DAY THIRTY-NINE The morning was bright and clear but we headed away from Lisala full of apprehension about what the condition of the roads would be after the previous night’s storm.

Surprisingly , the rain hadn’t affected the roads too badly at all and we made good time. We drove solidly all day without a sign of a place to camp. We drove on in the gathering darkness and all around, the jungle was a solid green wall, dense and menacing, with a thin mist hanging amongst the trees.

Ahead of us, a sea of mud appeared in the bright pool of light thrown out by the headlights. Having no choice, we moved into it and had only gone about 40 yards when the rear wheels snaked sideways into a hole and we were bogged.

So began the longest, and probably the most enjoyable night of the trip so far. The girls went and found a dry place to sit (along with the 2 guys with the least moral fibre, Craig and Simon, who were “too sick” to help) and the men all began the long job of freeing the truck. For four hours we dug and sand-matted, then dug again, stopping only for a cup of tea and some baked beans that the girls cooked up. Despite the seriousness of the situation, we were all in high spirits as we lay in the mud under the truck or scraped out trenches for the sand-mats with our hands.

Finally, at about 12:30 AM, with a massive heave from all hands, the Silver Fox came free of the mud and roared up to the crest of the small rise where the ground was slightly firmer.

That, however, wasn’t the end of our troubles. The mud stretched ahead of us further than the reach of our headlights. Mike, Scotty, Paul and I took torches and waded into the wet and slippery muck to see how far it went, sloshing along ever-watchful for snakes that could be lying in the darkness. The mud stretched for another 200 metres then the road reverted to normal again. We decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of trying to get through that mess in the dark so we returned to the truck, drove it onto the sand-mats, then settled into our seats to get some rest.

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