Sunday, December 25, 2016

Driving the ute in Phnom Penh

RAW Impact's ute after I drove it through the mud. Not the same ute as the story.
I'm not sure if I told you I have my Cambodian drivers license. I got it just in case I ever needed to drive the ute (that's Aussie for Utilitarian Vehicle, that's what they call anything that has a bed behind a cab.) and for driving my motor bike, if anyone asked me for it I'd be all clear.

The time came in the first week of December for me to put it to good use. Being the only RAW Impact staff to actually know how to drive on the right hand side of the road I think I'm most qualified to drive. . . but that's not really my point because honestly, HAVE YOU SEEN PHNOM PENH TRAFFIC?! No thanks. No way José.

Last week while I was working with a team at one of our partnering projects in Kampong Speu they needed someone to go get another bag or two of cement. Blake was leading the build and Brett was working on office work so I got chosen to go. I accepted the challange and drove on "Hwy"/big road 4. I drove with big trucks, small moto bikes and other utes. I survived! More importantly my passengers survived AND we found the cement place!

Then on Friday, after a long week of team stuff and building, Jared, one of our staff went for a nice dirt bike ride around the village and injured his knee by banging it onto a bolt protruding out of the handlebars, or somewhere on it. Don't ask me how that happened I still don't understand, what I do know is it took a small chunk out of his knee. Brett, also our first aid guy decided Jared should go back into Phnom Penh and get it taken care of that night because it would need stitches and antibiotics. As Brett was the team leader, he couldn't go and Blake was sharing his story that night with the team of students. It was up to me, I needed to drive into Phnom Penh to the hospital we use. I didn't want to drive back on my own so I asked Jay, a gap year volunteer, to join me as copilot. It was just before supper when we left. I grabbed some sweet bread to eat on the way and Jay grabbed a plate of fried rice that he ended up sharing with Jared.

This was quite possibly the drive of a lifetime. Jared is clearly the son of Stew our "dad" volunteer from New Zealand who is just one of those guys who can do everything. Jared rode copilot and coached me on when to push forward, who to not let in and when to honk. He was in pain but still able to coach, what a legend. We ended up stuck in traffic way outside the airport, again nearer the airport and then as we passed the airport. It took us a very long time, what is normally a 40 min drive was THREE hours or something around that, we listened to some music, talked and enjoyed ourselves despite the reason for driving. It didn't seem like that long because we were enjoying ourselves.

We dropped Jared off after circling the block a couple times to find SOS International Hospital and then there were two left in the ute. Jay was a lifesaver with the map skills. I would have pulled over and cried repeatedly without him. He navigated the horrors that are the roads of Phnom Penh with calmness and finesse. He even made some good jokes while we were on the beginning of our voyage. Then the next round of traffic hit. At first we were still in jovial spirits at just having conquered what is Phnom Penh roads but that quickly died after the first hour of sitting still in the ute surrounded by big fatty trucks. Our courage started to drain away and we imagined the rest of our lives lived out stuck in the ute. It was bleak. After two hours of sitting in a span of 4 or 5 car spaces all hope was gone. We were in need of a Christmas miracle. It was getting late, certainly after 10 pm. We had been in the ute since before 6 pm and had not eaten much. Bless us both we were going to go crazy. Finally whatever it was that had been holding us up was cleared. We were able to shift into second gear and clear out of there. THANK YOU JESUS!!

We arrived back at Jumpah with Brett opening up the gate for us at 11:30. We had been in that little ute for almost 6 1/2 hours. Jared was safe and sound with his stitches and Jay and I have an epic adventure to share. Luckily both he and I are owesom (that's awesome in Aussie) story tellers and will be more than willing to share the story with again you in person if you would like.

And that is the story of my first drive in Phnom Penh.

I'd like to thank Jay and Jared for sharing the adventure with me.

Oh and I only stalled the ute a few times. Mainly when we were in traffic and I kept getting anxious and then embarrassingly enough right outside the Jumpah gate because I forgot I was driving a stick and frankly quite tired by then.

The end.

Me, Jay and Brett at the build site at Jumpah.

1 comment:

Christoffer said...

You are courageous. What a ride! (Get it. Ride.)