
Leon was a beautiful city. At the time I was not sure if it was worth the ride. Although now from the perspective of several years - it was an adventure that I suppose in some way made me a better person. If nothing else when I am on a soft seat "sitting"on an aircraft and about to complain - I get a flash of memory and hold my tounge - for a few seconds at least!