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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)

TITLE: An African Ferry Tale
By Donna Haug


“Look! There’s the Zambezi River. There’s no line-up. Can you believe it?”

The last 3 1/2 hours of gorgeous pavement did nothing to ease the weariness seeping into my bones. The 4:30 wake-up call followed by over five grueling hours of bouncing and jolting over jagged potholes was a high price to pay for the pleasure of this newly paved portion of the only highway crossing the country of Mozambique. But now it seemed all the rushing to get to the ferry early had paid off. This time there would be no long hours of waiting in a line-up without the luxury of restaurants or washrooms, and no chance of having to spend the night in the truck.

Smiles of relief were replaced with questioning looks as everyone searched for the ferry. My husband, Mark, rolled down his window to speak with a tractor operator on the riverbank.

“Bom Dia!” (Good day!)

“E um mau dia,” the operator replied, shaking his head gravely.

“Why is it a bad day?”

Pointing to the far shore of the river, he told us a story that sent shivers down my back. The rickety old ferry had finally sunk the day before. We could just pick out the roof tops of almost completely submerged cars and two large cargo trucks half under water at a dangerous tilt.

We looked at each other in disbelief. That could have been us! The next thing flashing through our minds was, “Now what?!” It could be days before a replacement ferry was running. The only other way to travel north in the country was to backtrack and go around by way of our neighboring country, Malawi. That would mean an extra 2 days of travel.

“There is one more option,” the man said. “You have a 4x4. You could cross the Zambezi River on the old train bridge.”

The gleam of adventure and excitement flared into Mark’s eyes even as the fear and uncertainty welled into mine. What else could go wrong?

Off we went down the dusty track to the village of Sena. There we found the 3 1/2 kilometer trestle train track which had been converted into a one lane bridge crossing the mighty Zambezi. A rather sleepy looking man stumbled out of the guardhouse at the end of the bridge and gave us the go ahead. I hoped he was right, because meeting another vehicle halfway did not sound particularly appealing.

We crossed without incident and actually enjoyed the scenery as we went, feeling a little like missionary explorers back to the future. We drove carefully through the black muck of the unpredictable lowlands. I held my breath and the edges of my seat as the sky started drizzling on us and the road became slick underneath. The sun broke through the clouds as we finally spied the Shire River.

Once again our smiles of relief faded as we were faced with rows of cars and trucks waiting to cross. Many had been there since the day before. To make matters worse, my daughter and I really needed a washroom break. In search of a little privacy, we snuck around the crowd and into the bulrushes beside the river. Suddenly, mid-stream, Mark rushed over to us. “Hurry and get out of there! The people are saying there are crocodiles!” Needless to say, we did not take any longer than necessary.

We sat around chatting with people and shared our lunches with our traveling companions. With sinking hearts we watched as the men manually pulled the ferry across on a cable that spanned the river. Would we have to spend the night on the river’s edge after all?

Just as the sun was going down, the ferry operators announced the last ferry of the day. We made it! We were the last vehicle on the last ferry! Thank-you Lord.

Darkness settled over the African bush. Now we were in unfamiliar territory in the pitch blackness with no road signs. How would we find our way back to the highway? Breathing yet another prayer for guidance, we braved the bush. After many twists and turns and after asking directions many times, we finally found the highway. Two hours later our very exhausted family arrived at our destination. Grandma and Grandpa welcomed us with open arms.

“What took so long?”

“Mom, have I got a ferry tale for you!”

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This article has been read 1185 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharlyn Guthrie09/07/06
I really enjoyed this adventure. You managed to sprinkle a little humor throughout as well (mid-stream?!) I have always wanted to travel to Africa, and your story only increased that desire!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/09/06
This is a long story of a long arduous journey; however, I chuckled at the "mid-stream" interuption. Very well written, and I loved the last line! Which, of course, explains the neat title! Thanks for the long, but interesting ride.
Jan Ackerson 09/10/06
Wonderful voice, wonderful true-life adventure story, great wit, and a truely pun-derful title.
Joanne Sher 09/10/06
Love your voice throughout this - and especially loved the ending! Perfect title and such an engaging story. Wonderful!!!
Donna Powers 09/11/06
A very nice story. I really enjoyed reading this. I could definitley see it unfolding with your well-chosen words. Thank you for sharing it.
Marty Wellington 09/11/06
Your title intriqued me and the story didn't disappoint. Very well done!
Brenda Craig09/13/06
Mid, this is absolutely wonderful and so full of adventure. So glad it was your adventure and I get to participate in it via this story. You kept me all the way. Mid-stream? hehe. Blessings on a excellent piece.:)
Suzanne R09/14/06
I hope you're going to write a book one day. Actually, not one day - start working on it one tale at a time now, okay?

I didn't come to this through the hints page - the title caught my attention - but I have a pretty good idea of who wrote it.

I loved the way you introduced the disaster to the ferry of the previous day.
Ann Grover09/14/06
I knew this was yours by the title (before I read it, before a hint, before the brick) and it didn't disappoint. Well written... colourful... a glimpse into another world...
Edy T Johnson 09/16/06
I'm so glad you have what it takes to make it in such a treacherous environment (I'm assuming this story is based on your personal experience). I'm exhausted just reading about it! But, I love the exotic locale type story. This keeps me reading in spite of stressing over how you all will make it to the end of the story! Thanks for your good work, there and here!