A bridge too few

The road from Kajo Keji to Juba is… terrible. The only way to go (that doesn’t take a dozen hours through some tricky roads) requires you to cross the river in a place with no bridge. Getting people across the river has become a primary source of income for the villagers who live in this area. They have created a flotation device, which is lined with inner tubes on the bottom and wood planks on the top. The villagers split up on each side of the river with some people in the neck-deep water. They have a rope and basically pull the people across. Several of the villagers carried our luggage across the river, with the guidance of the village chief, who had stripped down to his blue underwear for the endeavor. Then they pulled the vehicle through the river. They have a system for removing the air filter from the vehicles and blocking some pipes, then 36 men pull the trucks through the river. They have the process down and it works (the truck smells like river water for a while afterward, but it works). After it was all over the village chief even wrote us a receipt, still wearing only his wet blue underwear.

Before we pulled away we noticed that one of the guys seemed to have cut his foot pretty badly. We got the first aid kit out and started looking for the proper bandages. But instead they wanted to use the brake fluid from the truck to cauterize the cut. I’d never seen that done, but here in the bush they have a different way of doing things.

At last we said goodbye to those guys and decided to eat something while we tried to dry the truck and ourselves off a bit. We pulled over in front of a small hut, which had the largest bomb casing I had ever seen (well, I’ve never actually seen a bomb casing, that I know of, but I’m sure this would have been the largest – it was as big as my leg.) It was as if they had left it there as an ornament or maybe a reminder that they lived through this thing being dropped on their heads.

When I looked at our receipt for the river crossing, I noticed that the area was Nyepo, a distant payam that apparently had needy schools. They are now on my list for scouting this year.

On the way to Juba we passed several cattle camps. Southern Sudanese are cattle people, particularly the Dinka and Mudari tribes. Doweries are still paid in cattle and they are famous for their love of their cows. The people who live in the cattle camps are nomadic herders. The first sign we were approaching a cattle camp area was the naked boys who were sitting on a huge rock with their AK47s. Apparently this is one of the areas hat has not been disarmed yet. The weapons were just for protecting their herd from thieves but it was definitely a sign we had transitioned into a new culture. The cows were very beautiful. I can see why they treasure them. They really do not eat the cows, they milk them and use them as currency. It’s a very interesting culture. We talked to a number of people along the way because I was so curious about them. One family even invited us to stay and have milk, but we had to move on. Two very beautiful girls asked us if we had any soap. I didn’t realize what they were asking for until later. So when we go back through in two weeks I plan to take some soap for the girls at the camp.


Author: Stacey Travis

Founder and Executive Director of Drop in the Bucket a water charity building water wells and sanitation systems at schools in Africa.

2 thoughts on “A bridge too few”

  1. Dear madam,
    I would like to appreciate you for reaching my payam Nyepo which is also the name for the tribe found in northern part of kajokeji. Thank you very much.
    Your experience are true based on your visit to kajokeji. That river is called kayaya which act as a boarder between Nyepo and Bari stressing down to the river nile. What is left in dare needs by Nyepo people is schools, clean drinking water, roads and modern farming equipments plus funds to start commercial cultivation.
    We Nyepo people aspect you to visit us them in the village

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