On January 7th 1981 I was driving a Land-Rover from Juba to Rumbek. This is adapted from what I wrote in my journal:
I managed to get up soon after 5.20, and to get things ready before Tim, an English teacher working near Wau, showed up nearer 6.30. Donato, from the school, had come about 6, and by the time I'd picked up Rose, wife of Theophilus a teacher at Rumbek, and son and small girl, who slept in the back with Donato most of the way, it was 7 o'clock, which meant that I was on schedule. We got to Lui at 9.30, left Mundri at 10.30, passed Yeri at 12.30 and Mvolo at 2.00, all times approximate, getting here at 5.30 which was exactly right. I was worried about turning the engine off as I had had difficulties the day before but my main worry was about petrol: in Juba I filled the tank partially with fuel from the drum, almost inhaling which was horrible; I was still anxious at Lui when I couldn't get more petrol out of the drum, but when I put in some from the jerry-cans, it overflowed and I realised that the fuel gauge like most of the electrics wasn't working. I was worried about getting stuck after dark in case I ran out of fuel or couldn't get the vehicle started.The journey was remarkably easy, and I was able to drive a bit more quickly, which meant that as I got tired, I hit some ruts rather too hard, but the car stood up well. We had breakfast rather spontaneously at Lui, talking with Mark and Maria who are having a quiet time there, not very involved with the school which at least has a competent director in Alfred. We bought orange but hard mangoes in Mundri, ate papayas in the forest after Mvolo, and had a chai-stop and Dinka-style begging for lifts at Akot. Tim was good company and we talked a lot particularly about our different schools which have both suffered from bad directors and relationships with other awajahs. He talked of Ted Joans, the black US beat poet in whose house he had been staying in Lamu. Not much wildlife, warthogs, baboons, perhaps vervets.
When I tried to start the Land-Rover the next day it was completely dead. It was due to go to the house of John Mikis, the sole remainder of the Greek traders who had been in Rumbek for generations. John Mikis's driver was towing me and had stopped when the rope broke outside the Unity Bank. Two Land-Rovers drove up, an Englishman got out and said "Oh, my old Land-Rover", Peter the archaeologist, who had sold John Ryle this car.
Sarah Errington had been using this Land-Rover to help carry equipment for the BBC crew who had been making a film called "The Dinka Bride" for The World About Us. This was about Marial, a Dinka studying Civil Engineering at Leeds, who had been married by his mother to Yar and had come back to Rumbek to collect her over Christmas. The crew had stayed in our house while I was away and had returned on New Year's Eve. A jolly time was had and I got together with the Camera Assistant - we still are together.
I spent a day watching them film, waiting for the uncles to come and sacrifice the goat, while we played cattle songs on cassette, but they did not turn up that day. They filmed Marial at the house in town, Marial on the bicycle passing through the town. Best was out at Majak, Marial's house of the sort I had heard of but not seen, built on stilts and with a lot of earth hard baked to make them comfortable.
Sarah had arranged with a previously unknown local to take the equipment to Juba in his vehicle, but when he arrived at the house about 8am, he had changed his mind and had a full load of passengers. Sarah would have been stuck but I offered my services to drive the Land-Rover back and was gladly accepted. We left an hour or so later with minimum preparation.
The journey down was fun. After a final stop at Majak, I rode on top of the Toyota until way after Yeri, hanging on for dear life in the bumpy stretches. There was a stretch of track when we left the Yirol road through tukuls, a lunch stop in nice forest with Jur around, and a sight of the bombed out old Rest House on a rock near Mvolo. Then we saw warthog and some sort of long-necked gazelle. I sat for an hour in the front of the Land-Rover, then at Mundri I took over and got the feel of the vehicle and was enjoying it, keeping up with the Toyota in front. There was a good deal of roadkill: two rabbits, a jackal (small and silvery) and a ratel, also one of those nightjars with the long feathers trailing back from the wing, though I didn't know until we arrived, which was about 10.30. The road into Juba was paved for a couple of miles, the only paved road in the South. I had to ask which side of the road I should be driving on: I'd been driving for several hours and living in the country for six months. I think it was the left.
|BBC Crew with Toyota at Rumbek: My picture|
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