On Saturday, I got to put myself in the shoes of some of the commuters that reach the clinic. We were going to visit a few of our staff members that lived in a village about three hours away on foot. Babaa, Esau, and James make this commute almost every day and can get it done in a fraction of the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s rain or shine, they still make it to work on time. Not to mention the patients who come from that area. Most of them are sick, hurt or sometimes even in labor. We did this hike perfectly healthy, and we were still struggling. Not just patients walk all this way, people that are in those communities also make the journey. Whenever they need things that they can’t make locally, they have to carry it. I couldn’t even begin to fathom doing it every day let alone being sick, or even carrying sheets of aluminum for a roof.
The hike consists of rugged terrain, wading through deep water and monkey bridges. These bridges are made up of one or two narrow tree trunks, that are tied together. For handles, sticks are placed in the water and are spaced out on the sides of the bridge. Throughout this hike there are a number of these monkey bridges, and some of them are more difficult than others. The hardest one is over a swamp, it is the longest and some of it is in the water. Last year, most of it wasn’t even built. Sometimes you were shoulder deep in a swamp. Now that the whole bridge is built, it is still very difficult to cross. When the current is strong, you feel like you are going to slip and fall. At some points, the bridge had no sticks to hold on to, you had to balance your way across. We were all holding on to each other like a preschool safety rope. Parts of the trail were flooded, and you had no idea where you were stepping. Sometimes when you took a step you would sink in the mud a few inches. Other times there were roots trying to trip you. On the way back, it was torrential rain beating on us the whole time. Which made the water even deeper and the bridges even slicker.
This is a very difficult way of getting to where you need to go. I have gained so much more respect for the staff and for the patients that do this. I had some trouble writing about this journey. Trying to explain something that pretty much no one else can relate to or understand is very difficult. I had no idea what some of these people went through, until I actually did it. I now have a better appreciation for easy transportation and paved roads. I don’t think I will ever complain about walking somewhere again.
Kasey (intern and bush hike survivor)