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Who Really Needs a Sparkplug?

April 7, 2011

sparkplug290.jpgLast night the prowling African cats kept me awake for a long time. There is nothing to strike fear into your heart quite like the sound of    a mangy cat with a chicken bone stuck in its throat.  Cat in Shrek came to mind with his cough. Kack, kack, kack… I would have thrown a boot at it except the boots were keeping the mozzie net pinned to the floor.  The sound of his hacking cough fades as he drifts away around a tukel but he clearly runs into one of his mates and round of shrieking and yowling ensues. What a zoo.

The hippo is the percussion background to all this of course and another strange sound barks and coughs through the night as well. I don’t decipher that until the sky starts to lighten and discover a large bull with something in his hide which is irritating him. He is rubbing his back along every low hanging piece of thatch or low branch he can find and making a very non bovine sound about it all.  

We started the workers a little earlier than usual this morning. They were not overly happy with the idea, dragging their sandals through the dust towards the workshed. Russell was keen to carry out some instruction with Paul and asked me to show the rest of them how to oil change the generators. First up though, some silastic on the guttering. Only two sections up, but that might be enough to fill their water tank so they don’t have to drink anything out of that river. Surely that has to be a primary project up here – if any more buildings go up with iron roofing we need to ensure as much rain water is caught as possible. So far my gut has not objected to the Nile infusion but I think the Great Physican is looking out for me there. So a squirt of silastic in each join and endcap and around the downpipe fitting before the sun is too high and the metal too hot. Then on to the generators.

The oil we drain from the first is the colour of charcoal and the consistency of maple syrup. When I pull it apart between my fingers and hold it to the light it is completely opaque. I can feel the grit on my fingers.  Oil drained I ask the lads for fresh oil. Blank looks all around. Russell has been teaching business principles to some of the lads so this is used as an example of staying on top of consumables – before someone turns up with a half litre of fresh oil. Its not enough to do both generators so we settle for pouring as much clean oil as we can into each, and then topping up with the previously drained dirty stuff. It goes against the grain but I have no choice. I take the opportunity to also explain the sump plug is not load bearing – it does not need leveraging super tight by their long Dinka arms. It’s only holding the oil back after all. A couple of them practice “close and nip” and then I show them how easy it is to undo. One of the taller fellows had bent a spanner trying to unlock it in the first place before I showed them an alternate trick to breaking a bound thread.  They all nodded sagely – I hope the lesson actually reached home.

The generators serviced and returned to their little shed we also cleared out the materials container and showed them that the fuel really needed to be stored up the back, not in the doorway. If one of them was trapped in there with a fire at the entrance there would be little prospect of survival. They all got this message loud and clear and rectified the situation with uncommon energy.

We were pleased to have all that done by mid morning as the Cessna was due about ten o’clock.  Someone must have gotten a message through as one of the locals urgently advised the plane was here and that we needed to get into the boat. Our gear was already stashed in the hull so all we had to do was jump in, fire it up and run down to the next village then hump our gear over to the airstrip. Our sense of urgency was compounded by the pilot who had previously advised he wanted a hot turn around.  All of this was pre- planned and pre-briefed to the lads.

So you can imagine our complete surprise when, after everyone beats a hasty lockup and retreat to the boat, that we discover the boys replacing the sparkplug. I thought Russell did a great job of not getting too irate but there were words about prior planning. I stepped away as it was taking all of me to stop laughing out loud.

As it turned out were whisked up the river in a shower of banging spray and were halfway to the strip before we heard the drone of the Cessna and watched it circle over us as it checked out the strip. So the pilot was pretty happy with our timing as it turned out.The Sudan/Kenya border slides beneath us and we are soon only 15 miles from Loki. Actually it does not slide, it bounces like crazy as we drop through 8,000’. At 6,000’ the oven starts up in the cabin. We turn hard left a couple of miles out and we see the Loki airstrip on our nose. We touch down with a slight squeal and are soon parked and sipping cold Coke. Thank-you Sudan.

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