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The valley of the Shadow of Death

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” [1]

JOE’S JOURNAL Tanganyika March 21st, 1962

A flash of lightning

A flash of lightning

Evening just departing, big game photography; Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Lake Manyara. (You’ve seen it all on the Telly!)

Now on to the “main road” – dirt and mud, 250 miles to go, most of it overnight, 45 m.p.h. absolute maximum.

A youth and rucksack begged a lift.
German, perfect English and manners;- gap year methinks.
The sky threatens.
“It could be a rough trip but jump in; and be prepared to help”
He realised a battered old Land Rover trumps a smart saloon on these ‘roads’.

Onwards and upwards, no top gear work; -darkness.
Bearded moss on overhanging branches, so altitude now above 5000 feet.
The first few drops were ominous; rattled the canvas roof and bounced off the bonnet like marbles.
Engage four wheel drive BEFORE it became sheets, with just four foot visibility.
Lightning now frequent and close – hardly need the headlights!

Down into THE valley; a lightning trap.
Just once, my passenger reached towards the crash bar.
The vertical rock face is a reassuring milestone, but then a direct hit floodlights the scene.
Under the bonnet of a popular problem car, he is clearly trouble shooting, but we cannot stop. – you learn the hard way – keep moving; once stopped you are well and truly stuck.
This picture was ‘shadowed’ on to the rock ‘screen’, meanwhile press on!

Less lightning, rain steady, going easier, but now a smell of burnt insulation and battery not charging.
Off headlights, two wheel drive, ‘proceed economically’, 50 miles more, no use, pull over and stop.
Share my snack and flask of coffee, sit back and relax.
Rain dripping on our heads is deflected by bodging.
We settle down for the night in very hard backed seats.

Sun well up when we ‘awoke’, road fairly dry.
Cross fingers and press to start; – Away! and the battery lasted for the remaining 100 odd miles. (‘Export’ models have bigger batteries).
I don’t remember the students name, but he performed well for a ‘Greenhorn’.

Conscience to settle, I queried the fate of the stranded driver, (why didn’t he wave?)
“He was struck dead two hours before we passed!”

I then thought about us in the Land Rover and the rest of the verse in Psalm 23:

“For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”

Joe Lucas July 2006

[1] Psalm 23:4

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