By Abel Ekiri and the HALI Team
The HALI Tanzania field team visited Chita, Kilombero last month to collect samples from study clinics enrolling participants for VISHA human surveillance work. The team also assessed clinic challenges, supply needs, and refilled a dry shipper with liquid nitrogen.
But travel from Ifakara to Chita was a major challenge due to poor road conditions. The ongoing rainy season aggravated the road conditions, as you can see in the pictures below. They were literally impassable.
On our way to and from Chita, we had to rely on a tractor (seen in the background of the first picture) to drag our Land Cruiser through the muddy road sections, which delayed our travels considerably. Perhaps HALI should consider buying a tractor for such situations! Here are some selected photos form the visit, which demonstrate how difficult implementation of projects like this one can be at times.
This is about 2.5 hours into our journey from Ifakara to Chita and the picture shows the first of the 3 main trouble spots that we encountered along this road. This petroleum tanker was obviously stuck and our vehicle (white Land Cruiser not seen here) was right behind it. The tractor (with trailer covered by blue top in-front of tanker) is pulling the tanker out of its misery. And how about us? Photo by HALI Tanzania team’s Emmanuel Mbuba.
This is the IHI-HALI land cruiser deeply glued in the muddy rough road, one of the 3 worst trouble spots along the way from Ifakara to Chita. Our driver Michael (red T-shirt) is inspecting the extent of the trouble we are in. Solomon (white T-shirt and jean pants folded to knees) is obviously not amused at what he is seeing. He tossed his shoes, as they served no purpose in this situation. Photo by HALI Tanzania team’s Emmanuel Mbuba.
Our driver Michael tried to instruct a volunteer to remove some mud beneath the front wheel chassis to detach the vehicle from the thick mud plaster beneath but was unsuccessful. Thanks to the existence of tractors, particularly the one that eventually pulled the petroleum tanker and later our vehicle out of this mud banker, of course after paying Tsh 20,000/ for the service. It was only then we were able to proceed to Chita. Photo by HALI Tanzania team’s Emmanuel Mbuba.
By the time we got to the last of the worst spots on our return trip, it was evening. At the same spot described earlier in the first three photos, another big truck was stuck and blocked the safer portion of the road. Our vehicle is way back behind this truck (not seen in picture). The tractor that saved us earlier in the day was long gone. We were now contemplating spending a night here unless a miracle happened quick. Photo by HALI Tanzania team’s Emmanuel Mbuba.
Chapter 2 of the story continues on the way back from Chita to Ifakara. As darkness came around, about 9 pm at the time, another lucky (or unlucky) victim arrived from Ifakara direction in a little pickup which was no match for the mud basin – so it sank in comfortably (aka got stuck). Fortunately the pickup driver knew of a tractor driver that lived about two hours away from this spot and so he called the driver who agreed to come to rescue him.
Our hopes were now entirely on the same tractor driver if we did not want to spend a night right there. So we waited for another 2.5 hours before the tractor arrived and pulled the little pickup out as well as other vehicles. Eventually our turn came and the Land Cruiser was pulled with no one inside except the driver. Three of the field team members enjoyed a ride on the back of the tractor trailer pulling the cruiser. We were comfortable on top of the rice bags as the tractor danced its way through the deep mud plaster.
We ended up arriving in Ifakara at 2 am, way earlier than anticipated. Again thanks to our hero, the tractor, that spared us spending the whole night right there. Photos by HALI Tanzania team’s Emmanuel Mbuba