Project Sekong 2014: We end our first day with a truck missing but the next morning find it stuck in the mud!

January 19, 2014

This morning I woke up cold and crabby at a guesthouse in Dak Cheung. Last night the five of us traveling in the Land Cruiser arrived in the district well after dark, a consequence of our making a sweeping, two-hour detour to a neighboring province to locate a fellow who had agreed, via phone, to serve as our medic.

There was no way to scout for a campsite in the dark and, in any case, all our camping gear was in a truck that was supposed to be accompanying us. When our detour required us to part ways with that truck we’d agreed to meet before dark in Dak Cheung. We’d arrived later than expected but instead of finding the guys waiting for us, the truck and the remainder of our team was nowhere to be found. I could easily list reasons for the truck being delayed but no explanation for our not passing it along the way.

Our only choice was to shelter in a better-than-nothing guesthouse. I’d have much preferred my tent and sleeping bag to an unheated, cold-water room, a broken toilet, and a bed with nothing more than one, thin, greasy blanket to ward off the cold.

In the morning we heard from travelers passing through town that they’d seen a truck, broken down along a spur of the main road about ten miles short of town. Betting that it was our vehicle we skipped breakfast and dashed out of town in the direction of the phantom truck. Sure enough, it was ours.

Turns out that early last evening the driver was pushing hard in the hope making Dak Cheung and a campsite before dark. He came to an ominous fork in the road, bet wrong, and ended up on a spur blocked by a muddy bog. The driver compounded his initial mistake by trying to power through the muck. Darkness found the truck stuck axel-deep mud and the guys facing a cold night without shelter. They dug through whatever kits were at the top of the heap, found blankets, and then huddled in the open air until sunrise. In the morning they flagged down vehicles taking the correct road and asked drivers to carry word to us in Dak Cheung.

We arrived, relieved but hungry, so before tackling the truck we had the cook unpack his kit and whip up a hot breakfast. We rationalized that since our truck was blocking a hazard we were actually providing a public service to any vehicles that might stack up behind us.

After breakfast, the guys took turns with our two shovels and dug a trench from the stuck wheels to firmer ground beyond. Then, most of us collected stones from the forest and passed them to two well-shod teammates who stomped them into the muck in front of and behind the tires. After the trench was suitably lined with rock the driver jacked the up the wheels and hammered rock beneath them. When all was in place the driver dropped the jack, fired up the engine and, with everyone pushing, drove free of the bog.

An hour later we were outside Dak Yoy village at a fine, well-watered site and the guys were setting up camp—our home-from-home for the next two weeks.

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