This is the continuation of the previous post.
As I sat rested comfortably in the front seat of Jim Leonard’s SUV, I breathed a sigh of relief. The adventure was over.
Boy was I wrong.
Back at the car, Daniel had taken his job of protecting the women and Mikey very seriously. Fortunately, they received no threats. When Jim and I arrived, we had some decisions to make. His car had room for seven with no luggage. We had six people, and lots of luggage.
Then there was the question of what to do with the truck. On his way to pick us up, Jim had phoned a towing company that advertises “25 hour service”. Nobody answered. Between us, we had no ropes or chains suitable for towing.
We decided that Jim would take the girls and Mikey back to the seminary, and Daniel and I would wait with the car. Jim would then return with rope and we would tow the truck somewhere secure. We were not quite sure where that would be.
For the second time that night, we watched a car pull away from us. This time, however, there was the promise that they would be back. Daniel and I settled back for the wait.
In order to save on the battery, I turned all the lights off. Once again the night enveloped us. We gazed at the stars, and marveled as the crescent moon rose red in front of us. We talked of ministry, plans, and various inconveniences experiences encountered while traveling.
It didn’t seem like too long before Jim pulled up again. In reality, it was about an hour and a half. He had stopped by a police post in town, and they had loaned him some sturdy (very sturdy, it was to prove) ropes.
There in the darkness, we concocted our plan. Jim would tow us to a nearby IBAMA (the Brazilian version of the Environmental Protection Agency) outpost, where we would park the truck for the night, and return for it in the morning. The outpost was about twenty kilometers away. The most important advantage that it held was that it was before the steep incline that leads down the other side of the plateau and into town. I shuddered at the thought of having to try to navigate that treacherous stretch of road in neutral.
Jim got into his truck, and Daniel and I got back into ours. We watched nervously as Jim slowly pulled out and the ropes went taut. Then we began to move slowly. The ropes had held! Hallelujah!
Our praise service was cut short as I realized that I only had about eight feet of “buffer space” between my front bumper and the rear of Jim’s SUV. Once again the adrenaline began to flow. I gripped the wheel so hard I probably left prints. As my engine was turned off, the steering wheel and brakes worked very hard.
Daniel and I began counting the kilometers. After and agonizing half-hour, the IBAMA outpost appeared. We pulled over, and Jim got out of his vehicle and walked up the gate. As Daniel and I got out of the truck, Jim was walking back to us, shaking his head.
“Closed,” he said. “It was open when I came by just now.”
“Where is the next safe place we can leave the truck?” I asked, fearing the answer.
“At the police outpost halfway down the mountain,” was the reply.
It was a bad option, but it was our only option. We drove on for another couple of kilometers, until we came to the beginning of the long descent. Then we stopped and undid the ropes. Jim would ride ahead of us, and we would coast in neutral to the police station.
Daniel, my faithful co-pilot, volunteered to ride with me. Jim took off, we gave the car a little push, and down we went.
Under normal circumstances, the trip down the mountain at night is one of my favorites. The forest gives way and the traveler is treated to a breathtaking panorama of lights as three cities spread out beneath him.
These were not normal circumstances. Once again my fingers dug into the steering wheel. My lights were very dim, and it was hard to see the road in front of me. Daniel kept up a running commentary:
“Pastor, you are getting too far over to this side. You are almost over the edge. Now you are too far the other side. Watch out, there is a curve up ahead.”
Believe it or not, I appreciated his input at this juncture. I have never been so focused on driving. It was an unnerving feeling as the car picked up momentum. Every time I put on the brakes, I silently breathed a prayer of thanks when they held. In this manner we negotiated the perilous curves and incline of the Serra do Araripe.
Up until now, I have viewed the police outposts with some irritation, knowing that they can mean inconvenient stops, document checking, fines, and even the occasional bribe attempt. However, this particular post, on this particular night, was one of the most welcome sights I have ever laid eyes upon.
The rest of the night went pretty quickly. I arrived home at 3:30 am. Daniel lives off campus, so he bunked out here for the night, then took off in the morning. As for me, at first I was too tense to even think about sleeping. Soon the exhaustion caught up with me, however, and I slept like a baby.
Today I am sore. My hand aches where the bee stung me. I have spent the whole day on car-related issues. But I am ALIVE! I am in my home with my loving wife and adorable son. There is really nothing more I could want.
I did have one final adrenaline attack today. After we had retrieved the truck and deposited it at the repair shop and the mechanic had diagnosed a burned out clutch, he handed me the estimate–R$700 (about U$325). All in all, it could be worse.
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