Tuesday, January 31, 2006

As I had mentioned on my first patrol, one of the primary obstacles to movement around here is not the condition of the roads, but the status of various bridges over the thousands of relatively benign looking streams. On that patrol, we had to take a long, circular route to get to a large chunk of villages not too far from us in Gbarnga. Now, that alternate route may be compromised. On our way to the gold mine on Monday, we crossed a major bridge that I had crossed last week, just past the village of Lehleh. One of the local truck drivers had decided to get an entire shipment of cement bricks to their destination, when the not insubstantial load proved too much for a poor bridge made out of a dozen tree trunks.

The driver was injured, but had been treated at the area hospital and released. He was back out at the site, and the locals were attempting to give him some assistance pulling his truck out. They’d been at it for two days. It looks like they’ve made a lot of progress.

According to one of the guys on my team, that bridge had been out for several years, and had just been completed last September. Yes, a five month life span. Something tells me, though, that is longer that the replacement bridge, constructed about twenty feet to the left of the last one, will last. The good news was that on inspection, the foundations of the original bridge appeared undamaged, and repair the bridge will just require a new span of about ten tree trunks, and redoing some of the earthworks leading up to it.

We returned back along the same route. Upon reaching the bridge another truck, the same size as the one now stuck precariously on the old bridge, was stuck on the temporary bridge. The only thing I could think of was how we hadn’t made a map of the alternate, five hour route home. The second truck had made it almost all the way across, but was having trouble making the sharp turn and getting up the steep hill of loose dirt. They had been at it for nearly an hour. I hopped out and marshaled him, and after about three minutes, the truck was on his merry way, much to our relief.

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