18 July, 2010

Off-Road 6x6 Trucking! Thrill-a-minute stuff.

Okay, so I've mentioned my all time favorite PNG truck here a few times before. It's the 1979 AM General, 6 wheel drive, 5 ton cargo truck, the M813A1. Ours is an ex-USMC example, with the locking differentials in the rear, which means that it is an extremely capable machine. We also have the PTO driven 10 ton winch on the front of ours.

I admit it, I was starting to feel a little bad about the fact that we weren't using the truck much. I am pretty sure that I have discussed our reasons for buying it elsewhere in this blog. At any rate, we bought it, shipped it here, sorted out various little problems that it had, and then did exactly what the US Marines apparently did with it for much of its 30 years--we parked it and only used it once in a while.

And then one day we got asked to haul some cargo for a Papua New Guinean man who had worked for Wycliffe for many years and was moving all of his goods and chattel back to his home village, which was about 10 or 12 hours drive away, and very much of that on rough, single lane dirt roads. We struck a deal on the price for this kind of hauling, and suddenly people started coming out of the woodwork asking for us to haul cargo to remote places.

My friend Tony did the first trip, and I went with him on the second trip. On the second trip we were hired to haul a 4 ton piece of mining equipment out to a place about 3 or 4 hours from here. It was a dreary, drizzly day and the road was mostly mud and had several places like this in it:

Don't be fooled by the ruts in the road--those are the width of "normal" cars, which, if you are reading this from the US, are narrower than what you are used to, and quite a bit narrower than our 6x6 truck. There were only inches to spare on either side of the wheels, and these washouts could really only be safely crossed with the help of somebody standing on the far side helping the driver make precise adjustments to the wheels. That was my job this time. We also had to cross several old Bailey bridges, some better than others. This was probably the best one:

When we got close to our destination, we were stopped by a group of obviously angry young men who demanded that we shut off the engine and wanted to know who we were and what our business was. Instead of shutting down, we reversed out of there and back into more friendly territory until we could figure out what was going on. What followed was a heated 45 minute discussion among the members of one clan arguing about why the other clan had stopped us, what should be done about it, etc., etc. Eventually we were told by the men who hired us to just unload the truck and they would figure out later how to get the load to where it was supposed to go. We were halfway through unloading it when suddenly we got word that it was okay for us to drive through to the original destination, so which much effort, we got the load back on to the truck and tied it back down, then drove on through the troubled area, (turns out that there was fighting going on between two clans in that area, but the very same guys who had angrily stopped us before were all smiles and cheers when we drove through the second time), and eventually made it to where we had been hired to go. By the way, this is what our load looked like--I took this photo at about 6:15 a.m. as we were doing a final check of the load before hitting the bush road:

So when we got to the final destination, the equipment that was originally supposed to be there to unload the truck wasn't there yet and the guys who hired us told us to simply chain the load to a tree and drive the truck out from under it!! I got some good video of that, here's Tony carefully driving the truck out from under the load, EXACTLY according to the directions of the man who built the machine that we were unloading. He's standing on the other side of the truck, giving Tony directions through the driver's window. It's my voice you hear in the foreground as I was getting impatient and wondering why it was taking so long to unload :

So we've got a couple more of these trips planned in the not too distant future, the next one is down into the Ramu valley to move 7 tons of lumber for a local guy and I'll be driving for that one. Then it's back to where we dropped off the mining equipment to drop off a mostly empty 20 foot container that they will be using as a secure storage area. Hopefully the road will be a little bit better this time, as an excavator is being driven up there on that road and he will have to make repairs to it in order to make it through.

So why do we do this? Well, the fact is that we are in need of funds! We don't make very much money doing this, but we do make a little and it helps to keep the workshop open and to pay our employees. Anything extra gets funneled back into Wycliffe to support the work of Bible translation. We've been trying to do more commercial work lately and this is one of those services that we can offer which is in demand and which no one else is offering.


Unknown said...

"Just hit it"
UPS the PNG way - love it!

Andrew the Mechanic said...

haha! For the record, if he had "just hit it" or rather, if the guy on the other side of the truck had told him to do so, rather than telling him to start-stop-start-stop, Tony and I both think it would have gone better.

Karen_H said...

Hi, Andrew,
My husband said the same thing at the same time you did on the video! I do think you are kindred spirits:)
Thanks for sharing. Did you ever complete the room divider/safe? Praying for security for you all,
Karen H