Being in a car accident is never good. Things suddenly become out of your control, and fast. The other cars, buildings, people around you become obstacles. Whether you are driving or not, you become a passenger, a passenger in a metal box that has energy, energy that will only fade once you have finished negotiating the spinning world around you. Take this sequence of events to Africa, and it automatically, through a combination of environment, geography and, well, the fact that you are in Africa, becomes a lot worse, as we found out.
We were driving South on a “road” from Murchison Falls to a small town called Massindi, a few degrees North of the Equator in Western Uganda, feeling very manly after spending the previous 5 hours managing to fit a throttle cable from a scrapped Cessena plane into our Land Rover. As was now a constant on this 3 week drive around Lake Victoria, we were behind schedule, and had lots of K’s to cover. The “road” was as bad as it gets, more holes than flat surface, rain channels and huge rocks pitting the track ahead like the surface of the moon. It all happened so fast (about 50 Km/h fast), the back wheel hit one of the larger holes, the giant and now highly heat expanded kevlar tyre bounced us out, causing Tom to correct the steering. What happened next was, well, bad. On the sandy surface the back of the 2 tonne car fish-tailed, despite Tom’s best efforts he couldn’t hold the steering, we veered towards the high grassy bank flanking the track, and in an instant, flipped over.
The Land Rover rolled 360 degrees, and amazingly, mid roll, also spun 180 degrees to leave us facing the opposite way to which we were driving. I can only imagine how it must have looked, a giant green tank cascading through the air, occupants and contents alike being thrown side to side, and back to front. The car came to a stop on its left hand side, both doors crushed in and the roof not much better off. It took me a minute to regain consciousness, my head and neck in a bad way from my impact with the inside of the cab. Tom was nowhere to be seen. I don’t know if it was the 90 litres of petrol leaking out of our jerry cans in the back of the upturned car, or the sheer desire of wanting to be out of the wreckage that caused me to move, but something made me reach for the open window that now was directly above me in the form of the drivers door. I was covered in wrecakge and most of our belongings, and couldn’t move, the drivers door was too far away, the only option was to kick out the already crumpled and shattered windscreen and climb out of the front of the car.
When I tell this story back to people, it is not the detail of how we rolled or the fact that Tom was outside of the car when I came to that shocks people. It is what happened next that most find hard to believe. As I climbed out of the car, and dragged myself onto the road, the dust still settling from the cartwheeling 4×4 only moments before, a hand reached in through the front of the car, not to help me as I tried to make sense of what had happened, but to grab the glass shattered wing mirror which lay broken off just inside the car. As I stood up to confront the unforgiving individual, I soon realised that he was not alone, as an entire viallge of people descended on the waylaid vehicle, and like a swarm of locusts, began to take anything they could get their hands on. Crash, bang, robbed.