“Quick quick, Sir, he went down there” pointed the policeman in the back.
“But it’s all overgrown, are you sure the track goes down there?” I asked. “Yes, it is the way” he said.
Dropping down into low gear, I headed across the slope into the undergrowth, the policemen in the back were chattering about something. “What are they saying?” I ask my colleague. “Oh, they are just saying that these Toyotas are ‘the man’ of 4×4 vehicles”.
I swear at that exact moment, we started to tip, one side of the truck was sinking. The guy on the back of the pickup starts shouting and I hear him move to the now highside of the truck. As the undercut side of the track collapses, the vehicle rolls over ever so slowly; ending up on its roof and stopping with a jolt as we hit something.
I remember thinking, “Shit, I’ll never be able to hide this damage from my boss” as the windscreen popped and slowly peeled away from the metal onto the ground.
The perils of chasing crooks and off road driving in Uganda
And yes the photo is the right way up, click on it and check out the banana trees if you don’t believe me!
What the photo doesn’t show is that this tree stump was the only tree for some distance and the road was on the edge of a slope. If the car had not hit the tree, we would have rolled over many times before hitting the bottom.
Lucky you might say.
Of course the accident was completely my fault. The first thing any decent off road driving course teaches is ‘walk it first’. I didn’t and nearly paid the ultimate price. But I was hot headed and on the trail of an ex-security guard of mine who had stolen a bunch of project cash.
Which explains the three policemen on the back seat with AK47’s in between their knees and a local guide on the back of the pickup (the car went over so slowly that he simply ‘walked’ over the car like a rolling log!)
Fortunately we all got out OK and no one pulled any triggers in panic, although the guns were so old and poorly maintained they were more dangerous to the guy pulling the trigger!
I had no idea what I was going to do though. We were miles off road and in the bush. No chance of getting a crane up there. Then the local guys had a flash of genius, they dug an enormous hole at the side and rolled the car into it. Then they dug a ramp out of the hole to get the car back onto the track. Dozens of guys and tons of soil. And it only cost me a good ‘feed’ and a crate or two of soda. Wonderful, ingenious and friendly people!
They all pushed me back to where another car could tow it back to town. Embarrassed? I felt like the bloody home coming queen, sitting in this battered car being pushed through the village! I am sure that there must have been one or two that were too sick to leave their beds, but other than that, I think pretty much everyone in the village came to see the stupid white man who thought his car was a mountain goat!
The double irony was that the guy we were going to arrest, got away in all the commotion. And a few days later, I got into trouble for not reporting the accident to the police……..erm, there were THREE policemen in the car at the time. Guess I figured reporting it was unnecessary!
The moral of this tale is:- that even when you think all is lost, someone will come up with a solution and with enough help, even the seemingly impossible can be done. Oh, and walk the bits of the track you can’t see properly, before driving down them; especially if you find yourself in a gun laden car, chasing crooks off-road deep into the African bush 🙂
p.s. I wrote this guide to driving on ‘dirt’ roads in East Africa if you are contemplating it………