How do I get up at 0500hrs again? I kept on asking myself. But because we were very excited about the upcoming trip to Dadab, I could hardly sleep.
All the necessary have been prepared. As we didn't get any confirmation or help from WFP, we made the decision to make our own way to Dadab with the help of Victor (TNT Kenya) and then decide our next step when we reach there. As he has contacts in Dadab, he has made most of the arrangements. With that in mind, we drew up the checklist and here was our checklist.
1. 4 by 4 (Transportation) - checked
2. Armed Security Officer - checked
3. Aware of the treacherous road - checked
4. Convoy to Dadab from Garissa - checked
5. Accommodation for 2 nights for 5 persons - checked
When all items in the list were checked, we packed up into the car and moved out of the hotel. It was early and cool as Nairobi has the temperature I love like Amsterdam. Nairobi is always cool around 20 degrees and at 7am, the air was fresh. But at the same time, I was getting ready for the scorching heat of Dadab.
The whole journey was expected to be 4hrs (400km) from Nairobi to Garissa and then 2 to 2 1/2 (150km) hrs to Dadab. As the journey is not as safe as we would want it to be, having an armed security officer was very important. Especially the road from Garissa to Dadab. We even had to follow a convoy where there would be a UNHCR Police escort to drive with us all the way from Garissa to Dadab. No vehicles were to drive on their own along this road.
Along the road from Nairobi, there were police checkpoints with the traditional spiked long plank (fully spiked with long nails) in the middle of the road and we can only pass when they remove the spiked plank. We passed about 10 of these road blocks along our way to Garissa.
By the time we reached Garissa, the heat had become unbearable, like back in SIngapore, but dustier with lots of sand dust all over us, flies seemed to want to hang on to you, and mosquitos trying to get a bite of this sweet precious blood of mine. We met convoys from Ireland Humanitarian project, Save the Children, WFP and 2 Police escorts. I was introduced to Caroline from Save the Children and we talked for a while until it was ready to leave. It was an instant move, no time to chat, no warning that we're driving off, just jumped into the vehicle and off we go when we see the wehicles starting to drive off. The road was bad, really bad. Bumpy in such a way that I was tossed all over my seat. I don't envy the Colonel (our security officer) who sat at the back, he was tossed even higher than anyone of us. It was actually a full over 2hrs of such road to ride through. The total journey was supposed to be 150km, but it felt like 300km.
After less than 30km, our driver Patrick suddenly stopped. I didn't know what hit us but then I realised a long nail had pierced through our tyre. That was it, under the scorching sun, the convoy left us without even looking back and we were stranded in the unsafe zone alone, just the 5 of us. What else could go wrong. The guys quickly got into action, getting the gadgets to raise the vehicle so that they can remove the punctured tyre. It was unfortunate that the ground was soft sand, the gadget could not work. We tried for more than 15 minutes and the guys we all covered in sand but still no progress. Then a vehicle passed through in the opposite way stopped and tried to help us. They looked like Somalis and I was rather concern. You'll never know in such location. They took out a block of wood and another better gadget (for raising the care - don't even know what's it called) and handed over to the guys and then I felt better and not as wary. The guys tried again. Still it was not working. The next convoy passed through and stopped and now more cars started helping us. We were stuck for more than 90 minutes when the tyre was finally changed.
We were all hot and "sweaty" and ready to move on and try to catch up with other convoys. After driving for about another 30km, we met with another convoy and followed them all the way. I sighed with relief because only then did I feel safe and not as worried.
The drive as usual was really bad, sometimes we could feel like the vehicle was about to fall over sideways and at other times we could feel the content of our stomach being regurgitated but all were under controlled.
It was almost 1800hrs when we reached the Humanitarian Residential compound and we began to search for (NRC) Norweigian Refugee Council compound. The NCR had graciously offered to give us accommodation at the last minute as WFP was not able to arrange anything. They were our gracious host for 2 nights.
As we arrived and sat at the meeting point, we still did not know if we could see the camps or see the beneficiaries because at that stage, WFP couldn't confirm anything. I was exhausted as we were on the road for more than 11hrs, frustrated as I can't confirm what will happen the next day, hungry and thirsty and most of all still trying to get in touch with WFP to sort out our programme for the next day. All I could do at that point and time was to hope and pray that everything would fall in place. So we just rested and waited.